Metering with sun in the frame, sunsets etc.
I'm such a noob, cause I realized I don't have any idea how to shoot when the sun is in my face.
I know how to shoot in three ways:
-modern matrix metering/idiot mode/cross fingers
-old cameras with averaging metering patterns that you have to babysit constantly
-incident light metering (sunny 16 etc)
I like using incident light methods the best, because it seems the simplest...no worries about the reflectivity of the subject. I don't have an incident meter but I can use Sunny 16 and variations. I understand that when you use an incident meter you hold the integrating dome near the subject facing toward the camera lens. This doesn't seem like it would work at all for shooting sunsets or landscapes with the sun in them.
Cameras with averaging metering patterns are going to be useless because of the presence of the sun in the frame.
Basically it seems like what you need to do is either consult a table or be able to spot-meter an area of the sky.
spot meter the sky on the hottest area not including the sun and open up a couple stops. No spot meter? Pan your camera to exclude the sun and take a reading, then recompose and shoot. Of course that will change depending on how much foreground you have in the frame. You didn't say what film your shooting but I shoot everything and I use a spot meter and grad filters. incident meter is worthless, yes I said that.
I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about gettin' it.-Hendrix
Whether or not the Sun is in your composition, everything in the area that is illuminated by it should have the same exposure. Obviously the sun is brighter than anything it illuminates, so if you put the sun in your composition, it will be the brightest thing in the shot, plain and simple. The only thing it would change about exposure would be tweaks you'd make to combat the effects of flare.
So, the answer, as always, is "it depends". We's have to know what your individual composition is, and what you want it to look like to answer.
So, what you are really asking, if it must be generalized, is how not to let your meter get fooled by the sun being in your composition, not how to meter. The only type of meter that would be fooled by this situation would be a meter that decides its exposure based solely on how it reads the composition. The only meters that do this is are in-camera reflected meters, so of the methods you listed, they are the only problem child in this situation (as they are in most situations). An in-camera reflected meter is useless in this situation, unless you just want a picture of the sun on a black field. If that is all you have, meter without the Sun in the composition, set the exposure, and then recompose and shoot the shot you originally wanted.
With an incident meter, it's the same as any other time you use an incident meter: Point the dome of your incident meter directly at the light source that is illuminating your subject, and it will give you an exposure that will make things fall into place as accurately as they can at the given EI, favoring the midtones. Where you point the dome depends on what is illuminating the main subject.
Same with a spot meter: You can just use it however you normally would, but don't expect to be able to get a reading off of the sun itself during daylight hours.
With either of these methods, once you have this baseline exposure, if you know your films, you can use film selection, exposure tweaks, and processing tweaks to choose a characteristic curve that would best capture the luminance range at the scene in the desired way...as you can in any other situation.
- Use incident meter as you normally would: Point at the light source, and tweak exposure and development depending on the characteristic curve you would like to use to capture the luminance range of your composition.
- Use spot meter as you normally would. You are going to have to make decisions as to where to place tones. Make sure to really visualize what you want. (Both of these things are a given with a spot meter in any situation).
- If you have to use an in-camera reflected meter, then meter as if the sun was not in the shot, then recompose.
The idea that an incident meter is worthless in this situation makes zero sense to me. IMO, it is the best choice.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 07-27-2009 at 02:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
I turn my back on the sun, meter my shadow, then turn round and take the shot. If I want silhouettes then I just shoot straight into the sun having pointed the camera slightly down to meter.
Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.
Best advice: don't take pictures with the sun in your face.
Originally Posted by BetterSense
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Err Sun's right in my face here
That's direct sunlight coming through the tree admittedly the sun's quite low as it was late evening in the summer. Used a Spotmeter to take shadow and highlight readings, I have a similar colour shot on Fuji 100D
We will all remember that you did.
Originally Posted by wildbill
(I'm with 2F/2F: it makes no sense, and incident indeed is the best choice)
Perhaps unnecessary, but with all this talk about sun and sport metering: a caution.
Never point anything you look through at the sun. Never.
I incorporate the sun sometimes. I wouldn't do it with a normal SLR viefinder, but if you are using ground glass, no danger to the eyes. Go boldly where other photographers will not Use flare even!
The bottom line with metering: first of all understand how many stops your film/dev combos are giving you. Without that knowledge no gizmo or metering technique is going to get you where you need to be.