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  1. #1

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    Portrait shooting in black and white. Incident or reflected metering?

    Hi all,

    I am wondering if there is a 'correct' way I should be metering my portraits in B&W?

    I have a gossen digisix and a minolta IV.

    I currently use my digisix to take an incident reading from the end of my subjects nose towards my lens.(with the glass bulb covered by the white plastic hat!). I then use this as zone V for the skin and use these readings for my shutter speed/aperture. I use the same technique when metering portraits for colour.

    I was reading a book recently that suggested spot reading from the cheek is then way to do it so I am considering a 5 degree spot attachment for the minolta.

    Is there a work around for this? I am not unhappy with my results so far (http://www.flickr.com/photos/31286367@N06/) , but I am not sure I am experienced enough to know anyway!!!

    Thanks

    Paul
    Speed Graphic, Pentax 67, Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya 645 1000s, Nikon F5, Nikon Fm2

  2. #2
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    There is no right or wrong way.

    For me direct incident readings are plenty.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  3. #3

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    I have had a look and if you are getting prints like these then I can't see anything wrong with your exposure method. If you were to move to a 5 degree spot attachment would this be small enough to take a reading on the right area? Caucasian skin is said to be Z6 so a spot reading needs an adjustment - possibly.

    Not strictly relevant but I think your B&W portraits are better than you rcolour ones. I'll re-phrase that. They had more impact for me

    pentaxuser

  4. #4
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    Incident light metering seems the most logic thing to do, the less error prone, also when using colour slide film.

    When using reflected light metering you must "place" the subject's skin in some zone, i.e. you must figure out how different is the zone you are measuring from "middle grey" and act consequently.

    When using incident metering you don't use the reading as "zone V". You use the reading - period. If the subject's skin - or the thing you are photographing - is dark it will come out in zone IV or III, which is probably what you want, and if it is bright it will come out in zone VI or VII, which again is probably what you want.

    Incident metering lets you abstract from "placing". The reflectivity itself of the subject will take care of the "placing". That's the normal case, when you don't want to reach some special effect.

    The only thing you must be aware when using incident metering is that when you use slide film and when you have a subject with an extreme subject brightness range you might have problems because the extremes of the range might fall in a zone of the film where you don't have much detail*.

    Normally when doing portraits you don't have a very extended subject brightness range. That means you can just take an incident reading, apply that to the camera, and that's going to work quite fine.

    When using negative film you have ample "slack room" in the highlights, and not so ample in the shadows, so in case of doubt just open a bit more.

    * For instance if your subject is very white somewhere and you want detail in that very white - imagine a bright white wedding dress or a very white hat and you obviously want to preserve the texture of the hat - you should expose a bit less than what the incident metering suggests, when using slides, so that the hat doesn't come out in the upper part of the curve where the detail is mostly gone. If you use an "accent light" you should be aware of the "mirror effect" the light can have on the hat, or maybe even the hair of the subject, and you should avoid using digital technology as that will easily create a white "hole" in the head of the subject
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    There is no right or wrong way.

    For me direct incident readings are plenty.
    For me it incident metering for portraits is both quicker and more accurate.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pentaxuser View Post
    Caucasian skin is said to be Z6
    What are you guys on? Z6 at what lighting ratio, context and subjectivity. Image capture and representation is far more complex than this.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  7. #7

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    Thanks all. I feel smarter now. Diapos, thanks for taking the time to explain all that. I feel confident to know what's going on now. Pentax user, thanks for your compliments. I agree with you.
    Speed Graphic, Pentax 67, Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya 645 1000s, Nikon F5, Nikon Fm2

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    What are you guys on? Z6 at what lighting ratio, context and subjectivity. Image capture and representation is far more complex than this.
    To be strictly accurate I think it was "guy" singular. Only I have suggested that Z6 was the usual zone for caucasian skin

    By the way, what did you think of the OP's exposure method? I thought he had got things right and felt he deserved confirmation of this. Did you think it got the right result?

    pentaxuser

  9. #9
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pentaxuser View Post
    To be strictly accurate I think it was "guy" singular. Only I have suggested that Z6 was the usual zone for caucasian skin

    By the way, what did you think of the OP's exposure method? I thought he had got things right and felt he deserved confirmation of this. Did you think it got the right result?

    pentaxuser
    No I didn't. If he was using slide film perhaps, but for black & white perhaps a reflective reading on the area he considered most important. But impossible to tell without being there and viewing the subject/context in question. Is it a portrait of a baby or Count Dracula?
    Last edited by cliveh; 11-04-2012 at 04:35 PM. Click to view previous post history.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    No I didn't. If he was using slide film perhaps, but for black & white perhaps a reflective reading on the area he considered most important. But impossible to tell without being there and viewing the subject/context in question. Is it a portrait of a baby or Count Dracula?

    ???? Were you and I looking at a different gallery to the one OP gave us a link to? Where was the portrait figure that made it difficult for you to tell whether it was a baby or Count Dracula

    I keep on adding a smiley face because I assume you are being provocative in a funny way and not trying to insult the OP with the reference to "baby or Count Dracula". Fortunately I didn't see any baby portraits but had there been one it would be easy for the OP to misunderstand your comment as we have seen happen recently. However I was simply asking you to say what differences you would have made to the B&W and colour portraits to improve them.

    I think the OP was asking for our advice,help and essentially whether we thought his method had exposed his portraits reasonably well. I thought he had made a reasonable job.

    This ends my discussion here in case this turns into a dialogue between you and I which effectively but wrongly highjacks the OP's thread. However if you can suggest an exposure method which will improve his portraiture, based on the evidence of his work that he has given us then I am sure he will appreciate it

    I love the longer nights at this time of year. The coffin gets very uncomfortable after 18 hours in mid summer

    pentaxuser

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