Why can't I use incident for true black and whit with close ups portraits?
Okay, I understand why you would use the spot meter and zone system for bw. Especially with landscapes and architecture, for example. I understand that. But, if I am taking a very close up portrait, do I really need to use spot/zone for the skin tone? Why wouldn't an incident meter work the same in this instance? I mean, you are so close, you are certain to be in the same light, unlike far away landscapes. Thoughts?
You can meter however you want as long as you get the results you want!
Yes, you can certainly use incident metering for portraits and other close subjects. Take a reading with the dome in front of the subject's face pointing back at the lens for the general exposure. If you want the contrast ratio, you can use a flat diffuser to take separate readings of the main and the fill (or to get a reading from the sun or the window providing the main light, and an ambient reading pointed away from a natural light source), or use your hand to shield the dome to get separate readings.
If you're shooting medium format or larger and using a handheld meter, don't forget to account for bellows factor at portrait distances.
It's also possible to use incident metering for distant subjects, as long as the light falling on the subject is the same as the light where you take the reading. BTZS works this way.
I always use a hand held meter on incident mode for portraits. It is an accurate method of metering. Just take your reading facing the camera, not pointed at your subject. I have a Sekonic L-398 Studio Master and get perfect results every time.
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Agree with everyone. And in fact, the incident meter excels for this type of photography.
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Incident metering works perfectly in this situation.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
If someone told you, or you read somewhere that incident metering doesn't work for portraits or close-ups, they didn't know what they were talking about.
Hold the meter at the subject's position (or in lighting identical to that of the subject) with the dome pointed toward the camera position, and you should get an excellent exposure.
In all the commercial and advertizing studios I worked in (about a dozen), this is the way metering was done for table top, portrait, and group photography. Checks were done on Polaroid before shooting film.
You can use the incident meter for you work. See post #3.
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I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
The cases where incident light metering might not give you what you expected is with pure white or pure black objects. Incident light metering abstracts totally from the reflectivity of the subject, but if let's say the subject is very very white, such a reading might place your subject in a zone of the characteristic curve of the film where you don't have much texture.
So when using incident reading with a "milk white" subject, you would close a bit more than what suggested by your light meter. That's probably more true with small format than with MF or LF where film retains more details in the extremes "zones".
That said, with skin tones incident light metering is the best thing because you don't have to worry about the skin tone of the subject: any skin tone will be rendered well.
On the other hand, if it's a model in a wedding dress you are taking pictures of, or with a pure white hat, than, as said above, some caution might be used and some compensation applied.
PS As ever when talking about precise exposure, what above is mainly true with slide film. If using negative, and especially B&W negative, you have ample overexposure room and you dodge/burn as appropriate during the printing stage.
Polaroid perfect, these days Fuji Instant First