Confusion with Exposure

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by slvr92, Mar 8, 2009.

  1. slvr92

    slvr92 TPF Noob!

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    Hello everyone!

    I would like to ask some questions about the exposure on my Nikon N50/F50. Sometimes when I get lucky on my outdoor shots, my exposure meter would be correct and it would be balanced out. Other times, there would be either too much light or not enough light coming through. Even if I use my built-in flash, there isn't enough light or not enough light to make the exposure meter be balance. I mess around with the shutter speed and aperture when I'm taking a shallow DoF picture, but feel that the exposure is going to mess up my picture because it's not balanced out.

    Does the exposure meter ALWAYS needs to be right in the middle? Can I take a picture with there be too much light or not enough light and assume that the picture will look nice?

    I'll be developing my Fuji 400 films tomorrow after yesterday and todays shooting. I'll scan some of them to get some critiques on it.

    Anyways, thanks in advance for all the advice you guys can give me. I hope my post makes sense though.

    Cheers!
     
  2. blash

    blash TPF Noob!

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    Ummm....

    By definition, the exposure meter in the middle means the correct exposure. Off to the right (-) and it will underexpose (darken), while off to the left (+) and it will overexpose (lighten). What did you think the exposure meter meant?

    Are you trying to match the light to your camera settings? Make sure the film speed is set correctly on your camera and adjust shutter speed or aperture to let more/less light through as needed.
     
  3. Taydr

    Taydr TPF Noob!

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    One of the things I was taught in my photography course was not to rely on the exposure meter. They can often be wrong just by little things such as light from a window. Lately I've just been ignoring mine completely and going by my eyes, possibly not the best way seeing as my eyes aren't the best, but I trust them more than the meter.

    But I digress. The best thing you could do is just go by what you think is right, then see how the pictures come out, and build from there.
     
  4. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :confused: Ignoring the meter is probably one of the worst things a newbie should do if they actually want to learn about how light and photography work together.

    Yes, it's true that the meter reading isn't always 100% accurate, depending on the light situations(stray light coming from weird directions, heavy contrast between foreground and background, etc.), but the reasons for this inaccuracy are easy to overcome.

    Don't ignore the meter.

    One way is to take two readings, more if you need to. One on the darker spots of your subject, one on the lighter parts, then average the reading to get a proper exposure. I'd guess that unless you've been shooting for years and have experience dealing with light and meter readings, then you've been lucky so far by ignoring the meter, assuming your shots are working out.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree you do need to read the meter - a lot (years) of experience plus shooting in similar lighting might let you be able to ballpark your settings so that you can shoot without having to use the meter, but your not going to get there overnight!
    Firstly the important thing is that you don't have to expose with the meter fully in the middle = there are times when you might want to over or under expose areas of a shot - or you might be working with flash support and so are able to underexpose on the settings, but with the understanding that flash will be adding light to make up for this and give you a more correct exposure.

    As to when you want to under or overexpose this is something you have to work out for yourself - as far as I see it sometimes a shot requires you to push a setting (such as shutter speed) in order to get the shot to work. Lets say your shooting deer in the evenging - if you underexpose a shot you might get the shutter speed you need to capture the motion of the animal without the blur - if not then you might get a well exposed image but the deer will be thrown into blur. Even in film (I think) you can brighten an image but you can't remove subject blur (even in digital)
     
  6. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "Does the exposure meter ALWAYS needs to be right in the middle? Can I take a picture with there be too much light or not enough light and assume that the picture will look nice?"

    Yes and no. Your meter -when it's in matrix mode- takes the scene luminance values and averages them all out and then compares them to 18% gray and the pointing device shows you how far off 18% gray you are.

    If the scene has a lot of dark area in it and your subject is lighter then you will wind up with a washed out subject. If the reverse is true then your subject will turn out too dark.

    I'm sorry but I don't have a lot of time just now but search out and read about how to use a hand held meter, your on camera spot meter and the zone system. Start with the zone system then go to the hand held meter and then your spot meter.

    Good luck and get to reading.. it'll all make sense soon. :)

    mike
     
  7. slvr92

    slvr92 TPF Noob!

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    I'll take your advice into consideration. I was pointing it at the light last night in my room and had a little dark spot on the bottom and the exposure was balanced out.

    Thanks for your advice. I'll try to find some articles on the how-to use a hand held meter and read it.
     
  8. Taydr

    Taydr TPF Noob!

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    You're right, that post was out of line, and some very bad advice. guess there is always a reason for things not working like expected and in my case I found it to be the aperture settings. Having now fixed my dilemma, I realise how useful the light meter is, so I apologize for my misleading and inaccurate rambling.
     
  9. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Canon is the opposite of this. (-) is left and (+) is right.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    now that is just darn confusing!
    I always thought that histograms were set (the canon way of course ;)) and fixed across as a standard!
     
  11. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think the histogram is the same, it's just the way the meter is dislayed (in the viewfinder/LCD) that's different.
     
  12. nwind21

    nwind21 TPF Noob!

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    Sometimes the range in exposure of a given scene might be beyond the dynamic range of the camera's sensor or film so if you have a high contrast scene you won't be able to get all the details. This happens in nature photography more often when you have a bright sky and relatively diffuse forground.

    I think based on some articles I've read on average, a modern dslr has a range between 10-14 stops of range. The human eye is somewhere like 20 stops.

    There will be situations that you can't expose all the details in the shadows and all the details in the highlights in a single exposure, otherwise all the other advice about exposure metering, etc. apply.

    You can tell if this is the problem if you meter the shadows then meter the highlights and find that the difference in f-stops exceeds the rough 10 stop range you might have an issue where you will lose detail somewhere.

    Also keep in mind that matrix metering will attempt to meter everything (sky and foreground) to give you a muddy meter reading. If you can change to spot metering (most Nikons have this) and meter what you want exposed that helps or just zoom in to the area with matrix so that it only meters what you want exposed to get reading (I did this with my old Minolta Maxum).

    In general, if you're exposing for bright tones (white shirts, etc.), you want to the meter to read 1-2 stops overexposed for that area. If you're exposing for dark tones (blacks, etc.) then you start around 1-2 stop underexposed for that area. If you're exposing for medium tones, then the meter _should_ be roughly about right for that area.

    Hope that helps.
     

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