How do you know what to meter off of?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by DanV1317, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. DanV1317

    DanV1317 TPF Noob!

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    I am reading through Understanding Exposure and sometimes Bryan will say that he meters off the blue sky above the landscape, and sometimes he will say that he meters off of whatever object he is taking the picture of. For instance, in a portrait outside, would you meter off the sky, or meter close to the person's face? And for a picture of a bird which is about 50 yards away, would you meter directly on the bird, or would you meter off the sky above?

    Thanks
    Dan
     
  2. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    The decision depends on what item in the photo is most important. If I'm taking a portrait, then clearly the person is most important. I usually can't meter quickly enough to catch the bird in flight so, in that case, I make a WAG.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You can meter off of anything...but you need to know that the camera's meter is going to give you readings to turn that tone into 18% grey. So if you want to be as accurate a possible, you need to know how much to change the setting away from the metered settings. For example, you could meter something white, and then increase the exposure by 2 or 2.5 stops. You could meter off of light skin and increase the exposure by one stop. You could meter off of green grass and keep the same exposure.

    On the other hand, there is no correct exposure, per say. You are the photographer and you can decide to use more or less exposure as you see fit.

    So if you are shooting a scene...you could meter off of the sky and see what you get. Then meter off of the ground and see what you get....etc.

    You also have to keep in mind the metering mode that you are in. Modern cameras will usually have some sort of matrix metering mode, which takes points from all over the scene and averages them (maybe with a bias to the centre). They might also have a centre weighted mode and a centre or spot mode. So when you want to meter specifically off of things, you should be in centre only or spot mode. Even with spot mode, it's usually still a centre area and not a tiny spot...so metering off of a bird from 50 yards away (without an 800mm lens) would be pretty hard to do. Sometimes you can't meter the subject directly, so you try things that are easy (the sky, the grass).

    Trial and error will be the way to learn...but always remember that the meter wants to turn your exposure grey, so use the meter but don't be afraid to add or subtract exposure from that...depending on the tone of what you were metering off of.
     
  4. Sideburns

    Sideburns TPF Noob!

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    Just pick up a gray card and you'll not have to worry as much..as long as you and your subject are in the same light...
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Or a hand held incident meter.
     

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