metering for night photography (film)

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by hao, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. hao

    hao TPF Noob!

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    I am new to film photography, and I was trying some night photography yesterday. The subject was buildings and streets after 8 or 9 pm, so the sky was completely dark. I knew that the meter on the camera was kind of useless in such dark situation, so I brought my digital camera to help me determine the shutter speed and etc. (ie. shoot in digital first to see the effect on the LCD then shoot in film accordingly)
    But then what if I dont have the digital camera with me? How do you guys decide how long the shutter speed should be in order to produce the effect you expected? from experience? handheld metering? ( I doubt it would work) or just based on experience?

    Thank you!:p
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I was reading Ctein's method for night time metering using the in-camera meter and film, back in the day. He mentioned two methods, both fairly similar, but one was metering off of a white sheet of paper at night. Here is Ctein's own description and the URL
    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/10/high-iso-high-noon.html

    "Meter off a highlight or a white sheet of paper and it's like boosting your meter sensitivity an order of magnitude. If I could see it, I could meter it. It went like this: meter would tell me I needed 2/3 second at ƒ/2 off of white paper. Okay, that's 5 seconds for a proper grey. Now start stopping down for depth of field. There I am at ƒ/13 for a photo like this one and the nominal exposure time's pushing over 200 seconds. The film I'm using's got a 10X reciprocity correction at 200 seconds. And so, it's reading time!"

    I would also suggest that you go here KODAK: Pictures by Existing Light: Tech Pub AC-61

    and look at some typical exposure settings for night time work.
     
  3. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy TPF Noob!

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    In my early days I'd just let the built in meter in my Nikon FE do its thing in auto mode, and would use the exposure compensation ring to bracket. Always got at least one nice frame. These days I use a spot meter and stick the brightest area in the scene at Zone VII or VIII. Let the shadows fall where they will.

    Buy Acros 100 or Provia 100f and you pretty much don't have to worry much about the reciprocity adjustment normally required for night shooting since those two film stocks have awesome tolerance for long exposure. Also realize that when exposure times get really long, that being off on on exposure isn't as damaging as quick shutter speeds. If the best exposure is one minute, it is going to be two minutes before you over expose by a stop, and four minutes to over expose by two stops. Plenty of room for error.
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  5. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Film is cheap. Bracket.
     
  6. echodeluxe

    echodeluxe TPF Noob!

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    haha bingo!

    :thumbup:
     
  7. teneighty23

    teneighty23 TPF Noob!

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    depending on the length of exposure a digital camera may not help, they are much more reliable as far as getting the right length of exposure, if i make an exposure on a digital for 8 minutes, it would probably take 13 minutes on film, or more, it has whats been mentioned, reciprocity failure, meaning the longer the exposure, the slower it burns into the film. i dont think ive really overexposed any night shots, unless your subject is very bright compared to the rest of the frame. i usually pick what i want to expose correctly, and i will zoom in and set the exposure to that, then zoom out and compose the shot, and add another 1.5-2 stops over that and if its a shot i NEED i would just bracket 3 for sure, if its a long one it makes sense to just take the one shot, night photography is lengthy. one Quote i know of is from Chip Forelli, its "expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights" i know you may not control your development, but it only makes sense to develop the shadows, then you have all the information, and most of the time, your highlights will be blown out anyway right? so go for it.

    Just remember to expose longer than you would think necessary, its hard to overexpose subjects in darkeness with film, (situational of course) just go out and shoot, you will gain experience.
     
  8. hao

    hao TPF Noob!

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    Thank you everybody for answering my question!
    I got the prints from my last shots and their exposure turned to be all fine. No single picture got over-exposed. Yes, it is hard to over-expose for night shots.

    The links provided above are very helpful!!!
     

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