Metering / Shooting Modes (what do you use?)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by TBAM, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. TBAM

    TBAM TPF Noob!

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    I've been reading a lot about metering lately, especially the Zone System, and it seems to (still) go right over my head.

    With a digital SLR, in manual mode, does the metering effect the shot at all, or is it only in Tv, Av, Program and Auto settings where the camera adjusts the exposure for you based on the metering?

    Ansel Adams developed the Zone System before digitals were introduced, and used it as a way to adjust your settings prior to exposing the film to ensure the "perfect shot".

    If you don't have a light meter, what exactly is the zone system. Is it looking at a scene visually and mentally estimating the exposure required to expose the brightest part, the exposure to expose the darkest part, and the exposure to expose the midrange parts of the scene, and then combine those exposure settings into one setting and shoot with those settings?

    It seems very scientific, but I can't grasp how you can use the Zone System without a light meter or camera with a metering system. Even then, all the advice regarding cameras only being able to view 8-9 EV (Exposure values) from darkest to brightest, just bowls me over and my brain explodes.

    Then there is the 18% grey card. Apparently this is to correctly tune your camera / exposure. However i'm confused.

    On the field, what do you do?

    Shoot a grey card on Tv, Av, or an auto mode, lock the settings and shoot the subject? Or is it you view the grey on the viewfinder in an auto mode, lock the settings (AEL/AFL) and shoot the subject?

    I shoot mainly manual, as I like to directly control my exposure, so +/_EV values don't really mean much to me (should they?). Even if I go to Aperture priority, i don't mind the way the camera exposes my pictures.

    I was originally a graphic designer, so maybe my approach to photography may be a bit off (even though i've been taking photos for a few years now). I don't rely on PP, but I definately use it in most shots if they are not perfect.

    I want to learn more and really grasp all of this stuff to do with the Zone System and metering but it flies right over my head.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated?

    Lastly, what exposure modes do people predominantly use?
     
  2. ANDS!

    ANDS! No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The good (to some bad) thing about cameras, is that they take the guesswork out of A LOT of what you are asking here. It is of course possible to fool the camera (it gets fooled all the time with exposure settings), but generally, using your default Matrix Metering (or whatever it is on an Olympus) should render your colors what you actually see them as.
     
  3. Big Mike

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

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    I still use the light meter, whether I'm shooting in manual or Av mode. But I know that it can be fooled, so I'll adjust the exposure when required. The needle need not be on the --0--.

    As for metering modes, I usually have it on centre weighted but sometimes I'll use centre or matrix.

    Actually, I really don't think about metering (in a traditional sense) much anymore. Now I shoot and check the histogram...and if the shot isn't where I think it should be...I'll adjust and shoot again.

    I'd suggest reading this...THIS and THIS.
     
  4. deanimator

    deanimator TPF Noob!

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    Basically, if you use a meter or any of the auto settings...what is happening is the system will want to render the range of tones in a way that the average value is something like the 18% grey.

    Let´s say you want to photograph
    1) a dark-skinned person in a dark room...there´s just a little bit of light on the face...your camera will over-expose this picture
    2) a pale-skinned person, with blond hair, in white clothes in a white room...your camera will under-expose this.

    How about this test now: You want to make a portrait of a person...a close head and shoulders. Set up the lights or find a nicely lit place. One customer is black, the next is white. Is the correct exposure the same for each shot or not? Let us know what you think...
     
  5. TBAM

    TBAM TPF Noob!

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    I'm very much like this. I rarely (now) pay attention to the light meter --0-- and am trying to build up my own perception I.e. look at a scene and be able to roughly guess the shutter speed required for the aperture that I want. I take the shot, check the histogram or chimp and if it's not what I like, I adjust the exposure from there.

    However a lot of this metering stuff, even people saying the Zone System is still relevant with Digital, makes me think that I should be doing something with the metering BEFORE taking the shot.

    Can someone please clarify. If i'm using Manual Mode, does the metering (spot, centre wighted, matrix etc) change anything about the exposure?

    Also, what is stop down metering? I have an old manual lens on my Olympus by way of a converter and the tutes say to use stop down metering, if using aperture priority, but i'm not sure what that means.

    Thanks Deanimator, that helps. So essentially, if I shoot / meter an 18% grey card and expose it correctly prior to the shot and use the same settings on the actual subject, the exposure should be perfect (or close to)?
     
  6. TBAM

    TBAM TPF Noob!

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    From personal experience, in portrait shots, even outdoors or in good lighting i'll use some fill flash. With people of different skin colour, I still find that the exposure ends up being the same.

    However, I agree, if there was no fill flash, you would need to adjust the exposure somewhat to achieve the same results for the different people.

    But I guess that's what fill flash is for, hehe.
     
  7. deanimator

    deanimator TPF Noob!

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    For the "test" example I gave you, yes...it would basically be fine.

    Watch out for odd things which are gonna screw up your metering (or how light can "fool" your meter). An example is when a really strong but small light source tricks the meter into thinking there´s lots of light...such as sunlight reflecting off the chrome of a car.

    You have a great advantage with a digital camera...you can see what happened immediately...adjust the exposure if need be and shoot again.

    Shoot lots, and be critical. You´ll soon get a feel for it.
     
  8. deanimator

    deanimator TPF Noob!

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    With exactly the same amount of light falling on the two different skin tones, the correct exposure would be the same for each. You want the dark skin to remain dark, and the light skin to stay light.
     
  9. Big Mike

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

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    No, it only affects where the 'needle' will fall on the light meter scale...and that's if the different modes give you different readings...many times the reading will be the same in different modes.

    A shot at F8 & 1/125 @ ISO 100 will be the same whether you are in M, P, Av or TV and in any of the meter modes.

    I tried to read Ansel Adam's books about the zone system, but they put me to sleep. I think that an important part of it, is just realizing that your medium (film or digital) has a dynamic range on tones that it can capture in a single exposure. Anything outside of that range will show up as either black or white. With a little practice and experience, it's not hard to look at a scene and know that a single photo could not get detail in both the highlights and shadows. Sometimes you want a compromise between the two, sometimes you choose one over the other. It's all pretty subjective.
     
  10. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    On Nikons, the Metering you see in Manual mode doesn't actually effect the exposure, it's just shown as a guide. As you adjust the shutter speed and aperture, you'll see the meter move as you go closer or farther from the exposure the camera recommends. However, if you have auto-ISO turned on, it *will* adjust the ISO in manual mode, which I think defeats the purpose. I don't know if Olympus works this way or not.
     
  11. deanimator

    deanimator TPF Noob!

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    The meter measures how much light it can see.

    Spot: it only looks at a very small area in the center of the picture
    Center-weighted: the area measured is the central 25% or so of the picture
    Matrix: It calculates the exposure based on a series of measurements made across most of the picture

    They each have their advantages...just make sure you know what the camera is pointed at.

    For example, the scene has a nice normal range of tone, but smack in the middle is the sun reflecting off Dad´s wristwatch. If you are using the spot metering mode the camera will be fooled into thinking the scene is bright and will suggest or set itself to use a reduced exposure...result: underexposed scene. Simply point the area in your viewfinder (the spot) at something in the scene which has a nice medium tone (the famous 18% grey tone) and set the shutter speed and aperture, then swing back to take the shot
     

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