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Back to basics about photography with Nikon

I

innocent

Dear All, having read Larry's recent contributions on photographic techniques, I've decided to start this new thread so that discussions on photography can be better focused. I will very much welcome Larry's contribution to this thread and those of others as well, of which, if I am not asking for too much are invited to write about issues relating to practical photography more frequently.
Larry in his recent contribution touched on metering and the use of hand held meters. My little experience is that the handheld meters do not seem to give accurate readings under a multiflash situation. The readings I have been obtaining will normally give an underexposed images. I have tried the best makes of handheld meters but same odd result. Meanwhile my studio flashes are back into the box it came with and seldom use it except only as floodlights where there's correspondence between my cameras(F5, D100) meter readings and my handheld meters. Is there something I'm doing wrong?
 

roman

Well-Known Member
I totally agree. No matter what the field....going back to the basics is always a good idea. Somtimes even as a technician, I have to step back from over analyzing my problem...and go back to the basics. Like Larry has said....its the person behind the lens...not the camera itself ...that gives a photo it's ommph. I look forward to this discussion thread.

Roman
 

lnbolch

Well-Known Member
While I admit a bias to photofloods, I have also shot thousands of shots with studio strobes. As a general rule in studio, using a good flashmeter, read at subject position with the incident dome in place and the meter pointing at the camera position. This integrates all the lights and seeks the proper exposure.

However, realize that just like camera technique everyone has their own metering technique. If you are getting consistent under exposure, you will need to re-rate your film or your sensor to a lower sensitivity. This is found through testing. With film it means taking a careful reading at the published ISO and making an identifiable exposure. Let us assume ISO100. Good meters let one set one exposure index in much finer incriments than most cameras, so try a shot at around ISO80 and ISO64. In other words downrate the sensitivity by a 1/3 stop bracket. Once the film is back, identify the ideal exposure and go with that.

ISO ratings for film are done in lab conditions using sensitometric measurements that don't necessarily translate into accurate settings for one's metering technique in the field. Pros buy large batches of film with a single emulsion number, and test it to get their individual exposure index. This raging is the one they use until that batch of film is used up. Regard the published ISO rating as a guide to where you may start to test for your own individualized rating.

With digital cameras, there is no problem using studio strobes. If you have a flashmeter it will save a bit of time, but the best exposure method is using trial and error. Do a test shot, review and adjust accordingly.

With studio strobes, the camera's metering is irrelevant, since all studio strobe work is done on manual exposure.

If you are using a dSLR, set it to the X-sync speed as listed in the manual. From there, all exposure is set by aperture ONLY. If the picture is dark, open the aperture and keep doing so bit by bit until the exposure is perfect. If the picture is light, stop down. Moving the lights closer will lighten the exposure and moving them back will darken it as well.

The same is true if using a prosumer camera like the CP5000 or CP5700, except that it will sync at ANY shutter speed. Use a high enough shutter speed to eliminate all the light from the modeling lights and then use the aperture to regulate exposure as above.

When shooting digital, the histogram is your best friend. Become familiar with it and it will keep you out of trouble. No matter what conditions I am shooting under, I am CONSTANTLY testing and checking the histogram. My exposures are rarely short of perfect - not because of talent, but because I fully utilize the histogram reading.

Shooting in a portrait studio, one gets to the point that you know about what f-stop to use by experience. One keeps the lights at reasonably constant distances, and the exposure varies only a little.

In kidnapping studios in chain stores, the lights may actually be fixed in place as well as the subject position. The formula never varies, and the results are completely consistent. Prints can be made very cheaply since every shot has exactly the same exposure and there is no need for individual attention.

Even in a studio where a photographer seeks the ideal lighting for each subject, the exposure will be remarkably consistent. If the nominal exposure is f-8.0, it will generally only vary perhaps by half a stop each way. Shooting day after day in one's studio, meters get lost and no one notices.

This does not apply to a commercial studio where product is shot. Prior to digital, product photographers checked their exposure with Polaroid when shooting strobe. Since then, product has gone almost totally digital and often with cameras directly tethered to computers and the strobes have been replaced.

The highest resolution backs work like a scanner, scanning the image at the focal plane of the camera - a medium or large format camera fitted with these backs. All shots are done with either incandescent lights or no-flicker fluorescents with very high CRIs (Colour Rendering Index). The backs have little or no memory of their own other than a little bit of buffer. Since the image is acquired directly into the computer, the moment the exposure is done it can be checked in software and the exposure adjusted.

larry! ICQ 76620504
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I

innocent

> Thanks Larry for your help with regards to the methods of multiflash > setting and the flash meter readings. It seems to me then that in a > studio settings a flash meter is not a necessity in that you still > have to go through several trial and error processes to achieve the > desired result. Most manufacturers such as Gossen would recommend > calibrating the meter in the line you have just discussed but then it > begs the question of what is the utility of the meter since most of > its readings are approximate and unreliable particularly in a > multiflash situation. The metering system that comes with the F5 > appears to me very good though when shooting with slides+ polarizer > filter under aperture priority (i.e. the widest possible) I still > return underexposed images. Why? I have no clue. One more thing > please, could you develop a bit more on the 'histogram' question. How > can I make some sense out of it? thanks Larry in anticipation of your > continuos contribution. Inno'
 

lnbolch

Well-Known Member
Given the skill to take consistent readings, knowing which kind of meter to use and calibrating it to the film and metering method you use, very consistent results can be achieved under MOST cirumstances.

That said, there are times when bracketing is called for. With films like Kodachrome or when shooting digital, exposure is extremely critical. There is almost no latitude for over exposure and little for underexposure of most common scenes. When the contrast range of the scene exceeds the dynamic range of the material, with film, the best you can do is bracket and keep the compromise that looks closest to ideal.

Luckily with digital, there is an out that will let one shoot in conditions way beyond the scope of even the most forgiving film. One can bracket and combine images in Photoshop to smoothly extend the range to cope with almost any lighting conditions. See
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for s&les and tutorial information.

Using a reflected light meter, care must be taken not to include light sources in the reading. The same holds true of through-the-lens metering, and with automatic cameras. A table-l& or specular reflection off chrome outdoors can push the rest of the image into under-exposure. The meter seeks an average and an object much brighter than the rest of the image will raise the average to the point that it will be placed as a maximum highlight with detail, and the rest of the image goes into deep underexposure. Cameras are profoundly stupid, and rely upon the knowledge and intelligence of the photographer to avoid such situations.

A large dark area - such as a performer in the spotlight surrounded by darkness - will cause the opposite misreading. The camera will try to compensate for the blackness and push the performer into total overexposure. See "Raven" and "Willie Nelson" at
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Willie was spot metered and the raven was shot against a dark coniferous forest on the shady side of a mountain. Metering technique - whether with a hand-held meter or in-camera - is everything.

There is an introduction to histograms at
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In this site, ex&le pictures and their histograms are shown, with explanatory text. A histogram shows the dynamic range of the subject matter by its width, with the darkest shadow on the left and the brightest highlight one the right. Since shooting digital is closely akin to shooting Kodachrome, when the exposure reaches the base density of the film or RGB values of 255, 255, 255, all detail is lost above that value. The right hand axis represents pure white, and the left hand axis represents 0, 0, 0 - the d-max of your virtual film.

If the exposure lies comfortably between the two axes, one can place the maximum black and white in an image processing program, retaining as much or little shadow and highlight detail as the image needs.

If the graph is jammed against the left side with the right side pretty much a flat line, the image is underexposed and use of exposure compensation is needed to move it to the right. Worse, if the graph is touching the right axis, it means that highlight detail is lost. Again, use exposure compensation to correct. The shape of the graph is of little consequence to exposure. The starting and ending points are the ones that are critical. If the graph is a line with little or no height, bracketing and layering - as above - is generally called for.

Hope this helps. One could do a whole book just on exposure!

larry! ICQ 76620504
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roman

Well-Known Member
Side note to Larry's excellent bracketing information. If you take your exposures in RAW mode, you can do exposure adjustment as well post process, and create highlight detail as well as shadow detail pics to blend together that are pixel for pixel exact copies of one another. Just a suggestion. It’s quite effective in extending your tonal range in difficult shots.

Roman
 
I

innocent

> Your point is taken about the tonal manipulation of captured images

> while shooting with RAW format in difficult lighting conditions. > Shooting with positive films presents more difficult problems which

> bracketing is perhaps one of the only way out and hoping that you've

> bracketed correctly?? as opposed to bracketing within the latitude of

> the film. A light meter under such circumstances or indeed a good use

> of the inbuilt camera light meter may come handy by averaging the > tonal range in the scene- Gossen light-meters actually, are quite good > at it. I've tried averaging my readings under multi-flash condition

> but nay it wont work. I may now have to try the technique suggested by > Larry or do several trial shots for each light setting (hoping my > patience will endure). Inno' >
 
V

Viewphotos

> CAN SOMEBODY REMOVE ME. I HAVE ASKED FIVE TIMES AND UNSUBSCRIBED THREE TIMES AND I AM STILL GETTING EMAILS.
 
I

innocent

> Your mail MIK constitutes a spam. Now go to the homepage and login > from there delete your details OK and stop being a nuisance!!! Inno
 
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