Questions about Light Meter and correct exposure during shoot.

Started May 7, 2013 | Discussions thread
Sailor Blue
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Re: Questions about Light Meter and correct exposure during shoot.
In reply to Clueless Wanderer, May 8, 2013

The L-358 meter (congratulations on calibrating it, too many people never bother) will give you the correct exposure for a normal subject such as a portrait or scenic.

You are shooting a limited dynamic range subject, i.e. a low contrast one, and a dark one to boot.  The "best" exposure would be an Expose To The Right (ETTR) one for this subject.  The resulting image will be way too bright and you will be reducing the exposure in post processing but by using ETTR you will capture many more details in the dark areas of the image.

In my article on how to make ETTR easier by using the camera's Highlight Alert there are links to Michael Reichmanns original articles on ETTR.  In one of those articles he goes into a nice explanation of why using the ETTR with low contrast subjects is the best way to capture the image.

Sailorblue - Digital Photography Review - HA-ETTR: An Easier Way To Expose To The Right Using The Camera's Highlight Alert

With ETTR you want the large soft highlights to be at as high an exposure as possible without being blown out and losing details.  Ignore the tiny specular highlights (direct reflections of a small light source like the sun on chrome) since they should be blown out.

Start with the meter reading then increase the exposure in 1 stop increments until you see the large soft highlights blinking (NOT specular ones).  Back off 2/3 stop and try that.  If the highlights are now blinking that is the correct RAW exposure.  If the large soft highlights aren't blinking then go up 1/3 more stop.

The correct JPG exposure is 1/3 stop less than the exposure at which the large soft highlights that must retain details start blinking.  The RAW exposure is higher because of the larger dynamic range of RAW files.

Here is a suggestion for your lighting.

Use a softbox off to the side to give a nice overall illumination of your subject and to give them large highlights that are NOT blown out.

Add a small light source like a hot-shoe flash or undiffused studio strobe close to the camera (beside it or over it) to add small bright specular highlights that are blown out.  These small specular highlights will give a snap to your image that is missing without them much like catchlights add snap to portraits.

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