Expose for shadows/highlights

Started 5 months ago | Discussions
Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 2,205
Re: another simple idea I should have mentioned

brandon77 wrote:

Got it:) What if I just ignore the in camera meter altogether, and go and buy a handheld measure to use instead. Ir seems like this will make things much easier?

This is always a better idea, because the light meter measures the light falling on the scene rather than the light getting reflected into the camera. Also, the camera doesn't know what it's looking at, and tries to render it all as 18% gray. So a very dark scene (black car against a navy blue wall) will be overexposed and a very light scene (whitewashed buildings) will be underexposed.

You can also use the Sunny 16 rule -- it works really well. From your photo, it looks like you're shooting on a bright California (Florida?) day. So if you're shooting Portra 400, your exposure will be around 1/500 @ f/16 (or some equivalent -- 1/250 @ f/22, 1/1000 @ f/8, etc.).

Color film has a lot of latitude so a stop out of whack won't make much of a difference -- the exposure set by the scanner (or printing machine) will generally compensate. If in doubt, bracket (shoot one stop over and one under).

I'm a bit surprised your model's torso was blown out -- it was being struck by the same light as the trees behind. Seems more like a scanning issue to me.

-- hide signature --

Editorial comment: Some people who say "Expose for the shadows" are really just misunderstanding Ansel Adams' Zone System, which involves treating exposure, development and printing as a complete system. You expose for the shadows, yes -- but then you compensate by altering development. Easy to do with B&W film, but color is a standardized process so it gets trickier to push/pull (i.e. over/underdevelop).

Me, I wouldn't bother -- a hand-held incident light meter measuring the light hitting your subject will give you about the right exposure. Or the Sunny 16 rule, which, the more I use, the more I like.

Me, I try not to overcomplicate things -- I leave that to digital photography, which is well suited. With film, I prefer to simplify. Most of the time I go with the indicated exposure. There's enough "information" on the negative to compensate in scanning, printing or post-production.

You can look at my Flicker film albums (link below) and decide for yourself if I'm worth listening to.

Aaron

PS -- If you want to expose for the shadows, you can get nice and close with your camera and take a meter reading, then walk back and re-frame the shot and shoot. Keep in mind the meter wants to render everything as middle gray, and that will mostly work for Caucasian skin tones, but won't do much for very dark or very bright fabric.

HTH!

--
My Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarongold/

OP brandon77 Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: another simple idea I should have mentioned
1

Autonerd wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

Got it:) What if I just ignore the in camera meter altogether, and go and buy a handheld measure to use instead. Ir seems like this will make things much easier?

This is always a better idea, because the light meter measures the light falling on the scene rather than the light getting reflected into the camera. Also, the camera doesn't know what it's looking at, and tries to render it all as 18% gray. So a very dark scene (black car against a navy blue wall) will be overexposed and a very light scene (whitewashed buildings) will be underexposed.

You can also use the Sunny 16 rule -- it works really well. From your photo, it looks like you're shooting on a bright California (Florida?) day. So if you're shooting Portra 400, your exposure will be around 1/500 @ f/16 (or some equivalent -- 1/250 @ f/22, 1/1000 @ f/8, etc.).

Gee you sure know your stuff 😊 - Is there a light meter that you recommend getting, or that you personally use that you like? Thanks

Color film has a lot of latitude so a stop out of whack won't make much of a difference -- the exposure set by the scanner (or printing machine) will generally compensate. If in doubt, bracket (shoot one stop over and one under).

I'm a bit surprised your model's torso was blown out -- it was being struck by the same light as the trees behind. Seems more like a scanning issue to me.

-- hide signature --

Editorial comment: Some people who say "Expose for the shadows" are really just misunderstanding Ansel Adams' Zone System, which involves treating exposure, development and printing as a complete system. You expose for the shadows, yes -- but then you compensate by altering development. Easy to do with B&W film, but color is a standardized process so it gets trickier to push/pull (i.e. over/underdevelop).

Me, I wouldn't bother -- a hand-held incident light meter measuring the light hitting your subject will give you about the right exposure. Or the Sunny 16 rule, which, the more I use, the more I like.

Me, I try not to overcomplicate things -- I leave that to digital photography, which is well suited. With film, I prefer to simplify. Most of the time I go with the indicated exposure. There's enough "information" on the negative to compensate in scanning, printing or post-production.

You can look at my Flicker film albums (link below) and decide for yourself if I'm worth listening to.

Aaron

PS -- If you want to expose for the shadows, you can get nice and close with your camera and take a meter reading, then walk back and re-frame the shot and shoot. Keep in mind the meter wants to render everything as middle gray, and that will mostly work for Caucasian skin tones, but won't do much for very dark or very bright fabric.

HTH!

--
My Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarongold/

tassienick Senior Member • Posts: 1,559
Re: right, except that it's underexpose

brandon77 wrote:

tassienick wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

Svein Eriksen wrote:

How did you convert this to digital? Agree it's too bright, but I doubt there are blown highlights.

I just got the lab to send me the files on dropbox

Have you seen the negs?

No, I never get them back after

Request to get them back after (any good lab will give them back). You can tell a lot more from the neg than the scan.

Its difficult to judge exposure based on lab scans because they’re working to what they *think* you want to see, and the end result of the scan may not represent the actual negative.

Your example of the portrait looks well exposed (there’s no blown highlights), but the file looks fairly typical of the high key aesthetic that seems to dominate film photography these days.

As an aside, when metering a white body in full sunlight I would generally go one or two stops under. If the meter is correct for the background (which is most of the scene), the subject is going to be over.

So I change my rating of film?

Yes and no.

Generally speaking, learn the idiosyncrasies of your metering method. In some situations, it will tend to overexpose, while in others it will under expose. Learn to predict this and adjust your exposure shot by shot depending on the light and subject.

While learning, I’d strongly recommend recording exposure info for each shot, including any compensation if using auto. You can do this in a note book or use an app (I use Nossaflex). Then compare your exposure settings to the negative, and if it looks out see if there’s anything that might have thrown out the metering.

Bags27 Senior Member • Posts: 1,307
Re: right, except that it's underexpose
1

i don't have a problem with the original photo as good material for post. I did this quickly, merely by -75 brightness and +39 contrast in Photoshop. If I had a dng or tiff, I might have be able to work on the sky.

OP brandon77 Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: right, except that it's underexpose

tassienick wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

tassienick wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

Svein Eriksen wrote:

How did you convert this to digital? Agree it's too bright, but I doubt there are blown highlights.

I just got the lab to send me the files on dropbox

Have you seen the negs?

No, I never get them back after

Request to get them back after (any good lab will give them back). You can tell a lot more from the neg than the scan.

Its difficult to judge exposure based on lab scans because they’re working to what they *think* you want to see, and the end result of the scan may not represent the actual negative.

Your example of the portrait looks well exposed (there’s no blown highlights), but the file looks fairly typical of the high key aesthetic that seems to dominate film photography these days.

As an aside, when metering a white body in full sunlight I would generally go one or two stops under. If the meter is correct for the background (which is most of the scene), the subject is going to be over.

So I change my rating of film?

Yes and no.

Generally speaking, learn the idiosyncrasies of your metering method. In some situations, it will tend to overexpose, while in others it will under expose. Learn to predict this and adjust your exposure shot by shot depending on the light and subject.

While learning, I’d strongly recommend recording exposure info for each shot, including any compensation if using auto. You can do this in a note book or use an app (I use Nossaflex). Then compare your exposure settings to the negative, and if it looks out see if there’s anything that might have thrown out the metering.

Great idea thanks

Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 2,881
Re: Expose for shadows/highlights
1

If you want to see what incident metering will give you then you can get a expodisc, or one of the very cheap equivalents, and use your normal camera meter. See https://jimdoty.com/learn/exp101/exp_expodisc/exp_expodisc.html for an explanation.

But if you have any doubt about the accuracy of the meter in your camera then you might be better off getting a cheap handheld meter. You are probably better getting a recent digital meter than an old analogue one.   Sekonic L-308 are often recommended but they are very expensive, even secondhand. You could look at a second hand Gossen Sixtomat ( https://gossen-photo.de/en/sixtomat-f2/ but not necessarily the F2) which cost somewhere around £50 and will do reflected and incident readings.

OP brandon77 Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: Expose for shadows/highlights

Overrank wrote:

If you want to see what incident metering will give you then you can get a expodisc, or one of the very cheap equivalents, and use your normal camera meter. See https://jimdoty.com/learn/exp101/exp_expodisc/exp_expodisc.html for an explanation.

But if you have any doubt about the accuracy of the meter in your camera then you might be better off getting a cheap handheld meter. You are probably better getting a recent digital meter than an old analogue one. Sekonic L-308 are often recommended but they are very expensive, even secondhand. You could look at a second hand Gossen Sixtomat ( https://gossen-photo.de/en/sixtomat-f2/ but not necessarily the F2) which cost somewhere around £50 and will do reflected and incident readings.

Thanks 😊

Svein Eriksen Senior Member • Posts: 2,271
Re: right, except that it's underexpose
1

Bags27 wrote:

i don't have a problem with the original photo as good material for post. ......

I tried the same. One minute in a editing program -0.85 exposure and some other minor adjustments and I got something similar to your edit. Agree with OP that it's too bright, but a good starting point for post processing.

peripheralfocus Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
Re: another simple idea I should have mentioned
1

brandon77 wrote:

Most of the time, you can just use that recommended exposure. Technically, it will overexpose the shadow, but usually that's no problem. Still, if you're worried about it, you can reduce the exposure by one or two stops from what the meter recommends, and you'll still be fine. You will have "exposed for the shadows".

Do you mean if I’m shooting portra 400 then I rate it at 800?

Yes, if you change your ISO setting to 800 when the film is actually an ISO 400 film, that will cause the meter to recommend 1-stop less exposure.

But that's not how I would do it. I'd just choose a faster shutter speed or narrower aperture.

So let's say I walked up to my dark shadow, filled the viewfinder with it, then adjusted the camera so that the meter needle was at the 'zero' position -- i.e. adjusted the shutter speed and aperture to what the meter thinks are correct. That will render the shadow as a middle gray value (in other words, overexpose it). If the settings are, say, 1/500th at f/8, to reduce the exposure by one stop, I'd just change the shutter speed to 1/1000th. Or the f-stop to f/11.

For shot-to-shot corrections, I'd use shutter speed and aperture. If I had some reason to bias the exposure for a whole roll, then I'd set the ISO to an adjusted value.

(Note that with Portra 400, which I see you are using, you don't actually need to correct for the meter's tendency to overexpose the shadow you zoomed in on. You could just shoot at the meter's recommended exposure, and you'd be fine.)

Got it:) What if I just ignore the in camera meter altogether, and go and buy a handheld measure to use instead. Ir seems like this will make things much easier?

Yeah, for portraits where you have time and can direct the model, it's very simple and reliable to take an incident (as opposed to reflected) reading with a handheld meter. That's exactly what I have done with portraits for 30 years. I won't go into an explanation of what incident meter readings are, but you can google that.

That said, there's no reason at all why you can't use your K1000's built-in meter to get excellent exposures for portraits on negative film. It's not a very demanding scenario. (See my other comment on the scans you are using to judge your current technique.)

peripheralfocus Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
as other said, it's the scan, not your negative
2

brandon77 wrote:

As you know (but the OP may not), if you point a reflected light meter at a black object (shadows), it will recommend an exposure that will reproduce the object as gray (i.e. lighter than it is). To reproduce it as black, we have to reduce the exposure from whatever was recommended by the meter.

Yes this is the part I’m confused by. This photo is a good location of me trying to rate my film one stop more, and looking at the meeting in camera only. I have seen many other people shoot in the same conditions and the subject doesn’t get blown out.

Two things:

First and most important, by looking at lab scans, you are simply not seeing what you and your camera did. You're seeing what the scanner operator did. You cannot tell anything about your exposure without looking at the negative. The scans are essentially useless for that. I don't have my scanner where I am right now, but if I did, I'd run you 3 quick scans of a good negative and show you that I scan the negative to look severely underexposed, scan it to look severely overexposed, or scan it to look like it was shot on Mars.

So again, if you want to see what you and your camera are doing, you need to look at the negative. End of story.

That said, I can see from your lab's scan that the negative is fine. They could have easily scanned it to look more correctly exposed. You can just lower the brightness yourself, in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Secondly, even though your negative is fine, there was no reason for you to 'expose for the shadows' here. You don't really have any, at least not any important ones. Your K1000's averaging meter can handle this scene just fine -- no need to rate your film at a different ISO, or bias your shutter speed or aperture.

But just for illustration purposes: since the darkest part of your subject is his jeans, you could have walked up to him and pointed your camera at his jeans, adjusted the camera settings until the meter needle was at 'zero', and then backed up and shot the picture. That would ensure more than enough exposure for the shadows (i.e. his jeans).

Let's imagine he was wearing black jeans, and you wanted them to render as nearly black on the negative. Then you could walk up to him, point your camera at his black jeans, adjust the camera settings until the meter needle was at 'zero', then adjust your shutter speed one (or even two) stops faster (i.e. reducing the exposure), backed up and shot the picture. On your negative, the jeans would be correctly exposed as dark, but would still hold detail.

But remember: when that negative is scanned (or printed), the scanner operator can drastically alter the way the negative's tones are rendered in the scan. So the scan wouldn't tell you much, if anything.

Just to reiterate, Portra 400 is so forgiving, you don't need to be very precise in your exposures. If you set your ISO setting to 400, walk up to the darkest shadow you care about, meter off of that, then shoot, the negative will be fine. If the scan looks crummy, it's the scanner operator, not you or your camera.

All of the above comments assume that your camera is in proper operating condition -- i.e. the meter works properly, the shutter speeds are reasonably accurate, and the lens opens up correctly to whatever aperture you have set.

Having shot in shade I also get mixed results

What would be the best way for me to metre scenes and know it’s correct before shooting, knowing I have the matte inside. Do I get a handheld one and just ignore that?

DenWil
DenWil Veteran Member • Posts: 4,458
Re: Expose for shadows/highlights
1

brandon77 wrote:

I have heard many people talking about exposing for shadows and highlights in film photography, and how it can make quite a big difference to photos

People talk  about  exposure or metering?  By chance are these the same people who shoot personal projects  full of meaning  and social significance? Sorry, I digress.

If I am using a camera with metering in it how would I go about this, or combine both together? mainly shoot people

I do not expose for shadows or highlights. I expose for Zone 5. Whether I am  shooting white or  charcoal or something in-between.

These were all shot with  the same B&W  film, same chemistry,  metered for the light hitting the subject , not  for the subject.

If your camera has a functional accurate meter in it  it can be the best option  because the  optics/ focal length and filter will always be factored in to your reading.

Frame and focus - then  hold  a grey card  in front of the lens filling the frame ,  in a straight line with your content,  in the same light as your content. Your meter  tells you  what aperture goes with the chosen shutter speed but I then reverse that and adjust so that I get the aperture I want.

I never have to burn through  film shooting  alternate  exposures - I can use that film for alternate framing, serious/ smiles,  horizontal/  vertical  and different styling.

Particularly useful shooting 100 ASA E6  because there is little latitude  - you need to nail the exposure. Full sun or filtered  doesn't matter.

Meter off the skin , meter off the white shirt ,  meter off the wall - all will yield less than optimum results-   meter off a  grey card receiving the same light as your content and perfect every time. Plus you can mix completely differ situations on the same roll of film and it will not matter. The emulsion  and processing are constants.

-- hide signature --

dw

peripheralfocus Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
gray cards and incident readings

DenWil wrote:

These were all shot with the same B&W film, same chemistry, metered for the light hitting the subject , not for the subject.

Nice shots, especially the black-and-whites.

If your camera has a functional accurate meter in it it can be the best option because the optics/ focal length and filter will always be factored in to your reading.

Frame and focus - then hold a grey card in front of the lens filling the frame , in a straight line with your content, in the same light as your content. Your meter tells you what aperture goes with the chosen shutter speed

This method works very well, of course, especially for pictures of people. Just for the OP's information, this method -- using the camera's meter to measure a gray card at the subject position -- is equivalent to taking an incident reading at subject position with a handheld meter. They will give the same exposure (or should, if both meters are working correctly).

As DenWil pointed out, if you use the camera, it will compensate for any filters or bellows extension (not likely a factor with your K1000) that you're using. A handheld incident reading will not automatically compensate for those things, so you'd have to do that in your head.

OP brandon77 Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: gray cards and incident readings

peripheralfocus wrote:

DenWil wrote:

These were all shot with the same B&W film, same chemistry, metered for the light hitting the subject , not for the subject.

Nice shots, especially the black-and-whites.

If your camera has a functional accurate meter in it it can be the best option because the optics/ focal length and filter will always be factored in to your reading.

Frame and focus - then hold a grey card in front of the lens filling the frame , in a straight line with your content, in the same light as your content. Your meter tells you what aperture goes with the chosen shutter speed

This method works very well, of course, especially for pictures of people. Just for the OP's information, this method -- using the camera's meter to measure a gray card at the subject position -- is equivalent to taking an incident reading at subject position with a handheld meter. They will give the same exposure (or should, if both meters are working correctly).

As DenWil pointed out, if you use the camera, it will compensate for any filters or bellows extension (not likely a factor with your K1000) that you're using. A handheld incident reading will not automatically compensate for those things, so you'd have to do that in your head.

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

I’m going to try that anyway ignoring the metering my camera, I haven’t had a lot of luck with that

Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 2,881
Re: gray cards and incident readings

brandon77 wrote:

peripheralfocus wrote:

DenWil wrote:

These were all shot with the same B&W film, same chemistry, metered for the light hitting the subject , not for the subject.

Nice shots, especially the black-and-whites.

If your camera has a functional accurate meter in it it can be the best option because the optics/ focal length and filter will always be factored in to your reading.

Frame and focus - then hold a grey card in front of the lens filling the frame , in a straight line with your content, in the same light as your content. Your meter tells you what aperture goes with the chosen shutter speed

This method works very well, of course, especially for pictures of people. Just for the OP's information, this method -- using the camera's meter to measure a gray card at the subject position -- is equivalent to taking an incident reading at subject position with a handheld meter. They will give the same exposure (or should, if both meters are working correctly).

As DenWil pointed out, if you use the camera, it will compensate for any filters or bellows extension (not likely a factor with your K1000) that you're using. A handheld incident reading will not automatically compensate for those things, so you'd have to do that in your head.

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

I’m going to try that anyway ignoring the metering my camera, I haven’t had a lot of luck with that

If you can go to the subject then use an incident meter - that is the best option.  If you’re buying a meter then make sure it can do incident readings

Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 2,205
Re: another simple idea I should have mentioned
1

brandon77 wrote:

Gee you sure know your stuff 😊 - Is there a light meter that you recommend getting, or that you personally use that you like? Thanks

An illusion, I assure you. I have only used one external meter, the Gossen Luna Pro Digital, and frankly I don't always use it correctly -- still learning.

Aaron

-- hide signature --
Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 2,205
Re: right, except that it's underexpose
1

tassienick wrote:

No, I never get them back after

Request to get them back after (any good lab will give them back). You can tell a lot more from the neg than the scan.

Yes, yes, yes, I want to emphasize this -- you should always, always, always get your negatives back. Gives you opportunities to do more with them, including re-scan them, later.

Aaron

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Autonerd Senior Member • Posts: 2,205
Re: gray cards and incident readings
1

brandon77 wrote:

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

Wellll, with an incident meter, "metering for the shadows" doesn't matter. The incident meter isn't "looking" at your subject -- it's "looking" away from your subject, at the light hitting your subject. That's why it is more precise.

I’m going to try that anyway ignoring the metering my camera, I haven’t had a lot of luck with that

How are you metering? The photo you showed us isn't a very tricky situation for a meter, and while the K1000's isn't the most sophisticated, it's good enough. I still think this is more about the lab scans than the camera metering.

Aaron

-- hide signature --
OP brandon77 Regular Member • Posts: 254
Re: gray cards and incident readings

Overrank wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

peripheralfocus wrote:

DenWil wrote:

These were all shot with the same B&W film, same chemistry, metered for the light hitting the subject , not for the subject.

Nice shots, especially the black-and-whites.

If your camera has a functional accurate meter in it it can be the best option because the optics/ focal length and filter will always be factored in to your reading.

Frame and focus - then hold a grey card in front of the lens filling the frame , in a straight line with your content, in the same light as your content. Your meter tells you what aperture goes with the chosen shutter speed

This method works very well, of course, especially for pictures of people. Just for the OP's information, this method -- using the camera's meter to measure a gray card at the subject position -- is equivalent to taking an incident reading at subject position with a handheld meter. They will give the same exposure (or should, if both meters are working correctly).

As DenWil pointed out, if you use the camera, it will compensate for any filters or bellows extension (not likely a factor with your K1000) that you're using. A handheld incident reading will not automatically compensate for those things, so you'd have to do that in your head.

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

I’m going to try that anyway ignoring the metering my camera, I haven’t had a lot of luck with that

If you can go to the subject then use an incident meter - that is the best option. If you’re buying a meter then make sure it can do incident readings

Thanks will do 😊

tassienick Senior Member • Posts: 1,559
Re: gray cards and incident readings

Autonerd wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

Wellll, with an incident meter, "metering for the shadows" doesn't matter.

What do you mean by this?

The concept of ‘metering for the shadows’ (ie. to preserve shadow detail and take advantage of colour neg’s highlight latitude) is equally relevant for incident and reflective meters.

I use an incident meter for probably 90% of my work, and almost always use it to meter for the shadows (if the shadows are relevant for the composition).

Im not sure if I’ve missed your point?

The incident meter isn't "looking" at your subject -- it's "looking" away from your subject, at the light hitting your subject. That's why it is more precise.

I’m going to try that anyway ignoring the metering my camera, I haven’t had a lot of luck with that

How are you metering? The photo you showed us isn't a very tricky situation for a meter, and while the K1000's isn't the most sophisticated, it's good enough. I still think this is more about the lab scans than the camera metering.

Aaron

-- hide signature --
Overrank
Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 2,881
Re: gray cards and incident readings

tassienick wrote:

Autonerd wrote:

brandon77 wrote:

From watching videos and the majority of the comments, Getting a reading off the subject with a handheld meter, and likely in the shadow area seems the best way to do it.

Wellll, with an incident meter, "metering for the shadows" doesn't matter.

What do you mean by this?

The concept of ‘metering for the shadows’ (ie. to preserve shadow detail and take advantage of colour neg’s highlight latitude) is equally relevant for incident and reflective meters.

I use an incident meter for probably 90% of my work, and almost always use it to meter for the shadows (if the shadows are relevant for the composition).

For me the parenthetical part is the key, IF the shadows are relevant. I try and hide things in the shadows that I don’t want in the final image, so metering for the subject tends to give me the right setting.

That is one reason I find the digital infatuation with ETTR rather strange, because (to my way of thinking), I don’t care about noise in the shadows because I don’t want to see them anyway.

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