Nikon FM2 metering help

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by graceb1010, Oct 14, 2020.

  1. I'm still having trouble with my Nikon FM2 meter. In these pictures I metered for the shadows, but then the sky is blown out. How to do I fix this? I would like a balance between the sky and the land. These pictures were taken at sunrise by the way.

  2. Sometimes you simply can't get both the shadow and highlight in a scene. You exposed for the shadow then the shadow is good but the sky blown out. If you meter for the sky then the sky is good but the shadow will be too dark.
    There are some way you can improve the situations but not a lot. I take that you shoot color negative film and you can resource to burn in to get the sky darker during printing. If you sce fan the film you can do that in .post
    graceb1010 likes this.
  3. This has nothing to with the specifics of that meter. Whatever film you are using has a specific dynamic range, that is, how big a range from dark to light in can handle. This image appears to have a larger dynamic range than your film can handle. You can't solve that by metering. Metering just lets you choose which section of that overly large dynamic range you want to preserve. If you set the exposure enough lower that the sky isn't blown out, the dark areas, in particular, the lower left, would be black and would lose all detail.

    I gave up film years ago, so I no longer know, but you might be able to find a film with a larger dynamic range.

    This is one reason many of us have given up on film. (One of many reasons, in my case.) With digital cameras, you can bracket exposures--that is, take several shots with different exposures--and then create a composite in postprocessing.
    graceb1010 likes this.
  4. What type of film was this?

    If C-41, there's a decent chance the sky is still there but may need another scan to "dig" it out. Most color negative films have quite a bit of dynamic range(as much as a lot of modern digital cameras, if not more than some) but it's not always easy to take advantage of that whether printing in the darkroom or scanning to print. It can take a fair bit of messing around before the scans to actually get everything, but at least on my Nikon scanners(V and 8000) I can usually do it unless it's hit Dmax.

    If this is slide film, sorry but you pretty much have to make the choice between the two that you did, and I think in this case you did right.

    With that said, there are in-camera ways, so to speak, of "compressing" the DR of a scene a bit to make it fit on the film. The most straight forward one is to use a graduated neutral density filter(which BTW can still have use in high contrast scenes in digital). Since this scene has a fairly straight horizon, a grad likely would have at least gotten you closer if not there. There are a myriad of choices in grads, including their density range and how "hard" the transition is between density. There are rotating ones, which to me are as good as useless since they pretty much require your horizon in or near the center of the frame, and square/rectangular ones that allow you to slide the transition to where you want it. Metering the highlights and shadows can guide you as to appropriate selection(one of the few cases where I find a spot meter useful), and looking at the scene can of course dictate how strong of a transition you need. Given the fairly straight delineation here, I would have probably opted for a fairly hard filter at least 4 stops or better, but again your meter will tell you.

    And yes, your meter is fine if you were metering for the shadows. That's exactly what you got, and as I said I think it benefits this image very well, much better than you would have exposing so as to retain highlights.
    graceb1010 likes this.
  5. Why did you meter for the shadows?
    The eye is much more accepting of detail-less shadows than of blank skies, and print film has more under exposure latitude than for overexposure.

    If the sky was an important part of the picture, then that's where the bias of your exposure should have been.

    Then just let the averaging meter do its job, and don't point it at the darkest part of the scene.

    However, there's still a hint of detail left in the sky, so it's probably recoverable with a better scan. But you won't get that from a standard commercial processing lab.
  6. That's your eyes! Pictures of my sky often blown out. I don't often see anything interesting in the sky. I never like picture of sunset.
  7. My iPhone would do HDR automatically of that scene and it would look very pretty.
    Anyway -Graceb1010, it appears you are new to film photography and scenes with a wide dynamic range like this are the most challenging in that medium - especially if you are not in full control of development and printing (or scanning).
    I would choose subjects with a more narrow dynamic range to get to know the limits of the medium and the camera, and maybe practice bracketing when encountering the more challenging situations.
  8. Some people solve this sort of problem with graduated neutral (or not) density filters. As said, otherwise you have to pick and choose, or else do some darkroom/Photoshop work.

    Graduated ND filters 1985-03 PP.jpg
    Popular Photography 1985-03

    There is at least one British photographer whose entire portfolio seems to be taken with tobacco-colored graduated density filters :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
  9. BeBu was writing when I was. Yes, with negative film you can burn and dodge (as you can with digital images), but that only helps you lighten or darken areas where there is still detail. If an area is really blown out, or of the shadows are completely crushed, there is no detail left to work with.
  10. As Ben said color negative film can capture a wide dynamic range, only the printing paper can't. So burning in the highlight often would bring it back. I have successfully doing double scan a negative and merged the 2 scan into an HDR image. But as I said there isn't a lot of choices when you're facing with a wide dynamic range subject.
  11. But the whole composition of the OP's picture draws the viewer's attention toward the sky area. When it's blank and has no interest, then the viewer is left dissatisfied and disappointed.

    The trees and valley side form 'leading lines' to take the viewer's eye into the scene. To be presented with..... some quite bland misty foliage and a pure white sky!

    How much better would it have been if the sky even had a few fluffy clouds in it, or a glorious orange sunrise?

    Not to your taste maybe, but you're not the one asking the question.
  12. One thing you learn quickly is that many of the photos you take with film need a little help. Two minutes and good software can do wonders. I didn't really try to make any great changes, just a demonstration of how easy it is to make changes.

  13. I would have thought that Grac
    I would have thought that Graceb1010 was trying to produce an analogue capture, rather than a digitally manufactured interpretation.
  14. Perhaps so, but then again maybe he iIS open to a little digital enhancement. It was just a suggestion.
  15. Then again (once again), it is not all that different from using a Cokin graduated blue filter.
  16. As I pointed out in the first response to the OP, metering can't solve the problem. There are way to handle the scene and PP is one of them.
  17. I suspect the problem is more in the (poor) printing/scanning than with the negative - if it was a negative.
    The dodge and burn tools in most editing software are a bit rubbish, to put it politely.

    My solution is to create a duplicate layer and use the curves tool to darken or lighten that layer to take care of the shadows or highlights as required. Then the original and adjusted layer can be blended using a soft and low-opacity eraser brush to rub away areas of the top layer to reveal sections of the darker/lighter layer underneath. This exactly imitates the look of darkroom dodging/burning, without the crude effect given by using the image-editor's dodge and burn tools.
    So, errr, waving your hands or a bit of card about over the printing paper under an enlarger is perfectly OK, but emulating the same effect digitally isn't?
    Or, as many 'analogue' printers did, print in the sky from an entirely different negative?
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
  18. For the actual question, not that I don't agree with all the other answers.

    This is why a manual meter camera is nice. It encourages you to think about what you are metering.

    Point the meter (center weighted but not spot) at the shadows and see what it says.
    Point at the highlights (sky) and see what it says.
    Choose an aperture (usually) about half way between.

    This gets the geometric mean, or half way between on the log scale used for exposure.

    (As well as I know, this is what matrix metering common on most autoexposure cameras does.)
    Traditional average metering gives the arithmetic mean, which emphasizes the highlight exposure.
    Fortunately it is close enough for many scenes, and we survived many years that way.

    Then, as noted above, adjust based on the exposure latitude of the film.
    For slide or digital, that might result in both overexposure of the sky and underexposure of the foreground, but maybe close enough for each.
    For negatives which might have three stops overexposure latitude and one stop under, one stop more gets you in the middle.

    I find this mostly a problem when shooting sunsets, when the sun is still pretty bright, but the foreground quickly darkening.
    Getting the red color of the sunset pretty much gives black for the rest.
  19. But is that what's needed Glen?

    For many (many) years it was recommended to place the highlights no more than 3 stops above 'average' and the deepest meaningful shadows at 4 stops under. Old Weston light meters are clearly marked as such, with an 'O' indication 3 stops above, and a 'U' indicator 4 stops under the normal exposure mark.
    Therefore the arithmetic mean more closely follows that age-old recipe for a 'correct' exposure, which falls closer to the highlight end than does the base2 logarithmic mean got by averaging the range in f-stops.

    This is even reflected in the TTL metering of digital cameras today. Where the centre of the histogram is 2.5 stops below the RH edge, while the LH edge is several more stops below that centre point.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
  20. A gradual (ND) filter would have been best for this photograph, but when these are not available you can use the Averaging method. That is meter for the highlights, then meter for the shadows then pick an exposure somewhere in between.

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