Spot metering? On the face or on the dress?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by iris_van_den_broek, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. I will be shooting my first wedding in May this year. I am already nervous and do as much reading as I can but I am often wondering how photos are exposed/metered.
    First question: In general: do you usually use spot metering? Or matrix metering?
    And if you're outside in the sunlight and you want to prevent the dress from blowing out: how do meter there? Do you use spot metering on the face? Or on the dress? Or no spot metering at all?

    I know with snow that you have to overexpose to make it actually white on your photo, but does the same go for a wedding dress? I think if you overexpose the dress will be blown out.
    thanks for any advice on this
  2. You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0). If you spot meter on a black tux you want it to show two or three stops under middle grey. A caucasian face should be about 1 stop over.
    In general spot metering is usually used with manual exposure mode. Unless you feel very comfortable shooting manual mode and using spot metering you might be better off letting the camera do some of the work for you. For instance in matrix or center weighted and perhaps aperture priority for exposure mode.
  3. thank you for your answer
    I do understand all the basics and am shooting more and more in manual mode. I am just very nervous about weddings since Í've never done any (the bride and groom know that but still wanted me) Therefore I am reading a lot here and wanted to ask what the pro's do.
    What to do in very bright sunlight? Do you use flash to fill in the shadows?
    I know my way around in the combination aperture, shutterspeed, ISO-speed but when it comes to flash I have a lot to learn. I already read Planet Neil and learned a lot from that, but it's so much information that it's a little dazzling sometimes.
    What if I've spotmetered the dress, dialed in a +2 exposure for example and then use fill-flash? Will my exposure still be correct then or not?
  4. An excellent and easy to use and understand book on spot metering:
  5. <p>Hi Iris ...<br>
    I would never shoot a wedding without an ambient hand-held meter. This meter measures the light FALLING on the subject(s) as opposed to camera meters (all cameras) that measure light REFLECTED from the subject(s).<br>
    An ambient meter doesn't care about the reflectivity of the subject(s) and so the brides dress is really white with the details, the groom's tux is really dark (black, blue, charcoal, whatever) and MOST importantly, you've faithfully captured the skin tones.<br>
    and remember the 3 rules: prepare, prepare, prepare &lt;[-;0))<br>
  6. I never spot meter, as I'm usually close enough to the bride to fill the frame with the dress to get a reading. If I'm metering off the dress or light skin I'm going to overexpose from what the meter tells me, or the exposure will be middle gray tone. Take a test shot, and look at the histogram. It should clearly tell you if you've blown the highlights.
  7. Raymond,
    While I agree with you that an incedent reading is more accurate, it does not take into account the dynamic range limitations of the capture medium. It won't tell you when you are going to clip highlights or shadows if the scene has a great deal of contrast. You may very well blow out a wedding dress using incedent metering in harsh light.
    It might be the best of both worlds to do a reflected light measurement off of a known surface, such as a grey card. This method produces the same results as an incedent meter. Then it is only a small step to learn the approximate brightness values of common subjects relative to neutral grey of what you are metering as Pete mentioned, so you can be accurate without an incedent meter. Then you can control the midtone, shadow, and highlight placement, and not just the midtone.
    Just a thought. There are always multiple ways to skin a cat.
  8. You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0)​
    Is middle gray the same as 18%? I never knew how dark 18% was. No wonder you have to open up almost 3 stops accurately expose white.
    Ran across this surfing.
  9. I think you shouldn't meter the light on the dress because your meter is looking for something that is grey, so that would throw it off.
  10. Sheri said: I think you shouldn't meter the light on the dress because your meter is looking for something that is grey, so that would throw it off.
    Pete S said earlier: You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0)​
    Yeah, you really have to know what the camera is doing. Open up two stops for white dress, close down some for the black tux. Would you keep metering and changing or leave it on one setting and check the histogram every once in a while?
  11. Measure the dress- you want to avoid losing detail.
    Measure the brightest area and try +2 or +3 stops to get brightness without losing detail.
    You need to practice this beforehand. Use a white shirt or blouse and do it both in sunlight and artificial.
    Use your flashing highlights first, then histograms to watch for problems.
    Look at the ads in bridal mags- they let the skin do dark to preserve detail in the dress.
    If you know what a gobo is you could use one to reduce the light on the dress, but you probably won't have time for this.
    You could try pointing the flas slight upward to reduce the amount of light on the dress.
  12. Regarding shooting in sun, a camera-mounted flash can't over-power the sun the way a larger monolight could.
    At the very least you will have to compensate the flash as much as +3 to fill the shadows.
    Use the lowest ISO to get in range of the "Sunny 16 rule." (At ISO 100, shoot at 1/100 and f16.)
    Consider turning the subject so the sun provides edge light, then use your flash to get some modeling of the subject and for color balance.
    Make sure you have a deep enough lens shade to keep the sun from causing flare.
    The shade that comes with your zoom lens may not be deep enough- the screw-in rubber shades will be deeper, although they will probably vignette at shorter focal lengths. Just collapse the shade at the wide end- you will get some protection just from the mounting rim.
    Use a tripod and hold a piece of foamcore or whatever above the lens to block the sun without showing in the picture.
    Don't worry about letting the edges burn out- you see that in movies all the time- you don't really have a choice about that.
  13. Use the histogram on your camera. If the whites are overexposed drop the exposure down. If the blacks are off the screen move the exposure up. Use the tools that are built into these wonderful digital cameras.
  14. I attended a talk by Doug Gordon (the flow posing king) and he stongly advocates (..ed) spot metering under the eye, if you have failry even lighting over the face. This makes it obvious that his emphasis is on the face first and foremost.
  15. You are overthinking this issue. People use different methods of metering or determining exposure, but what is the same about all of it is that it works for the specfic person because he or she understands and applies the info gotten from metering in his or her own way. Metering is merely using a standard of some kind to measure against so that the information gotten can be used intelligently by you.
    Personally, I use a hand held incident meter. I don't meter at all for bright sunlight because I know exactly how to expose for it. It is extremely consistent during the daylight hours (not sunrise or sunset). I also sometimes deliberately overexpose an image--even a white gown in bright sun--knowing I can recover highlights in post processing. If I was forced not to use my hand held meter, I would probably use a gray card with my camera's spot meter. Or use various found surfaces that are the same or similar value to a gray card. Or use the dress itself as the standard--it makes sense that you use whatever it is that you don't want to blow as the standard.
    Problem is, things happen real fast at weddings, and fiddling with metering a lot is going to be nothing but a distraction. If you are already distracted because this is your first wedding, I would actually use matrix or center weighted metering, get very, very used to predicting kind of what it will do in various situations, know how to comp it, and just shoot without stopping to spot meter. Sometimes I do use this way of metering, when I literally have no time to stop before shooting.
    I would pick a metering method, study it, know the theory behind it, and practice a lot in your back yard (or wherever) until you are confident.
    Also, there are times where you want parts of the dress to blow out--it isn't always about recording white with detail.
  16. If you don't already choose a metering mode as your known method, figure out what you like best and why well before your shoot.
    It depends on the situation as to which is more appropriate and how you will need to compensate for it.
    I use CWA most of the time when using a camera based metering/reading. I then adjust mainly by pointing the frame to cover an area I like to get proper exposure on, and making that my central area. Not 100% accurate, but is within the realm of 95% or so, the way I use it.
    I use spot other times for the purpose of making my sky blown or for getting better skin. If you want to expose the dress correctly and the bride is cuacasion, then the face is appropriate for an exposure reading in spot most times. If it a very dark skinned African bride, it would be better to make a reading using CWA and holding the center between the face and dress. Again, not exactly perfect, but from this you will get a shot or two to tell you where you need to go from that point on.
    The old rule for the dress is to add two stops after the exposure/metering of the dress is taken.
  17. I think the key to getting proficient with technical issues like exposure is to first understand how it works, then experiment and practice and finally apply that knowledge and skills to real situations where valuable experience also will be gained.
    A lot of the choices regarding exposures comes from the shortcomings of the reflective metering in the camera and how to work around those shortcomings. Since everybody uses different equipment and shoot different things in a different way, the "workarounds" used for one person is not applicable to another. Since you mentioned matrix I assume you shoot Nikon in which case I would recommend Thom Hogans books to really understand your camera and flash and then this to get familiar with Nikon flash in typical wedding scenarios.
  18. I would not risk experimenting with a new exposure technique at a wedding. The most important thing at a wedding is that you are having to think on your toes so you don't want the added complication of not even knowing what you are doing on top of counting stops etc. If you were proficient in the zone system to begin with, I doubt you would have asked the question. Raymond tells it how it is. An incident meter tells you how much light is hitting the scene. Period. Matrix metering is basically just a really really complicated electronic way of the camera using the available evidence in the scene to try to calculate the same exact thing that an incident metering gives you consistently. If you start using an incident meter, it will give you a much better appreciation for the logical fact that your brain wants to think anyway, which is that lighting does not change quickly unless the sun is setting or there are fast moving clouds (in which case any method is going to be fooled). Lighting, sun light especially, is amazingly consistent and the only reason that TTL metering changes the exposure so much is exactly because it is so easily fooled. Incident meter for the overall exposure and then "chimp" a few times for your highlights... you may find you have to step back a stop to avoid blowing out the dress. Nothing beats experience and going out to the location or a similar location with a friend with a white bedsheet may give you a good idea.
  19. Just find a mid tone and meter off that. make sure your mid tone is in the same light as your subjuct. Grass is a good mid tone, as is concrete. Once you have done that, everything will fall into place. Most of the time i use center weighted or matrix metering. Using spot and metering off of highlights or shadows will require you to understand where to place that particular tone in the zone system. Trust me :) find a mid tone and expose +III I III- it evenly and shoot. My attempt to demonstrate the meter is poor but I think you should get the point. BOLD means midtone poperly exposed. Good luck and don,t forget to practice.
  20. Good luck with your first official wedding shoot.
  21. I wish my cameras could be set up so as the entire viewing area on back is used for the histogram.
    If the graph is hitting either the left or right wall, then I check things out.
    I agree as some have suggested that things happen pretty fast at most weddings. I work at getting things checked out before the day of the event.
  22. Shoot RAW and when in doubt better to overexpose than underexpose in general. Information that is not visible (appears blown out) is actually still present in the image file and easily recovered in post processing. If you underexpose the information is just not there and increasing the EV later in post processsing will add noise and cause color shifts.
    I worry about having the skin properly exposed and that means dealing with a wide ranges of tones depending upon the individuals in the wedding party. I try not to overexpose the fairest skinned individual.
    Equally important is placing people where the sun's light will come from the back or the back and to one side. Then you can adjust your flash for fill and not worry about loss of detail on their faces from overexposure.
    Great to have the details and beading on the dress show in your bridal portraits but with group shots your bride will be much more concerned about the expressions and having all eyes open and not having lost facial detail from overexposed images.
  23. Thanks for all the information. So in general it's not completely necessary to use spot metering?
    I was wondering about the overexposing in bright sunlight though: yesterday I took photos of a guy with bright white hair. I took it in P mode but his hair was totally blown out but the very bright sun. So you don't want to overexpose in that case, but I really had trouble shooting him in that bright sun with all the shadows and everything.
    So it's better to pose the couple with the sun coming from behind them and then use fill flash? (strong flash I assume?). the only thing I am worried about then is flare....but I guess it depends on the situation and from what point the sun is coming.
    I will try and practice with a friend in white clothing, or a bedsheet :)
  24. If you have Canon, the info display on some models shows both the flashing highlights and the RGB histograms. That gives you everything you need to tune your exposure.
  25. Whether spot metering is 'necessary' depends on the method you use. Read the following re bright sun shooting, as well as performing a search on these forums.
    Flare can be sun going into your lens or it could be from the background being so bright that the subject's outline is 'watery'. The former can be prevented with a lens hood or blocker of some kind, the latter can be prevented by exposing and/or adding enough fill that you don't have such extremes.
  26. Just a question in general: normally you use some kind of diffuser on your flash to create a softer light.
    But if you're in the bright sun and need your flash' full power, I guess you just shoot without a difffuser (like Lightsphere, Stofen etc.), to make sure you use all the light your flash can give you, right?
  27. My two cents - always expose for skin. Then, you can correct most under/over exposure areas in post production. If you are using an on camera flash with TTL, it will automatically calculate the fill light for you.
  28. In bright sun, you go diffuser-less. If you are using the on camera flash as fill, you aren't going to see the effects of softer light anyway. The main or key light determines the hardness of the overall light in an image, and outside in bright sun, the light is hard anyway.
  29. The below setting always works very well for me....
    • Shoot in RAW... takes away the issues of WB and allows you to recover more details if needed.
    • Center Weighted metering for shots that have the interest centered (I use Exposure lock when necessary). Evaluate metering for tricky light situation when I wanna capture all needed and lastly Spot metering for backlight subjects. For majority of shots, skin is my interest for exposure.
    • Auto ISO (my 40D auto limits this to 800)
    • Highlight Priority set ON
    • Manual setting - shutter speed 1/60 to 1/30 and aperture depending on the nature of the shot... DOF needed. Always do a few test shots when changing the manual settings and exposure metering and checks the histogram.
    • Flash (E-TTL) and diffuser (Demb) always on. I change the reflector angle on the diffuser depending on the shot.
    Please try and keep on shooting.
    All the best.

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