What went wrong with the metering

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by jeremy_rochefort|1, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. Please see the attached photograph.
    It would seem the camera (S5 with SB600) metered for the white cloth covering the table in front of the couple.
    What metering system SHOULD be used in a situation like this. I'm not after critique of the image, merely trying to find a solution to an exasperating problem.
    This was hot using Shutter priority, F4.2 with a speed of 1/160 with ISO400
    Any advice appreciated
  2. The problem is that the exposure is too short to allow in much ambient light. I would go manual for this. If I haven't got time to meter properly I start with a ballpark of 1/60th, f5.6 and ISO 400 and then adjust from there. Slower shutter = more ambient light gets let in.
  3. I am a bit concerned with slow shutter speeds - dont want movement blur on the photo's - hence using Shutter Priority.
    Thanks for the advice - will put this to the test as well.
    Point I am really after is what metering system should be used ie. Centre Weighted, Spot or 3D Matrix?
  4. I think you're right, the meter was clearly fooled by the white fabric, and maybe even a bit of the daylight coming in through the windows in the back.
    I agree with Steve, this looks like a situation where I would've gone to manual mode and opened up my aperture a bit. I'd probably have been at f/2.8, 1/60, ISO400, with flash set to TTL. That would've let in much more ambient light, while still being fast enough to freeze action, especially with the extra "pop" from the flash. In even darker situations, I'll sometimes have my camera on my tripod, but with only one leg extended, so it acts like a monopod.
    Regarding your metering question, I only ever use Matrix metering mode. Obviously, when I'm in manual mode, the metering mode is moot.
  5. As has been said, the white subjects resulted in the underexposure. I normally would be shooting in manual, especially if flash is allowed. Then I can decide to adjust either aperture or shutter speed as needed.
    "Regarding your metering question, I only ever use Matrix metering mode. Obviously, when I'm in manual mode, the metering mode is moot."
    Not really sure what Kevin meant by this statement. The camera still meters and can be quite useful, unless one is guess at exposure.
  6. I'd bump up the ISO to bring in more ambient light and I'd shoot in manual mode. It's best to fire off a few test shots before the ceremony and to check your histogram. Also be careful of flash placement. The values of the white cloth at the left of the frame are a good deal higher than the values of the dress. You could either crop out the cloth, feather your flash, or move the flash off of the hot shoe to increase distance to the subject to move the tonal values closer.
  7. Simple....metering of the white cloth worked perfectly. The meter placed the white cloth at 18% gray. What you really needed was to meter of the white cloth, and add a stop & a half or two stops to the result to produce white in the cloth....and a normal exposure for the rest.
  8. Matrix metering mode is the only mode that takes into account the focusing points. So, if you were in matrix and all the focusing points were on the bride, the camera tried to render the dress to neutral gray, resulting in an underexposed image. This can occur even in manual mode, with or without flash. I prefer center-weighted averaging for weddings because you so often are shooting black and white side-by-side.... focus on the groom and you get one exposure, focus on the bride and you get another.
    It's funny because just last night I took a series of shots with different metering modes for an article I am writing today on this very subject. (www.photocrati.com)
  9. Fair comments by everyone - the feedback is appreciated.
    Let me throw another curveball into the arena
    Here is another photograph
    Only by editing it did I get the exposure right (of the peeps)
  10. Looks like your flash metering is being fooled by the large amount of white in the frame of both photos. You have to use the exposure compensation to adjust for this. Your flash was used in both pics, you can see the reflection of it in the vent grill in the second one and the first has nice crisp shadows on the furniture.
  11. Correct - flash was used in both. And this is what I am trying to solve - the flash metering
  12. I recommend starting by reading the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. You could use any kind of metering to get a good result but you first need to understand how it works and then with experience and test shots learn how to tweak it to perform on your particular setup.
    White balance is another problem you have in the samples you posted so you might want to look into that as well.
    Personally I just use manual so I would shoot at ISO400, f/2.8, 1/30s as the light in the church is probably EV5 to EV6. That means I'm maybe a stop underexposed on the ambient. Then I need a bit flash so given the distance you are at (I'm guessing 10ft) I would set my flash to 1/32 power if it is direct and 1/8 if bounced or through diffuser. Come to think if it, in all honesty I would probably forgo the flash altogether and just shoot with ambient - ISO400, f/2, 1/30s or ISO800, f/2.8, 1/30s.
  13. I am going to agree with Pete S: read the book Understanding Exposure. Actually, everyone has given good advice and I hope you weren't the paid photographer for the wedding. You should really be able to tell what is going on here. There is no magic button on the camera that will solve this. The camera will always meter for neutral gray. Your "other" photograph isn't a curveball- it's the same thing.
  14. Good info from everyone. Besides the fact that the meter, whether for ambient or flash, always tries to give a 'middle gray' answer, there is another flash related theory at work, in both images. That is the inverse square law. In both images, there is a white surface closer to the camera than the subjects. Whenever you use frontal light (on camera flash, unless re directed through bouncing), and are using an automated flash metering mode, the surfaces closer to the camera are what the camera/flash is going to meter 'correctly'. If those surfaces are white, add the resulting underexposure on top of that from white surfaces, and the subjects behind the white surfaces fall even more into underexposure.
    The simple answer to your question regarding metering mode, is to compensate your flash exposure, regardless of mode. I know Nikon cameras combine ambient and flash metering in certain ways. Canon cameras don't. They treat each as separate systems, so spot metering (ambient), for instance, is not available for flash at all. It is primarily the flash metering you need to compensate, since it is primary in both images. I also thought Nikon flash had a balanced fill mode and 'regular' mode. In both images, it should have been the latter mode.
  15. "Obviously, when I'm in manual mode, the metering mode is moot." (Kevin Swan)
    Regarding the ambient exposure - unless you are using a hand held meter, this comment is incorrect. If using the camera's in-built meter, then the chosen metering mode (evaluative, sport, centre weighted) makes a big difference in manual mode, just as it does in other modes.
  16. Thanks everyone for the great responses.
    And to allay anyone's fears, I was the second shooter on the day. No ways would I enter such an environment without more than sufficient knowledge and experience
  17. David/Douglas,
    Regarding the metering mode when shooting in manual, of course the metering mode still influences the exposure evaluation in the analog display (the camera telling you whether or not the shot will be under/over exposed) - I simply meant that the camera does not act on its evaluation, as your actual exposure is locked in by your manual settings.
  18. Manual flash mode with manual camera exposure works well if you know how to use it and will be very consitant. But you need to learn how to work with manual flash mode because your lens apeture and flash to subject needs to be correct because no metering will be taking place. However your lens apeture also affects your ambient exposure as does your shutter speed so you need to find a balance.
  19. Problem image 1 is a typical problem encountered with Nikon TTL systems in my opinion. My own evaluation of the scene is that it consists of more dark tones than light therefore should be closer to overexposed rather than under. If you want to shoot "automatically" ie TTL Auto then you can use spot metering and put the cursor on the subjects face. Should give you a much better result than the one posted here but may not be perfect.
    I get the best results, running my camera on manual and the flash either on A or manual (adjusting output in Manual.)
    This image shot at F2.8 and 1/60th sec without flash could have been a very nice mood shot with that ambience in background.
  20. You Nikon folks--how, exactly does Nikon integrate the flash metering with the ambient metering? I would think spot metering would have no effect on the flash metering.
  21. Not to grind out part of the problem, but the SB-600 speedlight is not exactly what you want for indoor 'flash' photography. You might look into a SB-800 (it has more light output) and if you are 'staging' the photos after the ceremony, try to get the room lights turned on (or up.) You SB-600 'stopped' at the bride, leaving the groom and the guests without 'light.'
    A tripod, 'S' mode, and maybe 1/15 or 1/10 second shutter speed may have let more 'room light' into the image.
  22. The big unknown is that how the camera and flash works in iTTL will/might change depending on the combination of camera body and flash unit. So it may be tricky to give a definite answer.
    I'm also pretty sure Nikon is tweaking and improving iTTL along with the introduction of new camera bodies and also new flash units. Cameras with better processing capability and more internal memory will also be able to do more complex calculations. Different bodies also have different exposure sensors. Nikon doesn't describe how iTTL works except that it is really suppose to work automatically and be great in all situations. Since they don't say how they can also change it as they see fit.
    In my testing I have concluded that iTTL uses a center weighted approach to determine flash output and is not directly affected by spot metering, center weighted or matrix selected in the camera. The flash exposure is biased by the flash exposure compensation in the camera and on the flash as well as the exposure compensation in the camera.
    The ambient exposure is affected by the metering modes and by the exposure compensation but not flash compensation.
    Come to think of it I'm not sure that anybody outside of Nikon's R&D department know how it works in detail. For instance people like Joe McNally who appears on Nikon's videos and in book presenting Nikon's flash systems seems to be more of the approach that you spin the wheels till it looks good.
  23. I think that you can correct for this type of thing by setting the flash exposure compensation. The i-TTL metering for the flash is independent of the ambient light metering and you can increase the flash output to compensate for the large expanses of white. Check your camera manual for how to do this. If your camera works like my D200 you can also use the Flash Value Lock to meter the flash on a non-white object and use the lock to keep that flash intensity when re-composing the picture.
  24. Nadine, Nikon's SB900 has two general iTTL modes: balance fill flash and standard flash. Balance trying to balance flash with ambient and standard flash (how exactly, who knows). When we use the spot metering, the balance fill flash is not an option (the flash will automatically go into standard). On the D300s, the spot metering is tied to the focus point which, in my opinion, makes a huge difference. Many cameras tie spot metering to the center focus point rather than your chosen focus point which can be two very different things. The 900 also has 3 different illumination patterns: standard, center-weighted, & even (wide) with light distribution patterns similar to their names. Now this is the SB900, the flash we primarily use. I don't know much about the 600 to be honest. And of course in all metering modes, the flash is still relying on the preflash to determine the flash output (based on all the other selections!), but that flash output is biased on any exposure compensation dialed into both the camera and the flash, even if shooting in manual. Meaning if I have -1/3 on the camera and -1/3 on the flash, the overall bias of flash output will be -2/3. Now how does all this work together exactly, I have no clue! I have always wished that metadata recorded the flash power (and perhaps time) when in iTTl so I could examine outputs in different situations. It is one of the most frustrating things about any TTL system. All that said, I am sure the SB 600 isn't as advanced as the SB900. Additionally, it the OP's case, the camera in question isn't a Nikon, it's a Fuji- so who can know what type of communication is going on between the camera and flash.
    Jeremy, if I had to offer anything else I would say that had you been 2nd shooting for me I would have wanted to know during the course of the day that you were having issues. We all start somewhere. I would have been bothered by not given the chance to help work through the issues.
  25. Hi Nadine
    In my experience, choosing spot metering with TTL flash will give you the output that the camera "thinks" is right for the spot metered area. I am using a D300 and D700 and the spot can be placed anywhere that the focus point is placed. Its a fantastic idea really. In film days, I used a Nikon FE2 and FA, with a TTL dedicated Metz and TTL cable. If I forgot to change the metering back to Multi Pattern, it didnt seem to make any difference, the circuitry must have overrode the settings. If you were to run a Nikon FA film camera with a TTL dedicated unit against a D300 with Nikon SB flash unit, there's a very good chance the FA would easily win the percentage of better exposed images in various lighting situations. This isnt a definitive statement but my opinion, what do others think? Those with a D300/700 and SB800/900 can easily try this experiment just by changing metering mode and moving the focus point to lighter/darker tones. Its all a wonderful learning curve and crucial experimentation for Nikon owners.
  26. jeremy r- in my view, the problem is not metering, no matter what kind. it is the scene, in the first scene you have a pure white wedding dress along with a distant very dark background consisting of people and church. in the second pic you again have a white wedding dress along with the guys dressed in the black tuxes. in either case you are very probably exceeeding the dr range of the sensor. so no matter what metereing and what settings you shoot with either the white or the darks will not be correctly exposed.
    the only solution is to shoot for the whites and somehow get more light into the general scene to up the light levels for the dark areas. the result will be a dr range that the sensor can take. possibly a flash firing into a reflector will be the answer, this would up the general light level. the problem might be the church shot, if flash is not permitted. in the first shot any upping of the exposure would very probably begin to blow the white highligjhts in the wedding dress. so just adding more flash power would not be the answer. the general illumination of the scene would have to be increased. as others have stated, see if you can use a slower shutter speed, that would let more ambient light in. but too slow and you would be geting subject movement. if me, i woukd try a 1/60sec, and let the flash determine the amount of the flash duration. this shoud let more light in for the background but if it will be enough i do not know. i suspect that in this scene the background will still be dimmish.
  27. There are a lot of good answers aready, so I will only reapeat my expereinces. Obviously you have a base knowledge. I would use Matrix metering or Manual. If you use spot all that white at a wedding will give you huge swings in your Histo.
    But I shoot in AP a lot, and adjust the Exp comp up or down depending on what is needed. That is easily done with a few flicks of the fingers and doesnt require you to take your camera off the subject.
    Not sure what mode you are using for your flash either, you can get more abient light but slow syncing too. Maybe give that a shot.
    One last thing, I think I saw someone else above say it, but your white balance is off in that second picture. Those whites should be white, not pink.
    my two cents...
  28. To correct something Peter Kervarec said above: Most of the dark tones are in the background and not as relevant to the final image as the white dress of the bride. Your "typical problem" with Nikon TTL is that it avoids blowing out highlights. Blown highlights are harder to recover in post-processing than slight underexposure.

    When used in TTL/BL mode with the flash head pointing directly at the subject, the Nikon flash system uses focus distance information it receives from compatible lenses. If you miss and get the focus on something far in the background, the system thinks it needs to put out more power and you end up with an out of focus subject with blown-out highlights. The camera must also be set to matrix metering for this to work. This distance capability is what Nikon means when they use the term "3D Matrix Metering". (This also means that if you miss the focus, you can end up with a badly overexposed foreground.)

    I don't know how well all of this works with non-Nikon lenses and camera bodies. Jeremy is using a Fuji S5 which is based on a Nikon D200. The S5 uses the same focusing system but I don't know if Fuji changed the way metering works. It's pretty easy to duplicate the test below with find out.

    I've never done a test but when bouncing the flash the focus distance probably isn't be used for the flash output calculations as there's no way for the camera to know how far the flash is traveling or the reflectivity of the bounce surface.

    The SB-600 is capable. I'd get an f/2.8 zoom before another flash. The larger aperture makes it easier to fill in the dark background more. And the SB-800 isn't available new anymore anyway and doesn't have so much more output than the SB-600 that it will make a huge difference. The biggest difference between the two is that the SB-800 can be used in Commander mode. And Jeremy will have to pony up $450 for an SB-900.

    The images below were all shot at 1/30 @ f/2, ISO 200. Note that this is manual exposure on the camera body only. The flash is going to do whatever it darn well pleases, but the results work for me. At an actual event indoors, I'll set the camera to give the desired background exposure and let the flash decide the foreground exposure by running it in TTL/BL.
  29. A little post-processing fixes the altar shot very nicely. The D300/D700/D3 series can do this when shooting in-camera jpegs. (See Active D-Lighting on the shooting menu.)
    I prefer to shoot stuff like this in RAW and as far as I can tell, the D-Lighting setting does not affect the RAW capture. Plenty of discussion about this in the Nikon forums.
    The Fuji S5 has a "funny" sensor that's supposed to capture a high dynamic range with two sets of pixels, one tuned for shadows and another for highlights, but the appropriate file recording mode needs to be selected.
  30. jeremy r- my try at fixing the existing image.
    used pse7 then auot levels, auto contrast, shadows/highlights(shadow only), remove color cast, noise ninja, focus magic. time about 1 minute. this would work better if the file size was larger.
  31. I'll take a different angle at this - it's not clear to me that this isn't simply a case of lack of flash power. The 1/160 shutter speed would largely explain why the background is dark as well, but by the looks of it, its possible that you're just too far away for the flash to reach at that f/stop.
  32. At ISO 400, the SB-600 has a guide number of 190 ft with the flash head at a 35mm zoom. With the aperture setting of f/4.2, that's enough reach to get decent exposure past 40 feet. (The SB-800 only gives an extra 10 feet , by the way.)
    The issue is the SB-600 cutting off because of the large expanse of white, not that it doesn't have enough power for this shot.
    Gary's post processing maintains the detail altar cloth at the left edge of the photo. But that comes at the expense of creating a gray bridal gown. Not a good trade-off. (And though Focus Magic and Noise Ninja are useful software packages, they aren't really pertinent for this particular discussion.)
  33. tom l-there is a choice of what the pper wishes to put at WHITE-the gown or the alter cloth. i know that the alter cloth is WHITE, but i cannot say the same about the wedding dress. there are such things as off white dresses. the only person that knows is jeremy r.
    as for including in decription of my pp process i simply included the noise ninja and focus magic to give a complete list. so that others including jeremy r would know what was done during the pp.
  34. OK, I'm still very, very confused about i-TTL and whether compensating the ambient exposure in an automated mode such as aperture or shutter priority also compensates (somehow) the flash exposure. I have heard or read it does. Also, whether an ambient metering pattern, such as spot metering, actually turns your flash into a spot flash meter (I kind of doubt it--don't see much in the way of metering differences in Tom's examples). I was reading a Tom Hogan article about how plus flash compensation, used with automated modes, can sometimes result in more underexposure (?)
    In any case, the question posed by Jeremy is about what metering pattern (actually ambient metering pattern)--he calls it a 'metering system'--he should use to not have underexposed images. He knows that the white value has something to do with flash metering underexposing, but has identified the thing to correct the underexposure incorrectly--center weighted, spot and 3D matrix are ambient metering patterns, not systems.
    Compounding the problem in answering the question is the fact that he is using an automated ambient metering mode (does this alter the compensation of the flash or not?). And, the flash has it's own metering patterns (does this change according to camera mode?) and 'systems' (are there only two--regular TTL and TTL-BL?)
    Also, anytime there is a lot of white in an image (for both ambient and flash metering) and you don't compensate the exposure, you will get underexposure, because the meter always wants to see everything as middle gray. This is regardless of brand--Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc., and whether ambient or flash metering.
    And, as I mentioned, you also have inverse square law entering the arena. The left alter cloth in the first image and the table cloth in the second image are going to receive the metering 'attention' by the flash because they both are closer to the camera/flash than the subjects. This would be the case no matter what the color of the closer item was--the problem is just compounded (flash fall off) because the closer items are also white.
    Based on the above, I would offer a simplified answer.
    1) Use TTL if the flash is primary, TTL-BL if the flash is for fill only.
    2) Plus compensate the flash (in either mode) if there is a lot of white or light colors in the image. Do some casual tests at home using subjects against light backgrounds and against light backgrounds. You should soon see some kind of pattern emerging. I use Canon, but I know that when I photograph something white or light colored, or what to get 'past' a closer object, I plus compensate my flash--+1 1/3-1 2/3 or 2 normally does it.
    You should be plus compensating the ambient exposure too, if using an automated mode.
    Now all you Nikon folks--can you clarify and add without getting too technical?
  35. Unfortunately it is not that simple Nadine. The OP need to test his camera and flash in different modes to find out how they work. How's that for a non technical response? :)
    And I'll show a collage of images (jpegs) I shot just now for test purpose having the camera in Program, metering set to Matrix and flash set to TTL-BL. No flash or exposure compensation is changed between any of these images. As you can see they wont average out to middle grey.
    More info on TTL / TTL-BL here .
  36. PS. First image on the left has a white wall to the left much closer to the camera, that's why it is blown out (and rightly so).
  37. Pete--Yikes. I guess Jeremy also has to find out if the S5 works with the new standards, too.
  38. Hi Nadine
    I think you have really answered your own question. Its well explained by you. To add a a rider to "TTL-BL if the flash is for fill only ", yes mainly but I use this setting as often as I can indoors when there is reasonable ambient light. What this setting tries to do is maintain the background ambience and balance the exposure with the subject. Sounds unrealistic but works very well.
    I second what Tom Luongo says about distance info. The flash definitely gives out more power if you misfocus onto a more distant subject.
    Digital technology is brilliant and is far away more complex than any film camera ever was. There are so many variables that can be applied to a situation if you wish.( Ala Photoshop )Having said that, if one is prepared to investigate and get it right, the results are nothing short of fantastic.
  39. Nadine,
    Here's my simplified answer (without getting too technical)
    1. Use iTTL. iTTL is being used when TTL-BL shows on the back of the flash.
    2. Set the camera's exposure mode to matrix. iTTL isn't available otherwise.
    3. Manually set the camera to get an appropriate ambient exposure. That is, so the background is light, but not too light.
    4. Use direct flash.
    5. Use a compatible lens that gives distance information to the flash.
    #4 above is key. If direct flash is being used and iTTL knows the distance to the subject, then iTTL can calculate what power to output.
    Trying to render the scene as an 18% gray isn't really a concern. It's not too different than how a photographer varies the f-stop in a fully manual system. Usually expressed as a chart on the back of the flash, the equation is f-stop = GN / distance.
    With iTTL, the flash can vary the guide number (i.e. flash power) based on the selected aperture. GN = f-stop x distance.
    I redid my sample exposure to more clearly show this trend. All camera settings are the same from shot to shot. I even put the camera on a support this time.
  40. Upon further reflection, iTTL is doing more than just using the distance information. The exposure difference between 2 ft and 4 ft is about what what I'd expect (1 stop). I don't really know there's such a big jump between 4 ft and 7 ft (about 2 stops) when I would have expected. And though there is a difference between 7 ft and 20 ft, it's less than if distance is the only factor.
    I was shooting in a small room. So there's some contribution from flash bouncing off the mostly white walls and ceiling. iTTL can probably factor that in some way. iTTL also does something clever with the 1005 segment (or whatever) meter.
    By the way, did the original poster ever say what mode the flash was in? I'd assume the flash was in TTL or iTTL and the camera was set to matrix metering.
  41. I don't think that info was given. Still scratching my head, but going to read this again tomorrow.
  42. Hi Tom
    Flash was in TTL BL mode with Matrix metering
  43. My head is spinning! :) Good info. Need more time to digest.
    Nadine, not sure if anyone answered this part of your question re Nikon flash -- with Nikon, flash exposure compensation (FEC) and expsoure compensation work together, unlike the Canon system. e.g., you can set FEC on both the flash and the body. (I am assuming a D700, because it has a built-in flash.) So, if you set +1/3 on the flash and +1/3 on the body you get a +2/3 flash expsoure. (I am talking FEC.) Now, if you set exposure compensation to +1, the D700 will adjust the overall exposure +1 while maintaining the same ratio between flash and ambient. Canon doesn't work this way. Put another way, as you adjust exposure compensation up or down, the Nikon system will increase/decrease flash output accordingly to maintain the ratio of flash to ambient.
    A neat thing with the Nikon system is that if you have the camera set to manual mode, then the exposure compensation button will affect flash compensation. Confused, yet? :)
    Hope this helps. Oh, I wouldn't use TTL BL indoors, usually.
  44. Whew, lots of pretty complicated answers ... all of which may well be absolutely correct if I could wade through it all without getting a headache ... LOL!
    A couple of questions that occurred to me about this issue. My experiences with Nikon flash don't jive with this result. Matrix metering with the flash set to iTTL could have done the job better than this ... not perfect, but better.
    The difference is that I never would use 160th of a second in a place this dark when using a 35mm focal length set to f/4.3. I haven't used one single camera yet that wouldn't underexpose in a similar composition situation with those settings unless camera/flash compensations were fiddled with. I'd use Manual on the camera, shutter speed set to 1/50th since there is little movement to contend with, and let the flash do it's job ... with possibly needing a small bit of compensation.
    In this case using the OP's settings, if you comp'ed the flash to the plus side enough it'd probably show cast shadows more than now, because of the shutter speed/aperture/ISO combination would force the flash to be the primary source of light even more than it is now. Which is why so many people use "Dragging the Shutter" techniques in situations like this.
    Don't sweat subject blur to much. Remember ... the more flash becomes the prime source of light, shutter speed becomes less important as the flash duration is much shorter (quicker) than the camera's shutter. To grasp this concept, think of how they freeze bullets in mid-flight. It sure isn't using any shutter speed known to man ... it is extremely short flash durations.
    Another question is how were these processed? If your defaults and profiles aren't set up right for your camera, you can get a ton of underexposed (or sometimes overexposed results) as the post program auto balances each image ... thus adding a layer of unnecessary program effort to make everything middle grey ... exactly the way a meter will. I see this as often as I don't. The wrong ICC profile will also affect the image.
    So will poor white balance, which the second example shows. This can throw off the actual exposure, and is very apparent when in a post program where if you white balance a very yellow or pink cast image it'll immediately go darker. Setting a manual WB does wonders for exposures and is usually done once in any given lighting scenario.
    Now I have an even bigger headache : -)
  45. Oh Great! Marc if you have a headache, imagine what mine feels like. :) I gotta get another pot of coffee on and then re-read the thread.
  46. Yeah--my headache started when I began to read all the info about how Nikon flash metering works. Apparently it has changed along the way too. And I agree, all the tech stuff is probably not helping Jeremy figure out what is essentially something every brand of flash metering (and ambient metering) does with light or white subject values (and also dark or black subject values). This is why I wanted to simplify the answer, above, and leave off stuff about dragging the shutter, bouncing, or trying to get the background in. But I'm still interested in how the flash metering actually works, so I'm still going to re-read everything.
  47. Nadine, thanks for trying to steer the valued contributors in the correct direction.
    I do want to do some tests myself to try and wrap my head around the myriad of scenarios posted here.
    I am getting the majority of what is being said - I obviously need to put a lot of the theory into practise.
  48. Automated exposure modes are always subject to error. White dresses and dark suits perplex even the finest reflective light meters. The OP might have corrected the first photo by boosting exposure compensation (not flash compensation) by 1 to 1.5 stops and reshooting, but if the next photo didn't have a white dress in the middle of it (perhaps a dark tuxedo instead) it would have been grossly exposed at these settings.
    The OP could have checked his histogram, adjusted the exposure in one of a number of ways and reshot, but the moment would have been lost.
    He could have set a manual exposure based upon a meter reading (incident or gray card) and a manual flash output value, but he would have to adjust the flash power anytime he move closer to or further from the subjects.
    Probably the most reliable approach is to start with a base exposure that shows detail in the room (adjust if you want to make it darker or very dark). Then use iTTL flash on top of that exposure, being careful (a) not to blow out the white dress and (b) not to let the dress turn gray. As you move closer to your subjects, turn flash compentation down. If you're farther away from the subjects or if you are bouncing, turn the compensation up as needed.
    Don't forget to check the histogram and the blinking highlights displays. Any blinking must be compensated for immediately unless you're willing to lose most or all of the detail in those areas of the photo.
  49. Don't forget to check the histogram and the blinking highlights displays. Any blinking must be compensated for immediately unless you're willing to lose most or all of the detail in those areas of the photo.​
    For JPG. Not necessarily for NEF.
  50. Back in the "old days" when I was shooting a wedding every weekend with film cameras (hasselblad) I never used a meter, and I suspect that if I were shooting them today with Digital cameras I wouldn't use one either. Far far too many opportunities for those meters to make a mistake.
    Anytime I was shooting inside I knew it was time for 400 ISO film and f5.6 at as slow a speed as I could handhold, which was usually 1/8th of a second. Maybe sometimes a 1/4 of a second if it was really dark and I still needed to handhold. If it was really really dark it was time for the tripod and 1/2 second. And then of course use the flash for the subject.
    That was called "dragging the shutter" back then. I don't know what you would call it today. But it somewhat took care of that inverse square law problem by allowing backgrounds to have detail even though the flash didn't get out there into those backgrounds to lighten them up.
    Generally speaking, you basically have 5 or 6 exposures during a wedding. (bright sunlight, overcast, shade, indoors with lots of light, indoors with medium light, and indoors with very little light). If you memorize them you can shoot on manual and you won't have to worry about meters.
  51. Jeremy, according to the info that Pete S. linked to, in TTL-BL, matrix metering, and if you S5 uses the focus point diamond as well, you should have had +1.3 flash comp set (at least), probably more since the subjects were beyond the alter cloth and were also white (save for the groom, who was at the farthest away).
    Oddly enough, that is about what it takes in flash comp to make my Canon and Canon flash expose correctly for white values in the frame. I know that Canon flash does not take into account all the focus points in the diamond, but does pay attention to 'the' focus point being used. Otherwise, one could say the two flash metering systems seem to be more alike than different. Personally, I dislike ETTL (Canon's equivalent to matrix flash metering). I use averaging mode for my flash metering because I can predict things better.
    Anyway, I would read that linked article carefully and perhaps perform some of the tests to find out how your S5 reacts.
  52. Nadine, your observation as to systems being more alike than different meshes with the same observation I made in the Master Lesson Wedding Gear article concerning Canon and Nikon Flash systems ... where I found them, for the most part, to be about equal.
    While it is nice, even important, to understand exactly how these flash systems work, it can get really complex to remember at a hectic wedding and in reality may not be necessary.
    The simple answer to the original question would be to lower the shutter speed from 1/160th to 1/50th or even less since it was a 35mm focal length and 1/30th would have worked when using flash with a reasonably steady hand-holding technique..
    Then, even if a slight underexposure happened due to forgetting to comp the flash to the plus side a bit, The over-all level would be easier to lift the small amount needed for a good exposure without much gain in shadow noise ... which in turn is an easy adjustment in Luminance noise in post programs like Lightroom if even necessary. The fact is that noise is an exaggerated issue in many cases since it looks much worse on a backlit computer screen viewed at 100% ... rather than as a reflective light print at normal enlargement sizes.
    We often get all wrapped up in solving problems that aren't actually problems in the end product we sell. Even an on-line jpg compressed proof will mitigate noise seen in full screen , full resolution viewed images.
    "Keep it simple" is always a good motto when shooting weddings IMHO.
  53. Marc--yes, I was surprised to see that in the article mentioned. I also, last night, put my 580EX II on my 5D in evaluative flash metering mode and was surprised to find that the combo isn't as bad as I remember with a 580EX (original) and 5D. As noted previously, the exact combination of flash and camera makes a difference in flash response, and manufacturers, I hope, improve their products.
    As for simplicity, I agree with what you said, however, I would further exclude (in this case) anything other than pure flash metering response, as the OP's question basically asked what flash metering system should be used for the situation (with clues that the OP knew white is a problem). The fact that the underexposure might have been 'less' and/or more easily handled with a slower shutter speed and a better handling of the ambient, is good for the OP to know, but doesn't answer the question fully, particularly since the second image presented is purely flash underexposure due to the white or light values in the scene, as well as the inverse square law problem. The white balance/exposure problem is there, as you pointed out, but it isn't the main problem(s).
    I agree that knowing every last technical aspect of the gear you are using doesn't always help you in the practical sense. However, I don't seen any downside (other than the headache) to figuring out how your particular camera and flash handles flash metering, or knowing some of the theory behind flash and metering. If you didn't know the latter, you wouldn't know you could/should compensate the flash metering when photographing a bride in a white dress (unless by total trial and error).
  54. Nadine, I do have to totally agree that one should know the fundamentals of how light meters work ... whether in-camera, or with the use of flash. There is no substitute for that knowledge.
    I don't quite agree that flash metering and flash compensation alone would have solved these lighting issues very well. The second image the OP posted is a classic example we all face at weddings: lots of white to trick both the camera and flash metering with a table plastered up against a wall.
    In this case compensating the flash to the plus enough to properly light the subjects in the background, while using a higher shutter speed than necessary (1/125) and an aperture stopped more than needed for a 18mm shot (f/8), the flash would most likely blow out the front of the table and throw harsh cast shadows of the people on the drapery right behind them. Using a slower shutter speed and a more open aperture, + flash, would have solved most of the issues without introducing new ones. 1/30th and f/4 would have worked just fine.
    The point being that understanding how flash metering works alone, isn't enough to solve these sort of lighting problems. Understanding how the camera's ISO setting and shutter speed, the lens aperture, AND flash can be made to work together to balance the light with-in the range of the digital sensor has to be understood. Which sound complex ... but can be simplified to get results immediately while you learn the why of it: Simply STOP using 1/200th of a second shutter at a dark reception, especially with wider lenses ... and depending on how wide the focal length is, only stop the lens aperture down just enough to get what you want sharp in focus ... which, with an 18mm, is almost everything from your toes to the horizon at f/8 : -)
  55. Sure, I agree with you completely, Marc. I was just saying that the question is about metering and white (even though Jeremy was not completely clear about this himself), and that in itself is complex, since people started trying to explain the Nikon metering system in an effort to answer his questions--what metering system SHOULD he use--what went wrong with the metering? So I was trying to simplify and stay simple, so that Jeremy could take away the basic concept directly related to the question. I also wanted to know more about the Nikon metering system (but that is for me... :^)
    All the other things you and others suggested--dragging the shutter, relating ambient and flash, white balance and exposure, and processing are all good for Jeremy to know but they are all pretty 'large' topics, and ones that he can research and learn as he goes. Simply stopping the use of faster shutter speeds, by itself, is on the same level as just plus comping the exposure without knowing why. For instance, the above image was shot with ISO 800. At f4, 1/30th, you are probably pretty close to ambient, which is your point (less harsh shadows and blow out from inverse square law). However, shooting this way introduces other issues, such as mixing flash white balance with tungsten white balance (the orange hair syndrome) without gelling the flash, as well as the possibility of subject movement blur (subjects are moving and EV is too close to ambient to freeze all motion, particularly if the flash is underexposed). I sometimes use 1/125th at ISO 800, f4 with flash to ensure stopping motion. But I digress.
    I was trying to keep things simple in direct relationship to the question.
  56. SO... your meter worked perfectly ~!
  57. Hey Marc, a question regarding your earlier post, what would be the best way to set up your defaults and profiles for your camera so as to get the best results going in, assuming you have exposed correctly in the first place. Also is it best to allow your program(ie Lightroom) to make an auto balance correction, does it make life easier in post processing?
  58. HI Brandon, I'll stick with just one default setting to explore in Lightroom because it is perhaps the most important.
    Many people import files into Lightroom without realizing that in the "Develop Module" menu under "Camera Calibration" they have a host of specific adjustments that can be assigned based on the camera used.
    To begin with, there is the "Profile" setting. It usually defaults to a generic Profile called "Adobe Standard" ... but with many popular cameras there are other profile choices that are usually better. For example for my Nikon D3 files there were 9 different Profiles available. For My Leica M there are 5 profiles including one called Camera Standard which is a decent base for the Leica M8's specific DNG files. You then can make slight adjustments using the slider set directly under the profile selector. If your camera tends to produce skin that's too reddish, you can tweak it here.
    In addition, there are custom profiles that users develop that can be loaded into the Profiles folder of LR. I have one I downloaded and installed for my Leica M9 that is better than the Adobe Standard or the original Embedded Profile.
    You can assign one of these as a default profile based on a specific camera so LR automatically uses that profile ... for example, I could select "Camera Neutral" for a Nikon D3 profile and then make that the default for ALL D3 files in future. Or, if I didn't want to make it the default for all D3 files in future, just what I'm working on at the time ... I could select one D3 photo, choose "Camera Neutral", then apply it to any number of shots and sync them to use that profile by selecting "Camera Calibration" in the Sync menu that opens when you batch sync images.
    There are just a couple of "Batch" things I do to images imported into Lightroom: I set a 7X10 aspect ratio, select a Profile, and (sometimes) set Auto White Balance ... and then sync all the shots. I may occasionally use auto exposure balance, but it's not the best choice in really dark venues because it just overexposes the shots. Well exposed outdoor shots work better.
    PM me if you want to discuss this in more depth Brandon.
  59. Hi Jeremy,
    The best info I've read to date about using your flash is on the Planet Neil website. Check it out, it's very informative.
    If you're using your flash don't worry about a slower shutter speed, the flash freezes any movement. At receptions I'm usually shooting at 1/40 or 1/50 and still getting crystal clear images. Shoot in manual mode, bump up your ISO in those darker situations and you'll be fine. Good luck!
  60. Flash will only freeze movement for the period of time that the flash puts out light. If you have a rather slow shutter speed you will get ghost images that show movement for the period of time that the flash was not putting out light. Try this. Put your camera on a tripod with the flash on. Have a person walk at a normal pace about 10 feet away from your camera. Use various shutter speeds and make photos. Keep making the shutter speeds slower and slower. At some point you will start to see movement.
    With regard to meters in cameras and meters in flash units.
    No matter how sophisticated these meters are (e.g. what type of patterns they read, etc.) the plain and simple fact of the matter is that they are reflective meters that are based on a certain area of the gray scale. Many are based on 18 %, and therefore are designed to give a proper exposure such that whatever the meter is reading comes out at a medium gray. With flash, the flash meter decides (based on the parameters you tell it you are using) how much light to put on a subject to give medium gray.
    But as has been noted, the inverse square law states that light falls off considerably as the distance is increased. If a person doesn't understand it, just use your meter to see it. Measure a distance 5.6 feet from your flash and take a reading. Then walk back to 8 feet and take a reading. You will see a difference on about one f stop which is 1/2 the light, even though you did not double our distance from the flash. In fact, if you did double your distance from the flash - 11.2 feet, your meter would show a difference of 2 stops, which is 1/4 of the light.
    So, here you have a camera and a flash seeing white. The meters give an exposure to make that white gray (give way less exposure and light than what you really want). Plus you have the inverse square law working on that background, which is already receiving less light than it should from the flash, plus the light from the flash is falling way way off because of the distance.
    That is why, when I am doing a wedding indoors in a church, I want to know what my ambient exposure is first. My overall ambient exposure. And I am going to find that out by either taking a meter reading with a reflective meter on a gray card, or by using an incident meter that measure the light falling on the meter rather than the light reflecting from a subject.
    And then, I am going to decide what amount of light I need to add to my particular subject that I want exposed well. If I am using a manual flash I will meter it with a flash meter. If I am using a metered flash I am going to pay particular attention to the subject that is being metered and adjust the flash accordingly to take into account that the flash is metering for a medium gray exposure, unless of course I have a meter that is taking a very broad number of points and and evaluating them, but then only if my subject is contained in a small space.

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