What's the point of using an Incident meter?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jamietea20, Aug 30, 2020.

  1. I don't understand:

    If a spot meter can you give the reading of the amount of light reflected from the subject, which is essentially is what the camera sensor/film will be exposed to, then why bother using a *Incident meter* and then having to adjust the skin tone/reflective surface factor?

    Could anyone explain?

    (Moderator Note - the content has been edited to reflect post #8)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2020
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

  3. Yes...incident meters measure light falling on subject, not light reflected from subject.

    People come in all sorts of colors, their skin reflectance varies a lot with perspiration and makeup..that can make spot metering more tricky.
     
    Hector Javkin likes this.
  4. I don't understand what this "more tricky" mean? At the end of the day we are metering what we want to see on the image, don't we.

    Then, "People come in all sorts of colors, their skin reflectance varies a lot with perspiration and makeup"
    is preceisely my point, if we can spot meter it accruately to what the camera sees, why get an average reading and not factor in the skin colors????
     
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    There are uses and advantages / disadvantages to both types of metering. I use both, but because I have used spot for a very long time, I often place the spot selectively on areas of the subject that will get the result I want rather than the most important area. Just habit & practice - my cameras are nearly always set on spot.
     
  6. There is a correction for a typo in my original post"
    I don't understand:

    If a spot meter can you give the reading of the amount of light reflected from the subject, which is essentially is what the camera sensor/film will be exposed to, then why bother using a *Incident meter* and then having to adjust the skin tone/reflective surface factor?
    "
     
  7. Why indeed?
     
    Ludmilla likes this.
  8. A meter is stupid. It doesn't know what object you pointed it too. Since a black skinned person reflects less light to the meter than a white skinned person, you have to make an adjustment that reflects which skin you pointed it at.
     
  9. SCL

    SCL

    Strongly encourage you to do some reading on the effectiveness of each type of metering. For 60 years I've preferred incident metering, but that doesn't mean that it is best in all circumstances. An understanding of the shortfalls of each methodology can immeasurably improve your exposure, becasue you have knowledge and choices.
     
  10. A handheld spot meter will be more precise at giving you a reflective reading than a camera meter. The incident meter is good for general light readings. Either will require interpretation of where different subjects/objects will fall and what adjustments are need to have them fall where you wish.
    If you are only shooting with one area that is prioritized then you can point your spot/reflective meter at that area, adjust exposure and be done. But as soon as you want to consider other areas and find the exisiting relationship you will need to take more readings. The incident reading is concerned with the light source(s) and can most often be done in a single reading. Either way you will need to run some quick calculations to place your subject where you want.
    Some prefer reflective metering for a sense of accuracy, some prefer incident metering for the control based on a known constant. Most prefer in camera reflective averaging meters for ease and speed.
     
  11. inoneeye likes this.
  12. Good point about flash metering. Even tho I have always relied on doing the calculations in my head.
     
  13. Ok, if you taking an image which includes a black labrador retriever, a snow white bunny, and a large section of green foliage, where are you going to point your spot meter? Pointing it at the black lab or white bunny will result in dramatically different camera settings, so where will you point it? Does it make a difference to you if you are using color slide film, color print film, high contrast black and white negative film, a vintage CDC sensor from the early 2000's, or a modern CMOS sensor? Do you understand what your meter is telling you when you take a meter reading?
     
  14. This is not really helpful. Can you elaborate more and how it can answer my original questions? I already know how each meter work..
     
  15. I never use flash, and even if I do, I don't understand why can't I keep the flash turned on continuously and use a spot meter...
     
  16. I don't believe this is true, you need to meter many times with incident meter as much as spot meter. Just because it measures the amount of light falling on to the subject doesn't mean it's constant, say over a surface..
     
  17. I don't see how this has anything to do what I am asking... in your stated scenario, I will meter whatever subject I intend to "bring out", let it be the dog, bunny or leaves. What I am saying is that why would I meter for the bunny using an incident and then adjust the compensation due to its skin tone, instead of using a spot and exposure as what the meter tells me....
    And if I want to do an averaging of the three, I can step back and let the viewfinder include all three, or spot meter each and find a common ground. Still, if I use an incident, not only I'm doing all that, I also have to mentally add/subtract the reflective factor
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
  18. With incident,
    typically you stand near your subject and point the meter's white dome directly back toward the camera and you have your reading (It does not see light coming from behind the subject.). Often you can even take a single reading from your own position if you are in the same lighting as the subject of your photo. But with the dome it allows it to measure how much light is illuminating ALL surfaces in the scene. That's about as constant as you can expect.
    If you are needing to take several readings then you can switch over to spot/reflective readings. But some photographers can easily make the necessary calculations for the different reflective surfaces based on experience with using incident.
    Really one of the reasons some prefer incident is the single read... it is fast and accurate with experience.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020

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