You guys are waayy above my head-but I need help with lighting!

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by s_hill, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. Please forgive my ignorance-you guys might as well be writing in Greek on some
    of this stuff. I am not familiar with the terminology. Please forgive me if I
    am asking this question in the wrong place.

    When I use my digital camera, I have trouble discerning what setting is best
    for my shutter speed (unless the exposure is really off) without taking several
    shots. I often can't tell which was best until I put it on the computer.

    I am trying to avoid wasting time and energy. I wondered if a light meter
    would help. I am shooting interior areas with normal lighting conditions and
    exterior with natural light. I do not use any lighting equipment.

    I am shooting with a Nikon P-5000 and no flash. I am using a fisheye lens and
    stitching two shots together to make a virtual tour of interior/exterior areas.

    Will a light meter tell what to set my shutter speed on and eliminate the
    guesswork? I would need to use it for every shot since the light is often
    different when I rotate the camera 180 degrees.

    I have no experience with a light meter. Is it as simple as pushing a button
    and taking a reading?

    Thanks so much-Stephani
  2. elf


    Set your camera for Auto White Balance (read the manual to find out how) and then set it
    for Aperture Priority (read the manual for that too).

    If you're outdoors in bright sunshine set the ISO to 100, if you're outdoors in the evening
    or early morning set the ISO higher.

    You cannot hand hold your camera at exposure times lower than 1/60th second, so if your
    readout says 1/30th or slower, get a tripod or set the ISO up higher.

    Learning how to get the results you need from your camera is mostly a matter of trying
    and then analyzing. You might think that's wasting time and energy, but it's the way you

    I'd also suggest you need to stitch 15 or more shots together to get what you're trying to

    Subscribe to one of the popular photo publications for a year and read all the articles.
  3. You must use manual white balance and manual exposure and expose every frame the same or they will not stitch together properly.

    You probably need to expose enough for the darkest area to have detail but not enough to overexpose highlits in the brightest areas anywhere in any frame as that is difficult recovery. The dodge the darks to brighten them using the dodge tool or with black and white brushes on a 50% grey fill layer in overlay mode. Later is better.

    If you can`t do this, make one panorama correctly exposed for lights and one correct for darks. Then stitch each and you get one light pamorama and one dark panorama. Combine with layers as if you had two original frames letting one show thru to the other.

    Link for instructions

    Watch the video on blended exposure

    just copy and past the address. Do not type it in.

    You absolutely can not merge a bunch of different light balances and exposures. Basic in panoramas.
  4. gdw


    Let me make sure I understand what you are asking.

    It appears that your are using an automatic camera set on Auto? Or are you trying to set the camera manually by guesswork? Also, I think when you ask where to set the shutter speed you are actually asking how to make a correct exposure.

    Yes, a light meter will help you make correct exposures but you already have an exposure meter built into your camera and you are still having problems. A separate light meter will not change that and may just complicate the situation.

    Do this first. Cut you about a foot square of plain brown paper grocery bag. Place the paper in the sunlight area that will be in your photography, or have someone hold it there. Face the square towards the position where you will be standing when you take the picture and angled at about 45 degrees between where you will be and the sun. Move in very close to the paper until the frame of the viewfinder shows only the square of grocery bag and take a meter reading. Remember the reading or write it down. Now change your camera to manual and set both the aperture and the shutter speed from the reading of the square. Walk back and take your photographs, turning the camera both vertical and horizontal as needed. As long as the light does not make a major change, like the sun going behind a heavy cloud, the reading should remain the same regardless of the orientation of the camera.

    It is fairly simple but at times a little difficult to grasp. A light meter only knows medium gray (a shade somewhat similar to the light reflected from a grocer bag). If you point your camera at the scene and the sensor is resting on a bright area, something close to white, the camera is going to want to make that bright area medium gray and therefore your photograph will be under exposed, dark. If the sensor rests on something very dark then the camera will want to make the black into medium gray and your photograph will be over exposed, too light.

    When you grasp that concept you will understand that there are a couple of ways to solve your problem without making an additional purchase.

    First, and the easiest is to stand at the point where you want to take the photograph and line the sensor in the viewfinder up with something that is medium gray, something that reflects about the same amount of light as the grocery bag experiment. Then either lock in that exposure or set you camera on manual at that exposure. Again, as long as you select a medium area, not white, not black, and the amount of light does not change, your photographs will be close, if not perfectly exposed.

    Second, you will learn that you can read off of white or light areas and then set the camera to a lens opening that 1-1/2 to 2 stop BIGGER (which means smaller number on the aperture) and then the white will be white and not medium gray. Or you can read off of black and set the camera to a lens opening that is 1-1/2 to 2 stops SMALLER (which means larger number on the aperture) and achieve the same results.

    Your problem stems from your lack of understanding how your cameras metering system functions. The reason you are getting constantly varying exposures is that you are allowing your camera to meter in different places when you recompose. Try the grocery bag experiment. It is cheap, a lot less than a hand held exposure meter, and it may help you begin to understand exposure and what a light meter, in your hand or in your camera, is telling you.
  5. Put the camera in manual exposure mode, and use the camera's histogram function to determine proper exposure. (Take a shot, look at the histogram, adjust the ISO, aperture, or shutter to compensate, take another photo, look at the histogram. Repeat as necessary to get a good exposure.) Before you do this you will need to know how a histogram works, so read the camera manual and prepare for a short exam. It would also be good to get an idea how ISO, aperture and shutter speed interact for exposure. Plan on doing some reading. You can start here:

    Once you get the exposure correct, leave the same ISO, aperture and shutter speed for all shots in a series as you shoot the room. This will keep all the exposures the same for the whole room and make sticking them together easier in the end. Trust me, there is no way you can use any kind of auto exposure mode for multiple exposures in one room and think you can tie them together and make it look right. It's got to be manual exposure mode.
  6. Thank you guys so much for your help. I apologize for being so late in response. My kids have been sick with the stomach stuff and they have taken all of my time!

    You are correct about my failure to understand my camera's features. I am still working on that and the links and information that you have provided will no doubt help.

    I am using a two shot system with a rotator and the Realviz Stitcher software. I need to continue to experiment. I was becoming frustrated by my inability to determine which shots to dump and which to keep when they appeared very close on my camera. I just could not make out the difference until I had them side by side on my computer screen. Maybe I just need to get my eyes adjusted!

    Thanks again so much-I am going to continue to read and learn...

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