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Thread: How to expose?

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    How to expose?

    Hello, I'm new here, and am starting with the noobest question possible.

    A bit of background. I come to digital from years shooting large format, mostly black and white, where I relied on exposing for shadows with a spot meter and controlling highlights with development.

    I've been working with digital for a year or so now. It's obvious this isn't how to go about things, and that metering on highlights first and letting shadows fall is what's required.

    I'm curious to know how you go about it. Do people working with technical cameras spot meter, or do you use histograms or other tools built into your back, or what?

    I'm not using a technical camera yet, because of cost, although I will probably have one soon enough. I'm working with a dslr, using it more the way I used to work with a view camera than the way it's designed. I use the built the built in meter, either as a spot meter or as a matrix meter, I guess the right exposure based on that information, look at the results, and ... you get the idea. This isn't entirely efficient, and I imagine there are better ways to use the tools I already have.

    I apologize if this isnt't the right forum, but the dslr forums are all brand-specific, and I'm looking primarily for theory that I can apply. I figured you guys would be most likely to know the ins and outs of how to work a digital sensor and the available dynamic range.

    Thanks for any help,
    Paul

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    Senior Member etrump's Avatar
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    Re: How to expose?

    Hello and welcome Paul,

    Take a test exposure and make sure the histogram does not clip on either side inappropriately. You'll get where you can guess the exposure within a 1/2 stop or so most every time.

    Some will say expose to the right over-exposing if the highlights are not that bright and bring back down in post for cleaner files. I have not found this necessary when using 16 bit sensors but others may disagree.

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    Re: How to expose?

    I made the switch from 5x4 to P45+ a couple of years ago. in tricky lighting, I still use a spotmeter to help choose which ND grad filters to use and where to place mid tone. More usually, the camera meter isn't that far off and use +/- compensation to bring histogram where I want it to be.

    I'd say that metering for digital is more akin to E6 film where you don't want to blow the highlights (except of course that you will have more dynamic range with the digital sensor). Initially I tried following the ETTR philosophy, but found it ruined more shots and didn't really any benefit as Ed has mentioned too.

    I'm also wary of people saying 'usable' dynamic range. In my experience although some detail may well be there, revealing it can often bring about a shift in tones/colour, hence my preference for continuing to use ND grads.

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    Re: How to expose?

    Essentially I usually expose such that I do not clip highlights, or if I do, it is only the specular highlights.
    The reason is that noise is essentially a constant with many of these sensors, and getting really good rich shadows with minimum noise means listing them off the noise floor.
    I try very hard to not need to change my exposure by more than +/- 1 stop in the raw converter. By viewing the image on the back and learning how to interpret the histogram, you can pretty much nail the exposure every time.
    Unlike 4 by 5 film, bits are cheap, so don't be afraid to experiment and re-shoot if you are not happy with the histogram.
    If the scene brightness range is short, as in a fog or a cloudy day, then usually the entire scene fits nicely on the histogram. If the scene is contrasty, then it is up to you to decide what you want to sacrifice. I personally hate burned out highlights in clouds, for example, but I am willing to let the deepest shadows go black.
    -bob

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    Re: How to expose?

    Thanks for the replies, everyone. So is it typical to shoot a test exposure and use its histogram or clip indicator to determine any adjustment? This is pretty much what I've been doing.

    I was wondering if anyone prefered spot metering and mapping the tonal range of the scene to the sensors characteristics (zone system style) or if this would just be an obsolete time waster these days.

    A couple of the lenses I plan to use will accomodate my camera's magical metering abilities, but at least one (a Schneider shift lens) won't talk to the camera at all, and will basically turn it into a manual box with a built-in spot meter.

    How are you finding the best sensors to compare with color neg film in terms of dynamic range?

    Thanks again,
    P

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    Re: How to expose?

    Quote Originally Posted by paulraphael View Post
    Thanks for the replies, everyone. So is it typical to shoot a test exposure and use its histogram or clip indicator to determine any adjustment? This is pretty much what I've been doing.

    I was wondering if anyone prefered spot metering and mapping the tonal range of the scene to the sensors characteristics (zone system style) or if this would just be an obsolete time waster these days.

    A couple of the lenses I plan to use will accomodate my camera's magical metering abilities, but at least one (a Schneider shift lens) won't talk to the camera at all, and will basically turn it into a manual box with a built-in spot meter.

    How are you finding the best sensors to compare with color neg film in terms of dynamic range?

    Thanks again,
    P
    I would say so.
    Ever since the introduction of the histogram it seems the most productive way since it essentially spot meters everywhere.
    EXCEPT I find myself still using meters in-studio for setting the lights.
    thanks
    -bob

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