Metering skills lost by digital.... or are they?

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Jehu

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I've been "cheating" on my studio shots recently. I would shoot the setup with digital until I got the results I liked and then use the exposure settings to get the real (film) shot. This time I was determined to use only careful metering and light arangement. Here is the result:

4069940644_b6e6169072.jpg


There's a complete description of the setup on the flickr page:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/17555839@N03/4069940644/

Tell me what you think. Any ideas for improvement?

Thanks for any comments.
 

mrred

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I like the shot...but "Congrats" are only in order if you managed to get what you visualized in your head before hand. If it was, well done and it was skill that got you there.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Nicely done, but the table edge isn't quite invisible, if that was what you were trying to achieve. One way to do that might be to use a darker background paper, like neutral gray instead of white, and be careful to control spillover from the strobe in all directions, particularly if you're working in a small studio with light colored walls and ceiling.
 
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Jehu

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I just went and scrutinized the print. I don't see the table edge. It's down by the rim of the lower glass. The lower glass is less than 1/4" from the edge because that gave me more working room for the gradient. I wonder if the gradient has sort of a hard edge that looks like a table edge because of having the black bounce too close to the background. I'll have to work on that.

I've tried the gray paper for this shot before. I like the refraction in the glass better with the white background. Here's a shot from my days using a digital camera as a light meter:
3622839319_ee477d9134.jpg


The thing that I didn't like about this shot was the inconsistent gradient in the background lighting. It's lopsided. I was going to try this audio trigger shot again now that I like the background lighing method.
 

Sirius Glass

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Both are great shots.


Would you feel differently if you used a digital light meter?

Steve
 

David A. Goldfarb

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It could be that the contrast adjustment in the scan is revealing the table edge, which is better concealed on the print. I can see it on my calibrated monitor. Try looking at the print under brighter light.
 
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Jehu

Jehu

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It could be that the contrast adjustment in the scan is revealing the table edge, which is better concealed on the print. I can see it on my calibrated monitor. Try looking at the print under brighter light.

Are you looking just above the rim of the lower glass?

By the way, thanks for the comments. I'm not just looking for compliments here. I really want to find ways to improve.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Are you looking just above the rim of the lower glass?

By the way, thanks for the comments. I'm not just looking for compliments here. I really want to find ways to improve.

Yes, that's where I see it.
 
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Jehu

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Both are great shots.


Would you feel differently if you used a digital light meter?

Steve

Yup!

Actually, my light meter is digital. My "cheating" was using a digital camera. I would take a test shot, make an adjustment, repeat...

Although I can get the final product this way, it does nothing for improving my light metering and pre-visualization skills. That's what I'm working on.
 
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Jehu

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Thanks David. I'll take a look on photoshop. I'm sure I'll see it there. It may also be time to calibrate my monitor. I haven't done that yet on the new Mac.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Now that I think about it, another way to conceal the table's edge would be to move the setup forward a bit and use a wider aperture to blur the edge and the background more. That may involve repositioning the camera and lighting somewhat, so maybe just a wider aperture would be sufficient.

It's fairly subtle, and I think most people wouldn't notice it, but I only mention it, because you said that you were trying to conceal the edge of the table.
 

Sirius Glass

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Yup!

Actually, my light meter is digital. My "cheating" was using a digital camera. I would take a test shot, make an adjustment, repeat...

Although I can get the final product this way, it does nothing for improving my light metering and pre-visualization skills. That's what I'm working on.

Well, some would say, that is like using a Polaroid back.

Steve
 

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I read last year in the UK Professional Photographer Magazine that it's a problem using separate light meters with digital cameras, because the sensors (or whatever they call the recording medium) don't react to light the same same way as film.
 
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Jehu

Jehu

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Now that I think about it, another way to conceal the table's edge would be to move the setup forward a bit and use a wider aperture to blur the edge and the background more. That may involve repositioning the camera and lighting somewhat, so maybe just a wider aperture would be sufficient.

It's fairly subtle, and I think most people wouldn't notice it, but I only mention it, because you said that you were trying to conceal the edge of the table.

That's a pretty good idea David. The only limitation to that would be the field that I have to work with on the gradient levels. If I move the glass away from the table edge then the horizon would be higher in the frame.

I'm pretty happy with the way it is now but it would be nice to spread it out a little more consistently. Perfection would be zone 0 on the background at the table horizon and zone VII at the dividing glass with an even, linear gradient between. I considered using a ND grad filter but then it would effect the refraction in the glass.

When I was setting this up I was planning on exposing f11. The background shots were ranging from f22 at the dividing glass to f5.6 about half way between there and the table horizon. My meter wouldn't read anything lower than 5.6. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I should try hot lights instead of flash.
 
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Jehu

Jehu

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I read last year in the UK Professional Photographer Magazine that it's a problem using separate light meters with digital cameras, because the sensors (or whatever they call the recording medium) don't react to light the same same way as film.

I've always wondered how they compared. I'd like to read that.
 

polyglot

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I read last year in the UK Professional Photographer Magazine that it's a problem using separate light meters with digital cameras, because the sensors (or whatever they call the recording medium) don't react to light the same same way as film.

Well of course not. By the same token, film doesn't react the same way to light as (other) film either.

Digital preserves so much shadow detail it's not funny, but loses the highlights in a blink. Neg film is the opposite. Slides will lose both ends if you're not paying attention.

I have found that a DSLR in spot-meter mode reads basically the same as a handheld spotmeter, in that its concept of what tone should be at Zone V is the same. So you can use it just like a normal spotmeter if you know what you're doing - measure the shadows, measure the highlights, etc, etc. Just like that blogger posted in an article a few weeks ago, for which he was shredded on APUG with little good reason - a spotmeter is a spotmeter, and it doesn't matter whether it's handheld, in a film SLR or in a DSLR, they all take the same readings.

I too have been guilty of doing digital proofs of flash-lit scenes before committing to film and it does work, but you do have to be aware of the differences in media, in the same way you wouldn't shoot a proof of a scene with a neg and then expect the same result when reshot with a chrome. I read somewhere that polaroids should be depended on only to tell you how the light fits together in a scene but that they should never ever ever be relied upon for contrast or level information: you still need to know how to meter. Having it look right on the polaroid is a guarantee it won't look right on the final shot, and the same advice applies to digital proofs in my experience.
 

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SHINY!
 

Q.G.

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I read last year in the UK Professional Photographer Magazine that it's a problem using separate light meters with digital cameras, because the sensors (or whatever they call the recording medium) don't react to light the same same way as film.

The things people write ...
That publication calls itself "Professional" Photography?

The motion of the steering wheel in your car does not correspond exactly to the motion of the wheels it is turning, yet we need very little "professional" experience to use it to go exactly where we want to go.

What they are complaining about is a lack of "professional" skill. Their own, of course.
Makes me wonder why they think they should use the word "Professional" in their publication's name.
 

benjiboy

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Well of course not. By the same token, film doesn't react the same way to light as (other) film either.

Digital preserves so much shadow detail it's not funny, but loses the highlights in a blink. Neg film is the opposite. Slides will lose both ends if you're not paying attention.

I have found that a DSLR in spot-meter mode reads basically the same as a handheld spotmeter, in that its concept of what tone should be at Zone V is the same. So you can use it just like a normal spotmeter if you know what you're doing - measure the shadows, measure the highlights, etc, etc. Just like that blogger posted in an article a few weeks ago, for which he was shredded on APUG with little good reason - a spotmeter is a spotmeter, and it doesn't matter whether it's handheld, in a film SLR or in a DSLR, they all take the same readings.

I too have been guilty of doing digital proofs of flash-lit scenes before committing to film and it does work, but you do have to be aware of the differences in media, in the same way you wouldn't shoot a proof of a scene with a neg and then expect the same result when reshot with a chrome. I read somewhere that polaroids should be depended on only to tell you how the light fits together in a scene but that they should never ever ever be relied upon for contrast or level information: you still need to know how to meter. Having it look right on the polaroid is a guarantee it won't look right on the final shot, and the same advice applies to digital proofs in my experience.
Thanks polyglot, that's interesting, I don't own a digital camera, and was just curious how this worked in practice .
 

DKT

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I read somewhere that polaroids should be depended on only to tell you how the light fits together in a scene but that they should never ever ever be relied upon for contrast or level information: you still need to know how to meter. Having it look right on the polaroid is a guarantee it won't look right on the final shot, and the same advice applies to digital proofs in my experience.

I work in a studio & location shooting environment and have used polaroid type 55 p/n and the coaterless type 54 pos (not as much as 55 though) to proof 4x5 transparency films in the 50-64-100 ISO range as well as TMX 100 films for many years. we almost never use meters-as do most commercial studios. 20 yrs ago I worked assisting in studios, and almost never encountered meters being used either. It was all polaroid proofing or experienced pros eyeballing exposures. These were studios that shot furniture catalogs on sets and they would shoot one holder basically same exposure. one sheet of polaroid, one holder-run one sheet-if that was okay that was it.

Our technique is to basically light the shot with strobe or hotlights--we shoot a lot of textiles and furniture and objects--firearms, currency etc. You kinda know the exposures after a while. A typical one would be 3 pops at F45 on a 2400 ws speedotron pack. Do your 'roid--type 55--the positive part of the print--view by reflected light. Look for detail to be held in the highlights. Then backlight the print--called "candling". The shadows should show detail. This is your contrast check. Polaroid holds less latitude than chrome film. It needs to flat. If your chrome film is used for reproduction (as is ours) it needs to be about a 3-4 stop no more range. So you want a flat polaroid. 55 is like a half stop less than the number one. At 3 pops, this will be your plus 1/2 exposure. So normal exposure is 2 pops. That's all we shoot 2 & 3 pops, one holder each. Run half the film, if you need to push or pull, do it with the remaining sheets or toss them out. The negative part is used to check fine focus. You can keep that or toss it or whatever. It won't be usable as a good neg because a good 55 neg is a stop over that print.

That's how it was done--we still do it because we still have type 55 left. Digital is close--very short latitude. My big deal with the digital as the proofing device, is that it's not the same as a polaroid back in a view camera. It will never match the angle of view etc, so the meter comes back again.
 

Q.G.

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Pros using Polaroid instead of meters should learn how to use a meter and stop wasting good money on Polaroids.
What's professional in feeling your way around until you chance upon the right exposure?
 
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Jehu

Jehu

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It's all good. I just prefer to develop the skills that it takes to get the best results I can.

Digital proofing isn't just for exposure value by the way. I was shooing for a taxidermist yesterday. We had to shoot an 8 ft full-body mount of a polar bear. The ceiling was about 9'. The only way I could get the whole subject onto the background paper was to stand on a stepstool. With two 300ws monoheads, a speedlight and a reflector we really had a challenge. As much as I prefer shooting film, I didn't touch the film cameras. It was impossible to see what the color gels were doing with the background. It was also very difficult to see where the shadows were falling.

Whether it's digital, film, Polaroid, light meter or any combination thereof, these are tools in the toolbox and I want them all to be in optimal adjustment and ready to be used skillfully. I'm certainly not going to look down on others for having a preference for a different tool.
 
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