A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Community > Forums > Beginner Photography Questions > a question about metering

Featured Equipment Deals

25 Exhilarating Photos of Airplanes Read More

25 Exhilarating Photos of Airplanes

By land and by air, photo.net members have captured stunning shots of airplanes at soaring heights, performing incredible stunts, and in breathtaking locales.

Latest Equipment Articles

Sun Position Tracking Apps Read More

Sun Position Tracking Apps

These 5 apps, ranging in price from free to $8.99, are our top picks for tracking sun (and moon) light. Also ranging in complexity, some help you keep tabs on the ideal lighting of the day while...

Latest Learning Articles

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial) Read More

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial)

Building upon last week's Basic Printing with Lightroom video tutorial, this advanced printing tutorial will teach you to print contact sheets, print multiple images at a time, use Lightroom's present...


a question about metering

Adam Marks , Jul 06, 2009; 02:45 a.m.

could someone please answer these two questions as best they can, because i have no idea what so ever. thanks

Explain which metering system (spot, reflective or incident) would be best to use for the following

1. interior house shoot in a Sydney terrace house using available light from windows.
and

2. A landscape shot in rugged and rocky Alpine terrain on a sunny day.

THANKYOU EVERYONE for your feedback

Responses

Erlend Sæteren , Jul 06, 2009; 03:15 a.m.

Spot is best for both. You can aim the spot at light and dark and inbetween areas, and meter them all, based on those meterings you will see how high above zero you will allow the lights to shine, and how low below zero yo can dump the shadows.

Erlend Sæteren , Jul 06, 2009; 04:39 a.m.

I dont use reflective. It is ment for average scenes, and I suppose it works well for that. Incident is very useful when setting up light, to check if the illumination is even, or if the illumination is right.

Lex Jenkins , Jul 06, 2009; 05:05 a.m.

Technically, spot metering is reflective metering. When used correctly, averaging metering accomplishes the same thing as taking several spot readings and averaging the results. More refined reflective metering systems (matrix, evaluative, etc.) add some sophistication to averaging metering. All are reflective metering.

Most incident meters with the diffusion dome removed can also be used as reflective meters. These tend to be very non-selective unless fitted with spot attachments or similar devices that narrow the angle of view.

If you understand how each metering system works and how to apply it, any of these metering types can be used accurately in the situations Adam described. There are relatively few scenarios where only a spot metering will accurately indicate the appropriate exposure for a scene, such as measuring a remote subject/object that cannot be approached and which is illuminated differently from the area in which the photographer is located. If the photographer can approach the subject/object to be metered, any metering system can provide an appropriate reading as long as the lighting is continuous and the photographer understands how to use the metering device.

Another exception is the use of flash, in which a spotmeter is useless but a flashmeter or incident/flashmeter is essential. As an alternative, if the subject/object cannot be approached to accurately use a handheld flashmeter, a camera with sophisticated TTL flash can be used to accurately meter and illuminate the scene, as long as it is within the useful range of the flash or multiple TTL flash setup.

Here is a recent thread in this forum in which similar information was discussed, along with relevant links to outside sources: Incident light reading/metering in a messy scene?

David Henderson , Jul 06, 2009; 05:35 a.m.

I'd probably use spot for both, which is not quite the same as saying that you should.

  • A single reading from a spot meter will be pretty useless for the interior shot because you'd expect a wide brightness range and you really need to understand what that range is so you can fit it onto your chosen medium. So you need to take multiple readings to see what that range is and to understand how important parts of your composition would be rendered. You could do the same thing with an incident meter though it might be a little less physically convenient to do so.
  • With reflective metering there is a world of difference between a single reading from a wide angle handheld meter where it isn't clear where the reading is coming from, and the relatively sophisticated matrix/evalluative methods available with modern slrs. To my mind the first is an utter waste of time unless you're using a particularly forgiving medium like colour neg film; whereas the second is flexible enough to cope with most exposure circumstances.
  • So for your second, landscape scenario the reality is that any of spot/incident/matrix reflective should get you there. The brighter those rocks are by comparison to the rest of the composition, the more likely it is that I'd spotmeter , or incident if they were close enough to measure the light actually falling onto them would do just as well.

From all this you might just conclude that "the best way" is in large measure a function of what you know and what you're good at. I'd choose spot not because its the only way, but because I've been using it pretty much exclusively with film for more than a dozen years and well over 50000 frames, and I've yet to come across a set of circumstances where multiple spot metering won't give me a useful answer.

The final point is that all meter readings require interpretation, depending on the circumstances. Its not always a question of pointing the camera /meter at something and putting that value (maually or automatically) into the camera. If you want a simple "one reading" solution with minimum need to think about what your meter is telling you then the matrix/evaluative setting on an slr is IMO the best. Especially if you're shooting digital and you can check the histogram and do it again if necessary.

Luis G , Jul 06, 2009; 07:09 a.m.

It's not just about the metering mode.

The problem with the interior shot will be the contrast range, both within the interior ( interior lighting is rarely even) and that window. Without lighting the interior yourself, you'll have to make do with what is there. You can do something about the contrast with the exterior lighting. Photograph it at either dusk or dawn. The light intensity will be lower outside, giving you a better chance of getting it all because of lower contrast between interior and exterior. Or you could use HDR to make it work.

Spot metering requires experience/understanding. It is a reflected reading. Until you have more experience under your belt, when you really have to get the shot, and the subject isn't moving, (as with interiors and landscapes) put it on Matrix and BLH (bracket like hell) until you see a good-looking histogram. Experiment with spot-metering and learn to use it. Average too. No shame in this, many of the greatest pros, like Jay Maisel, bracket constantly.

Erlend Sæteren , Jul 06, 2009; 08:15 a.m.

Hey Luis G. When you say BLH , do you mean in 1/3 stop increments for digital work? Very fine advice from you. I liked the dusk and dawn -thing.

Adam Marks , Jul 07, 2009; 06:15 a.m.

what about these examples. which metering spot incident or reflective would be best and why for these 5 examples.

1 Skiing competition shots in the snow on a sunny day.

2 An architectural shot of the Sydney Opera House on a sunny day.

3 A wedding in a church lit by window light.

4. A beach shot at sunrise for a travel magazine.

5.An indoor food shoot using window light but not direct sun.

An indoor food shoot using window light but not direct sun.

Back to top

Notify me of Responses