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Spot metering? On the face or on the dress?

Iris van den Broek , Mar 04, 2009; 04:09 a.m.

I will be shooting my first wedding in May this year. I am already nervous and do as much reading as I can but I am often wondering how photos are exposed/metered.
First question: In general: do you usually use spot metering? Or matrix metering?
And if you're outside in the sunlight and you want to prevent the dress from blowing out: how do meter there? Do you use spot metering on the face? Or on the dress? Or no spot metering at all?

I know with snow that you have to overexpose to make it actually white on your photo, but does the same go for a wedding dress? I think if you overexpose the dress will be blown out.
thanks for any advice on this

Responses


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Pete S. , Mar 04, 2009; 06:17 a.m.

You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0). If you spot meter on a black tux you want it to show two or three stops under middle grey. A caucasian face should be about 1 stop over.
In general spot metering is usually used with manual exposure mode. Unless you feel very comfortable shooting manual mode and using spot metering you might be better off letting the camera do some of the work for you. For instance in matrix or center weighted and perhaps aperture priority for exposure mode.

Iris van den Broek , Mar 04, 2009; 06:28 a.m.

thank you for your answer
I do understand all the basics and am shooting more and more in manual mode. I am just very nervous about weddings since Í've never done any (the bride and groom know that but still wanted me) Therefore I am reading a lot here and wanted to ask what the pro's do.
What to do in very bright sunlight? Do you use flash to fill in the shadows?
I know my way around in the combination aperture, shutterspeed, ISO-speed but when it comes to flash I have a lot to learn. I already read Planet Neil and learned a lot from that, but it's so much information that it's a little dazzling sometimes.
What if I've spotmetered the dress, dialed in a +2 exposure for example and then use fill-flash? Will my exposure still be correct then or not?

Hooman B , Mar 04, 2009; 07:35 a.m.

An excellent and easy to use and understand book on spot metering: http://www.spotmetering.com/

Raymond Valois , Mar 04, 2009; 08:58 a.m.

Hi Iris ...
I would never shoot a wedding without an ambient hand-held meter. This meter measures the light FALLING on the subject(s) as opposed to camera meters (all cameras) that measure light REFLECTED from the subject(s).
An ambient meter doesn't care about the reflectivity of the subject(s) and so the brides dress is really white with the details, the groom's tux is really dark (black, blue, charcoal, whatever) and MOST importantly, you've faithfully captured the skin tones.
and remember the 3 rules: prepare, prepare, prepare <[-;0))
Ray

Matt Needham , Mar 04, 2009; 09:18 a.m.

I never spot meter, as I'm usually close enough to the bride to fill the frame with the dress to get a reading. If I'm metering off the dress or light skin I'm going to overexpose from what the meter tells me, or the exposure will be middle gray tone. Take a test shot, and look at the histogram. It should clearly tell you if you've blown the highlights.

Ed Rodgers , Mar 04, 2009; 09:24 a.m.

Raymond,
While I agree with you that an incedent reading is more accurate, it does not take into account the dynamic range limitations of the capture medium. It won't tell you when you are going to clip highlights or shadows if the scene has a great deal of contrast. You may very well blow out a wedding dress using incedent metering in harsh light.

It might be the best of both worlds to do a reflected light measurement off of a known surface, such as a grey card. This method produces the same results as an incedent meter. Then it is only a small step to learn the approximate brightness values of common subjects relative to neutral grey of what you are metering as Pete mentioned, so you can be accurate without an incedent meter. Then you can control the midtone, shadow, and highlight placement, and not just the midtone.

Just a thought. There are always multiple ways to skin a cat.

Thomas Hardy , Mar 04, 2009; 10:24 a.m.

You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0)

Is middle gray the same as 18%? I never knew how dark 18% was. No wonder you have to open up almost 3 stops accurately expose white.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/19217760@N05/2268695471/in/set-72157603919298472/

Ran across this surfing.

Sheri Johnson , Mar 04, 2009; 11:03 a.m.

I think you shouldn't meter the light on the dress because your meter is looking for something that is grey, so that would throw it off.

Thomas Hardy , Mar 04, 2009; 12:07 p.m.

Sheri said: I think you shouldn't meter the light on the dress because your meter is looking for something that is grey, so that would throw it off.

Pete S said earlier: You can spot meter on anything but you need to know what the tonality should be. For instance if you spot meter on the dress and it's white you want it to show two or three stops over middle gray (0)

Yeah, you really have to know what the camera is doing. Open up two stops for white dress, close down some for the black tux. Would you keep metering and changing or leave it on one setting and check the histogram every once in a while?


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