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Thread: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

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    Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    When using roll film where you cannot change the development time for each frame, would it be better to meter a snow scene with an incident reading and if so, would you still open up the exposure by 2 stops above what the meter reading is telling you

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    The worst thing to do is use a reflectance meter. It will under-expose, and the snow will come out gray. Try this simple test. Read the gray side of a gray card with a reflectance meter. Then read the white side (AKA snow). The meter will tell you to stop way down -- NOT open up!

    Use the incident meter. Depending on your film and subject, you might want to change it by decreasing the exposure. This is especially true with higher contrast films. IF you want more detail, decrease the exposure a stop -- otherwise all the snow will come out completely white (black on a negative). If you are exposing a white cat in the snow, for example, you might want to "under-exposure" even more -- move the blacks in the negative to dark grays to retain detail/texture.

    And with roll film, you can always bracket -- one of their benefits!

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    I always use an incident meter. It measures the actual amount of light.


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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
    Use the incident meter. Depending on your film and subject, you might want to change it by decreasing the exposure.
    I take it this is because the incident meter is just measuring the light falling on the snow and we know there will be a lot of brightness reflected from the snow ?

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    The incident method works just as well for metering black cats

    You might find this brief article helpful.

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    I take it this is because the incident meter is just measuring the light falling on the snow and we know there will be a lot of brightness reflected from the snow ?
    If it's a white cat on snow, you might want to decrease the exposure so that the negative is not completely black -- no detail.

    If it's a black cat on coal, you might want to increase the exposure so that the negative is not completely clear -- no detail.

    I know it is counter-intuitive in some ways, but with negatives, everything is bassakwards.

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
    If it's a white cat on snow, you might want to decrease the exposure so that the negative is not completely black -- no detail.

    If it's a black cat on coal, you might want to increase the exposure so that the negative is not completely clear -- no detail.

    I know it is counter-intuitive in some ways, but with negatives, everything is bassakwards.
    The part Im finding hard to grasp is that I thought that even with incident metering, the meter would return an exposure of middle gray because the dome is calibrated to that value

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    The part Im finding hard to grasp is that I thought that even with incident metering, the meter would return an exposure of middle gray because the dome is calibrated to that value
    You are correct. And that works great for most scenes -- whites will be white and shadows will be dark. But in extreme situations, such as a white cat on snow, or a black cat on coal, you will see no detail in the areas of the subject. The cat does not stand out ENOUGH from the background. In order to get it to stand out, an adjustment in the exposure is a good idea. How much to change/adjust the exposure depends on the subject, the background, the film, and the personal preference of the photographer.

    For many years, I have had a large, blank picture frame on a white wall in my home. People often ask me, "What it is?". I always tell them, "Oh that? It's a picture of a polar bear in a snow storm. It was a VERY difficult picture to take!". Some have looked at it long and hard, and after being told that I'm only kidding, they say, "No, I think I see it".

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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by xkaes View Post
    You are correct. And that works great for most scenes -- whites will be white and shadows will be dark. But in extreme situations, such as a white cat on snow, or a black cat on coal, you will see no detail in the areas of the subject. The cat does not stand out ENOUGH from the background. In order to get it to stand out, an adjustment in the exposure is a good idea. How much to change/adjust the exposure depends on the subject, the background, the film, and the personal preference of the photographer.

    For many years, I have had a large, blank picture frame on a white wall in my home. People often ask me, "What it is?". I always tell them, "Oh that? It's a picture of a polar bear in a snow storm. It was a VERY difficult picture to take!". Some have looked at it long and hard, and after being told that I'm only kidding, they say, "No, I think I see it".
    Thanks for the explanation

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    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: Metering For Snow With Incident Meter Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    The part Im finding hard to grasp is that I thought that even with incident metering, the meter would return an exposure of middle gray because the dome is calibrated to that value
    The meter returns a middle-gray reading because that's the average reflectance of a "normal" scene.

    The way you use the incident meter is critical to proper exposure.
    You need to orient the meter so the dome axis is horizontal, in line with the camera lens.
    I usually meter from the camera position, with the dome above my head pointed toward my back.

    If your scene has reflectance that differs significantly from a normal scene, you may need to adjust the exposure.

    - Leigh
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