METERING TECHNIQUES

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85hal9000

Guest
Hello everybody!

I'm a cinematography student getting involved with first experiences shooting on film.
I heard of many different ways of taking an incident reading with a lightmeter. some people say ALWAYS point the dome towards the camera.
other people say ALWAYS point the dome towards the key light.
all these things are making me a bit confused!

and more....
how do you determine the right exposure for strong backlit summer situation? do you meter towards the sun and in the shadow and you average??


if you could answer these questions i would certainly sleep better...!!!
thanks a lot.
matteo
 
How you point a meter, whether you prefer a spot meter or an incident meter, etc. is all highly personal -- whatever technique works consistently for you to get the right results (and just by shooting more often you'll see if your metering technique needs adjustment.)

I point the incident meter at the light I want to read, not towards the camera, which will cause the meter to average the key and fill hitting the dome. But that's just me; pointing it towards the camera, let's say when the key is coming from the side so that the dome is half-shadowed, will give you a more wide-open f-stop reading as it compensates for the shadow. Now maybe you would actually want to do that, open-up a little so that the lit side of the face was a half-stop hotter -- but I'd rather get separate readings for key and fill and decide for myself how to expose.

Which is an important point; our meter readings are just a guide to help us determine the exposure. Often for creative effect, we over and underexpose from what the meter tells us.

As for metering in backlight outdoors, that depends on the percentage of the frame that is in sun versus shadow. If it is a high sun and the backlight is very toppy so that a quarter of the head is in sun maybe, I tend to meter the sun and then open up a stop, letting the shadows be about two stops down (often there is a three-stop difference between sun and shadow in open space.) But if the sun were lower, creating more of a halo backlight and most of the face was shadowed, so the sunlit area was just that hot edge, then I'd meter the face, since it was more prominently in the shade, and then decide how dark it should feel. I might just underexpose it a stop, or maybe a stop and a half depending on the mood I want to create.

If I have to pan 360 degrees in toppy light, I tend to just overexpose a stop from the sun reading to open up the shadow detail. If the sun were lower and I panned 360 degrees from full frontlit to full backlit, I might do a one-stop stop-pull to compensate partly, but still play the shadows under and the sunlit areas a little over.
 
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