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Photography Question 
Laljit S. Sidhu
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002

Understanding Exposure

I recently finished reading Jim Zuckerman's new book, Perfect Exposure. An excellent book, but it causes me to have more questions. Before reading this, I read Peterson's Understanding Exposure and participated in his course.

The implication in Zuckerman's book is that TTL light meters are generally unreliable and for "perfect exposure" you should just get a hand held light meter. In contrast, Peterson indicates that TTL meters are "90%" accurate even in evaluative/matrix metering modes, which would imply increased accuracy in spot metering mode.

A second issue is Zuckerman's contention that one should not use exposure compensation given that no two situations are alike. This makes sense in a way; however, this also appears to conflict with advice from most other photographers in regard to the use of compensation.

Am I missing something here? Is Zuckerman only refering to "difficult" metering situations or should one use a hand held light meter in most situations?

Currently, my approach is as follows:

1) If possible, find a medium toned area in the image and use the EOS 3's built in spot meter to obtain a reading.

2) If there is no medium toned subject, determine the zone of the most important subject in the image, meter that subject using the spot meter. Use exposure compensation to bring to match the exposure to the tone of the image.

Does this make sense or do I need to adjust the way I assess situations?

Thanks in advance.

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5/11/2003 9:57:56 PM

Jeff S. Kennedy   Zuckerman sounds like a wise man. ;-)))

I use my handheld meter for most situations. I also shoot on manual so I don't ever mess around with exposure compensation. I just set the exposure to what it should be. I suspect Zuckerman is advocating something similar to that. If you know how to expose and are comfortable with it there is no reason to set you camera on auto (the only time you need exp compensation).

For spot metering, yes if you can find a mid toned object then you're all set. If I can't I look for something white. Meter it and open up 2 stops. In the abscence of that I just find a tone and guess how far from mid tone it is and adjust accordingly. Often I use the palm of my hand. Meter it and open one stop. Works every time.

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5/12/2003 2:27:30 PM

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1/25/2004 3:46:33 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  If you have a light meter, it's good to use it because that is the most accurate way of getting a correct exposure. But camera meters can do a good job of measuring, it's just that they can be fooled in situations. And some situations they can be fooled to be way off. And using compensation isn't something you need to stay away from. It's really that after a while you get to know what you need to do when you recognize the situations. And that comes from just plainly taking pictures.
Depending on compensation can lead you wrong in this example.- Clear day at the lake, no wind. Because of where the sun is, compensation rule may say to over expose some because of reflection of sun off of water. So you do it, and it comes out right.
But next time, clear day at the lake, this time it's very windy. Because of the choppy water, the sun dosen't reflect off the water. If you get a chance, notice how dark the water looks on windy days. So if you compensate like you did before, the exposure will be too high.
Another example. Say you're taking picture of stage performance. You can't go on stage and take out your light meter while they are performing. And sometimes there's stage lights, sometimes there's spotlights. So if you've done it enough times, you can use the compensation based on how the light looks, and what the camera says.

You may be getting some confusion when somebody says compensation because one person may be talking about the "compensation dial" on a camera that will adjust every reading the camera has a certain number of f-stops. As in when somebody says "if you're shooting in snow, compensate 2 f-stops" so you set the dial 2 stops over, so every shot is automatically increased 2 f-stops.
Whereas somebody else may use "compensate" to mean that you'll have to watch out and judge accordingly because of how certain situations usually are. And in that sense, somebody bringing up that no two things are alike is true, because you could very well be shooting in the snow, and have enough objects in view that are of a dark enough tone, that when the meter reads the overall area, you would get a correct exposure without using the compensation dial on the camera.
Such as, you may be in the snow, but because of so many dark green pine trees, or big granite mountains, it balances out with the whiteness of the snow, so that just using the camera meter, you get an accurate exposure.

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1/25/2004 6:29:51 PM

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