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Thread: Correct metering technique for studio portaiture

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    Member Big Ren's Avatar
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    Correct metering technique for studio portaiture

    Hi all

    I have purchased a light meter and have read a plethora of confusing and conflicting literature on the correct metering techniques for studio portraiture.

    Could you give me advice on what I should or should not be doing. I won't mention brand names of the light meter I have purchased so will keep this generic and hypothetical.

    Let's say I have a four light set up: key, fill, hair and background lights. I am not so much concerned about the mix between continuous fluorescent lighting and any strobes I might be using.

    Okay here we go. From my understanding, I might want to:

    Firstly meter the key light (let's say eg f/11), aiming directly at the light from the subject. I would turn all other lights off to do this
    Then I would meter the fill light 1 stop under at f/8 (turning other lights off), aiming directly at the fill light from the subject.
    Meter the background light at f/11 (with main and fill on), holding the back of the light meter against the background where the light falls and aiming at the camera.
    Meter the hairlight at f/8 (all other lights on), aiming from the side of the head.

    This would then give me my lighting ratios in relation to the key and fill.

    After being satisfied I had my light power settings and distances correct for the aperture or shutter I wanted to shoot at, I would then take my final overall incident metering reading (with all lights on) from a position at the subject (let's say under the chin), aiming the light meter directly at the axis of the camera lens.

    Have I got that right? In summary, my understanding is that the individual light readings are only to determine the ratio in relation to each other. The final reading (the one aimed at the camera from under the subject's chin) is the actual one I use to determine my final exposure settings on camera.

    Cheers and thanks in advance.

    Paul

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    I could be wrong Paul but i thought your final camera reading would be that of your MAIN light, that is what you are working from to begin with, whilst all the other lights are a ratio of that, it is what you base everything off.

    Simon.

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    I could be wrong Paul but i thought your final camera reading would be that of your MAIN light, that is what you are working from to begin with, whilst all the other lights are a ratio of that, it is what you base everything off.

    Simon.

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    Sorry double post... not sure what i did there ???????

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    I do as u do Paul, but i recently did a studio workshop where they took the final reading aimed at the key light, and the shots came out well exposed.so i think either way will work.i use film ,but if u are digital, experiment and see what works for u.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snappysi View Post
    I could be wrong Paul but i thought your final camera reading would be that of your MAIN light, that is what you are working from to begin with, whilst all the other lights are a ratio of that, it is what you base everything off.

    Simon.
    Thanks Simon. That makes sense also. I have seen some video footage of Mark Wallace (think that is his name) taking meter readings from under the chin aimed at the camera. This is after he had taken ambient light readings and individual light readings. I think that is what has confused me.

    Cheers
    Paul
    Last edited by Big Ren; 23-12-2011 at 10:40am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Ren View Post
    In summary, my understanding is that the individual light readings are only to determine the ratio in relation to each other. The final reading (the one aimed at the camera from under the subject's chin) is the actual one I use to determine my final exposure settings on camera.
    Paul when I was doing portrait stuff in uni we were working on the principle that the flash is creating the exposure not the camera, so basically you set your fstop for desired DOF and the shutter speed could basically be anything, we shot at 1/60th sec generally.

    We usually decided what DOF we wanted first and had that aperture in mind when setting up main + key (or fill whatever you want to call it) So if we were working with a 3:1 ratio and shooting say f/8 we would set the main light to read f/5.6 and 1/3 then switch the fill (or key) on and read both main + fill to be f/8 ( as a diffused reading)

    Hair light was generally around 1 stop higher (depends on hair colour a lot) again and background read (as a reflective reading) what ever we wanted the background to appear as eg. black, grey or white.

    It's easier on digital since you can chimp, you need to think a lot when we were having to do this on 120.
    Last edited by mikec; 23-12-2011 at 7:55pm.

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    Thanks Mike. That makes a lot of sense too. I am confident in getting the ratios right. My only confusion is what reading I based my final shooting exposure on.

    Cheers
    Paul
    Last edited by Big Ren; 23-12-2011 at 10:10pm.

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