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Light Meter


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#1 AJ DeRose

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 06:13 PM

I'm a first year student at film school and I have a question on what meter to us in an outdoor situation.

I understand that both reflected and incident do not tell you how to expose your film but rather give you a f stop that will render subjects a medium gray.

In my situation I want the scene to look average (i'll be in the woods and i want what my eye sees to be reproduced on film). I'm not looking to over or under-expose for effect. I used the incident in a studio situation and everything came out the way I wanted it to on film. But I've been told when shooting outdoors a reflected meter is better.

Incident measures the amount of light hitting a subject and reflected measures the amount of light being reflected off the scene. I've seen some films where incident has been used outdoors and the subject is properly exposed but the background bleeds out.

If I'm shooting a scene with a rather large landscape, for instance a wide shot of a person coming up a trail and behind them is trees and a small stream will metering the person with an incident give me a proper reading or is reflected a better bet?

If there in pretty much the same light incident should give me a proper reading but I would just like to know which will give me better results outdoors.
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#2 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

Either a reflected meter or an incident meter can give you clues as to the best exposure.

The way you expose the film is ultimately up to your artistic expression. There has been much written about how to expose film but ultimately you must experiment and as you gain experience you may find that you use both a reflected and an incident both interior and exterior. If you want to know if your exposure is holding the sky you will want to use a reflected meter. If you want to know if you are burning out the pattern on a lampshade or picking up detail in a deep shadow use a reflected. If you want to know how much light is falling on a scene of mixed detail use an incident meter. These readings should be interpreted based on experience as to how the scene should look. Sometimes one might take an incident reading of the light falling on a face and decide to under expose the film for a dramatic effect. As examples: If the scene calls for an effect like a fugitive caught in a searchlight them maybe you want to over expose the face a little. If someone is standing silhouette against a sunset and the color of the sunset is desired then exposure using the reflected reading taken from the sky will be needed to made sure that the sky will not burn out to white in the scene. If a tiger is crouching in a shadow and you want the audience to see it you need to make sure that there is enough reflected light to lift his stripes out of the black of the shadows.

To answer your question about which to use outdoors reflected or incident; if the light is fairly flat then an incident meter will give you a fairly safe guide. If there is a lot of sky with color, reflections off water, deep shadows, etc. use your reflected meter to check that you aren?t loosing important detail.
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