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Exposing for the highlights - ??


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#1 Ashley Barron

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 08:41 PM

Hi there,
This is probably one of those questions that has the most obvious answer but..
I was told recently that in black and white you must expose for the highlights..what does that mean exactly? You measure for detail in the highlights?
Thank you,
Ashley.
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#2 Jeff Tanner

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Posted 11 February 2008 - 11:40 PM

I'll throw in my $.02

There is no such thing as "you must..." in the film industry. Except of course when it comes to the safety of cast and crew. Being a cinematographer is an art and you use the tools at your disposal to achieve the look you're after. If you want blown out whites, you certainly don't expose for them. If you want deep blacks, you don't expose for them either. In short, there really are no rules.

You have to know what you're after. I know that this may seem like an answer without a real answer but I hope that it helps in some way.

Respectfully,

Jeff Tanner
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 11 February 2008 - 11:59 PM

If you expose for a highlight, it no longer becomes a highlight, ha ha

You need to expose for how you want the frame to look. It's called image control :)
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#4 Bryan D Olinger

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 12:01 AM

Ashley,
Jeff makes a good point. How you expose is a tool for you to utilize in creating a desired look.
As far as exposing for highlights- in short, it's an exposure basic you can use to ensure safe exposure in most scenarios. If you're exposing for the brightest part of the frame, you know that every subsequent zone or level is safe from overexposure. Just be careful in high contrast situations where exposing for the highlights might result in the rest of your frame being underexposed.
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#5 Etienne van Leeuwen

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 07:37 AM

[quote name='Ashley Barron' date='Feb 7 2008, 05:41 PM' post='216924']

I was told recently that in black and white you must expose for the highlights..what does that mean exactly? You measure for detail in the highlights?

/quote]

Hi Ashley,
is it possible they meant DEVELOPING for the highlights? In the zone-system you expose for the thinnest parts of the negative, and you develope for the thicker parts (so you can increase or decrease contrast). The longer you develope, the more silber there is. Or, when the contrast is to high, you develope shorter so less density is build.

I hope this a bit of a help.....

Regards,
Etienne.
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#6 Jess Haas

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 04:46 PM

With black and white reversal film you have very little overexposure latitude. I wouldn't say to always expose for the highlights but you should definitely keep them in mind when determining your exposure. I believe with b&w reversal the rule of thumb for latitude is that you have 2 stops over and 3 under.

~Jess
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#7 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 11:12 PM

With black and white reversal film you have very little overexposure latitude. I wouldn't say to always expose for the highlights but you should definitely keep them in mind when determining your exposure. I believe with b&w reversal the rule of thumb for latitude is that you have 2 stops over and 3 under.

~Jess


Yeah, I agree, the key word here being reversal. Reversal film is very contrasty and snapy, so usually you want to keep your highlights in check, otherwise they will go so far out of usable range if you overexpose them; and unlike negative, you won't be able to bring them back. This I have found out to be true with color or B/W reversal film, but particularly B/W. As Jess suggests, it is also important to keep your dark midtones in check or they will just fall to black.

I would actually say that you must expose reversal film for CONTRAST. I think 3-4 stops between highlights and ambient/ fill may be somewhere in the usable range for reversal. But that is just a personal guess-stimation. Other people may have gotten away sith as much as 6-7 stops of contrast . . . And it also depends on the softness of the key light.
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