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Author Topic: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram  (Read 1567 times)

smuseby

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Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« on: March 11, 2021, 06:43:32 pm »

Using a guess and check approach with the histogram (exposing to the right) can be tedious. I'm shooting with a Leica monochrome (ISO320). I thought if I set my very old Minolta spotmeter to ISO 160 or 80, and metered the highlights, that I'd be able to avoid the histogram.
The results were very inconsistent.
I'm wondering if this a valid technique? Is my meter at fault? Or is guess and check with the histogram the best approach?
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digitaldog

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2021, 06:58:25 pm »

You don't need a Histogram period!
You can and often do need a meter!
The histogram, unless showing you the raw data (nearly no camera aside from some PhaseOne's) show you a raw histogram and thus, tell you nothing but a lie about exposure.

Articles on exposing for raw:
http://www.onezone.photos
http://schewephoto.com/ETTR/
https://luminous-landscape.com/the-optimum-digital-exposure/
http://digitaldog.net/files/ExposeForRaw.pdf
https://www.fastrawviewer.com/blog/mystic-exposure-triangle
https://www.fastrawviewer.com/blog/red_flowers_photography_to-see-the-real-picture
https://www.rawdigger.com/howtouse/exposure-for-raw-or-for-jpegs
https://www.rawdigger.com/howtouse/beware-histogram
https://www.rawdigger.com/howtouse/calibrate-exposure-meter-to-improve-dynamic-range

The RawDigger site is especially useful and RD does show you an actual raw Histogram.
The others speak of optimal exposure without ever dealing with a Histogram.

Do you need a Histogram to expose optimally? No; photographers have been doing this for like a 100 plus years prior to camera Histograms.
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2021, 04:46:56 am »

Having spend decades shooting transparency film on formats from 135 to 8X10 I definitely agree with Andrew about how easy it now is to expose correctly on Digital. Not only are the camera exposure algorithm much smarter and ore accurate and the DR range so high thats it really not that tricky.

The problem with spot meters in my experience is the lack of experience. They are not so easy to use. The most common error seems to be from people assuming a particular area should be a zone 3 for example when actually it might be darker in term of the entire scene and can be safely left to fall below zone 2, just an example.

Doing more and more video I have begun using carious scopes and its curious to me how much more useful the waveform or parade is than the histogram, and how useful to have access to these tools on an external monitor. My current workflow involves Leeming Luts in conjunction with carefully selected zebra settings determined by the picture profile and the LUT intended for use. Got me thinking.

Why not do some tests exposing more and more to the right, import the images into your favourite raw processor using the settings you prefer and look for areas of clipping to the point that you dislike working with. Go back to the camera and the test set up you are using and adjust the zebras to show that clipping where the exposure hits the point you are not comfortable with on your camera. I have become so used to working with this system for video that I am implementing it into my stills workflow.
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PeterAit

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2021, 11:01:39 am »

Are y'all maybe over-thinking this? With the DR and sophisticated metering of modern digital cameras, is fussing over precise exposure really necessary? I cannot remember the last time I lost a photo due to exposure problems. I have my exposure compensation set more-or-less permanently at + 2/3 and change it only when blatantly needed.
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digitaldog

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2021, 11:32:39 am »

Are y'all maybe over-thinking this? With the DR and sophisticated metering of modern digital cameras, is fussing over precise exposure really necessary?
Depending on the photographer:
"Don't just learn the tricks of the trade. Learn the trade." -James Bennis
"A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn't feel like it."
-Alistair Cooke
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2021, 01:41:21 pm »

Are y'all maybe over-thinking this? With the DR and sophisticated metering of modern digital cameras, is fussing over precise exposure really necessary? I cannot remember the last time I lost a photo due to exposure problems. I have my exposure compensation set more-or-less permanently at + 2/3 and change it only when blatantly needed.

It’s a fact really. Helping a young friend who has picked up photography as a hobby and sometimes tags along when I go out shooting for myself on weekends. She had not noticed her exposure compensation  dial set to 2 stops over. Hard bright African sun at 1600m above sea level. Images all recoverable in LR.
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smuseby

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2021, 06:13:54 pm »

I'm glad I posed the question. Never heard of rawdigger, and was unaware of the histogram limitations.
Thank you for all the replies.
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digitaldog

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2021, 06:52:03 pm »

I'm glad I posed the question. Never heard of rawdigger, and was unaware of the histogram limitations.
Thank you for all the replies.
Also:

Everything you thought you wanted to know about Histograms
Another exhaustive 40 minute video examining:
What are histograms. In Photoshop, ACR, Lightroom.
Histograms: clipping color and tones, color spaces and color gamut.
Histogram and Photoshop’s Level’s command.
Histograms don’t tell us our images are good (examples).
Misconceptions about histograms. How they lie.
Histograms and Expose To The Right (ETTR).
Are histograms useful and if so, how?

Low rez (YouTube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjPsP4HhHhE
High rez: http://digitaldog.net/files/Histogram_Video.mov
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Rhossydd

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2021, 04:54:25 am »

Are y'all maybe over-thinking this? With the DR and sophisticated metering of modern digital cameras, is fussing over precise exposure really necessary?
I'm with you on this. You can also add that if you've time to take spot readings and transfer them to the camera you could have just shot a range of bracketed shots in less time.

Getting exposure dead right first time is important for film photography when cost and the comparatively limited number of frames available are constraints. With digital each exposure is effectively free and a couple of memory cards in your wallet can hold more than ten thousand exposures.
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BAB

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2021, 05:57:02 pm »

Have to agree with Andrew on this... the RAW histogram showing per channel graph should be on every professional camera but its not. Knowing the exact wall limits for your sensors highlights can make or break some scenes its the only way to get subtle roll offs that add the depth to a color image.

My spot-meter works very well and is calibrated for the particular cameras I'm shooting.  But using a reading from the highlight with no detail will lead you to the wrong exposure if you don't interpret the light as you intend it to print.

Most images are printed to dark because monitors are to bright.

happy trails.

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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2021, 08:57:49 pm »

Some of the earlier Leica monochrome cameras indeed had RAW histograms, which makes a lot of sense since a monochrome sensor doesn't need white balance nor colour space conversions, the two main differences between JPEG and RAW histograms. If that is the case of your camera, believe me you don't need nor want to fiddle with any spotmeter to achieve accurate exposure. I would say the opposite journey (replace metering by realtime histogram or highlight clipping warning) makes a lot more sense.

https://www.overfitting.net/2020/04/el-raw-como-fotometro-de-precision.html

Check if you have RAW histograms and learn to use them.

Regards

pflower

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2021, 06:31:13 pm »

A spot meter for film is, in my view, essential.  I grew up with film and the zone system and for that I have used one for over 30 years now.

 I have a Sekonic L758D which has a useful feature in that you can take readings from your shadows, mid tones and highlights and it will average them out.  It works extremely well with film once you've worked out the effective film speed and development times. 

For digital - I can't see the necessity.  I have Hasselblad and Sony digital cameras and their centre weighted metering systems seem to me to work extremely well.  Comparing their recommended exposures against the spot meter usually results in much less than 1/3rd of a stop difference - and often agree completely.  The latitude of modern CMOS sensors are, to a film user, extraordinary.  Even if the histograms are taken from an embedded jpeg this doesn't really seem to matter much.  The actual raw file has much more latitude than the histogram suggests.  I can see from either the live histogram on the Sonys or the after-the-event histogram on the Hasselblads where things are going to blow out and where they are easily recoverable.

If in doubt - do a 3 stop bracket.  It doesn't cost anything.  Good spot meters are expensive and as far as I can see just one more thing to lose or get in the way when using digital cameras.  But for film?  Essential.

Some of the earlier Leica monochrome cameras indeed had RAW histograms, which makes a lot of sense since a monochrome sensor doesn't need white balance nor colour space conversions, the two main differences between JPEG and RAW histograms. If that is the case of your camera, believe me you don't need nor want to fiddle with any spotmeter to achieve accurate exposure. I would say the opposite journey (replace metering by realtime histogram or highlight clipping warning) makes a lot more sense.

https://www.overfitting.net/2020/04/el-raw-como-fotometro-de-precision.html

Check if you have RAW histograms and learn to use them.

Regards
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2021, 07:29:07 pm »

The actual raw file has much more latitude than the histogram suggests.  I can see from either the live histogram on the Sonys or the after-the-event histogram on the Hasselblads where things are going to blow out and where they are easily recoverable.
Technically you are not recovering anything since it's impossible to recover what was never lost. But I understand what you mean.

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David Eichler

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2021, 01:39:13 pm »

Using a guess and check approach with the histogram (exposing to the right) can be tedious. I'm shooting with a Leica monochrome (ISO320). I thought if I set my very old Minolta spotmeter to ISO 160 or 80, and metered the highlights, that I'd be able to avoid the histogram.
The results were very inconsistent.
I'm wondering if this a valid technique? Is my meter at fault? Or is guess and check with the histogram the best approach?
Unless your meter is malfunctioning or somehow out of adjustment, your problem with using a light meter is due
to you using it incorrectly.
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David Eichler

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2021, 01:45:06 pm »

Are y'all maybe over-thinking this? With the DR and sophisticated metering of modern digital cameras, is fussing over precise exposure really necessary? I cannot remember the last time I lost a photo due to exposure problems. I have my exposure compensation set more-or-less permanently at + 2/3 and change it only when blatantly needed.
If all you are concerned about is getting some sort of minimally usable results, I guess you can keep doing what you are doing. However, if one consistently needs maximum technical quality and creative control, then only manual control of the exposure will provide this over the full range of subject matter and lighting conditions. Auto exposure control can yield high-quality results when used intelligently, for a relatively narrow range of conditions.
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David Eichler

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2021, 01:48:47 pm »

I'm with you on this. You can also add that if you've time to take spot readings and transfer them to the camera you could have just shot a range of bracketed shots in less time.

Getting exposure dead right first time is important for film photography when cost and the comparatively limited number of frames available are constraints. With digital each exposure is effectively free and a couple of memory cards in your wallet can hold more than ten thousand exposures.
Exposure bracketing doesn't work for moving subjects or when the photographer is moving around to quickly shoot rapidly changing scenes.
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David Eichler

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2021, 01:50:48 pm »

Technically you are not recovering anything since it's impossible to recover what was never lost. But I understand what you mean.

Regards
"Recovery" is not open-ended or without consequences, especially with dark tones. Raising the brightness level of dark tones can come at a high cost of additional noise.
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digitaldog

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2021, 01:52:59 pm »

"Recovery" is not open-ended or without consequences, especially with dark tones. Raising the brightness level of dark tones can come at a high cost of additional noise.
Which is why nailing as best as possible, exposure (which can only take place at capture) is kind of important for some photographers. And exposure is kind of photography 101.  ;)
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2021, 10:03:24 pm »

"Recovery" is not open-ended or without consequences, especially with dark tones. Raising the brightness level of dark tones can come at a high cost of additional noise.
Again this is not recovery, nor additional noise. When you push up the shadows you are just multiplying dark levels by a constant ratio. This can make noise presence visible, but noise was always there. Pushing exposure doesn't alter SNR, it just amplifies Signal and Noise at the same ratio so SNR remains unaltered:

(S/N) -> A=Amplification -> (A*S)/(A*N)=(S/N)

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erik.brammer@me.com

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Re: Using a spotmeter as an alternative to histogram
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2021, 01:22:30 pm »

Again this is not recovery, nor additional noise. When you push up the shadows you are just multiplying dark levels by a constant ratio. This can make noise presence visible, but noise was always there. Pushing exposure doesn't alter SNR, it just amplifies Signal and Noise at the same ratio so SNR remains unaltered:

(S/N) -> A=Amplification -> (A*S)/(A*N)=(S/N)

Regards
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