View Full Version : Light meter w/ CanonXL-2?

05-03-2008, 10:38 PM
Digital makes light meters less necessary, but anyone with experience have an opinion on this? It seems that it could help you get a better exposure without completely depending on a field monitor or LCD screen.

05-04-2008, 11:24 AM
Because of digital video's limited dynamic range, I use the rule "expose for highlights and light for shadow detail". That's adapted from the old film rule "expose for shadows and develop for highlights". Since you don't develop video (so you can't control dynamic range), and the highlights draw attention, if you're going to lose detail, it's better to lose it in the shadows. If you need more shadow detail, you just add lights, reflectors, etc. to brighten your shadows. Because of the limited dynamic range, a light meter that would generally offer a setting for 18% gray is of limited usefulness. The light meter operates on the assumption that if you center your exposure, you'll be able to print through the highlights (the highlights won't be too dense on negative film), and you'll have adequate shadow detail (down to zone 1, in Ansel Adams' zone system). You can't make these assumptions with digital, so the best thing is to use the zebra stripes on the camera to maximize your highlights (zoom in on a brightly lighted white card and set exposure so the white is on the verge of blowing out), then zoom into shadow areas and evaluate how much detail is visible. If there is no detail in shadows, don't adjust exposure, find a way to cast some light into those areas.

I hope this helps. I think Jedi Knightly (a.k.a. "Yoda", but much taller) will back me up here, even though he thinks I'm a pain in the ass. ;)


05-04-2008, 01:42 PM
Doug is a pain in the ass, but he's quoting Ansel Adams, so I can't argue against him ;)

The only thing I would say is don't forget that lighting isn't necessarily a formula thing, once you know how to light correctly (learn this first, don't argue "art" until you know what you're doing), then start to experiment with getting different looks in camera. The procedure for lighting for exposure is the same no matter what kind of lighting you're going for in digital, and then you can change the dynamic range in post for effect...but in camera looks pretty cool too and takes less time in post.

And I have better hair than Yoda too :)

Will Vincent
05-04-2008, 03:45 PM
Yeah, you have more like Qui-Gon hair than Yoda..

I agree absolutely with what these two have said. If you protect your highlights (don't let them blow out or they'll clip) and pump a bunch of light into your shadow areas then you essentially cheat your way around the tiny dynamic range of the digital format.

Combine a nice evenly exposed flat image with color correction in 32bit color space and you'll have the makings of a pretty sexy looking image. It also is a good idea to turn the sharpening down on the camera, because extra sharpening can be added in post, but it can't be taken away as easily.

As for what knightly said about knowing how to light correctly before arguing "art"... I can't help but smile at that. I firmly believe that one must first know the rules before breaking them.