Advice to practice and learn to expose by eye (8 replies and 3 comments)
I would like to ask you if you have any advice to learn to learn how to judge exposure by eye.
I am working on trying to identify by eye which one is the brightest part of the image, and the darkest one and from there try to identify where the middle gray is to decide the exposure I want.
I would like to know if you have any advice that could be helpful. And what you look for when you are exposing by eye in a scene?
Thank you so much and Best Regards
I think judging exposure is just a matter of practice and there is no special trick to it. I did watch Dougie Slocombe light a set once and he was famous for not using a meter. His trick was that he often had a Brute Arc 20' behind the camera. When he held up his hand and looked at the light falling on it, as if judging this by eye, he already knew exactly what that lamp was giving him.
Master roger did you give via media(high light and shadow mid) exposure for this shot. The shot seems you have used some fill light very carefully on the Shadow area. Generally in these kind of cases do you consider which area is very important.? And How much frame area affect by shadow and light. If most of the frame 70 percentage occupied by shadow and peoples standing in shadow then you have to consider shadow and let the high light blown out. But how much can we let the high light blown out that is matter! Right?
I'm just going to suggest shooting stills on an old film camera. Get one without a meter (lots of phone apps for one) and load in some film. You can even use Kodak Vision3 if you like and developing at home is easy and you'll see results right away. Eventually, you'll rely less on the meter or maybe use it once or twice. When you go out with only 12 or 24 shots available you learn to concentrate and make your shots count.
Exposing film isn't necessarily very demanding. Most of the film cameras sold before 1980 didn't even have meters - you just used an exposure dial with settings for sunny, cloudy, etc.
I don't have any camera. There is no film role sales in india. I can't spend that much money to develop my own footage also. It's all possible in abroad only. So please...
You don't need a film camera to learn exposure, the principles are the same with a digital camera.
There's a difference between learning to expose by eye and learning to light by eye. I'm not sure the first is that important, most of us have access to a light meter of some sort (so being able to guess the exposure without one is a bit of a parlor trick, there's no real reason to guess), it's the second that is more important to learn.
David is right, that you can practice with a digital camera or phone as well. There are also phone apps with exposure meters so you can walk around and test yourself. I did try turning off my display and using a Bolex switar lens which kinda works.
I’ve used digital cameras for work but use film for myself. The last couple years I added first a Bolex then an Arri 2c 2-perf and as I am only paying for a one-light scan (they set exposure for the whole reel based on the first scene) I try hard to get it right. My problem is getting all my scenes in different settings consistently exposed the same. It’s not a huge deal as I can fix it later but I know it can be done.
Bear in mind, most people did not use meters for generations and exposed millions of pictures successfully. Cameras had guides on the back and film came with charts showing settings for sun, shade cloudy, etc. All with sensitivity of about 25iso.
I will say that when I don’t expose a digital shot correctly I don’t really care, delete and move on, adjust the RAW, whatever. Film I paid for, each shot has a price, 400’ of 35mm is expensive as is a develop and 4K scan. It feels really good when it’s right and it sucks when it’s wrong.
Anyway, there are meters now so you don’t have to guess.
May I add that exposure meters have been around for over 100 years and were used extensively by most professional photographers, I admit that these were fairly bulky Items to carry around but they were very accurate when used properly. Today’s exposure meters are smaller copies but are still based on the principles of the vintage types, the main advantage is that batteries have become smaller so the meter body became pocket size. Experienced photographers can judge exposure by eye most times but for critical exposures a meter has to be used. It’s very
reassuring to know that your meter is always around your neck or in your back pocket, judging by eye then becomes second nature especially knowing you have a back up.
You could pick up an old Canon that allows you to use Magic Lantern, like say the original EOS M. This would give you an electronic directors viewfinder with spot metering, zebras and - most usefully of all - false colour. You could then practice looking at a scene and working out where the different light levels are and compare them to the false colour view. (Or just use the M's false colour view to set lights etc for whatever you're shooting with.) Or there might be a camera app with false colour for your phone?