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How to meter a scene as a whole

Alejandro Gonzalez

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Just wanted to know how a scene would be metered if your trying to get the correct exposure of the set - not necessarily a particular subject - but the whole shot as a whole. Say this shot for instance.


Would you walk all the way up to the empress and incident meter her since all the light will be hitting the dome? Or would you spot read?


Love this movie btw beautifully photographed.

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You can decide what object you want to render middle gray and meter the exposure from there.

I usually seek a middle gray object inside the scene and decide how much over/underexposure I want to that area (object for ex. underexposed by 2 stop when in shadow area)


I usually use following technique, especially when in uncontrollable lighting situations:


-meter the key side (T5.6)

-meter the fill side (T1.4)

-decide how dim you want the fill side to be compared to middle gray (eg. 2 stops under = exposure T2.8)

-adjust exposure and/or lighting if your key side is too hot or your fill side does not render correctly


(I usually light by eye, and make sure the ambience level (or fill side) falls to desired stop)

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Keep in mind that this set was probably lit using a meter so that the light falling into the room was similar from front to back so it's not like you had to take dozens of meter readings around the room. Since it's a wide shot, I'd probably just meter the light falling into the center of the room, maybe back where the Empress is sitting, and then decide how dark or hot to make the exposure.

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  • 7 months later...

Very interesting. If you shoot digital I'd:

1 use the histogram to evaluate highlights

2 use the monitor til it looks right


A) For an evenly lit scene - little contrast and lots of frontal lighting the cameras meter reading is normally quite accurate.

B) For dramatic lighting such as chiaroso I find that an average weighted meter reading is best about -1 EV

C) For contre-jour spot metering works but on the whole +1EV up to +2EV is about right unless you want a silhouette

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