Sandra Coan: Metering Film in All Kinds of Light

Last week we asked our readers to send us their questions on metering film.  We got such a response that we decided to turn it into a weekly series!

Last week, Joyce covered the basic dos and don'ts of metering.  Today I'm answering a question straight from the film forum.  Here it is:

Question: Do you meter differently on darker, overcast days?

Short Answer:  Nope.

Long Answer:  I meter using incident metering in all lighting situations.

Incident metering means that your meter is reading the light that is falling on your subject rather than the light that is bouncing off your subject.

I like this technique because when using incident metering it doesn’t matter what my subject’s skin tone is or what color clothing they are wearing. The meter is only going to read the light that is falling on them and therefore my readings are super consistent.

I always shoot my film at box speed and set my meter to the bulb out position. Then I meter for the darkest shadow I can find when shooting color and for the highlights when shooting black and white.

I meter this way on cloudy days, sunny days, with window light and with strobes.

It's super consistent and super easy!!  And I'm all about consistent and easy!

Here are a few example of this metering technique in different kinds of light.

Sandra Coan: Metering film in all kinds of light

Here is an example of incident metering (for the shadows)  in cloudy, late afternoon light.

(Contax 645, Portra 800)

Sandra Coan: Metering film in all kinds of light

And here we have an example of what it looks like on a sunny day in mid afternoon light.

(Contax 645, Fuji 400h)

Sandra Coan: Metering film in all kinds of light

Here we have incident metering (for the shadows) with indoor window light (southwest exposure).

(Contax 645, Fuji 400h)

Sandra Coan: Metering film in all kinds of light

And here it is indoor with studio strobes.

(Contax 645, Fuji 400h)

All of these images were taken in very different lighting situations, and they were all metered exactly the same: Incident, box speed, bulb out, in the shadows.

Hope that helps.

If you have any other questions on metering, please share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page or the Facebook film forum.

And don't forget to get your name on the list for my up coming online workshop!  Here's the link.

Have a wonderful day!

Sandra Coan