As a film shooter, metering is extremely important. I feel like I could teach an entire workshop on this subject alone!
And, in the film world, everyone has their own opinion on how to do it best. It can feel confusing at times.
I personally like things to be easy, so I use incident metering.
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.
When metering for color film I meter for the darkest shadow I can find.
Most color films have a huge latitude. Metering this way ensures that my shadows will be properly exposed and my highlights will be two to three stops overexposed, giving my image a soft, airy look.
Most black and white films are more sensitive and do not have the range that color films do. Therefore, I will meter for highlights when shooting black and white.
I meter like this when I’m shooting with a strobe and when I’m shooting with natural light (both inside and outside).
It’s easy and consistent.
Metering Quick Tip
When metering with a strobe, the difference between your highlights and your shadows is usually about two to three stops. I use this knowledge to help me with my work flow.
I always shoot a 400 speed color film, and a 100 speed black and white film (a two stop difference).
When I meter for my shadows with my 400 speed film, I will adjust my lights until I get a reading of f4 at 1/60th in the shadows. And because I know that there is a two stop difference between shadow and high light readings, I know that when I meter for black and white in the highlights, I'll get the same reading of f4 at 1/60. SO, I can keep the settings on my camera the same, regardless of the film I'm shooting AND only meter once per sitting! How great is that!!!
For more on metering for color film, see the video below.
For more on metering for black and white film see the video below.
Here's an older video on metering with strobe. Enjoy!
Bonus: Metering for Window Light
(Please note, this is a video that I published for Little Bellows, but I thought it would be helpful, so I'm adding it here as well.)