Friday, 30 April 2010

Confused about Metering?

I've noticed that there is a common mistake that people make about metering. You'll quite often hear people say things like: Caucasian skin is +1 stop over 18% grey so you should take a meter reading and increase your exposure by one stop. There's nothing wrong with that statement at all, until you start using an incident meter and that's where the confusion starts. People start to worry how they will be able to photograph a scotsman and a nubian in the same room if one needs +1 and the other needs -1. Fortunately you won't need to composite two shots, because the answer is simple.

There are broadly two types of meter. A reflective meter and an incident meter. Your camera comes with a reflective meter and what that does, is measure the tonality of light reflected from your subject. This meter will tell you what exposure settings to use to make whatever its pointed at look like a middle grey tone. When someone says to add a stop for Caucasian skin or subtract a stop for Black skin, they are referring to a reflective meter reading taken from the person's skin. A reflective meter will tell you how to get the tonality of former prime minister John Major but a white person will be too dark at that setting and a black person will be too light, hence the exposure compensation.

The other type of meter is an incident meter. An incident meter measures the light falling on your subject and it tells you what exposure to use to render your subject's true tonality. So you hold the meter close to your subject and point it at the camera. And the meter will tell you how to make a black cat look black or a Scottish lass look pale blue. Put them next to each other and provided the light falling on them is the same, they should both be properly exposed. I own a Sekonic L-308S flash-meter which is capable of both incident and reflective metering it doesn't have the fancy features that more expensive flash-meters have but it does the job. If you don't have a fancy flash-meter you can take an reflective meter reading off of a grey card.

So hopefully that clears things up. With a reflective meter you have to adjust the exposure for the subject,but for an incident meter you don't need any compensation.

Seeing as most people use reflective meters, its worth explaining a little more about them. Reflective meters in cameras come in many different flavours these days. Centre weighted, matrix metering and and spot. Centre weighted and matrix metering are meters that look at the overall scene and give you an average value based on a number of factors. Centre weighted gives more priority to the centre of the image and matrix metering can be almost black magic on some cameras, consulting a database of scenes to determine an exposure based on a number of readings taken at different points. Determining how to compensate for these meter readings is really a matter of understanding the scene and getting a feel for how your meter on your camera behaves.

Spot metering on the other hand gives you a meter reading from a small spot in the centre of the image. So if you want to get a good exposure of black skin you might want to take a spot reading of just the skin and then do your -1 adjustment.

If your camera doesn't have a spot meter or the spot is too large to isolate the part of the scene you want to meter, here is a tip for you. If you have a zoom lens, you can zoom in on the part of the scene you want to meter. Or you could always swap for a longer lens, take your meter reading and swap back.

I hope you find this article useful and if it inspires you to buy a flashmeter, please consider getting one from the amazon links on this page. The commission I earn from the amazon affiliate links gets spent on books that I review here. If I can tell my wife that they are paid for by the blog she doesn't beat me.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

48 Hour Interview

What did you do with your weekend? This was the question posed by Reg Gordon on the strobist forum a couple of weeks ago. My weekend wasn't all that, I was recovering from a chest infection, but Reg's weekend was spent putting together an extraordinary project. Reg pulled together a team of people to create a magazine from scratch in 48 hours. It was such an inspiring project that I decided to ask Reg a few questions about it.

Where did the inspiration come from to do the magazine?

The inspiration came from Tuffer's magazine (24 Hour Magazine) plain and simple. I looked at it one evening while watching tv and went to bed thinking about it. The following day I woke up and decided it was just what I needed to give myself a kick up the ass, but I didn't want to just copy it so I spent a few days brainstorming till I could come up with a spin. I'm very aware of the small community in Galway and the lack of coverage of anything that isn't advertising related so that was to be my focus..

How important do you think it was to have such a tight timescale?

The timescale was vital. If it wasn't done in 48 hours it would just be another magazine. Also since everyone donated their time, in reality a weekend was all I could ask for.

How did you put together your creative team?

What amazed me was how easy it was to pull the team together. I called a meeting in a local pub one sunday evening and put it to everyone and the look on their faces was something Ill remember for a long time. A look of incredulity followed by a slow smile as they realised how cool it could be. One person turned me down as he didn't think it could be done.....

Did you all know each other well before you started?

Id say I knew everyone there but no-one well. We had all worked together in a professional capacity in various newspapers so I knew they could get it done. What shocked me was how easy they made it and the fact that it was WAY above what I imagined.

I imagine it being like some sort of big brother house task. Once everyone was in the room how quickly was it before people were able to run out and start pulling together content?

We started pulling content straight away. The first shoot was at 12 am on Friday. I was back in the office at 8 am and Dave Ruffles came in at 9 with his market images. 915 I was in another room picking out fonts. 10.30 someone was working on a logo......

There's a focus on the arts, did you already have the contacts in place or were you cold calling to get your interviews?

We pretty much cold called everyone but some people came to us a lot of clothing stores wanted to get involved but we didn't want to go down that route.

The Blue Teapot asked for coverage and I didn't think twice. I've met the guys a few times and what they do brings a tear to my old cynical eye. All the images are taken with either a 50 mm or a 24 mm and the actors didn't lose focus once.

When you were looking for people to interview and photograph where the people you asked receptive or did you get many rejections?

Like I said we only got one rejection and even they said they'd love to be involved but couldn't commit 100 percent. You've gotta respect that

Was everyone in a creative role or were you able to get some people to volunteer for donkey work?

We all did everything. That was my favourite part of the weekend. The complete lack of egos. Everyone just worked together. It really was the most perfect example of teamwork I've ever been a part of. I don't know if it was the lack of money involved or the fact that we were all there with the same goal but no one was in anyway possessive of their work. A designer could be working on a page and someone else would walk over " why not try a ......" and it would be tried. If it looked better it stayed. Like I said no egos.

Galway City is quite a small town, compared to say London. Do you think this made it easier for you?

Yeah the size of Galway was a big part of it. I'm quite well known in Galway so once I called people, even if they didnt know me they knew my name so doors opened quickly. If I lived in London Id try to keep it local too. I'm sure there's a lot of boroughs in London with bigger populations than Galway with just as much going on.

What was your biggest challenge? Would you do anything differently next time?

The biggest challenge came at 5 pm on Saturday when I realised that we had a s*** load of content but had nothing laid out. I printed out all the photos Id picked for inclusion and laid them out on the floor in front of me. It was at exactly that moment that I realised the enormity of the task. I looked up and saw all the designers looking at me, waiting for me to make a decision. I was in charge.

I came VERY close to walking out, I don't think I've ever felt such pressure. I actually went blind for a few seconds, screwed up all my courage and BOOM off we went

If some other crazy person were to attempt to do this, what advice would you have for them?

If someone else wants to do this I say go for it. You really wont regret it.

The one thing I'd advise is get a really good office manager who will keep you focussed .Keep them away from creative and keep them practical. Don't go out drinking till the last night. Be prepared for some MASSIVE moments of self doubt. Remember that its fun.

If anyone want to contact me for advice feel free

You can read 48 hour magazine here if you want to be inspired. If you want to get in touch with Reg you can contact him through his flickr account

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sonia Hotshoe With 3.5mm Jack Socket

Sonia Hotshoe Adaptor 3.5 JackWhen David Hobby started his campaign to abolish the PC connector over on the strobist blog a while ago. It prompted me to contact the manufacturer of the Sonia brand of hot shoe adaptors to see if they had any plans to include a 3.5mm jack socket in their product. The Sonia All Purpose adaptor is a rock solid adaptor with a cast metal hot foot, two female and one male pc connector,plus a test button. Replace one or more of the PC conectors with a 3.5mm socket and it really would be a very nice accessory. You could leave it on your lightstand and not worry about it falling apart and no pc cables trailing out of it like my modified Kaiser hotshoe adaptor.

When I got in touch with Sonia they told me that they already had a product with a 3.5mm phono socket but they weren't supplying it to the UK. So I next contacted Colin at to suggest and that he try out the new product and not only did he order them in, he very kindly sent me a sample.

Sadly it isn't my dream hotshoe adaptor. Sonia have opted for a plastic foot instead of the metal foot of their all purpose adaptor. However the plastic construction appears to be very solid and the only potential weakness is the foot. The foot is a hot one so if you want to mount it on a tripod you would need to also get a tripod mount. Sonia do a metal and plastic mount which is a very snug fit on the hotshoe adaptor even before you screw down the locking ring. Put together its a very solid little package that looks like it would survive being left attached to a tripod in a bag.

The hotshoe adaptor only has the one 3.5mm jack socket, which is fine as far as I'm concerned however I was a little sad that it doesn't come with a test button. So I'm going to have to carry on trying to jam my fat sausages into the test button on my SB28

So that's it. Like I said its not my dream adaptor but as it stands its a great replacement for the Kaiser shoes that I have been using with my Elinchrom skyports and at £9.99 its reasonable value compare to other products. One thing you will need to consider is adding on the price of mono patch cables. I had some that were supplied with my skyports which is great, but I have yet to find a suppliers of them online. Colinsfoto also sell corded versions at the same price so that might give you a bit more value if you don't mind the dangling cord. Or you could just get a screwlock cable

In the interest of full disclosure, yes I did get to keep the sample, but I don't get any commission or anything else.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Martin Schoeller

I was out wandering the streets one lunchtime and wandered into a... ahem...bookshop in Soho, where I found this wonderful book of Martin Schoeller's images. The book is about A3 in size with high quality printing. The books starts with a short biography of Schoeller and then goes straight into the photographs. The first set of images are from his documentary work with the New Jersey police who he shadowed for three months on the nightshift. These stark images are a huge contrast to the wonderfully polished headshots of celebrities that he took for his book Close-up a number of which appear in this book. Of all the portraits in the book, my favourites are the environmental portraits. Each portrait tells a story or has a little twist about it, Tarantino escaping from a straightjacket surrounded by doves in flight. Cesar Millan standing surrounded by leaping dogs in a street full of muddy water. Even the cover shot of Angelina Jolie licking a bleeding lip tells has a story behind it and that's just a headshot. Some of the environmental portraits are like a Gregory Crudeson on a small scale. The only thing that lets the book down is that it contains advertising but its easy enough to ignore and if it keeps the price down, that's fine by me.

Amazon has a great deal on this book and others in the Stern Portfolio range, you can pick them up for as little as £10 in the uk, unfortunately the price is not quite so good in the states, for a change. Usually rip-off Britain is double the price.