Growing as a photographer

Spot metering is spot metering. I can use my Minolta Flashmeter VI…


… or I can use the spotmeter in my D850, or other. They both give the same result.

There’s not something as “jpeg dynamic range”. There’s is only a dynamic range of the sensor, the input, and a dynamic range of the monitor/printer, the output. Using the live histogram is as far I noticed, a good tool to judge/correct the exposure.


Haha. We do need a section for “other topics” in this forum.

I still don’t cease to be amazed by the fact that I can now change my ISO without having to change the film … midway under a dark blanket… then putting it back in and and taking the previously taken no. of shots at highest shutter speed to forward to same position and a few more for buffer to use the rest of the roll - film was not cheap (for me).

I do use the histogram now and my camera also has exposure preview in the display or viewfinder, which I have become familiar with. I tend to underexpose as I find those files leave me more to work with.

Post edited to fix a few typos as initial post made when dinner was ready.

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Catching up on this thread I wanted to add re histogram in the display: as mentioned by @Joanna, it’s of the jpg, not raw.

So the camera jpg settings start to matter as part of the overall workflow, even when the raw files are to be processed later. Whilst a true raw histogram is not possible and it can “only” provide some orientation, the idea is to use jpg settings to have as much positive influence as possible.

I did also read a suggestion somewhere, that using AdobeRGB rather than sRGB also helps improving the histogram. I have not really done any tests or comparisons myself as I only use the histogram to see if anything too far left or too far right. Always avoiding the far right completely.

On a side note regarding my tendency to underexpose: I once tried an AI tagging software, that runs locally (no internet required other than for initial download and activation). All my images got the tag “dark” and some only dark :smiley:

There is a lot of variation of what can go into a histogram:
Some cameras tend to underexpose in order to reduce the risk of burnt highlights. Some histograms represent the green channel of a preview etc.

Imo, it is best to experiment with your own camera and find out what it can take under different lighting/contrast conditions…or follow @Joanna’s spotmeterforthehighlights approach…or use uniWB.

Not completely true.
I mostly use matrix metering. The field is divided in several parts. Nikon has an algorithm that gives more attention to certain parts. Shooting at the beach with the horizon in the middle, Nikon gives more attention to the foreground for that’s mostly where the subject is. If the subject is the sky I’ve to adjust that. Theoretically I would get different values if I hold the camera upside down.


Manufacturers have their ways to measure reflected light and derive exposure from it.
We have to find our ways to measure and expose…whatever those ways might be.

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Very well put.

How a manufacturer implements metering can vary enormously, even between models of the same make.

Which is why I use a standardised measurement routine that ignores these vagueries and gives me a reliable reading, that I don’t even need to check in the histogram.

Give me a camera, any camera and I will produce a well exposed image without resorting to any automatisms. Of course, I may have to deep-dive into the menu system too disable a few things, because so many manufacturers set their cameras up so that the average idiot can get “acceptable” images straight out of the box. But it is that kind of thing that takes away control and forces folks to believe that they have to rely on the automatisms, rather than “taking control”.


“Automatisms” mean I can (at least attempt to) capture a swallow catching insects in flight. Most of my subjects don’t stay still, and if so, not for long. Some follow unpredictable paths meaning I have no idea what the background will be.

Different types of photography and different types of photographers will find what works for them.


This is exactly it.
Most of the “training”, for me at least, is to train my mind to visualize a compelling image…and for this you need to study and analyze what’s has been already done by great artists.
Exhibitions, museums, books, movies, websites, YT and so on…

During the “training” (which is an infinite task of course) you create, and most importantly, you curate your own images: you keep what you want to keep and discard everything else. What you keep is going to be further evaluated, which in turn will make you do new pictures and so on…

I really think that curating your own work is one on the most overlooked aspects in photography, especially today with the ‘free’ cost of digital images…

Another big topic, of course, is the light. Understanding how it works (not talking about the inverse square law), how it bounces around, how it falls, how it creates shadows, which type of shadows it creates etc.

And because I mostly do portraits, for me one other key aspect is the relation and distance you place between you and the subject. When you make a portrait you draw an invisible connection with your subject, and for each subject there is an ideal distance you should have (‘reach’ may be more appropriate) to capture the ‘Shot’. There are subjects that prefer to keep their distance, others that prefer/need a more intimate connection…

Even if the technical aspect is not important, there is something that, technically, I tend to avoid. I never use a zoom lens when shooting (the only excpetion is when I’m shooting a landscape), because if I use a prime lens I’m ‘forced’ to move, to change the angle, to find the right composition…and this ‘exploration’ of the physical space lets you look around in a 3-dimensional space, instead of being in a fixed position playing with your zoom ring…


Sometime you have. The subject is not always a static one that gives you the time to do it your way.
How do you take pictures like this? You don’t have time to do it your way. You have to rely on the automatism and your knowledge.



Wonder how the old folks did without automated gear and fixed low iso.

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Experience and practise and knowledge and hiding the failures?


Just by using the light meter, external or internal. No difficult stuff with dynamic range etc. On the automate or figuring out the settings for incident light and in M.

I’m referring to the way @Joanna says to adjust the settings.


Yes, and Joanna’s approach is mainly necessary and helpful in high contrast situations.
Low contrast captures are less of a problem anyways.

Automatic exposure is fine imo - as long as one can assess (pre-snap) an image and compensate if necessary. Other than large format captures, digital images are cheap and can be deleted in a blink of an eye…but all of this is purely technical.

Again, getting the feeling for what will be an image worthwhile taking is the harder part to learn.

The method that worked well for me until I bought a camera with a spot metering reading. Was to take a reading off the back of my hand with my light meter and the sun behind me. That being the first reading, The next reading would be the same with no sunlight and the third reading would be with my hand backlit. With these readings I would be able to use through best part of the day without taking another reading. As the light faded. I only needed to add approximately 1/3 of a stop increase in exposure and I knew my films would be correctly exposed. All the same, this came, from experience and practice, practice, practice.

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In situations like this, all you do is spot measure off the back of your hand if you are white skinned, possibly opening up one stop, or the palm of your hand if you are dark skinned, possibly closing down one stop. The point is, we have been brainwashed into thinking that we should alter the exposure for every single shot but, in fact, once you have a sensible 0 EV reading, as long as the lighting doesn’t change drastically, one reading should be fine for a couple of hours shooting.

Only too true. I use Fuji Acros film 100 for most of my B&W film work and Fuji Velvia 100 for colour transparency. Yes, it takes time and enough practice (usually one roll of film) to establish the 0 EV point and you are good to go.

And @George 's image is typical.

Thanks Prem. Us oldies still have our uses.

Example of back-of hand exposure…


A tad of Smart Lighting, Tone Curve and Fine Contrast…

Or, the Sunny 16 rule - no metering, just 1000 ISO, 1/1000 sec @f/16

This is why people in old photos never smile and look so dead serious, even children…


try standing still for minuts with smal kids… No way those kids will keep pose…
That will get you grumpy.

You can use your hand or green grass or whatever. You’re seeking for the settings of incident light. When I use the histogram or test images I do the same: looking for the settings for incident light and set the camera in M. That part I didn’t read yet.

Yes, my image doesn’t have high contrast or the dynamic range is within the sensors limits. But I hope you all understand it isn’t that what I refer to, it’s the moment within a dynamic environment.