SPot, Lock & Load

One of the most frequent questions I get asked (in these lockdown days via email) is how do you spot meter to get correct exposure? Now I have to say that lots of photographers shy away from spot metering because they just don’t understand how it works in the field. Unfortunately they stick to what seems to work for them and are a little timid when trying something new. But it’s nothing to be apprehensive about and once you ‘get it’ you’ll find your exposures improve 100%. So how does it work?

It’s a very straightforward process. It just needs a little practice to get to the point where it becomes second nature.

Five basics first: 1. Spot metering covers a very small area ( check your manual), 2.Know how your histogram works, 3. Understand how your meter scale works, 4. Know what a ‘stop’ is, 5.Know how to lock your metered exposure. All this is basic but if unsure just check your manual and/or look it up on line.

If you understand these basics then the rest is a piece of cake. So let’s put it all together:

Example 1. Lets say you want to photograph something that’s predominately white. This is what you do: Set your metering to SPOT, focus on your subject where the white is most predominant, adjust the metering scale until the ‘needle’ is in the middle and LOCK it. Now look at the metering scale again, LOAD in +one stop, refocus and take the shot. The whites will be white and everything else in the frame will be correctly exposed.

Example 2. Lets say you want to photograph something that’s predominately black. This is what you do: Set your metering to SPOT, focus on your subject where the black is most predominant, adjust the metering scale until the ‘needle’ is in the middle and LOCK it. Now look at the metering scale again, LOAD in -one stop, refocus and take the shot. The blacks will be black and everything else in the frame will be correctly exposed.

Simple. It all goes back to the idea that if you place one correctly exposed part of the image in the right place on the histogram then everything else in the image will also be correctly exposed.

It might seem a little complicated but it’s not and once you get used to the process it’ll only take a couple of seconds. And your images will be perfectly exposed.

So, remember: ‘SPOT, LOCK & LOAD’.

May the light be with you

Lock-down Ramblings & Unnecessary Mind Games.

It’s been quite a while since we started lock-down and for many photographers it’s been a bit of mixed bag of frustration: some made the most of things and started taking photographs on their daily walk whilst others, by the very nature of their chosen genre (studio/wedding/industrial etc), experimented with new ideas. A lot of studio pros use tethering but, of course, that’s not possible outdoors on your walk. So for many it’s back to hand-held work ‘in the field’. And the amount of macro photography that’s hit social media over these past few months is quite staggering. There seems lots to do even during this crisis. I’ve been one of the lucky ones because a lot of my work continues to be published albeit mainly on social media and commercial platforms: the stock-shots are already in my portfolio. Because I’ve contributed quite a lot of ‘stock’ over the last year or so it’s still being used – there’s a bit of hidden advice here: if you get into stock work then make sure that your portfolio is extensive. Same goes for commissions: keep adding to your portfolio and your clients have lots to choose from during lean times like these. And to be frank (and I can assure you that I’m not blowing my own trumpet here) I’ve lost count of the work I’ve had published over the last few months – never-mind the last year. And that’s because I’ve always made sure that I keep my submissions and portfolios full. If I didn’t I know that my clients would look elsewhere. What they want is a stock of images that they can call on at any time. So for me it works – to everyone’s advantage: I’m happy and so are they. But there’s one lesson I learned very early on: if you can’t get into the mind-set of your client then don’t even try. It’ll drive you to distraction. To be sure, if they know exactly what they want then they’ll tell you and they’ll expect matching results. A fellow ‘tog who is part of a members-only photographers’ social media group often asks advice about the shots he’s taken for an agricultural and print based media outlet – ‘Is there any way I could have improved on this shot and made it better for the client?. How could I have used lighting better etc etc?’ And yes, quite a few members offer good constructive critical advice. Brilliant! However, this photographer has regular work coming in, gets paid for it and is often sent on ‘shoots’. The cherry on all this is that he can now call himself a ‘published pro photographer’. So he doesn’t need to get ‘inside the head’ of his client: they obviously like what he does and he does what they want. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. If your work gets published consistently then you don’t need to do anything apart from a few tweaks perhaps. I’m just a guilty as the next person and it takes a great deal of resilience not to over-think things. If the client likes what you do then change nothing. They are probably not photographers and therefore don’t need to think like one. Unfortunately this can sometimes be very frustrating for us. To illustrate this I’ll relate the story of a ‘festival’ shoot I did last year. I had to cover quite a lot of ground in photographic terms capturing the essence of the event and the people who attended. The actual photography went well and most folk were very receptive to me being there. I think I ended up with over 1,000 shots during the three day event…a good proportion of which involving getting people to sign model-release forms. I was fortunate to have my wife with me who did a sterling job getting on-the-hoof admin completed. At the end of each day it was back home to sort through and process the images ready for sending to the client. And that’s where the ‘crunch’ lies. Consider this for a moment: Lets suppose I’d dumped over 25% of the images, leaving approx 700 to be processed. Suppose that each image takes on average 5 mins to process (and that’s not long at all). Thus, total processing time is in excess of 58 hours! You’ve got a deadline to meet, ‘Can you send them to me tomorrow please? and copies to so-and-so…? Thanks.’ The client is only interested in the finished product not the blood sweat and tears you went through to get to there. Quite right too! So I suggest that if you haven’t already then start now and get your work-flow organised. Know your preferred software like the back of your hand. And make it work for you. This is no time for experimenting or trying things for the first time. And if you don’t need to then don’t try to get inside mind of your client. It’s a bit like over processing an image…don’t do it! You’ll spend too much time worrying whether it’s good enough. Someone once told me that the mark of a great painter is that they know when to stop. Something we all need to remember I think. Stay safe my friends.