My Vest – Exposure Metering using the Histogram

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My white vest caused quite a stir on the beaches of Hayling Island during my recent location shoot….!

In fact, this beast is quite often part of my camera bag when out on a shoot and is a great aid to quickly determine my camera settings for subject exposure.  This is a technique that I have acquired from the ‘guru’ Neil Van Niekerk and is based on using the histogram information of our image to establish exposure.  Specifically, the far right hand side of the histogram.

Neil Van Niekerk is a legend and his book On-Camera Flash Techniques is essential reading for photographers. His book explains this method and this blog shows how I have applied it on location.

The histogram itself is a graphical distribution of image data with black tones on the left and white on the far right.  Anything that is beyond the far right of the histogram will essentially be ‘lost’ (although of course such information can often be retrieved through image manipulation).

Back to my vest…..

If you are still with me, my vest is white meaning if that I place this tone to the far right of the histogram then all other tones within my exposure (for my subject) will fall perfectly into place.  To do this I simply fill my viewfinder with the vest and increase my exposure by 5 clicks or approx 1.7 stops from the zero point.

The vest was held up by model and so I am ‘exposing’ for white in the same light that is falling onto my subject.  This is critical as it is my model that I want correct exposure for.  You also HAVE to be shooting in manual mode.

This screen grab from Lightroom shows the histogram information for my white vest and the subsequent exposure under the same camera setting for my lovely model in the photograph above….

The histogram in the top right hand corner shows the data is on the far right hand side, just where we want white to be.

Histogram

This process is a matter of 1-2 seconds when shooting in manual mode and ensures that I am getting consistent exposure for my subject from frame to frame irespective of my focal length.  Shooting outside in bright light? ISO 200 (or base ISO), 1/250 (flash sync speed for my camera), then f/stop to give my ~1.7 stops over zero for my vest. Easy as that!  Should you want a specific depth of field then these settings can then be juggled to your desire.

My flash sync speed is quite often my start point in case I decide to pop some extra light (especially in bright light)….but that is a different subject all together.

What is great about this method is that it can be used with speed during weddings (brides tend to wear white, perfect) and can be adapted to meter for light strobes in the studio or flash light (when using manual mode).  Forgot your light meter? Crack out the vest!!

So…..if youre shooting with me and I bring this item out don’t be alarmed, I keep it clean, it will soon be put away and you’ll have nicely exposed photographs to show for it 😉

(Note: This method is not limited to vests, other garments may be used)

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