Exposure Part Two

Slide Film.

This film personally for me has been a kind of double edge sword. It has a wonderful way of depicting the world around us. Rich saturated colours that are almost hyper-real. However it has an exposure latitude that is not really suited to shooting in available light, in Australia. Several tricks have been used over the years. The two most predictable are.

My favourite is metering for the highlights, simply because it is quite easy to work with. The other method works well in higher than normal contrast situations. But can be awkward to apply in some instances?

Meter for the Highlights

Metering for the highlights, is quite easy, particularly with a spot meter. Measure the brightest area in the scene with a spot meter. Set the camera 2 1/2 stops above this reading. This will provide detail in the highlights. Which is usually the most desirable outcome with positive film, depending on the ideas and emotions trying to be expressed with the image. Overexposing positive film is a bit like under exposing neg film. If the detail is lost by exposure errors, it cannot be regained by chemical processes.


Pre-exposure, requires a grey card, an accurate light meter, preferably handheld, and a tripod, a camera that can easily double expose while not necessary is helpful. Taking the grey card place it in the same light as the scene you are photographing. Take a reading from it. Set your camera to expose 2 1/2 stops over this reading. Now place the grey card in front of the camera filling the frame without casting a shadow, and keeping it even and parallel with the camera. Take a photo of the grey card. Remove the grey card and take the same shot again without advancing the film. This effectively fills in the highlights and allows enough exposure for the shadows.

Each method has it's own particular uses and both require an accurate way of reading the light in the given scene, a good spot meter for example allows you to measure the difference between the highlights and shadows, or measuring the highlights of any given scene.

I, in the past, have rarely used this film because of it's lack exposure latitude. Given that scanners and digital software can be used to overcome this films shortcomings it maybe time to revisit it's use.

Digital cameras

Digital cameras and backs are on the other hand are another issue. Currently I use my digital camera and shoot on raw, and allow at the most 1 to 1/3 stops over, depending on the lighting situations and subject brightness range. I then use any raw processor tool at my disposable to 'process' the image to retain as much of the highlights and shadows, as I deem necessary.

This process, is also known as expose to the right.

Exposure part 1