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The on-camera spotmeter (spot meter / partial meter) is the most powerful exposure tool in the world. Read the following technique and decide for yourself if you understand the concept. If you do understand everything and you can apply the technique described and produce correctly exposed images, then that is all you need! In this case you can your money and spend it on more enjoyable things in life! If, however, you even have the slightest doubt about this technique, or if you are still the least bit confused, this book is for you.
Remember: either you know how to use your on-camera spot meter effectively or you don’t. There is no in-between! I believe this is the simplest, easiest, best illustrated, and most practical book about on-camera spot metering in the world.

If you do not want to read the book titled "the confused photographer's guide to on-camera spotmetering (spot metering / partial metering)
ISBN: 0966081706" simply read the following:


Cheat sheet: The entire spotmetering
section condensed onto one page (well almost!)
(Based on Farzad's 5-stop Film / Digital Zone System ©1987-2005)

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Set the ISO dial of your Pentax Digital Spotmeter to 100.  To avoid confusion and simplify things, in this book we will increase and decrease the exposure by opening-up and closing-down the aperture. The shutter speed during our entire approach will remain fixed at 1/125.

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Observe your subject and break it down into its simple subject (single tone) components. Choose a Reference Tone.  A Reference Tone is a simple tone, usually chosen from the most important part of the subject. Once you have selected the Reference Tone, point your spotmeter at this tone and find its normal exposure. If your subject does not have a distinct single tone and you are using slide film, pick out a tone (eliminate color) that is bright/white, light gray, or medium gray (in this order). If you are using a negative film, pick out a tone that that is medium gray or darker.
Let’s assume the "normal exposure" indicated by your camera for this Reference Tone is 125@f-8 (i.e., 1/125 sec. at an aperture opening of 8).

As you may know, the spotmeter’s "normal exposure" from any simple (single toned) surface will always provide the photographer with an 18% gray image tone.
The image tone that your normal exposure provides is independent of the original tone of your subject. It is absolutely essential that you understand this point. The following is an illustration:

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In spotmetering, converting the "normal exposure" to the "correct exposure" is what a photographer must do. In other words, the "normal exposure" readings of the spotmeter must be interpreted by the photographer to determine the subject’s "correct exposure." The principle behind this simplified technique is that if one tone of a complex subject is exposed correctly, the rest of the tones follow and will also be correctly exposed . Now decide which one of the following tones would most closely matches your Reference Tone: Black, Dark Gray, Medium Gray, Light Gray or White. With this simplified technique you must choose one of these five tones. Once you have decided which one of these five tones best matches your Reference Tone, then adjust your camera settings accordingly:

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If you chose Black, you need to decrease the "normal exposure" setting by two stops. Closing- down the aperture by two stops converts the 18% gray image tone to Black. The correct exposure is now 125@f-16.

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If you chose Dark Gray, you need to decrease the "normal exposure" setting by one stop. Closing- down the aperture by one stop converts the 18% gray image tone to Dark gray. The correct exposure is now of 125@f-11.

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If you chose Medium Gray, leave the aperture and shutter speed as they are since the meter is already creating an 18% gray (Medium Gray) image tone, i.e., the tone of the image matches the approximate tone of the Reference Tone. Also remember that when metering from a medium gray surface, the "normal exposure" and "correct exposure" settings are approximately the same.

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If you chose Light Gray, you need to increase the "normal exposure" setting by one stop. Opening-up the aperture by one stop converts the 18% gray image tone to Light Gray. This results in a correct exposure of 125@f-5.6.

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If you chose White, you need to increase the "normal exposure" setting by two stops. Opening-up the aperture by two stops converts the 18% gray image tone to White. The correct exposure is now 125@f-4.

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