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Old March 9th, 2017, 04:43 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2017
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Correct Exposure

Hi there,

I come from a news and 'run and gun' back ground where i was always taught that the best way to find exposure was to put your zebras to 70/75% and adjust so that they fell across some part of a caucasian face. Making further allowances for different skin tones.

I have read some people saying this is a terrible idea and is far too inaccurate, but often i don't fully understand their process that they advocate instead of the above.

As i move away from news to longer form and more high budget work i was hoping people might be able to offer a bit advice and create a discussion that might inform other!

Many Thanks in advance.


Last edited by Amber Scott; March 9th, 2017 at 04:45 AM. Reason: Trying to delte as have posted in a new forum but can't work out how?
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Old March 9th, 2017, 06:49 AM   #2
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Re: Correct Exposure

This guy seems to thing skin tone exposure is at 70IRE

I guess experiment a bit and see what you feel looks best It also depends on how backlit your subject is too! If you read the short article he does suggest using auto exposure and then compare it to you manual setting

This of course has to be based on someone with a complexion that's not too tanned and also not paisty white either!
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Old March 9th, 2017, 10:36 AM   #3
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Re: Correct Exposure

70 zebra for the face is a valid way to expose. I like to set zebras to 90 with the intent only white objects and highlights should be zebrad.

In different scenarios certain zebra approaches make more sense. For example in an interview the 70 face approach works well but there are many scenarios where exposing for the face would over expose other important areas. Classic example is ballerina or wedding bride where you don't want to blow out her white dress. In this case I'd use 90 and make sure the dress doesn't go over.
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Old March 9th, 2017, 11:52 AM   #4
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Re: Correct Exposure

I've been shooting video for 25 years and have never heard that trick before, great tip! Never too old to keep learning and this site and its contributors are such a good resource.

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Old March 9th, 2017, 12:39 PM   #5
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Re: Correct Exposure

70 or 75 IRE on caucasian facial highlights remains one of the few tools that inexpensive cameras give you that actually mostly works!

It helps to give some thought to what those highlights are - if they are sweaty shine, you'd underexpose with that approach.

And that doesn't help with exposure settings for people of color. Cam manufacturers have failed us here. If a cam only offers Zebras at 70 or 75 and 100 (Canon, for example), and that's your ONLY tool (Canon, for example), you need to develop a sense of how much to compensate for darker skin tones, EG. 70% on highlights minus a stop, or whatever, depending.

Another approach, made popular by still shooters using histogram exposure monitoring, is expose-to-the-right (ETTR). In video land, we'd call it "protect the highlights". Using 90 or 100 zebras, making sure that nothing exceeds 100 (100 less a smidge). This approach will work best with intermediate-level color correction skills applied in post.

Depending on what you're shooting and for what market, it's usually skin tones that matter most.
30 years of pro media production. Vegas user since 1.0. Webcaster since 1997. Freelancer since 2000. College instructor since 2001.
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Old March 14th, 2017, 11:31 AM   #6
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Re: Correct Exposure

Back in my analog Betacam days Zebras at 70 or 80% on skin tones was about the only exposure tool you had. From there you went off of experience and had to get it right.

Today I use zebras and the histogram together. Histograms read everything in the scene. They take a little practice but all the information is there. If the histogram says your nailing it you have got it correct. Just remember to read it properly from left to right based on object luminescence and NOT where it is in the frame.

Tons of good easy articles on how to use one. Then practice.

Kind Regards,

Been at this so long I'm rounding my years of experience down...not up!
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Old March 15th, 2017, 08:08 AM   #7
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Re: Correct Exposure

Years ago I read an article that put Caucasians at 80% and African Americans at 70%. I have used that as my starting rule then adjust to what looks good overall. It's been helpful to me.
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