Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Exposure Determination With A Neutral Test Card

If a scene differs considerably from a statistically average scene, a wide-angle averaging reflected-light measurement may not indicate the correct exposure.

To simulate an average scene, a substitute measurement sometimes is made of a neutral test card, or gray card.

At best, a flat card is an approximation to a three-dimensional scene, and measurement of a test card may lead to underexposure unless adjustment is made.

The instructions for a Kodak neutral test card recommend that the indicated exposure be increased by ½ step for a frontlighted scene in sunlight.

The instructions also recommend that the test card be held vertically and faced in a direction midway between the Sun and the camera; similar directions are also given in the Kodak Professional Photoguide.

The combination of exposure increase and the card orientation gives recommended exposures that are reasonably close to those given by an incident-light meter with a hemispherical receptor when metering with an off-axis light source.

In practice, additional complications may arise.

Many neutral test cards are far from perfectly diffuse reflectors, and specular reflections can cause increased reflected-light meter readings that, if followed, would result in underexposure.

It is possible that the neutral test card instructions include a correction for specular reflections.

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