Creating Camera Profiles for Capture One Pro with Lumariver – Updated (Podcast 718)

Creating Camera Profiles for Capture One Pro with Lumariver – Updated (Podcast 718)


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OK, so it’s been a couple of years, and coincidentally exactly 100 episodes, since I reviewed and created a tutorial to help you to create camera profiles for use in Capture One Pro using the Lumariver Profile Designer software, and with my new EOS R5 sitting around without a custom profile, I figured I’d make one, and I was pleased to see that a few changes made to the Lumariver software have made the profiles easier to create than ever before!

There are a number of ways to create these profiles, and I haven’t tried all of them, but the main thing to note here is that I followed Lumariver Manual instructions for Making Capture One ICC Profiles, and did NOT use the simpler workflow for reproduction. I went through the full steps, and in step 14 I used Alternative A to get the Capture One curve for my profile. The instructions from Lumariver are clear enough, but in my humble opinion could be a little clearer and better illustrated, so here goes with my version.

Preparing Your Photograph

First, you’ll need an X-Rite ColorChecker target. There are other targets that you can use, but I recommend X-Rite’s as they are what I use. You can use the ColorChecker Passport, but for my profile, I used the Digital ColorChecker SG that you can see in this photo, that I used to create my profile. Excuse the grubby outside air-conditioning unit that I placed the target on. I didn’t want to spend much time on this, so I didn’t cover it up or anything. I exposed the chart in Manual mode and ensured that I pulled back slightly from the setting that started the white patches blinking with exposure alerts, so the base image is as bright as it can be without starting to overexpose, just as I shoot all of my images.

Digital ColorChecker SG with Generic EOS R5 Camera Profile
Digital ColorChecker SG with Generic EOS R5 Camera Profile

For the sake of this process, note that I used the White Balance picker tool in Capture One Pro and selected one of the neutral gray cells on the target, and that set the custom white balance of the image to 5757 Kelvin and a Tint of -2.8. You can use this profile for a wide range of white balances, but to create it, we need to set that custom white balance in this way, and remember the kelvin value for later.

The next part of the process will make your image look crap for a while, but this is necessary, so let’s work through it. As you can see in the screenshot, under the Base Characteristics panel in Capture One Pro, you need to select No Color Correction from the Effects section of the ICC Profile pulldown. If you don’t see this option, click on the Show All option first. It’s also important here to select the Linear Response option from the Curve pulldown, below the ICC Profile pulldown. This is the part that will make your image look flat and much less colorful, so if it still looks OK, go back and check these last few steps.

No Color Profile from ICC Profile Pulldown
No Color Profile from ICC Profile Pulldown
Export Variants
Export Variants

Then right-click the image that you just changed, and select Export, then Variants, from the shortcut menu that appears (right). You’ll then see a dialog box to select the settings, which need to be the TIFF format, 16 bit, and under ICC Profile select Embed camera profile. For the filename, to make the following steps easier, either change the name to Linear or append the word Linear to the filename as I have (below).

Exporting TIFF 16bit with Embedded Camera Profile
Exporting TIFF 16bit with Embedded Camera Profile
Create General-Purpose ICC Profile
Create General-Purpose ICC Profile

After exporting your Linear copy of the image, go back to the Curve pulldown from the Base Characteristics panel, and this time select Auto, unless you usually select one of the other options, such as Film Standard. I just selected Auto, and then exported a second copy of the image repeating the previous step, but this time appended the words Auto_Curve to the filename so that I can easily identify it as we proceed.

Next, assuming you have already installed and licensed your copy of Lumariver Profile Designer, open it and select General-purpose ICC Profile, as you see in the next screenshot (right).

After that, click on the Load Image button under the Target dialog that should already be selected when you start Lumariver. In the below screenshot it says Drop Image because I have already loaded the image when I captured this. You will just need to hit the Load Image button and select the Linear TIFF that we exported first of the two. Also, select the Illuminant which is closest to the White Balance that you made a mental note of earlier. My image was 5757 Kelvin, so I chose D55. Next, select your target from the pulldown that says X-Rite ColorChecker SG in my screenshot. Again, I’ve already selected this. After that, select Show Target Grid, and align the corners of the grid that will appear with the plus symbols in each corner of your ColorChecker, as you can see in my screenshot.

Lumariver Target Options
Lumariver Target Options

Now select the Tone Curve option in the bottom right of the Lumariver dialog, and select Load Base Curve, and load the second of the two images that you exported earlier, marked with Auto_Curve in my example. Then, under the Curve Mode pulldown, select Add to Base Curve, and then select Curve: Custom and press the Load Custom Curve button and a dialog will open. Leave that dialog open and go back to Capture One Pro, and go back to the Base Characteristics panel, and locate an image that still has your default camera profile selected, not the one that you used for this export because we changed that.

Locate Generic Capture One Pro Camera Profile
Locate Generic Capture One Pro Camera Profile

In my case, the Canon EOS R5 Generic profile was selected. Mouse over the profile that is applied to your images, and you should see a popup with the path to the Generic Capture One Pro profile that your camera has been using. Go to that folder, and locate the profile, then drag the file to the dialog that we left open in Lumariver earlier. This will move the dialog to your profiles folder and select the file that you just dragged, ready for you to import. Also, at this point, note the name of the profile file, or better still, select it and copy the filename to your computer’s clipboard for use in a few moments.

Once you have your Generic profile loaded, you are ready to hit the Render button. As you can see in the below screenshot, once Rendered, you should see a beautiful full-colored version of your original photograph, and this indicates that the process was successful. In previous versions, following the Manual as we just did never gave me a useable profile, and I had to select some other options to get that, but now it works right out of the box, which is great!

The Rendered Profile
The Rendered Profile

Go to the ICC Export tab, and type or paste the filename that I asked you to copy to your clipboard a few moments ago. You just need the first part of the filename, up to the hyphen, which is CanonEOSR5 in my example, and then you want to add something descriptive after that. If you don’t use the same start of the filename as your camera’s generic profile, the new profile will not be listed with your Generic profile under the Base Characteristics ICC Profile pulldown. Any other filename will cause your profile to be listed under the Other section, and that makes it more difficult to locate later.

Export ICC Profile
Export ICC Profile

Check your profile, and see if it is at least marginally better than the Capture One Pro Generic camera profile. The one that I just created is, so I am going to use it by default for my EOS R5 from now on. To make that happen, right-click the ellipses in the top right corner of the Base Characteristics panel, and select Save as Defaults for Canon EOS R5 or whatever your camera is called.

Save as Defaults for Camera
Save as Defaults for Camera

If you do that, from now on, all images that you import into Capture One Pro from the same camera will get this new camera profile assigned. If you prefer to just assign the profile yourself, skip the last step, and just select the profile from the pulldown manually when you want to apply it. To apply the new profile to images that were imported before you created this new profile, you just need to select them, and then select the new profile. If you made the new profile the default, you can also just select Apply Defaults.

Note too that the first part of the profile filename, used to identify it and group the profile correctly, is not included in the pulldown, because it is displayed under the camera’s profiles. This is why you still want to give it a meaningful name after the hyphen. Also, if you want to see your original target photo in full splendor, you’ll need to change the Linear Response curve back to Auto or whatever you use, as well as assigning the new camera profile.

Before / After

So that you can see the difference, here is a Before / After slider. Drag the vertical bar back and forth to reveal the Lumariver camera profile. It’s pretty obvious which it is but I have also labeled them, just in case.

If you are interested in grabbing a copy of Lumariver Profile Designer to create your own profiles, you’ll find it at http://www.lumariver.com and note that to create profiles for Capture One Pro as we’ve done in this tutorial, you will need at least the Pro Edition, and the Repro Edition also works for this. The Basic Edition does not work. That will only create DNG based camera profiles, but that should mean that it will be enough if you use Adobe Camera Raw based camera profiles. Also, if you need a ColorChecker target, you can get both the ColorChecker Passport and the Digital ColorChecker SG from our friends at B&H Photo or Amazon and if you use our affiliate links it helps to keep the lights on the content coming, as well as being very much appreciated.

Affiliate Links

ColorChecker Passport on B&H Photo https://mbp.ac/ccp, and on Amazon.com https://amzn.to/2RwrCOq.
Digital ColorChecker SG on B&H Photo https://mbp.ac/ccsg and on Amazon.com https://amzn.to/3c5ApjK.


Show Notes

http://www.lumariver.com

Music by Martin Bailey


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Creating Capture One Pro Camera Profiles with Lumariver (Podcast 618)

Creating Capture One Pro Camera Profiles with Lumariver (Podcast 618)

Note that in September 2020 I updated this tutorial as a new post here. The process has become much easier and less error-prone following some updates, so please follow the later tutorial.

Following on from the previous episode, this week we look at creating camera profiles for Capture One Pro using a product called Lumariver Profile Designer. This is a video again, so the audio player is basically redundant, but I’ll include it anyway.

I’ll leave my notes below, for those that prefer to read, but this really is an episode that requires you to watch the video to not only understand how to create these camera profiles but also to be able to see the benefits when applying the profiles to images in Capture One Pro. Here’s the video.

My Procedure Notes

Here are the notes I made as I prepared for this episode.

The Lumariver manual states that exposure should be around 220 on the white patches, and I have a photo of the Digital ColorChecker SG from last year that is around 221 on the white patches, so that’s perfect! This image was exposed so that the white patches were not blinking, but 1/3 of a stop brighter would have made them blink on the camera’s LCD.

We first use the White Balance picker to set the white balance using one of the mid-gray patches and note that the image is pretty much a perfect 5000K white balance. Nice!

Then we need to go to the Base Characteristics panel, and under ICC Profile select Effects > No color correction, and also set the Curve to Linear Response. We then export the file as a 16 bit TIFF with the ICC Profile set to Embed camera profile, then export a second TIFF with the Curve set to the setting we usually use, so I’ll go with Auto.

Next select New Project from the Edit menu in Lumariver Profile Designer and select “General-purpose ICC profile”. You can use Lumariver to create DNG profiles for use in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw, but our objective is to create a camera profile for Capture One Pro, my raw processing software of choice, so we need to select ICC profile. 

We then click the Load Image button and load our linear curve TIFF file, and then select the Illuminant that is closest to the light source that we photographed the target in. My custom white balance showed me a reading around 5000K so D50 is smack on. Then select the type of target used, which in this case is the X-Rite ColorChecker SG. 

Press the Show Target Grid button and align the corners of the grid that is displayed with the registration marks on the ColorChecker target, then turn on the Grid is in place checkbox. Click on the Tone Curve label towards the bottom of the right sidebar in Lumariver, press the Load Base Curve button and select the second TIFF that we exported with the Auto Curve applied.

The next option, Curve Mode is actually key to making Camera Profiles for Capture One Pro that work without having to brighten your images up again after applying the profile. You need to set the Curve Mode to Add to Base Curve. The default setting of Replace Base Curve gives you a dark profile. On this screen let’s also load the curve from the Capture One Pro load the ICC profile from Capture One.

Under the Look section, I changed the Tone Reproduction Operator to Neutral, as opposed to Skin&Sky, as I don’t really want anything changing. I also changed the Gamut Compression to None. Gamut Compression basically compresses the colors into a smaller working color space, like sRGB or AdobeRGB, but as I keep my images in ProPhotoRGB for as long as possible, and because I know that the camera is working in a much wider color space, I don’t want to limit them falsely with the profiles I’m creating. It’s great to have these options!

Finally, under the ICC Export section, I turned on High-Resolution LUT, because I can, and we’re now ready to press the Render button. Wow! Right there I like what I see very much. We can now export the ICC profile. The default Profile folder that was selected was for me only. So that I can access this profile from other users, should I create any, I changed this to the /Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder, and called my new profile “CanonEOS5DSR-MBP Generic”. I used this naming convention so that Capture One Pro would list my profile alongside the other CanonEOS5DSR profiles.

I also created a second profile with a 3D LUT (Look Up Table) selected under the Optimization section. The manual says that this is really for Reproduction profiles, but being me, I always want to try to use the best possible options, and 3D LUT profiles apply the corrections differently according to the brightness of the color. Although the manual warns that 3D LUT profiles should only be used on images shot under the same conditions, my tests have shown that these work great as a Generic ICC profile for my Canon 5Ds R. 

Note that I needed to leave Scale to Match off when creating a 3D LUT profile, as turning this on made my images too bright, unless I used the Linear Response Curve, and then actually the images looked OK, although a little flat.

Then if it was open we need to restart Capture One Pro so that it can find the new ICC profiles, and all we need to do is select the new profile under ICC Profile in the Base Characteristics section, and WOW! Just watch those colors pop! If you want to really bring out the most from your camera, I think we’ve just found the way to do it!

I honestly didn’t think it was possible to improve the image quality of Capture One Pro, so this is a pleasant surprise. I am going to be applying this new profile from now on, and will also go on to create some other profiles for my studio lighting etc. I think a couple of profiles will probably be enough to cover most of the work I do.

Lumariver Profile Designer Cost

Although the process to create a profile is a little more complex with more steps, once you have saved a project, creating future profiles is a piece of cake, and the look of the images with these profiles is great!

All importantly, the price is very reasonable. The Pro version is said to be enough for photographers, at €100, but for a little extra control and options, the Repro version will set you back €200. 

This product now has a place in my Capture One Pro workflow. It’s not that I was unhappy with the color of my images, but I do often tweak it, and these profiles get me closer to where I want to be, and that will be a huge time saver. I just wish I’d found this software sooner!

You can download Lumariver Profile Designer here: http://www.lumariver.com

You can try Lumariver without a license, but you can’t save the project or profiles without a license. That’s still useful, as you can see your photographs after rendering them, to ensure at least that you have the process down before you buy.


Show Notes

Download Lumariver Profile Designer here: http://www.lumariver.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Creating Capture One Pro Camera Profiles with basICColor Input 5 (Podcast 617)

Creating Capture One Pro Camera Profiles with basICColor Input 5 (Podcast 617)

 Today we’re going to start exploring options that enable us to create camera profiles for Capture One Pro, starting with basICColor input 5. This is something that I’ve been meaning to look into for a while, so I’m pleased to finally be able to bring this to you.

When I was using Lightroom, I used to use X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport to create camera profiles, which I could then assign to images, helping to make the colors as accurate as possible. Before we go on, I want to say that although I feel this is important for product shoot, when the accuracy of the color of the product is important, for my regular art photography, I’d already been far less reliant on this technology even before switching to Capture One Pro, and this really is why I haven’t really missed not being able to create profiles for the past almost two years now, since I jumped ship.

There are still occasions though when I feel that I’d like to lock in the color more accurately, and so I contacted a couple of companies to get access to their software for evaluation purposes. The first company that I contacted was basICColor, and I actually had them provide me with an extended evaluation license last year, but it expired as I got busy again with my Morocco Tour and then my Winter Tours. So, a special thanks to the basICColor team for their patience and generosity in enabling me to prepare this review.

The second solution I’m going to look at is one that has only just recently come to my attention via a reader, and that is Lumariver. These people have also provided me with a copy of their software to take a look at, and I intend to do that straight after we finish this initial review of basICColor Input 5. I do not intend this to be a comparison as such, rather I’d just like to cover our options, and you can choose which option you’d like to go with if indeed you are looking to create your own camera profiles for Capture One Pro.

Anyway, rather than spelling this all out, I decided to record a screencast, so that I could show you the software in action along with some examples using my images, explaining why I personally won’t be using this solution for my general work, although it would be useful for work when complete color accuracy is required, like for product shoots and studio work where the lighting can be completely controlled.

Check out the video to see what I mean, and hopefully, this will help you to understand if there is a place for this kind of software in your workflow. Also note that I would recommend you actually download basICColor input 5 and give it a try for yourself. There is a trial period available if you don’t have a license.

What Does it Cost?

OK, so basICColor input 5 completely surpassed my expectations in the ease of use and quality of the camera profiles created, but the all-important question is, how much is it going to set you back if you decide to buy a license. This may well be the crunch factor for most people, as basICColor is a cool €500 or $600 at the current exchange rate. Either way, you can check out basICColor input 5 here: https://www.basiccolor.de/basiccolor-input-5-en/


Show Notes

You can buy or try basICColor input 5 here: https://www.basiccolor.de/basiccolor-input-5-en/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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The Zone System and Light Meters in Digital Photography (Podcast 503)

The Zone System and Light Meters in Digital Photography (Podcast 503)

The Zone System has kind of fallen into the shadows as digital enables us to see our images instantly, and view information like the invaluable histogram even before we release the shutter, but The Zone System is still a useful tool, and something worth taking the time to understand whether you use Ansel Adams’ original exposure techniques or not.

I’m sure most of you have heard of The Zone System, and some of you will already have a good understanding of what it means and how to use it, so this might not be new to you, but it’s a great topic to explore, and I find it totally relevant as a follow up to my recent episode about creating camera profiles for the Sekonic L-758D Digital Master light meter.

First, I’m going to explain what The Zone System is all about and intersperse my own take on its applications within digital imaging. We’ll also take a look at how you can use a light meter to evaluate your options in the field as you create your images and evaluate your images on the computer, both of which can be invaluable to help you understand exposure.

The Zone System

The Zone System was developed by Ansel Adams with Fred Archer way back in 1940. It is a system to map the various tonal regions or luminance of objects in any given scene to enable the photographer to reach the optimal exposure during the capture of the image, and the developing and printing of the negative.

OK, so in the last paragraph the word optimal is my take on this, but Adams’ goals were the same. It’s not so much about accurate exposure, because there really isn’t one. Adams phrases this as photographs being interpretations of the original subject values and subjective departures from reality.

The Zone System was most useful as initially intended, to control the exposure of individual sheets of film, rather than rolls of film, because the development and print process could be adjusted for each negative based on shifts applied during the initial exposure of each sheet of film. There are of course limitations on the developing process when using roll film, as all images on each roll are developed in exactly the same way.

Ironically, in the digital age, one could argue that the Zone System is more applicable again, as we go back to being able to adjust our processing of each frame individually, including during the digital printing process.

The Zone System basically maps tones into eleven ranges of values from pure black to pure white. How people associate these tonal ranges to numerical values seems to vary, but I’ve split two ranges into equal parts, as Adams did, and created a reference chart on which we’ll base parts of this discussion, including a slightly modified description of what each zone meant within The Zone System (below).

The Zone System

The Zone System

As you can see (above) the eleven zones are marked in roman numerals, from 0 (zero) to X (10). The reason for the roman numerals was to differentiate the zone values from exposure values (EV) or any other arbitrary numerical scale on the light meter which are usually written in regular Arabic numerals. I’ve added the two scales, from 0 to 255 for RGB color values, and 0 to 100 for Lightness values, and I’ll talk about how to use these ranges to evaluate your images in Photoshop later.

Definition of the Zones

Adams further defined groups of zones in the follow ways. Zones 0 through to X (10) represents the entire range of tones, from “full black to pure white”. Zones I (1) through IX (9) are what Adams referred to as the “dynamic range”, and this represents the darkest to lightest tones that can be considered “useful”. Zones II (2) through VIII (8) were referred to as the “textural range” which represents tones that convey a sense of texture and recognizable substance.

Although I’ve seen heated arguments as to whether or not a Zone is equal to one stop of EV or Exposure Value, Adams himself clearly states that this is how he intended the zones to be used in his book The Negative in which he fully describes The Zone System in glorious detail. If you still want to know more about this subject after today’s post, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. In fact, it’s just a great read for any photographer, so I highly recommend it either way.

Now, in practice, we’ll find that as the dynamic range that our cameras can record increases, strict use of The Zone System requires that we will have to move away from thinking of each zone as one stop of exposure, or, simply use more zones, keeping the zone to EV stop relationship. But, as of 2015, most cameras have a dynamic range of about 12 stops.

As we found in my recent discussion about creating profiles for the Sekonic L-758D light meter, I actually have a measured range of 11.9 stops on my Canon EOS 5Ds R, and DxO Mark have it at 12.4 stops, so we’re at around 12 stops of dynamic range in digital terms. This is the full range from full black to pure white, and I consider almost that entire range to be useful, so it’s a bit wider than Adams’ definition, but in practice I’ve found that even now, thinking of each zone as a stop of exposure works fine.

Exposure “Stops”

Just in case this talk of “stops” has you scratching your head, this is how we talk about steps of exposure, controlled by three main camera settings, the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. We can also change exposure with filters such as neutral density filters, which we talked about in episode 391.

Modifying your camera’s exposure by one stop you could for example change your aperture from f/5.6 to f/8, or from f/11 to f/16, with some of the main full stops of aperture being f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 and f/32.

Because the aperture value represents the area of a circle, they are approximations of a sequence of numbers that are the power of the square route of 2. Although it can be confusing at first, this means that the smaller the number, the larger the area of the circle, and therefore the more light passes through the aperture and onto our camera’s sensor, increasing the exposure. Less is more.

This also has the effect of increasing or decreasing the depth of field of the scene or subject being photographed. For more information on how that works, check out episode 132 or episode 437 in which we discussed hyperfocal distance.

Shutter speeds are easier to grasp, because you simply halve or double the time to change up or down by a stop. One stop faster than 1/500 of a second is 1/1000 of a second and one stop slower is 1/250 of a second. A stop slower again is 1/125 but then the next stop slower is 1/60, so it’s not exactly half. In fact, the real shutter speed for 1/125 of a second is 1/128, and a stop slower should be 1/64. They are mostly adjusted slightly, but there’s no reason to be concerned about this. You get used to the actual numbers used.

The ISO range can also seem a little confusing, but again you get used to it. Film years ago was much slower, or less sensitive to light, but these days, although some digital cameras start at the expanded ISO 50, most start from ISO 100. To increase the ISO in full stops, you just double the value for each subsequent ISO, so one stop more sensitive than ISO 100 is 200. The next full stop is ISO 400, then 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 and so on.

A full “stop” increase or decrease in aperture, shutter speed or ISO will have the same effect on your exposure. For example, an exposure of f/8 for 1/250 of a second at ISO 200 can be made one stop brighter by changing our aperture from f/8 to f/5.6, one stop larger, or we could make our shutter speed twice as long by changing it from 1/250 of a second to 1/125 of a second, or we could make our ISO one stop more sensitive by changing from 200 to 400.

Identify Your Mid-Tone

OK, so back to The Zone System; Ansel Adams wanted a way to evaluate the exposure levels of a scene, so that he could place certain tones at certain places and calculate from that exposure whether or not the other tones in his scene would be too dark or too bright, and adjust the exposure if necessary to protect those extremes in contrast.

As I said, this also carried over into the development process, which was adjusted as necessary as well, but we won’t go into detail on that here as it’s not relevant for digital. Again, if you want to understand this more Ansel Adams’ The Negative should be your first stop (no pun intended).

You would start metering your scene by identifying the tone that you would place in Zone V (5). In black and white terms this is called the mid-gray or middle-gray, but in color photography, let’s call it the mid-tone, as it’s referred to on my light meter. The beauty of this first step is that if you can’t easily identify what in your scene is a mid-tone, if you are outdoors with the same light falling on your scene as where you are, you can simply take a meter reading of an 18% gray card to get this exposure value.

There are lots of conversations around the web regarding whether cameras are calibrated to 18% gray, 12% gray, or 12.5, 13% or 14% etc. During the creation of my camera profile using my Sekonic L-758D light meter and the Sekonic (X-Rite Munsell Color) Exposure Profile Target II, I first took meter readings with both incident and reflected light from the 18% gray side of the target.

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile - Metering the Light - Incident

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile – Metering the Light – Incident

I then set my Canon EOS 5Ds R camera to the exact same settings that my Sekonic L-758D light meter measured and the exposure scale on the camera indicated that there was zero discrepancy from what the camera’s spot meter measured. The meter reading was exactly the same, and this tells me that Canon is using 18% gray.

This can vary depending on the light source, but this result is enough for me to proceed with this article using 18% gray as the middle-gray, and you’ll also learn why I don’t think this is totally important in the age of digital, and with the understanding that Ansel Adams adjusted exposure as necessary, we also know that it wasn’t something to get too bent out of shape about, even during Ansel Adams’ day.

Start With Your Mid-Tone

So, the starting point for setting your exposure with The Zone System was to identify your mid-tone or middle-gray. You can do this by viewing your scene, and taking meter readings from a number of subjects that you think would be close. Adams would look for something that he felt would spoil the photograph if it was allowed to become too dark, although he does talk about using an 18% gray card in The Negative as well, as a way to get an accurate exposure, if that is what you require.

When you first take a meter reading from your scene, the light meter will interpret the luminance value as though the substance being measured was a middle-gray. Although you can change this functionality, the meter will often assume that the first reading you take is the mid-tone, and start to record subsequent measurements in relation to this mid-tone, or middle gray.

I generally like to start my metering with an incident light measurement when I’m outdoors, assuming I’m in the same lighting conditions as the scene I’m photographing. This of course would not work if I was in shadow photographing a brighter area not under the same cover.

The Beauty of the Light Meter

The thing that I absolutely love about using a light meter though is, because they are measuring the luminance of a subject, unlike a camera’s built in metering system, they don’t try to convert everything to a mid-gray. If I take an incident meter reading of the light falling on a snow scene, then take a reflective meter reading of the snow itself, the snow will be around two stops brighter than the incident meter reading. I’d get the same two stop difference by taking a reflective meter reading from an 18% gray card as the base.

If this isn’t making much sense, get a piece of white paper and a piece of black paper, or anything that is black, but both need to be big enough to fill the frame of your camera. Put the camera in Aperture Priority mode an set the aperture to say f/5.6 and ensure that exposure compensation is at zero.

Fill the frame with the white paper, and take one photograph. Then, put the black object in the same place as the white one, under exactly the same light, and take a second photograph without changing the camera settings. Then, on the back of your camera, flick between the two images that you just shot. You’ll most likely find that they are both exactly the same. They’ll be a mid-gray. To actually make them black and white, you’d need to add +2 stops of exposure compensation when shooting the white paper, and -2 stops of exposure compensation when shooting the black paper.

Play the Metering Game

As another learning exercise with my light meter, I like to play a game where I measure the light falling on a scene with the incident meter, which is the method using the white dome on the light meter, and then press the Memory button on the meter to record that base measurement, and then try to meter something else in the scene that is as close to this incident meter reading as possible. You can do this in your living room, or outside, it doesn’t matter.

This helps to train your eye to find the mid-tones in your scene, and can actually be quite satisfying when, for example, you meter the light source, then find something that is within just a third or two thirds of a stop brighter or darker than the incident light measurement. A little geeky, maybe, but this is the sort of thing that I’ve done over the years to hone my skill in estimating exposure, and that is a big part of what this is all about.

Find Your Extreme Luminance Values

Back to metering your scene in the field now, it’s not important that your metered mid-tone is absolutely the middle-gray, as we’ll adjust this anyway, based on the following part of the exercise. You now need to identify and measure the lightest and darkest parts of your scene. If you are following along with me here with your own light meter, figure out how to memorize the tones that you are measuring.

The Sekonic L-758D can memorize up to 9 meter readings, by pressing the Memory button on the left side, underneath the spot metering lens. Once I have my incident light measurement saved, and probably one or two reflective measurements from what I thought were the mid-tones in the scene, I’ll start to measure and save the luminance values for the lightest and darkest parts of the scene.

If the sun is in your scene, there isn’t much point in taking a meter reading from the sun’s disk itself, and you also need to be careful not to look directly at the sun through the light meter’s spot meter viewfinder, as many of these are magnified so you could damage your eyes. In The Zone System, the sun would also be considered a specular highlight, falling in zone X (10), so we wouldn’t try to prevent it from over-exposing anyway.

Do take a reading though, for example, of bright cloud near to the sun, especially if it is important that there is some detail recorded in these areas. The same goes for the darkest parts of the scene. Record some values from foreground rocks for example, that might have their shadow side facing you. These might be very dark.

Protect Your Shadows?

If you find that the shadow areas in your scene are very dark, you have to make a decision as to whether or not the detail and texture in the rock is important. In the original Zone System, if your shadow areas were more than three stops darker than your mid-tone, you would start to lose the appearance of substance or texture in these areas.

This means for example, if your mid-tone Zone V (5) with the aperture set to f/8 was metered to give you a shutter speed of say 1/125 of a second, and your dark foreground rocks were metering at 1/8 of a second, that’s four stops darker, putting the rocks in Zone I (1), and that’s where The Zone System is defined to have slight tonality but no texture. If you were to go to 1/4 of a second that would put your rocks in zone 0 (zero) so they’d be completely black, with no visible texture.

As we’ll see later, this is one key area where modern digital imaging has exceeded the boundaries of The Zone System as defined by Ansel Adams, because it was based on old film, which had a much smaller dynamic range. This means that now we would need to either remap the zones to not mean one stop of EV per zone, or do what I do, which is to learn how far I can push my exposure, and work to new boundaries, but still keeping the Zone System in mind.

So, if you do need to protect your shadow areas for some reason, say they are even darker and you feel that there will be no detail there, even with the dynamic range of your camera, which we’ll talk about shortly, then you have to consider brightening up your image.

Protect Your Highlights for Digital

The major difference with the film based Zone System and how it is applied to digital imaging, is that in the film days, it was much easier recover detail in bright or over-exposed highlights than it was to recover lost shadow detail. In The Negative, Adams says “The low values (shadow areas) are controlled primarily by exposure, while the high values (light areas) are controlled by both exposure and development.

In digital imaging, once we’ve over-exposed our highlights, there is no way to get any detail back, so we have to do the reverse, and protect our highlights when shooting digital. If we look again at the graph showing data from my 5Ds R during the creation of my camera profile (below) we can see that the drop-off of information in my shadows is a much shallower curve than my highlights, so there is a much better chance of me saving my shadows, than salvaging detail from blown highlights.

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

Digital Place and Fall

If, like me, you use a technique called ETTR or Expose To The Right, this means that you set your exposure so that your highlights are almost or even just touching the right side of the histogram, and then let the mid-tones and shadows fall where they will. Adams uses the term Place and Fall when describing the Zone System, meaning that you find your mid-tone or Zone V (5) exposure tones, and then let the shadow and highlight detail fall where they will, unless you have to adjust exposure to protect either of the extremes.

You can do exactly this in digital as well, and with today’s image quality, your images won’t suffer much for this, but because of the way digital images are recorded, we get more and more grain as the mid-tones and shadow areas get darker and darker, so you will get better image quality by recording your image as brightly as possible, and this is exactly what ETTR does.

Even if my darkest shadows are only in Zone V (5) I still exposure for the highlights, and if necessary, I can darken the image down in post, getting the same exposure that I would have if I’d exposed with those mid-tones in the middle of the histogram, but I have much cleaner shadow areas using this technique. I place my highlights as close to the right as possible, and let the rest of the image fall where it will.

I use this technique pretty much across all of my photography, and I love the results I’m getting. Note too that even when my shadow areas seem incredibly dark, I am still getting detail from these areas, fully utilizing my 12 stops of dynamic range, as we’ll see in a moment. We can consider this digital place and fall.

In Meter Dynamic Range

If you recall from episode 501 in which we created the camera profile for my Canon EOS 5Ds R and transferred it to the Sekonic L-758D light meter, the reason I was so excited about this is because it enables me to show the dynamic range of my camera right there on the meter, so I can see if the luminance values in my scene fall inside the capability of my camera to record without over or underexposing my highlights and shadow areas.

In practice, because I’ve been using a meter for around 15 years, mostly as a learning and teaching tool, I don’t meter my scenes in the field all that often, especially as we can see the information we are capturing right there in the histogram, but I am really excited about having my dynamic range displayed right there on the L-758D light meters exposure scale, both to work with students, but also just to easily check the extremes of contrast in my scenes as I evaluate my options.

Evaluating Your Scene

Let’s now jump into Photoshop and evaluate a photograph that I made on my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour in January 2015. We’ll open the original photograph, straight out of the camera, and then I’ll show you the final image after converting it to black and white, and bringing out all the lovely detail from the tetra pods in the foreground, that I knew would be recorded, but really could not see in the image as I viewed it through the viewfinder or on the LCD display on my camera.

Photoshop Info Panel Options

Photoshop Info Panel Options

If you don’t have your Info panel displayed in Photoshop, hit the F8 key or click Info under the Window menu. Then click the button in the top right of the Info panel and select Panel Options… and you’ll see this dialog. I have my First Color Readout set to RGB Color and my Second Color Readout set to Lab color. Then, from the Photoshop tool bar select the Color Sampler Tool, which you’ll see when you click the Eyedropper Tool.

Now, as you roll your mouse over the image, you’ll see the numbers in the Info Panel change, showing you the values of the tones that you are rolling over. These numbers correspond to the ranges of numbers that I added to The Zone System chart that we looked at above, so you if you click on that image, then drag it to your desktop, you can open it as a reference.

The other cool thing about the Color Sampler Tool, is that when you click it, it adds a little marker to the image and you can see all of the Lightness values of the tones you click on. The L in Lab, as in the Lab Color that we selected earlier stands for Lightness, and ranges from 0 to 100.

Once you are at zero, you are recording pure black and at 100, you are recording pure white. These are the absolute extremes of The Zone System. After you’ve clicked to record a sample, if you right click it, you can change it to Lab if you prefer to reference the 0 to 100 scale, which I personally prefer for this exercise. Before you start to sample tones, change the Sample Size to 31 by 31 Average in the top toolbar, so that you aren’t sampling too small an area.

You’ll need to click on the below image to see these sample marks, and maybe even drag it to your desktop and open it on your computer to see, but in the middle of the image, you’ll find my first sample, which we can see in the top right has a Lightness of exactly 50, which is smack in the middle of Zone V (5). This is my mid-tone for this scene.

Photoshop Lab Samples

Photoshop Lab Samples

If you look at the second easier to see Sample 2 (above) you’ll see that this Lightness value is 99. It’s just a hair under 100, where all detail is lost. That’s the brightest part of the scene, and very close to being totally blown out. Down in the bottom left corner, you’ll see Sample 3 (above) which has a Lightness value of 1. This is the darkest shadows I can record and still have a chance of recovering any information.

Looking at this image, if you have your display calibrated and the correct Brightness, you really shouldn’t be able to see much, down there in the bottom left corner. That’s how it looked through the viewfinder and on my LCD display in the field as well. I went ahead and made this exposure though, because I knew that these values were close, but not totally out of my dynamic range.

Converting to Black and White

If you know my work, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge fan of black and white photographs, and even as I shot this image, I knew that I would take it into Silver Efex Pro 2 and convert it to black and white as my final image. I’ve done tutorials on Silver Efex Pro in the past, so we won’t look at that today, but I wanted to point out one important feature of Silver Efex Pro that I use before saving every image I convert to black and white with it.

You’ll need to click on the image (below) and open up your browser window as wide as possible to see this full size, but if you look down in the bottom right corner, you’ll see 11 small boxes, ranging from black to white, numbered 0 to 10. You’ve guessed it. This is a dynamic indication of The Zone System, right there in Silver Efex Pro. (Remember that once you’ve clicked the image to view it larger, you’ll need to place your mouse over the image to stop it advancing to the next image automatically.)

Zone X (10) Indication

Zone X (10) Indication

As you can see (above) when I roll over Zone 10, there are some diagonal lines that have appeared over the brightest part of the sky where the sun’s rays are radiating from. If I wanted to I could have brought these down a little in my final image, but I actually consider these silver linings on the clouds as specular highlights, and decided to leave them this bright.

As long as I know which areas are very bright, I can make the decision as to whether or not I will change the image, and that is the beauty of these Zone System displays. I am though less likely to allow shadows to totally plug up, because blacks tend to print really dark anyway. For this image, when I rolled my mouse over Zone 0 (zero) there were no areas that are totally black. This screenshot shows areas in Zone 1, and they are basically limited to areas of deep shadow, which is exactly how I planned this photo.

Zone I (1) Indication

Zone I (1) Indication

Finally, once I saved the image and return to Photoshop (below), we can now see the new values from the black and white image, as the Color Sample markers are still in place. My darkest shadows have increased from 1 to 5, my brightest highlights have come down from 99 to 98, and my mid-tone has become very slightly brighter at 53.

Lab Samples from Black and White Image

Lab Samples from Black and White Image

The important thing to note here as well is that what appeared to be very deep shadows in my original image actually contained a lot more texture and detail that you might have thought, especially if you’d seen this on the back of the camera as I shot this image. It’s at times like this that many people start to think of HDR to increase the dynamic range, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I rarely do HDR, as I don’t believe it’s necessary.

If HDR is a creative avenue for you, then that’s fine, but if you don’t particular enjoy the process, then hopefully some of what we’ve covered here will help you to rely a little more on your cameras ability to capture a full range of tones.

Just to clarify as well, before we finish, the image I’ve used in this example was shot with my 5D Mark III, not the 5Ds R. The 5D Mark III actually had very slightly less dynamic range than the 5Ds R, so we’d be looking at a very similar example anyway.

Conclusion

OK, so to wrap this up, I’d like to reiterate that you don’t necessarily need a light meter to make great photographs. I didn’t meter the above scene in the field. I relied totally on the histogram, which I do believe is an essential tool, especially when we are pushing the extremes of our cameras’ dynamic range.

I also find it very important to turn on highlight warnings on my camera. The highlight warnings are based on the in camera JPEG, so I tend to keep my Picture Style set to Neutral or Faithful, so as not to change this much, but it’s still an 8 bit JPEG and there is much more detail and information captured in the raw file.

I use the preview as a guide, and sometimes set the exposure so that I’m just starting to blow out my highlights, and then I find that the resulting images are actually just inside the limits, and very usable, right up to a point that would probably have had Ansel Adams rethinking his Zone System as well. If he was still with us though, he would have embraced digital with open arms, and I’m sure he’d be pushing exposure to extremes like this, pulling as much out of the technology as possible.

If you are thinking of buying a light meter, although it’s been on the market for a while now, I can’t recommend the Sekonic-L-758DR Digital Master light meter enough. The ability to create those camera profiles using the Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II takes it’s usefulness to a whole new level, as you can see right there on the meter exactly how your scene maps to your own camera’s dynamic range. If you haven’t already, check out episode 501 for more on that.

The other important feature of the Sekonic L-758D or DR in the US, is that it has a 1° spot meter, which is vitally important for taking accurate readings from your scene. Many other meters have 5° spot meters, which are too wide to really pick out and meter fine details in your scene.

Although the light meter is not 100% necessary today, as I’ve mentioned, I do find them very valuable as a way to learn about exposure, and light, and how it affects our images both in the field and in post processing. I also find the light meter to be a very useful teaching tool, so if you teach photography yourself, it’s also definitely worth considering, and I’ve included a number of exercises today that you can do yourself, so I hope that this whole post has been useful for you.


Show Notes

Ansel Adams’ The Negative on Amazon: https://mbp.ac/TheNegative

Sekonic L-758DR : https://mbp.ac/Sekonic-L-758DR

Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II: https://mbp.ac/ept2

Music by Martin Bailey


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Sekonic L-758D Light Meter Camera Profiles (Podcast 501)

Sekonic L-758D Light Meter Camera Profiles (Podcast 501)

In the age of digital with the histogram at our fingertips, the light meter is in many situations no longer as necessary as it was years ago, but there are a number of reasons why I continue to use one. I recently added another reason, by creating a camera profile for my Sekonic L-758D light meter which increases its usefulness even further, so today I’m going to walk you through that process and why I find having a camera specific profile in my light meter useful.

Before I go into details of the process for creating the profile, I’ll explain what this enables me to do, so that you don’t continue to wonder what this is all about. First of all, I’m using a Sekonic L-758D Digital Master Light Meter. In the States this is the L-758DR, which I believe has some extra Pocket Wizard features, but they are basically the same meter otherwise.

Why Am I Excited About Camera Profiles?

Take a look at this photo (below) and if necessary click on it to view as large as possible, and check out that scale between the bottom line of numbers from -7 to +7 and the five carets that indicate meter readings. There is a line of 23 upward pointing triangles, and then one more to the right, and a second a little further away on the far left. This line of dots represents the dynamic range of my camera, and is there because of the profiling process that I carried out a few weeks ago, and that I’m going to walk you through today.

Sekonic L-758D Digital Master Light Meter

Sekonic L-758D Digital Master Light Meter

How cool is that though, right!? I can actually see the dynamic range of my camera right there on the meter! What this means is that in the field I can take meter readings of the scene, and decide how to approach the exposure based on how high I take my highlights, and often more importantly, how dark I am prepared to let my shadow areas fall.

Light Meter as a Learning Tool

Now, yes, of course I can also do this with the histogram, but being able to measure and analyze this data as I shoot is an incredibly valuable tool for understanding exposure, especially when you start to take a look at images and map the tones in your images to understand why certain situations are possible, and when others simply wouldn’t work.

Also, quite often in my case, and maybe yours too, being able to look at the various exposure readings from a scene is an invaluable tool in the teaching environment. I walk people through exposure during workshops, and although this often works for Canon users, explaining exposure with a camera is not as useful as being able to actually show the readings right there on the meter. The meter is much more objective, and kind of removes the ambiguity that a camera can often introduce if the student isn’t familiar with my camera system.

I do use a meter practically in various situations too, both in the field and when I’m setting up studio lights, and the Sekonic L-758D (or L-758DR in the States) has some incredibly powerful features for measuring and comparing studio lights and ambient light conditions etc. but we aren’t going to get into that today. I’ve been using a meter for more than 15 years now though, and have always found them to be a very valuable tool to help me learn and teach exposure, so I’m looking forward to sharing this new development with you today.

Creating a Profile for the Sekonic L-758D Light Meter

I’ve had this Sekonic L-758D meter a while now, but have only just created a profile for it, to utilize it’s full power. To create the profile, you need a Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II. You can use a number of different targets, including some of the X-Rite color targets, but I bought the Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II, which is also made by X-Rite, but specifically for the Sekonic to create the profiles we’ll look at today.

You can create multiple profiles, including one’s specifically for flash and studio lighting, but today we’ll walk through creating a profile with ambient light.

Wait for an Overcast Day

To shoot the test target for an Expansion mode profile, which I found to be the best method, it’s best to wait for a heavily and evenly overcast day.  You need the cloud cover to be pretty even so that the light doesn’t change during your exposures, but you also need it to be really heavy overcast, because you have to shoot five bracketed images to create the Expansion mode profile, and the two extremes of these images are plus and minus 8 stops.

That means if your base exposure is lower than 1/8 of a second, 8 stops below will be longer than 30 seconds, which is fine, but requires using Bulb mode etc. and a timer. If you use a shutter speed faster than 1/30 of a second, your 8 stop above exposure is more than 1/8000 of a second, and that’s the fastest shutter speed available on most cameras, so you can’t start with a shutter speed faster than 1/30 of a second.

Meter Ambient Light

You have to set up the target so that it’s level with the camera, and has even light falling on it. I used a light stand and a pair of plant clamps to hold the target in place, as you can see in this photo (below). Once you have your camera and target in place, meter the light, first with the Incident meter, which is the white dome that you see here, and either take a photo like this, or note the ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings, down to that 10th of a stop that you see as zero in this image. You need to add this fraction into the software, so this is important.

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile - Metering the Light - Incident

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile – Metering the Light – Incident

Then you switch to the Reflected Spot metering mode, by rotating the band around the eyepiece on the the right side of the meter, and point the spot meter at the gray card, while looking through the spot meter viewfinder, and take another meter reading. Again, you need to note these settings or take a photo of them, like this (below). My light was at f/5.6 for a 30th of a second at ISO 160, so it was the same with both the Incident reading and Reflected Spot metering modes. I adjusted the ISO to 160 because the aperture and shutter speeds can only be selected in full stops in the software.

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile - Metering the Light - Reflected

Sekonic L-758D Creating Profile – Metering the Light – Reflected

Once you have the meter readings, with your camera in Manual mode, set the same values on your camera, and note where the exposure indicator is falling with the camera in Spot Metering mode. My camera was reading exactly the same exposure, with the caret on my meter at zero, which means there is no need to calibrate the meter to match my camera. If there was a discrepancy here, I could change my meter in 1/10 of a stop increments to ensure that they are both on the same page, but this was not necessary.

Set a Custom White Balance

We then take a photograph of the gray card side of the Exposure Profile Target II (below) with the metered exposure settings and use that photograph to set a custom white balance in the camera.

Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II Gray Card

Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II Gray Card

After you have your custom white balance set, turn the Exposure Profile Target II around, so that you can see the gray patch side, and check your exposure using the light meter in EV metering mode. You need to turn this on in the custom settings beforehand. Details of how to do this are in the manual.

Ensure Even Light is Falling on the Target

Then, take an Incident light reading with the meter in all four corners of the Target in EV mode. The light falling on the card cannot be any greater than 0.1 EV different across the face of the card. I have a wall behind me on my studio balcony, so I get 10.0 EV on the top of the card, and 9.9 EV at the bottom of the card, but that’s within the acceptable range, so I’ll go with this.

EV Meter Reading of Four Corners of Exposure Profile Target II

EV Meter Reading of Four Corners of Exposure Profile Target II

I found that the Sekonic Data Transfer Software that you use to create the profiles and transfer them to the meter could not handle the full sized 50 megapixel 5Ds R images. I received an error while creating the profile. Also, because you have to feed the software JPEGs and because I didn’t want Lightroom or Photoshop messing with the images, I set my camera to save small high quality JPEGs as well as raw images before I started these test shots, just for the purpose of creating this profile. I left it creating raw as well simply in case I forgot to turn this off again. It would not be good to get back from my next shoot to find that I shot it all in small JPEGs.

I also ensured that the Picture Style on my 5Ds R was set to Neutral before shooting my profile images. I don’t want the camera messing around with the images as it creates my JPEGs from the raw files, so Neutral is a good setting for that.

Shoot Your Profile Images

Once you are ready, and before the light changes, you can now shoot the five images to create an Expanded mode profile. Start with your base settings dialled in with the camera in Manual mode. These are the valued that we read with the meter earlier. My settings were a 30th of a second at f/5.6, ISO 160.

Shoot the first image, and then adjust your shutter speed time making it 4 stops longer. If you have your camera set up to adjust the exposure settings in 1/3 stops, you can just count out 12 clicks, which adjusted my shutter speed from 1/30 of a second to 0.5 seconds, and then shoot your second profile image. Then change the shutter speed a further four stops, which took me to 8 seconds, and shoot a third profile image. Then repeat this for a 4 stop faster shutter speed, which from my base exposure setting gave me 1/500 of a second, for my fourth profile image, and a fifth and final image with a 1/8000 of a second shutter speed.

Five Sekonic L-758D Light Meter Profile Shots

Five Sekonic L-758D Light Meter Profile Shots

As you can see in this image with all five photos merged into one (above) the under and over exposed shots are pretty much useless exposure-wise, but this information is what the software needs to find out just how much dynamic range your camera has, as it creates the profile.

You might also think that with the +/- 8 stop images being so far under and over exposed that we don’t need to do a five image profile, but I tried the three image profile, and it didn’t include the entire dynamic range of the 5Ds R, so I definitely recommend using the five image method if you pick up the newer Exposure Profile Target II.

Sekonic AutoUpdateUtility for El Capitan Support

Note that you can get the latest software from Sekonic’s web site, but at the time that I created this episode/blog post, they do not officially support Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11). I was not able to connect to my meter via USB with the latest version of the software.

However, I found that by running the AutoUpdateUtility in the Sekonic folder that is created when you install the DTS software, the auto-update downloaded what I suppose is an even newer version of the software, which did enable me to connect to the meter and transfer the profile I created. Hopefully this won’t be a problem for long, but if you cannot connect to the meter, try running the AutoUpdateUtility. It might work for you too.

I don’t know if there are similar issues with Windows, but the Web site only states support for up to Windows 8 as of Dec 2015, so Windows may be a little behind as well. When I called the Japan Support team at Sekonic didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about updating the software for the latest OS versions, for this meter at least. They said that they were updating the software for their newer meter with higher priority, although their newer meters are not as good as the L-758D, so I’m hoping that Sekonic changes this stance.

Creating Your Camera Profile

Now that we have the software installed and our five profile photos, it’s time to create the camera profile and transfer it to our light meter. Locate the JPEG images that you shot on your hard drive, and make a copy of these in a new folder on your desktop or somewhere that you can easily navigate to, then start the Sekonic Data Transfer Software. Select the option to Create New Profile in the first dialog, and then select Advanced Mode.

You can pretty much ignore that it says “+/- 10 steps” about Advanced Mode in terms of the images required if you are using the Exposure Profile Target II. After clicking Advanced Mode you’ll see the following dialog (below). Select the Extended mode radio button on the left and select the Exposure Profile Target II if that’s what you have, and click Next.

Sekonic DTS Select Target Dialog

Sekonic DTS Select Target Dialog

On the following screen select Ambient if you are also creating an ambient light profile, and click Next again. The process is very similar if you are creating a profile for Flash. You’ll just need to check the manual for the extra steps involved in setting up to shoot your profile images etc.

Sekonic DTS Select Light Source

Sekonic DTS Select Light Source

In the following screen, select the exposure settings that you either noted down or took a photo of earlier in the process (below). For me, this was ISO 160, Shutter Speed 30, Aperture 5.6 and zero for the 1/10 pulldown. My readings were the same for both Incident and Reflected metering, so I added this to both sets of pull downs, and click Next.

Sekonic DTS Enter Exposure Settings

Sekonic DTS Enter Exposure Settings

On the following screen you’ll be asked to point the software to the folder into which you saved your profile photo JPEGs. Once you show it that folder, you’ll see the following dialog (below). As long as you ensure that your image EXIF Data is not stripped from the images, the software will automatically detect the exposure settings, so you can ignore the Light output Correction Value (EV) field. Just ensure that the green checkbox is on for each image, and click Next.

Sekonic DTS Select Images Dialog

Sekonic DTS Select Images Dialog

In the Analyze Data screen, click each image and ensure that the software finds the registration crosses in each image, or adjust the green + marks as necessary, and ensure that the large green checks are all on, then click Next again.

Sekonic DTS Analyze Data Screen

Sekonic DTS Analyze Data Screen

After analyzing the information in your five profile images, you’ll be presented with a graph similar to this (below). The two green vertical lines represent Sekonic’s idea of where we should place our clipping points, which is where the information in our scene would start clipping, or in other words be under and over exposed. The red vertical lines are to represent the dynamic range of our camera’s sensor. Both of these values are initially way too conservative.

Sekonic DTS Initial Profile Graph

Sekonic DTS Initial Profile Graph

In Ansel Adams’ Zone System, the dynamic range is actually from zone 1 to 9, so zones 0 and 10 are not included, because they were considered too extreme to be useful. The initial dynamic range set by the Sekonic software is closer to this than what is actually useful in modern digital images. We’ll talk more about the Zone System in a follow-up episode, probably next week.

Digital Dynamic Range

For digital, especially if you are exposing to the right when shooting, our useful dynamic range is much closer to the full range from full black to pure white, because there is information being recorded right up to these values that can be used if necessary. So I choose to move both of the dynamic range pointers right out, to span from 0 to 255. I’d actually say that the only values that are truly useless in a well exposed digital image are 0 and 255, so I use these values because I want to see these exact points on my light meter scale.

The clipping points are more subjective, and will be up to you where you put these, but my tests show that I can push my images very close to the digital dynamic range extremes, so I’ve been setting the low clipping points to two stops above total black and the high clipping point to one stop below pure white, as you can see here (below).

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

Sekonic DTS Adjusted Profile Graph

If you shoot additional ISOs or Flash light source profile images as well, you can add these to the profile from this dialog, but if you keep your JPEGs you can play with that later too, so for now, click Save. I already have a profile at ISO 100, so I called this one “Canon EOS 5Ds R ISO 160” for now.

I actually found that adding multiple ISOs to the same profile leaves you with some funky settings showing up on the meter in between the two ISO settings, so I’ve not loaded any multi-ISO profiles to my meter at this point. If you use single ISO profiles the dynamic range and clipping points remain the same across all ISO and I think I’d rather see that as opposed to the funkiness I was seeing.

Transferring Profiles to the L-758D Light Meter

Sekonic Transfer Profile to L-758D

Sekonic Transfer Profile to L-758D

With your L-758D turned off, plug in the USB cable that it comes with, and you should then see the meter connect in the Data Transfer Software. Select the profile or profiles that you’d like to transfer and add them to the right Selected Profile list, and then when you’re ready, click the Transfer to Light Meter button.

You can also edit your profiles from this dialog, and change your clipping points etc. You could even create both an aggressive and conservative profile from the same profile data, and transfer different copies of the profile to your meter for comparison.

Note that when you start editing existing profiles, the clipping and dynamic range settings are saved separately for Incident and Reflected meter modes. You may actually want to set these differently, and these are displayed accordingly as you switch between these modes on the light meter, but if you want them to be the same, ensure to modify both settings in your profile before transferring it to the meter.

Turn the power of the meter off before disconnecting it, but once you have your profiles loaded, you are ready to go have some fun with your new profile loaded to the L-758D light meter.

So What’s the Dynamic Range of the 5Ds R?

Well, my ISO 100 profile shows me a total dynamic range of 11.5 stops (-7.1 to 3.4 EV), and my ISO 160 profile shows me 11.9 stops (-7.4 to 3.5 EV). If I’d made both of these profile under exactly the same light, with exactly the same exposure settings, I’d be thinking that I have more dynamic range at the higher ISO, and that may be the case, but DxO Mark have the 5Ds R dynamic range at 12.4, larger than both of my profiles, so I’m not going to get too hung up on this.

It does mean though, that my current profiles, even with the dynamic range set right out at 0 to 255, is perhaps still a little bit on the conservative side, but we’ll look at an example from the field and check these values in Photoshop in a follow up episode, probably next week.

Do keep in mind that I’m talking about the full range of values captured when I use the term dynamic range here, not Ansel Adams’ definition of the term. In the follow up episode to this week’s post, I’ll talk a little more about the Zone System, and how we can analyze our scenes and images to get the most out of our camera’s digital dynamic range.


Show Notes

Sekonic L-758DR : https://mbp.ac/Sekonic-L-758DR

Sekonic Exposure Profile Target II: https://mbp.ac/ept2

Sekonic DTS (Data Transfer Software) : https://mbp.ac/sekonicDTS

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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