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The Best And Worst Parts About Using Light Meters + How To Not Use One

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Feb 28

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Why Use A Light Meter?

Light meters can provide an accurate reading on how much light your strobes are putting out, which will help you to better expose your images. There are a few things that you should keep in mind when using them, and we cover all the important stuff in this episode.

We also cover what to do if you don’t have a light meter (which is most of us)

Today’s Episode Timeline

  • 0:50 -Last week’s episode
  • 1:30 – Intro the light meter I use
  • 2:30 – Why I chose the light meter I have
  • 4:00 – why you can’t use a camera’s light meter to measure flash
  • 5:00- The problem with using a light meter
  • 6:45- using the spot meter on the light meter
  • 7:30- different surfaces reflect light differently
  • 8:40- photographing a dark object
  • 10:20- How to take this info and apply it to your work!
  • 11:30- Chimping (not using a light meter)
  • 14:00- Why getting your exposure right is important
  • 15:00- This week’s contest!

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  • Guest

     I agree with Elias. It makes no sense that the reflected light is actually more intense than the light source. You should still use f16 even though the reflected light reading tells you smth else, unless your intentions are to make general ambient light readings or maybe other specific cases, but then, of course, you can use your camera. The whole idea about having a photometer nowadays is to measure incident light. and if you take a photo of your face at f16, of course, it will be brighter (as Elias pointed out), but you will not loose detail.

  • Guest

    g

  • http://caiok.com/ Caio Kauffmann

    I agree with Elias. It makes no sense that the reflected light is
    actually more intense than the light source. You should still use f16
    even though the reflected light reading tells you smth else, unless your
    intentions are to make general ambient light readings or maybe other
    specific cases, but then, of course, you can use your camera. The whole
    idea about having a photometer nowadays is to measure incident light.
    and if you take a photo of your face at f16, of course, it will be
    brighter (as Elias pointed out), but you will not loose detail.

  • Cristian Ardelean

    video is freezing on min 4:25

  • http://twitter.com/aperitive aperitive

    Hey Aaron, Will in Raleigh =)
    When using my L-358 and shooting landscapes (you know, those old dark factories, schools, and crap I crawl around in) on medium format film (Gasp! Film!) I find I take a number of readings and divide them by their stops.
    Take this morning. I was shooting in an abandoned elementary school near Fayetteville, and there were streaks of light cutting across a darkened hallway. Ambient readings show f/2.8 at 1/2 second in the light areas, and f/2.8 at 4 seconds in the darkened area. Split between the three.five stop difference (1 second, 2 second, 4 second) tells me that a baseline exposure of 2 second will ball-park my exposure, giving details in both lit and unlit areas.
    I had a model there a few weeks ago, in the same hallway, and as it was brighter, I found an exposure of 1/100th at f/8 really good for dark ambient lighting, and then strobed her for 1/100th at f/1.2 to get a good pop. Below is her image, shot with the 85mm f/1.2 L on the 5DMKII
    Keep up the great work,. sorry I’ve not been around as of late, just been really busy…

    Will

  • Randell J

    Totally agree with you gents, PHLearn is a great photoshop learning resource but I think this video will send a lot of people off in the wrong direction. Changing your camera settings depending on the reflective qualities of the surface being photographed actually negates the point in using a flash meter in the first place. 
    The only thing I will say is that the direction that the dome is pointed will make a difference in the registered reading depending on if the light meter is pointed towards the strobe or back to the camera. 
    There are two schools of thought on this, personally when shooting digital I prefer the light meters dome pointing directly at key light. This helps to stop getting localised blown highlights on the skin – especially if the skin is a little oily.

  • Marek K Nowak

    “Put in manual mode, you’ll just have to guess on your aperture…”

    Why not put the camera in shutter priority mode, and it will tell the proper aperture right away?

  • Marek K Nowak

    Ah, never mind, I realized that his strobes are set on manual power too.

    I used the Phottix Odin flash trigger with speedlites, so that they are in TTL, and the power is adjusted automatically based on the camera settings.

  • http://www.flexiblevision.com Roman

    Light meter doesn’t tell you how set up camera. Light meter just measure the light. It is your decision how you want to use the light in your image.
    If you will measure middle gray(incident mode) you will have “technically correctly” exposed image and your light skin will be light(not overexposed) or darker skin will be darker(not underexposed).
    The spot meter is like a spot meter in the camera, but it is more precise and allows to measure flash.
    You can use spot meter to may sure that black will be black or highlights will not be clipped.
    Especially with L758 you can check if everything is within dynamic range, thanks to the memory function.
    E.g.
    -for studio.
    Measure key light (incident mode)hidden Lumisphere. Press memory.
    Measure fill light and it will show you how many stops you are under (or over) with your fill. And than you can adjust the fill for specific ratio.
    -for landscape
    Measure (spot meter) darkest spot were you still want to see details. Press memory.
    Measure (spot) brightest spot where you want to see details. Press memory.
    Switch to incident metering mode and measure the light from sun(or sky if overcast). Press mid.tone.
    Now press AVE. button to find exposure setting which will allow you to include the most info in the image.
    In case of very high dynamic range you can decide if you care more about shadows or highlights details. Or If you need to use ND grad filter.(this technique probably will not work with JPEG so shoot RAW) 

    Or you can fire 20 brackets and hope one will be good. To bed if the one overexposed will have something interesting going on but will not be useable;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/owen.lloyd.963 Owen Lloyd

    Elias is right. Put a dark skinned model next to a light skinned model and meter using incident metering – both will be correctly exposed. http://www.frankdoorhof.com/site/tag/lightmeter/

  • erikkellar

    All cameras and meters do is measure everything or all light to 18% grey. You still have to think about where you want your values. This video totaly skipped over what everything in photography is balanced at. Once you know that you can balance all the light depending on the reflective value of the surface and your desired out come.

  • gary alan

    I dont understand your explanation of the light meter in regards on how to use it. Respectively your not understanding the averaging function correctly.

    You measured your face at f 16 incident then you measured it reflectively at f 25, in my mind these are the same exposures as your skin is very bright and reflective and the meter averaged in to 18% grey under exposing it by around two stops. To get the right exposure you would in turn need to open up 2 stops to get back to around f 16, making your incident reading true.
    Likewise when you measured the black cloth, the reflective metering averaged it to 18% grey, black being very dark it would be over exposed by around 3 stops, you would then need to open up three stops to expose those blacks accurately, f 5.6 to f16 is three stops. Does that make sence?

  • Paul

    I agree wit gary alan. With all due respect, this tutorial is not correct. This is not how light meters work. By your argument you can never shoot a black person with a white person in the same photo! The reflective method is not correct as its surface dependent. The surface (like white or black skin) is never consistent. The incident approach makes sure that its 18% grey all the time, which means your white skin color would show up lighter at F16 than the F25 you say is right. At F26, your white skin would be dark (at 18% grey).

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