Advice on using a lightmeter

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#1
Well seeing as I am imminently buying some studio lights from Lencarta :) and I have found a blinding studio to use in Nelson :) and I saw Rob Ashton selling his Sekonic L-385 I thought I better buy it!

Now having never used a lightmeter has anyone got any hints or tips etc when using one - ideally for this model!
 
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#2
There's an old guy on YouTube who should be able to confuse you:) with his video

Not the same model, but it really doesn't matter
 
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#4
Just remember there is a tollerance within light meters, so straight out the box you may not get a great exposure, also remember to point the meter at the light source and have it as close as possible to subject :)
 
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#5
bryan elliott said:
Just remember there is a tollerance within light meters, so straight out the box you may not get a great exposure, also remember to point the meter at the light source and have it as close as possible to subject :)
Not necessarily, I meter towards the camera
 
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#6
As I explained in the video, if the camera is fairly close to the light it makes no real difference whether you point it at the camera or the light, unless the meter is fitted with a flat receptor. Most meters have a dome receptor and the dome reads light from 180 degrees.
 
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#7
Garry Edwards said:
As I explained in the video, if the camera is fairly close to the light it makes no real difference whether you point it at the camera or the light, unless the meter is fitted with a flat receptor. Most meters have a dome receptor and the dome reads light from 180 degrees.
Must admit, I didn't watch it.

I always meter the key light facing the camera and meter additional lights (to get ratios) facing the other light sources, so I use both.
 
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#8
See I just dont get why someone would meter back to camera, as unless you pure petrol over your camera and light it, the camera isn't giving out light : D , I'd say meter to the light and meter each light individually, so you know what each light is going :top:
 
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#9
See I just dont get why someone would meter back to camera, as unless you pure petrol over your camera and light it, the camera isn't giving out light : D , I'd say meter to the light and meter each light individually, so you know what each light is going :top:
It's not so much measuring the light coming from the camera, but measuring the light falling on the part of the subject facing the camera, as that is what will be photographed.
 
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#10
bryan elliott said:
See I just dont get why someone would meter back to camera, as unless you pure petrol over your camera and light it, the camera isn't giving out light : D , I'd say meter to the light and meter each light individually, so you know what each light is going :top:
That's fine when your key light is near on camera axis. Try it when you're shooting with just side or rear flash lighting...with only bounce or ambient lighting your subjects face.

For example, a back lit natural light portrait with the sun behind your subject, would you seriously meter from the back of their head towards the sun?

Careful consideration of all techniques are best to meter properly. Your camera records the image by the reflected light hitting the sensor or film. Your camera!
 
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#12
Michael Sewell said:
Oddly enough, I would still meter the part of the subject I would wish to photograph (her face), as I eluded to in my post above.
I see little point in metering the back of the subjects head if she were facing the camera.
We're both making exactly the same point there Michael. "would you serious meter from the back of the models head towards the sun?" had a subtle hint of sarcasm.

Of course you would meter the models face...
 
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#13
We're both making exactly the same point there Michael. "would you serious meter from the back of the models head towards the sun?" had a subtle hint of sarcasm.

Of course you would meter the models face...
I know, and that's why I changed my post. It was only after I posted I realised you weren't replying to me.

I think it would be fair to say I'm an arse! :bonk:
 
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#17
Mahoneyd187 said:
That's fine when your key light is near on camera axis. Try it when you're shooting with just side or rear flash lighting...with only bounce or ambient lighting your subjects face.

For example, a back lit natural light portrait with the sun behind your subject, would you seriously meter from the back of their head towards the sun?

Careful consideration of all techniques are best to meter properly. Your camera records the image by the reflected light hitting the sensor or film. Your camera!
That's different, because your now talking about accent lighting, which isn't your main light, although I would probably still meter it and make a decision. Based on the 2 readings :) although I'd still want to light it, propably :D
 
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#18
The op wants info on using a light meter when using flash. I don't see anything there to state flash as the sole source, or reference to only ever using one light in any shots.

You can't categorically say it's wrong to meter towards the camera, then say, well, its different if you're using accent lights, different if you're shooting a back lit shot, different if metering mixed with ambient and so on....

What I personally do, it's not right or wrong, it's how it works for me, is meter key, fill, and background lighting towards the camera. I meter hair, rim, side etc to the light, because it's just plain easier to do that. For natural light exposures I either take a single incident reading from the subjects face, towards the camera, or spot meter off a highlight on their skin and add 1 stop (depending on skin tone), from camera position.

I don't use an LCD screen to check my exposure, I don't have one, I rely on being able to meter without bracketing my shots
 
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#19
Some very good points above.
What I personally do, most of the time when shooting digital is...
If the light is more or less in front of the subject I point the meter at the camera (because, as I've already said and explained in my video, the dome receptor accepts light from 180 degrees so it doesn't matter if the light isn't too close to the camera).

If the light is at a fairly extreme angle but still in front of the subject, I point the meter towards the light.

If it's a backlight, rimlight, hairlight etc behind the subject then I don't meter it at all, because the 'right' exposure is subjective and I can see whether or not I like the effect on the LCD screen.

But if I'm shooting on film, metering it and interpreting whether or not the level of power is right isn't optional.
 
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#20
Sorry miss read your post :D, if I was using flash to back light the subject and ambient as key, then I'd meter the ambient first , towards the light Source, then with this info I'd decide on how powerful I'm wanting my backlight and meter that and adjust until it's what I want,

That's fine if you want to meter towards camera, I just dont get why ??? , why point a light meter at something that doesn't give of light!
 
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#21
Cheers for the replies I get it I think!

Now with the L-385 it has a retractable dome I think for measuring individual light sources or raised for measuring from model towards camera - does that sound right?

I think this is going to test my understanding of exposure as I have used av mode most the time and stuck around the aperures I know.

What I am trying to get my head around is this...

Say I have person by a window with flash inside the room.

I take a measurement from side by window and meter the other side. say window measures f8 and inside the other side measures f4 how do I figure out the correct exposure?!? Or do I just add light experimentally with the flash to get it the exposure in a certain range....

Or do I just meter from under the subject chin towards camera and use that?
 
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#22
Because the camera records the light. That's how a photograph is created regardless of what format you shoot. You want to see and understand what the camera sees before you press the shutter button. Take everything else out of the equation, the image comes from what the sensor/neg is exposed to.

Nobody's saying you're totally wrong, but you're saying the way I/we meter is wrong. God forbid we bring a spot meter onto the equation....you'll be pointing that at the bloody lights too!
 
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#23
There's no need to get sarky, I just dont get the way you meter, as you could potentially blow highlights etc, meter towards your light and look to see where it's falling simple
 
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#25
Image Warrior said:
Cheers for the replies I get it I think!

Now with the L-385 it has a retractable dome I think for measuring individual light sources or raised for measuring from model towards camera - does that sound right?

I think this is going to test my understanding of exposure as I have used av mode most the time and stuck around the aperures I know.

What I am trying to get my head around is this...

Say I have person by a window with flash inside the room.

I take a measurement from side by window and meter the other side. say window measures f8 and inside the other side measures f4 how do I figure out the correct exposure?!? Or do I just add light experimentally with the flash to get it the exposure in a certain range....

Or do I just meter from under the subject chin towards camera and use that?
Alot depends on what you want to achieve!, forget flash for a minute. The closer your subject is to the window light the quicker the drop of light will be, so you have a subject, next to a window, it measures f8, and the other side is f4 that's 2 stops of a difference , so u you shoot at f8 the background will be dark and depending on your lighting pattern you may have some of your subject in darkness, but if you shoot f4 or even f5.6 you will have burnt highlights , so it I'll depend on what you want to achieve. Say there's a painting in the background that you want in the picture, simply move your subject away from the light, so say it meters f5.6 I'd shoot at that, making sure Ive got a good lighting pattern on subjects face etc, thus will also give a nice ratio and pleasant image
 
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#26
There's no need to get sarky, I just dont get the way you meter, as you could potentially blow highlights etc, meter towards your light and look to see where it's falling simple
Sorry, but you're wrong.
If you meter towards the light then you theoretically get a true reading of the output of that light, but if the camera is in a different position to the light then less light will reach the camera. Read up on cosine law if you want to understand the theory.
So, if you want the exposure to be closer to correct, point the meter towards the camera, because it's the amount of light that reaches the camera, not the amount of light that reaches the meter, that matters.

Some people believe that it's best to point the meter midway between camera and light, and they may be right - if using a flat receptor. But as I keep saying, it normally makes very little difference when using a dome receptor.
 
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#27
Garry Edwards said:
Sorry, but you're wrong.
If you meter towards the light then you theoretically get a true reading of the output of that light, but if the camera is in a different position to the light then less light will reach the camera. Read up on cosine law if you want to understand the theory.
So, if you want the exposure to be closer to correct, point the meter towards the camera, because it's the amount of light that reaches the camera, not the amount of light that reaches the meter, that matters.

Some people believe that it's best to point the meter midway between camera and light, and they may be right - if using a flat receptor. But as I keep saying, it normally makes very little difference when using a dome receptor.
Sorry Garry, but again I'll have to disagree , it's all ifs and butts isn't it. I said potentally, if you have a light source that hasn't been properly metered then you could potentally blow that highlight.
 
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#28
Sorry Garry, but again I'll have to disagree , it's all ifs and butts isn't it. I said potentally, if you have a light source that hasn't been properly metered then you could potentally blow that highlight.
OK - so you're saying that the laws of physics don't apply to photography...
I think we'd best leave it there:crying:
 
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#30
bryan elliott said:
Sorry Garry, but again I'll have to disagree , it's all ifs and butts isn't it. I said potentally, if you have a light source that hasn't been properly metered then you could potentally blow that highlight.
Garry is very qualified to give the correct information on this subject, if you choose not to listen that's fine, of course its your right to disregard advice, but it is good advice. Shooting the way you shoot without being open to acknowledge that something you are doing could be improved upon is narrow minded.
 
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#31
So I'm narrow minded now :eek:

It it works for you great, I dont get it, so I'll stick to what I do know.

Anyway this has turned into an argument now, and I'm not into arguing. So I'm saying no more on the subject .
 
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#32
Thanks for all the input, some good points made!

Now, I wasn't specifically talking about using flash originally, but I guess using a lightmeter in general for portraits of individuals and groups in various situations be it inside or out, using flash or not.

Now from the comments here and video's online I am best metering from under the subjects chin using the dome as this will capture light falling on the subject or subjects from 180 degrees.

If I am lighting the background this doesn't matter I can light it how I like I don't need to meter it so why when lighting white backgrounds do I see people metering them?
 
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#33
I'm not sure where the chin comes into this... Hold the meter as close as possible to the part of the subject that is most important in terms of exposure - normally the face - and point it towards the camera.

You should meter the background to find out how much effect the lighting will have on it, because if you want it to be pure white it needs to be around 0.7 of a stop brighter than the main subject - anything between about .5 stop and 1 stop is usually OK.

You should meter the background by reflected light for accurate results, not by incident light - and the opposite for the subject.
 
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#35
Garry Edwards said:
I'm not sure where the chin comes into this... Hold the meter as close as possible to the part of the subject that is most important in terms of exposure - normally the face - and point it towards the camera.

You should meter the background to find out how much effect the lighting will have on it, because if you want it to be pure white it needs to be around 0.7 of a stop brighter than the main subject - anything between about .5 stop and 1 stop is usually OK.

You should meter the background by reflected light for accurate results, not by incident light - and the opposite for the subject.
Get your point re the chin! Just everyone seems to put it there in the videos! Do I have to use my camera to get the reflected light then before my subjects get positioned or will my lightmeter do it? Do I just point the dome at the background?
 
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#36
Get your point re the chin! Just everyone seems to put it there in the videos! Do I have to use my camera to get the reflected light then before my subjects get positioned or will my lightmeter do it? Do I just point the dome at the background?
You can meter the background using incident light - just put the meter up against the background, making sure that you're not blocking any light on it, with the dome facing the camera - it will work well enough. But to get accurate results you need a reflective reading, which will take account of the shade of the background, which means that (with enough power) you can get it white even if it starts off off-white, grey or even black. To do that, you need to either remove the dome or slide it out the way, depending on the model.

Using the camera meter won't work, it can't read flash.
 
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#37
FWIW, I'm with Garry on this one. Although I hardly ever bother with a meter with digital, they do have their uses and I might point it at the light, or the camera, somewhere inbetween, or against the background - it depends!

That aside, I always set the final exposure off the LCD, with reference to the histogram and particularly paying close attention to blinkies. That's what matters, what's actually on the sensor, and bearing in mind that the whole concept of 'correct' exposure is something of a moveable feast, in the final analysis any meter reading needs a fair amount of interpretation anyway.

With film, you use your best experience and make a calculated estimate - and then bracket it! With digital, the ultimate and very accurate answer is right there in front of you. You'd be daft to ignore that in favour of any meter reading.
 
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#38
Hoppy I understand what you are saying but surely when you say that you would be daft not to rely on the camera you are then relying on reflected light?

For me I want remove the guesswork and chimping and as much of the pp work. I use custom wb most of the time and want to make sure my exposures are bang on also.
 
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#39
Image Warrior said:
Hoppy I understand what you are saying but surely when you say that you would be daft not to rely on the camera you are then relying on reflected light?

For me I want remove the guesswork and chimping and as much of the pp work. I use custom wb most of the time and want to make sure my exposures are bang on also.
Let me start by saying good for you!

Learning to use a meter properly doesn't mean you always have to use it. :) it's a skill, enjoy developing it
 
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#40
Cheers! I understand I will not need to use it all the time but I think it will help me learn more. With digital I find I use the meter but I dont really acknowledge it if that makes sense.

I can't look at a scene and say that will be around f8 1/125 ISO 100 I rely on my camera way too much. I tried using film but its quite costly now and as much as I mean to review my settings I tend to do the pp and move on. This way I will have to think about my exposures more.

It will probably slow me down at first which might be a good thing and hopefully be a nice way to explain to clients what I am doing and why and also enable me to enter their space comfortably making the rest if the shoot easier too..

I think this video explains what I am trying to do! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXxhXofalmE&feature=youtube_gdata_player
 
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