logo

Light meter to do or not to do…..

I get a lot of questions about this so I decided to would maybe be time to dedicate a blog post to our good friend the light meter.
Yeah you probably already know where I stand in this “debate” that has been raging over the internet ever since we have cameras with the instant polaroids on the back, the light meter has done it’s work and can now be retired is a trend you hear more and more. In this blog post I will “try” to tell you why this is not true and why the light meter is of vital importance for your work, and also share some tips on buying the correct one.

 

Let’s start simple
Let’s first make sure that the idea that the light meter is something like a voodoo device is out of the way, and no the light meter is also not hard to use or to understand. Even a 12 year old could use the meter and understand what it does. What we have to make clear is that the light meter in fact is a very simple device, it gives you the value of light in a certain situation. I don’t say hitting it for a reason…..

 

Incident
The first option you have with a light meter is incident readings.
These readings are (for model photography) done with the dome, you aim the meter under the chin of the model towards the light source and trigger the strobe. The light hitting the meter will be read and the meter will give you a value, now set the camera for this value and your getting a correct exposure.

 

Reflective
Some meters will have a so called spotmeter and some meters will do reflective measurements with for example the dome pushed away (or taken off), check your manual to see what your meter does. With reflective you don’t aim towards the light source but you aim for example to the background, you will get a value and this value will give you the value for 18% gray, in other words when I measure a white background reflective and I get a measurement of F8 and I shoot on F8 the background will be rendered as 18% gray.

 

Wow Frank, it can’t be that easy?
Well actually it is, but……..
As always there are some buts and problems that CAN appear when you don’t understand how to use the meter, let’s pick some of them and explain what’s going on.

 

Why measure towards the light source?
There are two opinions among photographers about this.
One will say “Always measure towards the camera”
The other will say “Always measure towards the light source”
As you have read I’m in the last category.
And it’s very easy to explain, and to be honest I really don’t know why the first rule is still taught in some schools and books.

When we measure the light source to set the camera, we need a value of the light hitting our subject. The dome as you can see is round shaped so one would expect that light will hit the dome anytime, but in real live situations this is not true. You can try this very easily at home.
Setup your light behind the camera and mount your meter on a stand, now measure the light hitting the meter.
Now move the light source to a slightly more angled position (but keep the distance to the light meter exactly the same, you can use a string or rope for this), the more you move your light source to the sides the more the meter will “drift” from that first measurement. So in other words the distance is equal but still the meter says there is less light hitting it, this is impossible because the inverse square law dictates that light hitting a subject from a certain distance should remain constant and that only when the distance is changed the light will change…….

Now there will be people claiming that this is normal and one should keep measuring towards the camera what ever I or someone else tell you, for those people let’s do the following test. Instead of mounting your light meter to a stand, change this to a real life model. The first image you shoot is from straight from the camera. Now you take several images from different angles (you move your light to different positions, but keep the distance the same), when you measure towards the camera you will see you have to open up more and more and the skin tone of your model will in fact get lighter and lighter. When we arrive in a 90 degree angle the model will be way too light, and when me move beyond the 90 degree point the meter will give you a result that will probably read EU (not within range).

One could of course argue that this is still the correct way to measure but for me it’s clear as day that my model doesn’t change skin tone/exposure in a few seconds so if my meter tells me she does my meter must be wrong (or I’m using it the wrong way).

 

18% vs 12% gray
Actually I don’t want to go into this debat but I have to because it’s something that a lot of people will hold against me if I don’t :-)
According to some 18% gray is middle gray, according to some 12% is middle gray.
The reality is that in MY workflow (ProfotoRGB) and the gamma that belongs to that colorspace when I calibrate my light meter to 18% gray ALL my exposures are spot on, and when I use 12% they aren’t. In reality however this is not a real issue and I’ve seen some very technical papers that claim very simple that 12% gray is middle gray, but I’ve also seen papers on why 18% gray is middle gray. In this topic I would like to RECOMMEND to use 18% gray, but if you find in your workflow that 12% works best, all the power to you…. in the end when we calibrate the meter (more on this later) it should be so that when we use the meter the exposure slider should NOT be touched anymore, this is done in the camera with the meter and in the RAW convertor that slider should remain locked on zero. IF you find the need to change this, you have a problem with your meter or metering technique. (later more on calibrating the meter).

 

There are so many settings and options, which to use?
Actually this is much more simpler than one would expect.
What you will find in most situations is that you will use the following modes :

 

Ambiant light (sun)
We use this outside to measure constant light (or in the studio with constant light).
You can select to measure the shutter speed with a set aperture or you can measure the aperture with a set shutter speed.
Understanding how light works and the limits of your camera (sync at 1/125 for example for “big flash”) you can with a light meter very easily measure a scene and determine if you need more or less light from the strobes.

For example.
We measure sunlight hitting our scene at F8 on a shutter speed of 1/125 and we want to fight the sun, we than know that we will need more light on our model, let’s say at least F16 (depending on the level of fighting the sun). DO remember however with this example that when the sun hits the model not straight on but from the side you have to measure towards the sun, and later towards the strobes.
When using flash outside I however always advise to start the shutter speed at 1/60 when measuring. This way you can very quickly take away light by raising the shutter speed to 1/125 for example. When you want to use flash as fill start measuring at 1/125 and you can get more ambiant light by lowering the shutter speed. This sounds difficult but when you start playing with strobes and ambiant light it will all become very clear quickly.

 

Strobes
For strobes there are often 2 settings (sometimes 3 when using radio triggers).
The first is often the CABLE setting.
Connect a cable to your meter and strobe, press the button and the measurement is done. A good solution if you hate your strobes and want new ones, just let someone trip over the wire and voila you can finally upgrade to those great Elinchrom strobes.

The second setting (which I really advise to use) is the strobe without cable.
In this case you press the button on the meter and manually trigger the strobes. The meter will recognise the burst of light and measure this. You can use for example an extra trigger that you carry with you (the same as on the camera). Some people have even build in skyports on the cable release into their meters, but I still just use an extra trigger.

 

That’s it? is that really all?
Well yes and no (you felt that one coming right?)
The thing that’s really important when using a meter is the setting for the measurement steps. I personally prefer the whole fstops setting. This means that the meter will give me values in full fstops with 1/10 increments. For example F4.3 which means 1/3 stop higher than F4.
Some people will prefer the 1/3rd stop setting which will give you results like F7.1 of F14, this is personal, I know my f stops and prefer the most accurate reading and because most modern strobes can also be set in 1/10th stops I prefer this setting.

 

Calibrating the meter
You buy a meter and spend app $400.00 on it, so you should be able to use it,….. right?
Nope. Sorry.
This is I think one of the reasons why people don’t “trust” their meters.
The first of course being not knowing how to measure (towards the light source), the second however is that calibration.
What you do with the calibration is making sure that your camera and meter talk the same language. In fact your NOT calibrating the meter itself (that is often perfect) you’re calibrating the combination of meter and camera (and lens). And funny enough it’s VERY easy to do.

Start up the software you do your work in, for example Photoshop or Aperture or Capture One.
Now setup an 18% graycard and light this with a large light source under a straight angle.
Take a shot and import this into YOUR workflow, don’t convert the file, treat it as you do you normal images. Now go to the gray area you measured on and make sure that the values on that area is around 128.128.128 (first do the colorbalance with the colorbalance picker). Don’t sweat it if your not hitting the numbers exact, but don’t settle for 120 or 140 it has to be around 128, the close the better.

When you’re not hitting that point, change the “offset” of the meter.
Start carefully with 1/10 and do the whole setup again (measure the light, change the light to hit your Fstop, and import the image).

It will vary per meter how you can adjust this.
For most Sekonics it’s pressing the two ISO buttons and you can change the offset with the dial.

 

PANIC MOMENT !!!!! my meter doesn’t have that option, throw it away ?
Nope, although you can’t calibrate it to perfection all hope is not lost yet.
You can of course play with your ISO, let’s say that ISO100 F8 is rendering the values too high.
You can set your meter on ISO80 and do the same measurement again, you will have to lower the light now to hit the F8.
When importing that image you will have to decide which one is closest, in the future you will now that when the camera is set on ISO100 you will have to measure for example on ISO80 or ISO125. Remember those old time photographers that marked some lenses with -2/10 or +2/10 ? they actually did the same when lenses would be darker. Luckily today we don’t have that problem anymore with most lenses.

 

But Frank, why not just use the histogram?
Sorry to burst your bubble but the histogram on your camera is useless for anything else than just showing off to your friends. Well ok it has some uses but not when we talk about being correct and constant. I can explain this to you with a very simple example.
Let’s take two models, one very light skinned and one very dark.
Now tell me where in the histogram both should be (but tell me exact).
You see ?
The histogram is nice to show you how the tonal distribution of a shot is, but it tells you nothing about if a skintone is 100% correctly rendered, and to be complete it doesn’t even tell you everything about your RAW, the histogram is build from the JPEG tumbnail… if you set the contrast to high it will clip while in the RAW there is still enough white detail, due to the fact that the contrast only works on the JPEG’s and video in the camera.
The light meter will give you an exact value and when the model comes back in 1-2 weeks it will again, and again and again, so whenever you shoot the model the skintone will be accurate for that moment.

 

Ok so what about using the spotmeter to measure skin?
I’ve heard this before indeed and to be honest for me it’s in the category, not knowing what it does and how to use the meter.
Using a spotmeter on the skin will give you a value where the skin will be rendered as middle gray… and we don’t want this of course.

 

So when do we use spotmetering?
Spotmetering is without a doubt one of the most powerful tools you can have.
With the spotmeter you can very quickly calculate the backgrounds. Aim it at a background and you will be able to render it white or black…… this is done by a simple rule that for most cameras 2.5 stops over will render something white and 4.5 stops under will render something black. (this will vary when cameras have more dynamic range, for example my MF camera needs 3 stops for pure white). The nice thing about this, is that it doesn’t matter if we use a white or gray background, the calculation is the same.
You can also use the spotmeter very easily to make sure there is still detail in certain parts of the image (shadows or highlights) with model photography you can of course also do this with the incident meter readings, just make sure you keep the dynamic range of 2.5 over and 4.5 under into consideration.

 

Hummm, I always measure my white background towards the strobes and add…X stops
Well sorry you are wrong, but don’t worry about 70% of the people that use a light meter do this (maybe even more). When you start to realize how a meter works you already know this is wrong. You are in fact taking an incident meter reading in front of a white background, so the meter gives you F8, when you now shoot on F8 the background should be rendered as pure white for the simple reason that this is what the meter does in the incident mode. Of course you can add some light (I mostly advise 1/3 stop) to make sure that there are no light fall off corners or other problems with the background, but adding 2 or even more stops will make the background go “nuclear” and blow out everything in front of it like the sides of your model, remember those lost hairs or very blocky details in the hair ? Well when you use the meter the correct way, it should be possible to see all the hairs on your models arm in front of a white background.

 

Ok I’m sold now which one to get?
Believe it or not but I’m not (yet) sponsored by any light meter brand so my advise is REALLY unbiased.
I personally love the Sekonic meter.
My own personal favorite is the Sekonic 758 meter. It can store 3 cameras with calibrations and it has a good spotmeter, the meter also supports all the modes I need and it’s a good build device, it’s not cheap but do remember a light meter is the most important thing in my opinion and will survive your camera upgrades and lens upgrades with a wide margin. When choosing a meter do remember that a spot attachment is best when it has a smaller viewing area, I love the 1-2% spots, don’t fall into the trap of the 20-25% reflective meters, when you are in front of your model aiming at the background over her shoulder that one doesn’t bring you far, the 1% spots are awesome for that.

Spot attachement

There are of course other brands like Kenko (Minolta) and Gossen.
I would however always advise to get a meter with a spot option, you can buy an Spot attachment for Sekonic L358 for example but this brings the price very close to the 758. The following meter would be good alternatives in my opinion, but to be honest I would just go for the 758.

Kenko KFM-2100

If you’re on a budget you can also go for the Sekonic 558 which is very good meter, but has to be found second hand online.

 

Conclusion
For most the light meter is something from the past.
For most the light meter is not necessary
For some, time spend in Photoshop is no biggy
For most the light meter is a device that doesn’t work for their “style”
For some…… the light meter is a tool they can never work without.

We all have heard the remarks that a light meter is “ok” but it doesn’t fit “their” style, or it “limits” the workflow…. to be honest this is total (you know what). When you understand how the meter works, and as you have read in this blog post it REALLY is no rocket science, you have a very valuable tool that can very quickly give you accurate exposures and help you to limit your Photoshop work very much. Just imagine not needing to use the exposure slider, not needing to use fill light because you measured it on the scene and knew you needed to add just a little bit of light in that area…. etc. etc.

And limiting creativity ?
Well no, it gives you more creativity. It will however make sure that ALL your exposures are correct and that you don’t have to struggle to get the “look” of a model consistant over a period of time, when you look at my work I always play with color and with exposures, but my BASE is always the same, what I do after that is a CHOICE instead of a FORCED option, if you know what I mean.

I hope you’re still reading, or already ordering the light meter of your choice.
Trust me…. you will love using the meter and if you don’t get it, or want to ask a question, feel free to do so.

At Photoshop World in Vegas I will be teaching a seminar where there is also some attention to the meter, so check that out.
If you like what we do here, and want to support the blog please buy from our affiliate companies by following the links or the links below.

 

 

Share
  • Share
  • http://twitter.com/ozthekeymaster Chris Rowe

    Brilliant and informative post as usual Frank (wouldn’t have expected anything less!). I’ve watched lots of your videos on Kelby and it made me dig out my light meter and start using it – and show the students in my high school classes too! ……and now I’m confused!nnThe section “I always measure my white background towards the strobes and addu2026X stops” part has made me doubt how I measure/set up for shooting on a pure white background. We do a lot of family shoots with 3-5 people (I work in a school and we run family shoots for our students families) so is the following correct?nThree light setup – For example Medium Octa on model(s) and two heads with 135 degree reflectors firing across the background and aimed at the opposite sides. Camera (5D Mk2) at F11 and 160th 100ISO. Lightmeter (Polaris 5) set to read flash and held by someone in the centre of the group pointing at Octa. Adjust light power/distance until it read f11. So far so good (I think). This is where I’m now not sure..nnTo get the background white I set both background strobes to the same value (same make/model of strobes). I keep the meter on reading flash, hold it next to the centre of the background with the dome pointing at the camera and take a reading. Do the same nearer the left and right of the background and adjust the strobe positions to get as even a reading as possible across the background. Then adjust the power of the strobes until I get an even reading of f16.5 (i.e. 1.5 stops above the main flash). nnHave I got any of that right and if not ….HELP!!!nnThanks a million for your work trying to educate we lesser morals!nnAll your bases are belong to you.nnChris RowenEssex, UK

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Hi,nRemember what you are doing.nYou’re measuring INCIDENT, meaning you measure for the CORRECT exposure of the subject BEHIND the meter.nnIn this case it’s of no use to add 1.5 stops.nIf you use a white background in fact 0 stops would do the trick, because you are exposing for a white background, so if the meter says f11 the white background should render as white (that’s what incident is meant for).nnIn practice this however often does not work, this can be due to the fact that your meter is not correctly calibrated or for the simple fact that you will see some light fall off due to the strobes/reflector used. That’s why I advise the wide reflectors from Elinchrom for this (see the gear guide).nnTo counter this effect I always advise to add app 1/3rd stop. More is really not needed, if you add more it will not blow it out more 😀 It will just transform your background to a light source.nnTry it with 1/3rd about the mainlight and you will see there is a lot more detail in the hairs.nnBEST however is to measure with a spot meter and add 2.5-3 stops above the mainlight.nnSorry for the “capitals” but I want some words to have more impact 😀

      • http://twitter.com/ozthekeymaster Chris Rowe

        Fantastic cheers Frank. I’ll try both the 1/3 Incident and 2.5-3 Spot and see which I get to work best. nnChrisnPS (A bit off topic) I have the wide reflectors and also two 1.5mx25cm strip banks. In your experience which are best for evenly lighting a 3m white backdrop?

      • Pankajvarghese

         I have been shooting for over a year.. Very determined to be a good professional photographer. I am still shooting in cropped sensor, Simple question. is spending money for sekonic 768 worth it?

        • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

          Without any doubt, a light meter will be with you for many years.

      • Edward Lara

        Dead on. I found that my 7d will will work perfectly on 3 stops over (reflective), and my 5d needs another 1/3 of a stop. I was initially trying to stick with 2.5, but couldn’t pull it off. Love your work and your classes @ Kelby Training are my favorites. Will love to attend one of your workshops one of this days. Keep up the good work!

        • Edward Lara

          Clarification to above post: I use this settings to get a white w/o detail or totally burn the background for isolation purposes (reach 255, 255, 255). Background to subject distance is key here, and also flagging.

  • Chris

    Brilliant post, and yes, I did read it all the way through, and I’m on the verge of of putting my L-358 on eBay and getting an L-758 ;-)nnIts great to read such a well balanced and informative post – too often I’ve heard, or been told that I’m crazy using a light meter and that they have no place or meaning in today’s digital erannAfter reading the your section on pointing the meter to the camera or the strobe, I had one of the Eureka moments … it just made good practical sensennLooking forward to getting your DVD series to get even more insight into using a meternnThanks :-)

  • Tim

    A great post for those considering a light meter. However, for you to say those not using one are “not true” and that the light meter is of “vital importance” merely shows your bias. First, let me say that I am a fan of your work. But, your work flow is that you’ve deemed works best for you and simply because others choose to utilize other methods doesn’t make their work of a lesser quality or less technically accurate.nnTo quote the great Ansel Adams “Light meters are dumb, really dumb”. Now, I don’t believe he meant they are useless, but that the data needs to be interpreted. That is the same whether you use a light meter, the zone system, a histogram, or your experience with the camera to make the appropriate exposure adjustments.nnI had to laugh that you wrote that you meter and make a choice instead of a forced option. It seems you are implying that those that purposely get the same result without a light meter did so without interpretation. Experience, understanding light and how to control it on your camera are the keys, not the tool(s) you use to do so.nnUsing a light meter for you works and that is what is important. We all must find what works for us and become experts at it. I don’t believe this to be a debate of whether to use or not or whether one is better than the other. It is a choice of which works best for the individual photographer to achieve consistently desired results. Those who think their method is the superior method are full of (you know what).nnBy the way, I don’t think any less of you because you are one of “those light meter people”. I am still a fan. :)

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Where did I say anything about people not using one are not true ?nIn fact I clearly state that everyone has their way of working.nnThe fact of the matter however is, and nobody can deny that, if you want CORRECT exposure (especially with flash) you will need something to measure it with.nPlease re read the part on the skin tones, there is simply put no way to get it correct without using a meter.nnOf course you can make photos without a meter, outside in the street I never use a meter, I just shoot on AV mode, but when shooting with strobes I think not using the meter is simply put, not understanding what the meter can do.nnIndeed the meter is dumb, it needs to be understood, but that does not take away the fact that if you DON’T measure you will simply put never get a correct exposure, you will get something that’s in the ballpark when you’re lucky but it will never be correct.nnThe whole idea about this blog post (and some parts of my workshops) is to make people realize that although there are MANY people claiming nowadays that a meter is old fashioned and not necessary they are (sorry) not correct.nnWe now have an OPTION to get by without a meter, we can GUESS the correct exposure, but we will never get consistant exposures without a meter. Again check the part about skintones and the histogram, it simply can’t be done.nnSame goes for ETTL.nTake the following test. Place a model in a white dress against a black wall/reflector and zoom in real close on her face, now take the shot. The exposure will be ok (in the ballpark), now zoom all the way out and fill the frame with the white wall and take the shot, you will see that the skin tone is much lower in exposure, this is logical because the ETTL system is based on reflective metering and if it sees a black wall it will try to make this middle gray, meaning your model will drop.nnWhen you switch to manual mode and measure incident, you can zoom in and out whatever you want, the exposure will be 100% correct.nnAgain, I never ever intend to put groups down that DON’T do what I do, but I do find it “funny” that loads of photographers including pro’s CLAIM the lightmeter is not NEEDED anymore, and that is simply put not true. There is a new system where we can see what we’re doing but that’s not the same as using a meter.nnIt’s all a matter of how you look at the matter, I know a lot of people who are really against using a meter and will resist what ever I say or show them, however after a seminar or workshop they often do buy one again and mail me later that they were wrong.nnI do stress however that the use of a meter (in my opinion) is vital when working with strobes to get PERFECT exposure, for landscapes it’s great when you know what to measure and how to measure, for street photography…. I prefer AV mode.

      • Tim

        Wow! I was only attempting to point out an alternative view. First, I agree with your point that a light meter will give you consistently accurate exposures, but for you to say there is no other way to get them without guessing…I disagree.nnSecond, your post implies that a light meter is necessary for all photography. You have a couple of mentions of strobe, but the story references sun and light in a way to imply all photography. Again, I don’t disagree that a light meter would be possibly the quickest way to “perfect” exposure, but to say you can’t get there otherwise is inaccurate.nnThird, I clearly stated that one must have an understanding of light to use any tool. Your argument about ETTL is truthful, but says the same thing I said. You must understand how the meter will read the scene and how to compensate. Your explanation clearly states an understanding of how the scene would be read by ETTL, clearly allowing you to compensate in-camera.nnLastly, don’t think I am opposed to light meters. I never said that. My response to your post merely pointed out that it is not the ONLY way to photograph in all situations and, until your response to me, you didn’t recognize that. nnPlease think about the following to illustrate my point. You consistently speak of “perfect exposure”. However, the majority of your photos are not taken at those settings. You make adjustments to the exposure to achieve a “look”. A meter is not necessary to do that. If you understand light, how the camera reacts to the light in the scene and how to compensate to achieve the look you are after, you can get the same results. It may take me an extra shot or two so you can call it guessing if you want. I don’t care how you label it. The results are the same. I guess Joe McNally is a good guesser. So is Cliff Mautner. So is…nnAnd to label every photographer, to include many professionals on Kelby Training, who does not find a light meter useful as “not correct” is bold. And wrong. You shouldn’t use absolutes.nnI agree to disagree.

        • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

          :DnDon’t take it to much to the letter.nI respect every photographer and I know some use and some don’t use a meter.nnUsing a meter is in NO way a guarantee for a perfect shot, but NOT using a meter is also not a guarantee to NOT get a good shot :DnnOf course I change the look of my images, but actually never the exposure to be honest. The main reason I promote the lightmeter is the constant exposures you get. If you shoot model A on tuesday it’s good that she is the same “brightness” on Thursday, that way you can make one series that look exactly the same while shot at different days.nnAgain I will NEVER say that someone who doesn’t use a meter is not capable of delivering good shots, if that was true I guess there would be a whole less good photographers out there because there are loads of great shooters not using a meter.nnThe blog article however is (again) meant as a reaction to so many posts about labeling the meter as not necessary and that is something I don’t agree with. In the end it will always be your personal choice, however do realize that a lot of people now a days don’t even look into the use of a meter because there is so much talk about not using it anymore :DnnTake for example lighting white backgrounds or just keeping detail in blacks. With the meter this can be done in a few seconds, when not using a meter you will always have to check, recheck, shoot tethered to make 100% sure and don’t even think about shooting film :DnnPlease don’t take it too harsch, I will never ever post something to upset people. But somehow when it comes to light meters the reactions are often very black and white, which I don’t understand, I’m a light meter user and try to convince people to at least look at the options they will get with a meter, and get the perfect lighting with it fast.nnHowever I will never ever say it’s not possible to work without 😀

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1282738453 Ju00fcrgen Aerts

            QUOTE: but for you to say there is no other way to get them without guessing…I disagreennEnlighten me Tim on how to achieve that. You see, I have some RAW images here I took before attending a FD workshop and I really don’t know how to get them “right”. I took them using the histogram, but somehow they’re off a little. Sometimes too warm, reddish skin, pale blue whites,… The longer they sit in my archives and backup the more I get confused on how to get them right. Playing with exposure, fill light, temperature,… I get 3 versions and I can’t tell which is the right one like it was back then.

  • Brian

    nExcellant Post Frank and with you or the way. I use my meter for all my strobe work. I find it odd that so many Pro’s don’t…mind you took me ages to realize that the two needed to be calibrated with each other. the light meter manufacturers need to move with the times and realize there old school buyers are long gone and they really ought to upgrade their manuals to better explain the integration into the digital world. nnOn a kinda side note, I was watching one of the trendy young Pro togs on kelby training the other day and he said it was two years before he even knew his expensive Dslr even had a meter in it. he was just guessing exposure all the time.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      See the other discussion in this blog post.nIt fits the bill about what I’m trying to say.nnThere are GREAT shooters out there that make STUNNING work, and work for the big names but don’t know anything about technique, and that’s 100% ok, it works for them so it can’t be wrong.nnHowever there are thousands out there struggling with exposure, blowing out highlights or clipping shadows without knowing why. Understanding the use of meter can skyrocket their work.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, sounds like you were channeling Dean Collins. I have the Minolta IVF Autometer and get funny looks when I use it. There is a guy in my camera/photography club that has started using his meter.nnAnother thing to watch for is the meter drifting after you get the camera and meter agreeing to the exposure. Age and dropping the meter will make this happen. Especially dropping it. Quality Light Meteric in LA is the only place that will fix alot of the older meters like my Minolta and even some of the Weston series. Great service but no website.nnFor the ebay addicts that have to have the cool meter they saw in an old training video, just assume the meter is out of calibration. By that I mean the meter isn’t showing readings for 12%/18%. Unless there is a calibration sticker on a used meter less than 2 years old, it doesn’t work. Calibration is about $100 but call the repair shop to make sure.nnThanks for the blog and the Kelby Training videos.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      I love dean. For me one of the best teachers ever.

  • Leo Koach

    Light meter is the tool of the devil. Wait, that makes you a devil! well, you do devilish work so that explains a lot :-
    nI know sounds corny, but one reason i couldn’t have a light meter so far, it’s pricy. I just could not spend a couple of hundreds for it, knowing that I probably won’t use it a lot. If light meter could only fix wrinkles of 70 years old woman who wants a model looking photo with no wrinkles, I would pay $1,000 but PhotoShop for that one.nnI will sound anti-light meter, which I am not, I usually have a few shots with or without strobes to find out my level settings on my camera. I noticed that you also do the same, a few before the shooting, to measure the lights, and after measurement to make sure if they are ok.nnIf a person knows how to use in-camera light meter, with all that dots in the viewfinder, I think with better technology now, things should come up just fine… and they do. I know with light meter photographers look more professional also, walking around, getting measurements, preparing etc…nn…however, I am for the gray-scale instead. That probably the most important thing which needs to be done before each session. Color temperatures are more important than exposures for me.nnI took photos of tens of woman last week. They were all coming from outside (110F here in AZ) and sitting in a chair with blow dryers on their had for an hour, so their skin shine like glass. No light meter in this world can fix that. I needed either very large soft light or under expose them to fix with PS, which I did (I had two reflector umbrellas front and very tiny rooms).nnFrank, maybe one day I’ll have “extra” money to spend and buy me a meter. I use it with the company i work with, they have two, but personally I don’t (ok, that’s the part you boo me)

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      The meter is nit to fix that ;)nIt just measures the light. That’s it.

      • Leo Koach

        I know that sir, I was just kidding about it. I do understand what metering is. and I do understand makes the exposure close to perfect all around because of the angle of the measurement from the handheld meter vs camera metering.nn:)

        • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

          I know, disadvantage of written word 😉

  • Dermot

    Hi Frank. Very good artice. I wanted to ask you about an issue I had today when using a sekonic 358 in bright sunlight and trying to take a reading from a quadra flash. I coudl get an ambient reading for the daylight but when I swtich to measure the flash exposure (dome retracted) I go no reading until I cranked the flash power up quite high and then I got a reading but it was way over the ambient but a few stops…turning the flash down again and remeasuring, again I got no reading. Coudl the meter not have detected the flash until it got to a certain level? I had hope it woudl have been able to detect it no mater if it was a couple of stops under the ambient. I haven’t been using the nwter for very long and would appreciate your thoughts/advice?

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Never experienced that. Could be the sun was hitting it straight on and the strobe did not “trigger” the meter. Seeing that it did work when raising it. nTry another angle maybe ?

      • Dermot

        Thanks Frank for taking the time to reply. Just in case I’ve ordered the Sekonic 758-DR (The more I sue them the more I like them) Bit miffed mind that its another u00a3120 quid to buy their calibration target to calibrate the 758 with my camera! Still I really like using the meter now having been educated by your good self! Thank’s Frank!

        • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

          Just get a QPcard 101 and you’ll be fine. It’s also 18% gray and works like a charm. The target is expensive and their software is buggy and doesn’t run under snowleopard and doesn’t work with RAWs, so not recommended.

  • http://twitter.com/toktalks Torsten Kieslich

    I love your lightmeter approach. I use a Sekonic L-358 and I’m quite happy with it, although it does not do spot metering. I definitely learned I’ve to calibrate the meter. Do you calibrate it new for every shooting or lighting situation or only once?nnThanks again for your helpful articles. They helped me a lot.nnCheers,nnTorsten

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Thanks. You can buy a spot attachment for the 358

  • Kallex

    I’m a fan of light metering from the beginning of my career. Today I use a low budget Kenko KFM-1100 plus a 5deg. Spot add-on. Works like a charm. nnCheersnKalle

  • http://twitter.com/Hogan_ Hogan

    After previously discussing this with you, I calibrated my meter as per your instructions and now couldn’t go back to working without it. Many thanks for your help and advice while I was trying to get my head round some of the technicalities 😉 One thing I did notice though, which might throw some light on the 12% 18% problem (or just might be something else to be aware of.. ) is that the colour space you work in will have an effect on the numbers in ACR.nnIf you take a new photoshop document and fill it with 50% grey, the eyedropper will give 128.128.128 in AdobeRBG & sRGB, but in Prophoto RGB it reads 110. Worth knowing when calibrating! When measuring the reading from the grey card, bear in mind the readings will differ depending on what colour space you are working in. I had problems initially because I was working in ProPhoto & couldn’t understand why grey cards were reading so low – changed to AdobeRGB & it worked perfectly!

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Correct there is a different gamma curve. That’s why one should calibrate in the workflow.

  • damiankram

    Great post as always Frank, the point about the histogram reading from the jpeg is a great point and one that surprisingly a lot of people don’t realize. I think a lot of people who have only shot digital tend to be a little lax on the technical aspect of capturing an image. Between the instant review and the relative ease of correcting errors, too many people gloss over the technical skills needed to properly capture an image. I love giving friends one of my old film cameras and watch them try to shoot, its a great learning aid, and a good barometer of your actual photography skill. I always ask photographers I meet if a client requested you shoot film would you take the job. If you can learn to capture good images to film then you final product in digital will be that much better.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      I always advise people that if they have the time to buy an analogue camera and just shoot some roles of film to build their skills.

  • Marcel

    Nice article.nnSo I guess you’re no fan of “expose to the right” (ETTR) to maximize shadow detail and contrast and minimizing noise.nn( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposing_to_the_right )nn(L358 owner)

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Nope, and with the modern cameras I don’t think we can benefit from this anymore like in the past.

  • 1prairiesky

    Thanks for the article Frank. I didn’t realize that light meters were such a heated topic – up there with one camera brand vs another, which colour space to use, raw vs jpeg, medium format vs full frame vs dx, tripods vs not, filters vs not. LOL. Very informative as always. Thanks.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      There have been people walking out of a seminar I taught because I started with explaining the light meter…. 100% true.

  • Oldfatsharpie

    Hi Frank,nYet another very interesting article from you.nJust a quick question:nIf metering for a window lit portrait, with very little ambient light in the room, would you still meter towards the window?nThank you for sharing your great site.nNick

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Yes because in most cases you will want to keep the highlights from blowing so the window is your main lightsource.

  • Rombout

    Hi Frank,nnThank you for your view on this! I can say I have learned something again. I have a question though. It could fall in the category of stupid one’s but I have no experience using a meter so I will ask anyway! nnYou mentioned the inverse square law for light hitting a subject when shot from a flash. The farther the lamp the lower the flux. When you meter at the subject, the light still has to go from the subject to the sensor in the camera. The inverse square law is still valid, so the distance of your camera to the subject should be a variable in the settings of the light-meter. Is this correct? nnCheers!nnRomboutnnps: This is the stuff I would like to learn in one of your workshops. Which one would be best?nnps: “of” and “or” are two different words 😉 but know that when I type in English I do make the same small error 😉

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Inverse square law is something else than reflected light.nThink about it in landscape, the brightness of a mountain will not drop when you move closer or further away.nnSame for models, shoot very close to your model for a close up now move all the way to the back of the studio and do a full body and the brightness of the model will remain the same, it’s the distance between the lightsource to the model not to the camera.nnWhere do you see of or errors ?nJust mail me and I will correct them of course.

      • Rombout

        I have been looking for the “or” / “of” errors again, but I could not find them 😉 lol

    • Marcel

      How I see it: A reflected ray of light does not become a new (point) light source emitting in all directions. In other words: the inverse square law is not about a ray of light losing its energy during traveling.nnBook tip: “Light, Science and Magic”nn@Frank: search for “F7.1 of F14″

      • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

        Love that book. It’s like the ultimate guide in understanding light. nnYou must indeed remember that there is difference between the lightsource hitting the diffuse (model) and the diffused value. Or the brightness of the skin. nnLight from the strobes falls off over distance. However the diffused value stays equal over distance. Hope that makes sence.

  • Rombout

    I have read all the comments and reactions. nnMy personal opinion is that everyone is correct in their own assumptions. Keep in mind please “More roads that lead to Rome”.nnI will put some statements here for people to read and maybe respond to. nn- A correctly exposed image, what is that? Is it so the image you get after post processing is 1:1 the situation when you shot it? Or is it the way you want it to look, to feel. Maybe the 1:1 image is the way you want it to “look and feel”. Does that mean one way is better then the next? nn- My eyes are different then your eyes. My eyes as so bad I uses glasses! People can calibrate software, printers, screens etc etc, but I am very sure we are not able (yet) to calibrate our eyes. So, is your 18% grayscale the same as mine? Does that really matter? When technicians made the colourspaces we all know and use, they used hundreds of people to find the “mean” value for all kinds of colors. The word “mean” says it all. nn- Am I making my images for my eyes or for my clients eyes? Do they see the same thing with their eyes as I do? What do they want out of the image? Do they want 1:1 technically correct or do they want that certain look and feel to the picture.nn”More roads that lead to Rome”. “Rome” being the image that the customer (which can be yourself) wants. “The roads” are all kinds of ways of getting there. If the customer likes the result, does the road to it really matter?nnThe roads to Rome can be made of sand, bricks, flattened cow-poo …. One person likes to get his feet wet, the other does not. They all get to Rome in the end! Some get there sooner, some get there later.nnLearning how people walk the path and letting that effect your route to Rome is one of the things I like to do most! There are so many routes you can take to Rome people! Enjoy them all and find the one’s you like best.nnps: You may be thinking:”What does he use for correctly exposing an image?”. My answer is:”my brain!”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1282738453 Ju00fcrgen Aerts

      If one has followed one or more FD workshops it becomes clear that sometimes an educated guess or a reflected ‘brained’ image does the trick as well. However… when walking the edges of the cliff called ‘burnout’, there is no place for guessing a step to the left or right. Now it happens to be Franks dada to play with the edges of lighting. So you can find detail in the highlights, the whites will be whites (as in 247-250-249 or so) and not blownouts (as in 255-255-255). And that my friend is what this is all about. 😉

      • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

        True.nA guess can be great, when I do a shoot outside just for fun I will guess sometimes, but I always find out that in the end I’m working longer than when using a meter…. and in the end I want to spend my time shooting and not guessing in Photoshop :DnnIn the studio and when shooting with strobes outside in the more “extreme” light contrasts it’s indeed walking a VERY fine edge, I will always need to open up shadows (sometimes with shuttertimes, sometimes with strobes) and watch the whites. I just love the maximum contrast.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Well for me there is just one answer.nnThe correct exposed image is the image that needs NO retouching in that department.nAnd that is only possible when using a lightmeter (that is calibrated to your camera).nnOf course you can push the sliders in Photoshop and get there in the end.nBut as mentioned in the blog, why spend hours and hours in Photoshop and loose customers because you’re not able to deliver a serie shot over several days/months with the same “look” when taking a light measurement takes less than 2 seconds :DnnThe my eyes are different is not valid.nEVERYONE experiences the world in a different way, but that means that if you see something that’s incorrect you will recognise it as incorrect because it’s different from the other images you see.nnAlso remember that when you keep to the measurement and a solid base you deliver an image that looks correct on a good system, but is also looks correct on a not so good system, simply because the user sitting behind that system is used to that system and what he/she sees from others.nnThe road doesn’t matter when we talk about getting a certain look in Photoshop, there are for example a million ways to color an image, but that’s totally different from getting a correct exposure.nnThe main problem is also that most people don’t arrive in Rome at all :DnSome get stranded even before they start the journey (blown highlights or blocked up shadows).nSome get stranded before the first turn (not being able to correct color drifts because they forgot a graycard or colorchecker)nSome get stranded just before Rome after a terrible journey of several weeks (because the customer demands consistant looks and correct looks which the traveller can’t deliver).nnSome get to Rome in a minute or five, they use a colorchecker, light meter and use Photoshop only to remove some dust, some imperfections and done.nnExample :nYesterday I shot 400 images for an artist.nThey will be used for the coming 2 years for publications, CD covers, big banners etc. I have to deliver 70 of those images in which it’s vital that the artist is correct in skintone and exposure.nI started at 9:00 and am almost done now and took 2 hours in between to do different things, he get’s 100 images, 70 unique and 30 special images and different looks.nnWithout using colorcheckers or a light meter I would be lost and would probably still be struggling to get the color right on the first 10 because we used many different light setups, backgrounds and clothing.

      • Rombout

        Cool! Thanks for your insights! I will add your input to my ever growing pool of knowhow! :-)

  • TimR

    So working in your normal work flow when shooting the 18% gray card takes care of the auto processing in the calibration process. I use Aperture and when the image first loads it looks one way and then “snaps” into color without me doing any corrections. I should measure my gray scale in Aperture after it instantly snaps to Aperture’s auto settings.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      There is no auto :-)nThe auto you see in Aperture is a curve that you assign to it (or auto).nIt doesn’t take care of color correction the correct way. Best is to disable this and import everything as flat as possible.nThan do the correction and copy that for that series.n

  • Pingback: Exposure and Metering | Richard & Caroline's Blog()

  • Rombout

    Hey Frank,nnThanks for your reply’s to my comments. You say that a correct exposure, for you, is “The correct exposed image is the image that needs NO retouching in that department”.nnCan I ask a followup about that? Could you elaborate as to what your criteria are for a correct exposure? I am looking for the technical backgrounds about what you consider a correct exposure, so I can further understand the pro’s of using a light meter.nnIn other words, what are the criteria you use so an image does not need retouching in that department?nnI have been reading the Handbooks by Focus Media and what I remember reading in there is that a correct exposure could be: (I probably am not complete with the list below)n- no brightnesses of (RGB) (0,0,0), since total black is not known in nature, except maybe in black holes 😉 n- no brightnesses of (RGB) (255, 255, 255), since total white is not known in naturen- a neutral gray of (RGB) (128, 128, 128), so there is no color shifting/drift (zweem)nnCould you see if I made a mistake and if I am complete in your view?nnThanks!! nnps: I totally agree that a lightmeter can be the most constant and quickest way to Rome 😉

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Don’t over think this.nA correct exposure is the exposure where the brightness of your subject is correct.nAnd that’s why we use a light-meter, to make sure that the brightness of your subject is correct.nnIn other words, when I photograph a model, she has to look the same in my image as she does in real life for a correct exposure, after that I can play.n

  • Joe

    frank, you’ve made me fall in love with my trusty old Sekonic 508 again!!

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Good to hear 😀

  • Doug

    Frank,nnI love my light meter… May sound confusing but I purchased my light meter before my camera (g). Was making a plan and researching equipment purchases. Gear had to be dual purpose and work for both sports and eventual studio. The only certainty when I started was a light meter (Sekonic L-358). Final purchases included Canon and Elinchrom gear. Never regretted my decisions over the last four years. Recently calibrated my meter using the “Doorhof Method” on Kelby (dead on!) and also purchased the Elinchrom wide reflectors you recommend for shooting on white. Great results.nnThanks Frank for all the great info….nnDougn

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Great to hear, and the light meter is very important 😀

  • http://cgl-fotos.blogspot.com/ CGL

    Hi FranknnI agree with you, light meters are very useful tools in the studio (mainly). However, I use my Sekonic L-358 under the model’s chin poiting towards the camera, with the dome out. Sorry, it gives me very good results ! If I had ever used it poiting to each of the strobes in a real complex lighting situation, I put the cap down, always, just to prevent contamination from other light sources.nnWhat is important to say about this device is that by measuring incident light instead of reflected light -which is what the camera meter reads- you get rid of any confusion due to the fact that the cameras come calibrated from the factory for 18% gray as white. nnPose the following situation to someone with not much experience in photography: You have to setup your camera and lights in a studio to shoot a portrait of Barack Obama. When you finish the session, Obama goes away and, without changing any lights, Claudia Schiffer comes in to be photographed exactly at the same place. Then, what would you change in your camera adjustments? If this photographer knows that the shutter speed is not to be changed in the studio, most probably he/she will say “I would close the diaphragm one or two steps, because the skin of Claudia is white and reflects much more light than Obama’s dark skin”. Big mistake. If you want to properly expose the skin of the person to be photographed, either it is Obama or Claudia Schiffer, the setup of the camera shall be the same ! But you only confirm this when you use an incident light meter.nnTot ziens !nnCarlos GomeznMadrid, Spainnhttp://cgl-fotos.blogspot.com/

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Try towards the camera when the light is under extreme angles or even small angles and measurements vary. Which should not happen when distance is kept equal. nnIn essence pointing towards the lightsource can never be wrong. Unless you measure two sources overlapping in which you do measure towards the middle or camera. nnThe rest I also said in my lightmeter post 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000304985196 John Murray

    Hi Frank,
    I really enjoyed this article. It explains a problem I’ve been having with my setup. I have the 758D and the shots of my model are coming out to me slightly underexposed. If I read you correctly, this is because the meter/camera/lens combination needs calibration as a whole. With the 758D though, I find there are 2 options which sound the same. Exposure compensation and Calibration compensation (pg36 and 37 of the manual) Is there a difference since they sound as if they do the same thing. Also, does this need to be done for each lens change?

    Cheers

    John Murray

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Use the two ISO buttons method, not that other one.
      You are programming an offset not changing the calibration of the meter.

      You can check each lens, but overall it will not differ that much (although it depends per system)

  • Pingback: Een lichtmeter voor Landschappen? - Belgiumdigital forum - Digitale fotografie()

  • http://www.tonysalephotography.co.uk Tony Sale

    Hi Frank – great tutorial.
    I must admit I have always been taught to point the light meter towards the camera, but it does seem to make sense to point towards the light sorce, I’m going to give this a go in the studio this week. 

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Let me know how it went.

  • Jliddil

    As a beginner/amateur is a shutter priority meter such as the Sekonic 308C acceptable for most work? Does one need a meter that does aperture priority?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1282738453 Jürgen Aerts

      You mean the Sekonic L-308S?
      In studio settings one usually starts from shutter priority measuring (flash sync!).  Allthough some claim working from aperture priority measuring…  because of a specifically wanted DOF. General population tends to aim for ISO100 or ISO200, 1/125th and about F8.0-11.0.
      So: wherever you start, you will have to adapt. Be it the power of the strobes, ISO setting, aperture,… You will get to the desired settings by using your brains. And since (concerning sync times) your shutter time is most limited (1/60 for quiet subjects, 1/200 max. for quite some gear… so best to go for 1/100-1/125), I’d preset that. Strobes range from zero to full in 8, 16, stepless. Diafragm from1 to 32, ISO from 50 to 6400

      You can get there doing the math too: say 1/125th @ISO200 gives you f5.6 and you’d prefer F2.8? Two stops less lighting? Too complex setup with multiple lights (hairlight, backlit wall, fill light,…): ISO 50? Out of range for ISO 50? Aperture priority measuring woudn’t help you either by suggesting 1/500th. Adjusting your lights should   ;-P

      • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

        Studio setups are not done with shutter times, you won’t get a different looking image when you shoot on 1/125 or on 1/25 etc. there is only the light from the strobes.

        For speed same thing, shutter speed doesn’t matter, the strobes will freeze the movement.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      In principle one will always select a fixed shutter time so yes.
      As a starters meter it will work just fine.

  • Drew

    Frank,

    Great article, and wonderful blog– I am learning so much!

    I completely understand the principle of why you always meter towards the light source, but I was wondering how this applies when using a fill light or reflector that overlaps with the main light. 

    If you have two sources of light that are overlapping each other in the highlight areas of the subject, wouldn’t the combined exposure be greater than the independent meter readings of the light sources?

    For example, if you have a beauty dish 45deg camera right, and you want to decrease the shadow density on the left side of the subject by placing a light with an umbrella above the camera, how would you calculate the proper incident exposure for the right side (highlight side) of the subject? The light from the beauty dish and umbrella would be overlapping on the right side of the subject (highlight area), creating a brighter exposure. 

    I have only seen photographers metering towards the camera when trying to determine the combined exposure of two light sources. 

    Is it possible to calculate the proper exposure for the highlight portion of a subject that receives light from both the main light and a fill light while still only metering towards the independent light sources? Would you just add the relative increase in exposure from the fill light? 

    For example, would a main light at f/8 incident and a fill light of f/5.6 incident give you a combined exposure of f/9.5 in the highlight area where they overlap? The fill light is 1/2 the intensity of the main light, so would the new exposure be f/8 plus 1/2 stop? Also, I have heard this setup described as both 2:1 lighting and 3:1 lighting. 

    I may not have explained this clearly enough to you, but I am still trying to understand lighting ratios and how to properly expose for them when the light overlaps. (If you get time some day, a post on lighting ratios would be awesome!)

    Thanks!
    Drew

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Hi,
      you can always measure towards the camera for those setups indeed, however in most of my setups the lights never “touch” to be honest.

      But if they do, that’s a good option indeed, but ALSO measure towards the light sources.

  • Steve

    I noticed in a lot of your training videos on Kelby training you use Elinchrom lights, have you tried using the Gosson digisky that has a built in elinchrom transmitter? If so, is it any good?

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Love it, but because it doesn’t have a good 1 degree spot meter it would not be a meter I would advise.

      I strongly believe in measuring with a 1 degree spot for reflective metering of backgrounds and shadow/highlight areas. If you’re only using incident that meter rocks. But I don’t 😀

  • Dana

    thank you very much for this article – found it really helpful

  • Pingback: Tools of the trade – sort of … | Faces of Vegas()

  • Dani Gorgon

    Hi Frank, good post and at least the majority of DSLR users can shed their misconception of histogram reference for taking the proper exposure. I have a question. What would you suggest for a film photographer with a Mamiya RZ Pro II that doesn’t have metering functions? In a fast paced event scenario, with intention of shooting in natural light, would you suggest incident or reflective metering? If it’s reflective to go with, then how to consider the skin tone of the subjects & the exposure? I am new to film and forgive if it’s a blunt question. I hope your answer would help similar minded people who has same question. A Dubai resident who missed your workshop very badly.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Best is to see what kind of situation you’re working in, also take into account the bellows factor on the RZ

      For normal situations it will work if you spotmeter for the area you want to not blow out or blockup and calculate for the dynamics of your film (trial and error first and then write it down, depends per film).

      OR
      Use incident to get the exposure on your subject correct, remember that sunlight is directional but when there are clouds it’s more omnidirectional.

      It’s a bit difficult at first but very soon you get the hang of it.

  • Jacob Myers

    Hi frank, I like your post. I’m a videographer turned photographer and I have used light meters for video lighting, but I have never used one for photos. My question is for somebody who is just starting in photography (the last year or so) and is mainly doing environmental portraits and some studio style portraits, is light meter worth it? The reason I’m asking is money is limited, so I don’t want to get something that I might not fully use to it full potential (I was looking at the sekonic l358) or If I should wait awhile. PS I really like your work and I like how you explain things in a more simplistic method.

    Thanks for taking a moment out of your time to read this

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Yes it is. 😀
      Your workflow will be faster and more accurate, see the last episode of “The DOORhof is always open” for example 😀

  • Pingback: Lighting for beginners - Page 3()

  • MikeSilve

    Hi. When you have a multi flash set up (say main, fill, hair and background light) should you meter each light with the meter dome in the up or down position? I’ve seen tutorials with the meter used either way and some where all lights have been turned off and metered one by one.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      Depends on what the effect is you want.
      Most of the times I will just point towards the light sources, OR towards the place the light comes from that I want accurate.

  • Chris Egg

    I tried franks method ad found it inconsistent. Each reading towards the light gave me an under exposed image except wher the light was between face on and 45 degrees.
    I also found, as frank states , that metering towards the camera gave different readings as the angle of light increased towards 90 degrees.
    I think what works best for me is to look at the shadows on the subject then angle the light meter so that the shadow on the white light sphere resembles the shadow on the subject. This will give a more consistently acurate reading.

    • http://www.frankdoorhof.com Frank Doorhof

      You must be doing something wrong (with all due respect) I’ve been using it for years (and many others) and it gives me 100% correct exposures what ever I meter.
      If you meter somewhere else what you’re doing is in fact metering for that area.
      As mentioned in a recent article there is much more to just pointing.

      The meter is metering incident, meaning the light that hits the meter, in the studio in 99% of the cases this means you meter towards the light source, HOWEVER if you for example use a strong light in the back and no lights in the front but want the face to be correct you meter towards the camera, or you hold the meter in front of the area you want to be lit correctly, this is what an incident meter does, it meters the light falling on your subject and will give you the value for a proper exposure on THAT part. Again in the studio this will most of times means you meter towards the main light source.

      Outside I will often just meter in front of the area I want correct.
      It’s not a black and white thing. A lot of people don’t have a clue what the meter does and just “figure something out”, in reality it’s a real simple device you point it in front of the area you want correct towards the light hitting that part and …. well that’s all. In some cases you will point indeed towards the camera (model looking straight into the camera outside) but in the studio (or strobes outside) it’s in 99% of the cases towards the light source because you want that part correct.

      Do realize by the way that if you’re using grids it’s CRUCIAL to meter towards the light angle, if you mess this up you will easily end up with 1-2 stops too low. Normally I will meter under the chin but with grids I will often let the model step back a little bit and meter straight on the eyes straight with the angle of the strobe.

  • Pingback: Https://Play.Google.Com/Store/Apps()

  • Pingback: Tools of the trade – sort of … | Faces of Vegas()