Home · Register · Search · View Winners · Software · Hosting · Software · Join Upload & Sell

Moderated by: Fred Miranda
Username   Password

  New fredmiranda.com Mobile Site
  

FM Forums | Lighting & Studio Techniques | Join Upload & Sell

1      
2
       3       end
  

Archive 2011 · Do I really need a Light Meter?
  
 
mdelrossi
Offline

Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #1 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


You can go on and on about chiming vs light meter, but it comes down to just one thing.
Are you happy with the images you are making?

I like a few others here, I've used one for years as a jumping off point, then took Polaroids to fine tune the look. Polaroids were expensive to shoot just to get the exposure down, that's why we metered.

These days although I carry one I almost never use it. Chiming on an iPad is so much better than the old Polaroid backs that I used to have on my Nikons, it's not even funny.

As you shoot more and more, if you pay attention to what you are doing, you'll be able to put up your lights and be within a 1/2 a stop of where you need to be.

The one place where I'd use it all the time, is copy work where absolute evenness in lighting is crucial.

Good luck

mdr



Nov 19, 2011 at 12:16 PM
dmacmillan
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #2 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Peter Figen wrote:
I guess what I'm saying - and this comes from thirty plus years of studio experience and shooting digital for at least ten, is that a light meter would be the least of my worries at this stage.

This.

I've spent the last week on a trip shooting (for fun) under all sorts of demanding lighting conditions. Most of the time I've shot, evaluated, then used exposure compensation, all with just the camera.

In film days in the studio when doing portraits I measured for basic exposure. I knew my equipment well enough to eyeball ratios.

Peter, I've been in LA with my wife on her business trip. We went by the old Art Center campus. Looks like they tore down the B&W lab. I did kiss the mezuzah case that's now on the front door frame! Then it was off yo Pink's!



Nov 19, 2011 at 02:55 PM
RustyBug
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #3 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Peter Figen wrote:
I've been using light meters since the late 1960's, and while I wouldn't be without one,

you're probably going to be tethered anyway.
I see a full res 1DsMKIII file on a MacbookPro screen in about two seconds.

I guess what I'm saying - and this comes from thirty plus years of studio experience and shooting digital for at least ten.


Peter, do you not think that your vast experience (including the use of the light meter) has developed your trained eye & mind such that your reliance on a meter is greatly reduced ... as for many with such experience. The OP on the other hand is just getting started, it could prove to be a helpful tool for starting out in learning some fundamentals.

He can get by without one, especially +1 @ tethered as an altermative ... definitely differences between seeing with detail vs. relying solely on a histo/chimping a tiny LCD vs. using a meter along with a histo ... definitely more than one way to 'skin a cat' ... we all have our fave's.




Nov 19, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Peter Figen
Online
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #4 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


The problem with relying on a meter solely or primarily for digital is twofold. One is that you have to be very careful of where you place your overall exposure if you're trying to maintain either highlight or shadow details. I tend to not like blown highlights myself, so a lot of times the correct exposure for the image is one that might be a stop or even two below what the meter indicates. Remember that the meter is only trying to do one thing - turn everything it sees to 18 percent gray. Secondly, many digital cameras are not calibrated to the same standards as light meters. They have a built in offset to help avoid clipped highlights, and if you go just by the a handheld meter, the limited range and harsh transitions into specular highlights can ruin an otherwise great image. Digital cameras generally have a much more forgiving attitude toward slight to moderate underexposure and opening the shadows than the other way around. Some cameras like certain Phase models are actually rated about two stops off from a theoretical standard. Every camera is different. That's why getting used to the LCD and using the Histogram is so important. I also use a Hoodman loupe outdoors which block all extraneous light from the LCD and allows a magnified view of the Histogram. I know from experience that the Raw file will have at least a stop of usable highlight and shadow detail that does not show on that camera histo.


Nov 19, 2011 at 04:43 PM
hugowolf
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #5 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


$250 is a good deal for a Sekonic 358, I would jump on it.

I have a Sekonic 358 and a 308s, and find I use the 308 more often, even though the 358 has more functionality, simply because the 308 is small enough to fit in any pocket and is easier to carry around. The 308 is also a little less sensitive than the 358, which means it ignores preflashes and control signals from speed lights, and that can be handy at times.

I use a meter for initial expose setup, but from then use the modeling lights. It is the look I am after, why would I care if the ratio is 3 to 1.2 instead of exactly 3 to 1? When I resort to speed lights, I have no modeling lights and use a meter more frequently.

I also use a meter for ambient light when scouting locations. For interiors, for example, it is good to know what the ambient light levels are in different parts of a room.

I use a meter extensively during initial setup for art repro and copy stand work. Here I do need very even illumination less than 1/10 stop difference in any area. Also, depending on the light angles, I can get very different readings from the lumidisc, which is designed for flat work, compared to the lumisphere.

I find that there are lots of times when an incident meter is more useful than a reflective meter.



Nov 19, 2011 at 05:30 PM
RustyBug
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #6 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


+1 @ camera's are different ... especially between different mfr's. Some have more head room in them than others @ their histo's.

A reflective meter is calibrated to ASSUME that the luminace being metered is coming from an 18% gray reflectance and then calcuates the amount of light that should be falling on it to return such a value. If you measure a non-18% gray value with a reflective meter (handheld or in camera) and use that value for your exposure, it will render the metered area @ 18%. It doesn't really try to make things 18% gray, it just makes the calculation based on the assumption that you are pointing it at an 18% gray reflectance area. So yes, you either need to meter off of 18% gray ... or use your 'gray' matter to know that you didn't and adjust accordingly. The same applies for whether it is a handheld at 18%, or an in camera at 18% (or some other calibrated value).

An incident meter measures the amount of light falling on it. +1 @ using a sphere vs. a flat will vary how much light is being collected onto the meter. In that regard, it is reporting collected luminance. That is why I find an incident meter so valuable ... it can tell me the luminance level in the area I place it, irrespective of the subject's reflectance value.

Personally, I like knowing that the illumination in one area is say 13.6 EV, whereas another area is 8.2 EV. In that regard, I know that I have a 5.4 EV range in my luminance ... without trying to figure out if it is because I'm metering an 18% gray, black, white or specular area.

If my scene/camera can tolerate an additional 5.4 EV variance in illumination to expand the dynamic range that my subject(s) naturally have, then I'm good. If not, then I need to reduce it or open it even more (think gradient background). Obviously for something like copy work, you want that range to be closer to 0.0 EV variance. I'm not sure I know how to use just a histo to make such an evaluation. I guess you could use seamless, etc. then replace it with the subject.

Again, I realize that there's more than one way to skin this cat. I don't see a histo as being able to tell me my luminance levels, but rather a representation of the reflected values that have been captured ... which are subject to the reflectance values of the subject, i.e. specular highlights being tossed in the mix for evaluation. With an incident meter, I can choose to remove that variable from the equation.

This isn't always necessary, particularly if your goals are for working with less dynamic lighting. Imo, the more you are trying to get the most out of your dynamic range by virtue of your lighting arrangements, the more valuable an incident meter becomes.

The OP states he wants to become an AWESOME STUDIO photographer. To me, that means he'll want AWESOME command & control of his lighting. What that means to him will vary as much as we vary on our opinions of the subject. To him that might mean being AWESOME with his composition or AWESOME at expressing creativity or AWESOME at capturing a persons expression.

Knowing that the histo can be "hiding" as much as two stops to help "play it safe" makes it very plausible to not use a light meter. I just believe that a light meter can help you determine if you are lighting "into" those extra two stops ... or are going "beyond" those two stops ... or are playing it safe and "wasting" those extra stops (variable amount for diff cameras) in your lighting approach. Knowing that the histo is intentionally hiding things ... albeit for "safety" reasons ... is enough for me to want an incident light meter around (even if I don't use it for everything).

Must he have one to become an AWESOME STUDIO photographer ... nope.



Nov 19, 2011 at 07:34 PM
dmacmillan
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #7 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


RustyBug wrote:
The OP states he wants to become an AWESOME STUDIO photographer.

The OP has also stated that right now funds are limited. I've seen the equipment list and I think there are other priorities. Even someone just starting out like him can function with studio flash without an external meter.

Having the proper tools for studio photography is a factor, but they are no substitute for talent. Irving Penn did some gorgeous work with just a north light and a white flat and a simple camera. AWESOME is not about equipment.



Nov 20, 2011 at 03:05 AM
thecatch20two
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #8 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


If you're somewhat strapped for cash, you definitely can live without a light meter. I had an L358, which expedited the exposure process with my strobes, but I sold it off when I wanted to purchase another flash. I don't regret it.

All my pictures are strobe heavy, but shot 100% by a simple test shot here and there. Check out my site for reference!

Ryan J. Weiss - Conceptual Photographer

Thanks
-Ryan



Nov 20, 2011 at 03:12 AM
RustyBug
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #9 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


+1 @ AWESOME is not about equipment, never said it was. I just said that my take on aspirations for AWESOME STUDIO would include command & control as part of it (allowing for everything else involved as well).

I understand that he stated that he had $$$ concerns and I have already said he could get by without one multiple times. But since he specifically asked about getting one for that price, it would seem that he's considering it and would like to hear pro's / con's of others opinions. It's not necessarily a foregone conclusion that he should/shouldn't ... that's his call, just sharing perspective/opinion at the OP's request for such.

alaskalive wrote:
Your opinions are greatly valued... help please.



Edited on Nov 20, 2011 at 03:30 AM · View previous versions



Nov 20, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Peter Figen
Online
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #10 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


As I posted in Chuck's new thread of old cut and pastes, it's far more important to worry about the mood and feel you are creating than any specific f-stop or lighting ratio. No one will ever care about your lighting ratio if it's a great image. I can guarantee if your print is in a gallery, on a magazine cover or CD cover somewhere, there will not be a single person who will be commenting that you should have used a 3.5:1 instead of a 3:1 ratio. They are only going to respond to the emotion of the photo. Nothing else matters. As I said in the other thread, at Art Center, we never heard the term lighting ratio when it came to portraits. We were taught to look at the image and decide if it conveyed the emotion that we were after for that image. Digital has completely changed the game with virtually instant and accurate previews.


Nov 20, 2011 at 03:30 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



thecatch20two
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #11 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Peter Figen wrote:
As I posted in Chuck's new thread of old cut and pastes, it's far more important to worry about the mood and feel you are creating than any specific f-stop or lighting ratio. No one will ever care about your lighting ratio if it's a great image. I can guarantee if your print is in a gallery, on a magazine cover or CD cover somewhere, there will not be a single person who will be commenting that you should have used a 3.5:1 instead of a 3:1 ratio. They are only going to respond to the emotion of the
...Show more

Pete, you said it best!


Ryan J. Weiss - Conceptual Photographer



Nov 20, 2011 at 03:37 AM
Glenn_Law
Offline

Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #12 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Rick Ryan wrote:
Since I see in your equipment list you have a couple of alien bees and are looking to get triggering equipment you might consider the Buff Cyber Commander ($180), which has a built in flash meter and his Cybersync triggers Rcvrs ($90). Not only does that give you a light meter but also remote triggering AND remote control of your alien bee lights. And it will be cheaper than the PW and Sekonic combination.

Rick


This seems like a good "kill two birds with one stone" option. Does the Cyber Commander have enough light meter functionality that I could use it instead of a Sekonic?

Glenn



Nov 20, 2011 at 04:01 AM
dmacmillan
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #13 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


It's like a radio station that only plays two Abba songs.


Nov 20, 2011 at 04:03 AM
RDKirk
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #14 · Do I really need a Light Meter?



This seems like a good "kill two birds with one stone" option. Does the Cyber Commander have enough light meter functionality that I could use it instead of a Sekonic?

If you go back up to Peter Figen's remark, the Cyber Commander gives you as much meter functionality as you need when using a digital camera under electronic flash that is power-controlled by the metering device.

It is, by the way, also metering and integrating the ambient light during its metering interval (which can be set in whole stops).

The CC does not replace my Sekonic L558 for all the purposes I use my Sekonic L558 (especially for ambient light circumstances in which I like using the 1-degree spot meter), but it does totally replace my Sekonic L358 under electronic flash.



Nov 20, 2011 at 02:19 PM
cgardner
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #15 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


Peter Figen wrote:
As I posted in Chuck's new thread of old cut and pastes, it's far more important to worry about the mood and feel you are creating than any specific f-stop or lighting ratio.


Had you read it more carefully you would see after discussing how to meter correctly how the numerical convention works and its origin I suggested, as I did in this thread, that a meter is redundant for digital. It will not hurt, but if you understand how to use the camera feedback it will not produce any better results either so if you haven't purchased one yet the money is probably better spent elsewhere perhaps saving for an education at the Art Center

With digital the camera feedback, used in combination with a test target with the same range as the scene, allows setting exposure holistically in the entire photo capturing the same tonal range perceive in person by eye. With a meter you interpolate from the readings to get there which is more difficult and time consuming.

Within the technically competent full tonal range captured by fitting scene to sensor what makes a photo seem real the emotional reaction you want the viewer to feel on viewing it is more about learning how to manipulate size, distance, aim point of the lights on the foreground and background, not just what their incident strength is in front of the nose.



Nov 20, 2011 at 07:13 PM
markymarc
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #16 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


I have been following this discussion--all the more since I was considering getting a light meter.

I am bit unclear about getting the exposure exactly right for the subjects face. How does the histogram help with that? In between the range of avoiding clipping on both the whites and blacks, the exposure of the face can be off considerably. Does not the light meter assist greatly with that by measuring right below the chin or the area of interest?

I have been taking lots of portraits lately and my histogram always looks fine with respect to clipping. But I do not seem to have the confidence on nailing the exposure of the subjects face--especially when skin tones of one person to the next can vary significantly.

Thanks!



Nov 21, 2011 at 03:50 PM
RDKirk
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.2 #17 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


I am bit unclear about getting the exposure exactly right for the subjects face. How does the histogram help with that? In between the range of avoiding clipping on both the whites and blacks, the exposure of the face can be off considerably. Does not the light meter assist greatly with that by measuring right below the chin or the area of interest?

Maybe one day manufacturers will provide exposure meters that aren't merely carry-overs from film cameras, but actually use sensor-derived data.



Nov 21, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Peter Figen
Online
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #18 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


"I am bit unclear about getting the exposure exactly right for the subjects face. How does the histogram help with that? In between the range of avoiding clipping on both the whites and blacks, the exposure of the face can be off considerably. Does not the light meter assist greatly with that by measuring right below the chin or the area of interest?"

You're absolutely right. The histogram is but one tool to use to determine exposure. It's strongest purpose is to help you set an overall exposure that fits into the sensor with minimal or no clipping. If highlight and/or shadow clipping are of no interest to you, then, by all means, set your camera meter to "spot" or use a 1 degree handheld spot meter and meter off the face, taking into account the relative reflectance of that face as it relates to the meter's calibrated 18 percent gray performance. For instance - most Caucasian skin tones you would take a spot reading and open the lens one stop to give a correct exposure.

A lot depends on your end goals and whether or not you care about clipping delicate highlights or crushing the deepest shadows. If that stuff matters to you, you have little choice but to get the exposure right in terms of clipping and then push and pull your pixels within that framework later in LR or Ps to get the image you want. That's the way I've always worked and it really does work well. You've got the tools now to do this in a way you never could with film, so why not use them.



Nov 21, 2011 at 05:13 PM
BrianO
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #19 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


markymarc wrote:
I have been following this discussion--all the more since I was considering getting a light meter.

I am bit unclear about getting the exposure exactly right for the subjects face. How does the histogram help with that? In between the range of avoiding clipping on both the whites and blacks, the exposure of the face can be off considerably. Does not the light meter assist greatly with that by measuring right below the chin or the area of interest?


Some people seem to think that light meter and histogram choices are an either/or choice; they don't seem to understand that one can use both -- each to its best purpose.

I have a high-end light meter that can take spot readings of the lightest area and darkest area of a scene and tell me what the dynamic range is, and if the DR of that scene exceeds the DR that my camera can capture, I can adjust the lighting to fit or choose to allow clipping, and -- if the latter -- at which end of the spectrum I'm willing to loose detail.

If I didn't have such a capable meter I could (and often still do) use the histogram for the same general information, and still use the light meter to set the correct exposure for true rendering of my subject.

If you don't have a light meter, you can get a correct rendering of skin tones in-camera by putting a gray target in the subject's place and setting the exposure from that. If you're using TTL automatic flash you can use flash exposure lock and then take away the gray target.

You can also use a gray target with the histogram. If you fill the frame as much as possible, most of the data points will create a spike that can then be moved to the center of the histogram by adjusting exposure and/or increasing or decreasing flash output. There are even targets design specifically for this that have a 12% reflectance rather than the more-common 18%. Here is one such target:

http://www.lastolite.com/ezybalance12.php

I find a light meter to be fast and accurate, but other methods can also work; it's all a metter of preferred workflow and style.



Nov 21, 2011 at 08:06 PM
RustyBug
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.2 #20 · Do I really need a Light Meter?


BrianO wrote:
spot readings of the lightest area and darkest area of a scene and tell me what the dynamic range is.


It is also good for FINDING the lightest & darkest areas. Then you can decide if they are important areas or throw-away areas when you're assessing which way to move the exposure for scenes that exceed the sensor.

Blinkies might be helpful on the highlight, but there's nothing on the shadow side to help you. I may decide that a highlight is NOT the important detail and let it blowout to safeguard the shadow detail. There are scenes where the reverse of "expose to the right" applies. I don't think a "blinkie" or 3/4 - 2 stops of highlight 'safety margin' is going to help you very much on something like this.

Highlight areas were "Sunny 16" (EV 15) ... exposure around EV 8

f8, 1/40 sec, iso 1600








Nov 21, 2011 at 08:24 PM
1      
2
       3       end




FM Forums | Lighting & Studio Techniques | Join Upload & Sell

1      
2
       3       end
    
 

You are not logged in. Login or Register

Username   Password    Retrive password