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Archive 2012 · Do I need a light meter?
  
 
Wobble
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Do I need a light meter?


I have 2 600ex-rt speed lights and an SR-E3-RT Transmitter that will be under the tree for Christmas. I am a Realtor and shoot mainly home pictures along with portraits, family Candids, and Scout events. Do I buy a meter now or wait until one is released that can do the modeling flash triggering or not get one at all? Would I even benefit from the meter?


Dec 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM
alohadave
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Do I need a light meter?


Wobble wrote:
r wait until one is released that can do the modeling flash triggering or not get one at all?


What is modeling flash triggering?

Would I even benefit from the meter?

Yes, if you learn how to use it, it will save time when you are setting up. It's not strictly necessary, but it is useful.



Dec 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Wobble
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Do I need a light meter?


I guess I mean firing the flashes to see the shadows.


Dec 13, 2012 at 12:47 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Do I need a light meter?


Wobble wrote:
...Do I buy a meter now or wait until one is released that can do the modeling flash triggering or not get one at all? Would I even benefit from the meter?


I use the modeling light function of my Speedlites only rarely; so rarely that I often forget it's an available function. I actually scared myself the other day when I bumped the DoF-preview button, which triggers the modeling function on my 20D, and the flash started machine-gunning on me.

I know from experience about how they'll look, and I can look at a test shot for confirmation, so I don't really need modeling lights.

I use my flash meter for setting the levels of my flashes once they are in place, and to give me the final exposure settings for my camera, so being able to fire the modeling light simulators from the meter wouldn't really occur to me.

I haven't heard of any planned meters that will have such a function. Have I missed something?



Dec 13, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Wobble
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Do I need a light meter?


Don't think you missed anything nor does it sound like it would be used if/when the functionality were released. I will probably pick up a meter since I am soooooo new to learning about off camera flashes and light.

I did pick up 2 light stands, white shoot thru umbrellas, and swivels, and built a light box from PVC pipe covered with a thin white material to disperse the light.

Thanks for your input.



Dec 13, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Do I need a light meter?


If you ever plan to use manual flash, a meter is a real plus and will save you time to dial in your flash exposure. If all you shoot is TTL, then probably not.


Dec 13, 2012 at 03:42 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Do I need a light meter?


When you're going off camera, it'll likely have more value than when your doing candids/events ... it might be a bit intrusive in spontaneous situations, where your TTL may be your preferred friend.

Like most tools ... it's great for some applications, okay or not so great for others.



Dec 13, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Graystar
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Do I need a light meter?


You definitely don't need an external meter with that system.

First, ETTL is fairly good. It can get you close (if not on the money.) It's going to be much faster to use ETTL and to review a few test shots than to use a meter. The trick is in the reference. Many people don't realize this but you can easily use a gray card to set your exposure with flash. All you need to do is to take a properly exposed picture of your gray card, zoom into it, and see where it appears in the histogram.

Personally I prefer a bright reference for this...not white, but brighter than 18% gray. The reason is that even a change in exposure of 1/3 EV stop is seen easily in the histogram of bright objects. I use a white-balance reference called the Digital Gray Card by RMI, which is about 30% gray.

So here's how you prepare (you only need to do this once.) Mount your flash on your camera, set P mode, make sure E-TTL II is enabled, place your reference against a wall, step back, and take a picture. Your camera, in E-TTL II mode, will use distance to set the flash power (with an adjustment for ambient light,) and that produces the most accurate exposure. Now review the image, zoom in to the reference, and review the histogram. The histogram should be just a spike representing the reference. Remember its location on the histogram.

Now, setting exposure should be very easy, whether it's ambient or flash exposure. With ambient light just take a picture of the scene with the reference in it, zoom into the reference, and then adjust Exposure Compensation by some amount to put the spike in the right place. You'll soon get a feel for how much the spike moves with changes to EC, and after a little practice you should be able to set a perfect exposure with one or two tries.

For flash you do the exact same thing. You simply take a flash exposure of the scene with the reference in it, review the histogram of the reference, adjust the transmitter EC, and you're done. The beauty of this system is that you can set up the lights quickly, get correct exposure quickly, and if you want to change the positions of the lights, you can likely do so without having to mess with the flash power again. This is so because the exposure is based on an evaluation of the scene by the camera, and the camera position and scene are still the same. So the camera will adjust the flash power to provide the same exposure. That's the magic of ETTL! Want to move the camera location? No problem...hit your FE Lock function and you can now put the camera anywhere...the camera will not evaluate flash exposure from its new position.

Of course, it's possible to set the power of the flash units manually via the transmitter, if you really feel the need to make life a little harder than necessary. All that means is that your starting point for adjusting will likely be way off. But the process for correcting exposure is still the same...shoot the reference, check the histogram, adjust until the spike is in the right place.

The modeling light doesn't last long, so it's difficult to use for evaluation. I use it primarily to perfectly place the shadows of objects. I'll move the object while the modeling light is on. It's only a couple seconds, but it's enough to quickly zero in on the perfect placement. I find it's better than chimping an endless series of images when you're trying to put something in just the right spot.



Dec 13, 2012 at 04:51 PM
alohadave
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Do I need a light meter?


Why would you ever use eTTL in a studio setting? You don't want your settings to change while you are shooting. Change a top or even the position of the camera and the system decides that you now need more or less light, and your balance is all wrong.

Manual is the way to go for this kind of work.



Dec 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Graystar
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Do I need a light meter?


alohadave wrote:
Why would you ever use eTTL in a studio setting? You don't want your settings to change while you are shooting. Change a top or even the position of the camera and the system decides that you now need more or less light, and your balance is all wrong.

Manual is the way to go for this kind of work.

What studio? The OP is going to homes to photograph them.

And the reason to use ETTL is because it's far more versatile than manual flash. With systems such as Nikon's AWL and Canon's wireless system, it's very easy to place lights in odd locations and control them remotely. The exposure can be easily adjusted and can also be locked with a push of a button if you don't want it to change. What's great about FE Lock is that you can still adjust your aperture setting and the flash power will be adjusted to provide the same exposure...you don't have to go running about adjusting your lights just because you decide to try a different aperture.



Dec 13, 2012 at 06:24 PM
 

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RustyBug
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Do I need a light meter?


The OP said homes AND portraits AND candids AND events.

Shooting portraits and homes may find the meter and manual helpful. Both ETTL and manual have their place. I can shoot any of the above with or without a meter, chimping my hearts content or dialing in EC to the ETTL if I don't like what I get initially.

It can be done either way ... the meter isn't something to discount just because it is easier to not use a meter in some circumstances. If ETTL was all that for all things ... meter companies would have gone out of business a long time ago. But likewise, a meter isn't the "magic bullet" for all things photographic.

Right tool, right job ...




Dec 13, 2012 at 07:30 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Do I need a light meter?


Graystar wrote:
...the reason to use ETTL is because it's far more versatile than manual flash. With systems such as Nikon's AWL and Canon's wireless system, it's very easy to place lights in odd locations and control them remotely.


I do all of that in ETTL mode, but I also do it all in Manual flash mode. All from the menu of my camera, in fact. So Manual is just as versatile as ETTL, and more consistent.



Dec 13, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Graystar
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Do I need a light meter?


BrianO wrote:
I do all of that in ETTL mode, but I also do it all in Manual flash mode. All from the menu of my camera, in fact. So Manual is just as versatile as ETTL, and more consistent.

If I can lock my flash exposure with FE Lock, how is manual more consistent?

And you forgot the part about changing aperture and having the flash power automatically change. You can't do that in manual.



Dec 13, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Wobble
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Do I need a light meter?


I really appreciate all of the great insight each of you have provided. As soon as I am allowed to open the packages under the tree, I can put your help to real use. I think ya'll have convinced me to hold off on getting a meter and get the grey card instead. Thanks again!!!


Dec 13, 2012 at 09:21 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Do I need a light meter?


Going from one room of the house to another ... the camera can be fooled by the change in backlighting coming from a window and underexpose by virtue of taking a reflective reading rather than an incident reading.

For some "routine" work where the scene isn't having significant changes ... i.e. dark to light, the FE Lock is viable. Sure, I can chimp and restablish my FE Lock, but I can also just take a meter reading.

IMO ... the big reason for having a meter is for those times (which certainly isn't always necessary) when you really want to take an incident reading to avoid getting "fooled" by reflective readings.




Dec 13, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Graystar
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Do I need a light meter?


RustyBug wrote:
Going from one room of the house to another ... the camera can be fooled by the change in backlighting coming from a window and underexpose by virtue of taking a reflective reading rather than an incident reading.

For some "routine" work where the scene isn't having significant changes ... i.e. dark to light, the FE Lock is viable. Sure, I can chimp and restablish my FE Lock, but I can also just take a meter reading.

But in my example FE Lock was for when you're leaving the lights in place and moving the camera. You'd never use FE Lock if you're moving the operation to another room.

IMO ... the big reason for having a meter is for those times (which certainly isn't always necessary) when you really want to take an incident reading to avoid getting "fooled" by reflective readings.
With the process I described, you'll never get fooled, and it's more versatile because you can do anything a manual setup can do, and things that you can't do with a manual setup (such as changing aperture without having to adjust the lights, or being able to increase or decrease the flash power of ALL your lights with a single turn of a dial.)



Dec 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Do I need a light meter?


Yup ... more than one way to skin the cat.

There's also another reason I like using my meter ... it helps me evaluate a scene's Dynamic range. I realize that someone else may not find this necessary for the shooting style with leaving lights in place and popping away. But when you go from room to room (home pics remember) it is a handy tool to have. I don't always use mine for every room, but it does help for the more "tricky" ones.

A person can have a preference for meter or for ETTL or for manual or for chimping or for AF or for manual focus ... but that doesn't mean that a given way is superior to the others. We all develop our preferences and styles, relative to our objectives.



Dec 14, 2012 at 12:03 AM
thumphrey
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Do I need a light meter?


It is better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it!


Dec 20, 2012 at 11:03 PM
jzucker
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Do I need a light meter?


Graystar, sorry but ETTL is not more versatile than manual. Nothing is more versatile than manually setting the camera. That is the ultimate in versatility. Now, it may be faster and in certain situations that counts for a lot but in a studio setting, there are few photographers shooting in ETTL mode. Of the dozens of studio photographers I know, *ZERO* use ETTL for anything in-studio. It's just too precarious. I also don't trust the LCD. The LCD image is based on an average jpg exposure of the current scene based on the white balance and other parameters selected in the back of the camera. There are times when the LCD will read dark or light and when you see the raw image displayed via ACR, the exposure is spot-on.

To me, the beauty of ETTL is in shooting candids and in situations where it's inconvenient to use manual exposure. But more versatile, nope.



Dec 21, 2012 at 04:44 AM
basehorhonda
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Do I need a light meter?


Graystar wrote:
What studio? The OP is going to homes to photograph them.

And the reason to use ETTL is because it's far more versatile than manual flash. With systems such as Nikon's AWL and Canon's wireless system, it's very easy to place lights in odd locations and control them remotely. The exposure can be easily adjusted and can also be locked with a push of a button if you don't want it to change. What's great about FE Lock is that you can still adjust your aperture setting and the flash power will be adjusted to provide the same exposure...you don't have
...Show more

I hate hearing this in the great ttl/manual flash debate. The flash does the same thing in both setting. You can mount flashes and control them the same way in both ttl or manual. You can adjust just about everything on a flash remotely these days other than zoom, and they may even have that possible now.

Personally I think that ttl takes away having to think about your light settings. That has it pros and cons and I wont get into that here.

Based off of what you have said, I would wait on the meter and get something else you can/will use more. I have always been a manual shooter and I have just picked up my first meter, it makes everything move so much quicker. I can set up things right away rather than taking test shot after test shot and looking at the back of the camera.



Dec 21, 2012 at 05:22 AM
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