How to use a light meter for studio photography

Hi my name is John Tisbury and with me
today is Charlie. Hello everyone. And today Charlie and I are going to show
you how to use a light meter for studio photography. So we’ll run the intro and
we’ll see you on the other side. So I said in the intro we’re going to
concentrate on using a light meter to measure the light that’s coming out from
our studio lights. We’re talking here about flash so monoblocks, or strobes.
Whatever you want to call them it’s the same principle. And before that we’re
going to use this Sekonic it’s an L-358 Which is a very popular model. Lots of lots of photographers and studios have this particular model. So if it’s the same model is yours then super, if it isn’t don’t worry because the principles
are very much the same and whatever the technique I’m showing you you can
apply to your own particular model. Model as in thatbut also model as in, double meaning. So what I said was we’re going to measure
the light coming from our light and when you’re in a studio you need to make a
few decisions. So for instance when I’m doing my studio photography I’ll set my
camera up with three basic settings. I’ll be setting the ISO. Typically that’s
at ISO200. I’ll be setting the shutter speed. Again typically 125th/sec and I’ll also
choose my aperture which will typically be F8. So what I need to do is
to have a light meter which will allow me to then take a measurement to ensure
that my light is set at F8. So it’s then picking up the correct exposure when I
take the shot. The light meter itself they’ve got this little lumisphere on
here this little white dome. And that’s important to have that out, as it were,
because this particular model you can also sink it back down as well. The
reason you want it out is that the dome picks up all of the surrounding
light. So it’s picking up light from the light on the side here off to Charlie’s
side. It’s also picking up light from this side, from above, from below and it’s
averaging all those values and working out what the exposure would be for an
average grey, if you like. That’s your exposure that you’re gonna be setting on
your camera. Okay so that’s good, we’ve got that sorted.
The thing we need to consider is where we actually point this light meter.
Depending on where we point it will actually give us different meter
readings. So that’s the bit I wanted to spend some time with and show you some examples. We’ll talk through the theory here, I’ll then take some
photographs bring those up on screen so you can actually then have a look at
them. So we’ve got a softbox set up here already. It’s a big Elinchrom. It’s an octobox. It’s 135cm. But it’s irrelevant really whatever softbox you’ve got will work exactly the same
principle. I just realized I haven’t got my little trigger to actually trigger the light. So I’ll just go and get that. Helpfull So with a light meter, I’ll cut to this as a close up so you can see the what actually what I’m
doing. Because you won’t get to see from that far away. But I’m turning it on. I’ve
already pre-dialed in my ISO 200 and already pre-dialed in my shutter speed
of 125. And as I said earlier I know I want F8 on my camera setup, so I want F8 to appear on my light. So I adjust my light to get F8. And as I was saying depending on where I
position this meter will depend on the exposure that I get. So for instance, if
you position you meter back to the light, the light is off to the side, which
hopefully you get a feel of that there. Just see the edge of it on the screen.
And I’m just pressing the button on the side and that sets the meter in to
waiting for the flas h to go off. If I fire the flash it will then give me a
meter reading. It’s currently at F18 so it’s quite bright. But we’ll bear with
that for a second I won’t change that. But what I would normally do is then
bring that light down in terms of its power to get to F8, and
then I’m all done. By positioning the meter to the light it’s obviously going to be measuring the highlights that are falling on Charlie’s face. So I’m going
to be preserving the highlights. If I bring the meter to the front here and
perform the same exposure. It then shows me F13. So you can see there’s a difference between the two exposures there.. They’re both right, in terms of they’ll be exposed properly. But one will be preserving the
highlights, it’s the one where it’s pointing to the light. And then this
setting here, or this position, where I’m pointing the light meter back towards
the camera, will preserve all the shadow detail down on this side. Difficult to
see here, because we’ve got video lights set up as well which is making it
difficult for you to see the output of that. But basically what’s happening here
is that all of the light is being taken in by the dome when I’m pushing pushing the light meter in that direction. Whereas when I bring it around the front. Some of the light from the soft box is going into the lumisphere there. But the rest of the shadow area, the ambient light round here, is also filling in on the lumisphere and then that’s averaging out which is why the difference in the two readings. So I’ll takes some
photos. I’m just going to change that light so it’s not quite so bright at
F18. What should it be F8? Yeah. Just do another reading there. Oh, and press the button. Cool. I don’t think I’ve ever worked in studio where they haven’t used the meter. Ever. Yeah. Your camera won’t be able to… So your camera’s internal meter won’t be able to measure the exposure because the flash is so quick, so instant, that the camera meter just doesn’t have a chance of being able to meter it. So the
only way you can meter it is through a handheld meter. So we’ve got F8 here.
Let’s bring it round the front, and we’ve got F6.3 on this one. Okay so
again difference between the two. So what I’ll do is take 2 shots at F8
and then F6.3 we’ll have a look at them. we’ll have a look at how those look. F8… so again you might find a little bit
difficult here to see this as we’ve got got some of these video lights setup. Super. Now I’m going to adjust my camera to F6.3 which was our other exposure. Brill. Okay so I’ll bring those up on the
screen so you can see them and what you’ll find is you’ve got the two images
there. The first one which is at F8 which will be preserving the highlight detail
the detail on the side of Charlie’s face. and then the second one which is at F6.3 that will be preserving the shadow detail. So as I say, neither a right
or wrong, it purely depends on on what you want from your image. So it’s a consideration in terms
of where you point the meter to the camera or to the light to to give you a different reading. So that’s it. That’s our tutorial for today. So I hope you found that useful. If you have then drop some comments below in the Comment area. I’ve also put a description of all the gear that we’re using here as well so if you’re not sure what we’re actually using in terms of light meter
and softbox and the like that’s all in the description so have a pop down there.
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2 thoughts on “How to use a light meter for studio photography

  1. It took me a long time to learn about where and how to use a light meter, as you can see where you position it and where you point it has a major bearing on the final image. What piece of knowledge or technique changed the way you do things?

  2. thanks for sharing this video …. does it matter if the meter is newest edition since the L-358 is not the latest version?

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