Tip for light meters and ambient light

Often I get messages from people that their light meter is not reliable outside, inside no problem but outside…..
Do always remember that outside there is also ambient light.

Let’s say you have a small flash system (the system flashes like Canon/Nikon/Sony) and your shooting full manual and get a reading of F5.6 inside, now when you go outside a day later and you get F11 don’t expect that the strobe is actually on F11, it could very well be that the strobe is outputting only F8 or lower.

8 Juni 2014 Marie 0066 1

The meter works very simple
When you press the button to meter in strobe mode (the lighting bolt) it will actually wait for a pulse and start metering, now the pulse from the strobe is registered of course and the meter does it’s work BUT if the ambient light (on the giving shutter speed) is higher than the strobe the meter will of course give you the F stop for the ambient light (since it overpowers the strobe).
So the next time you’re outside and want to check if your strobe is registering, or if you suspect a problem…. first set the strobe on the lowest setting and meter, now start raising the strobe and if the meter value doesn’t change you know you’re metering ambient (or in other words, ambient is overpowering the strobe).


So don’t bash the meter, understand how it works 😀

now let’s look at some solutions….

Now how to get more output ?
Very soon you will figure out that sometimes there is not enough power available, so how do you raise this ?
Move the strobes
First of all, move the strobes closer if possible.
High speed sync
You can also try to raise the shutter speed on your camera and put the strobe on HSS (High-Speed-Sync), HSS is not a system without negative sides, so be careful when using it, in some situations it’s awesome, in others it’s very limiting (depending on your system and what you need to do).
You can use the zoom function on your strobe, it bundles the light more, and can in fact often give a way more intense image


Use zilver
You can start using zilver material in your modifier, I personally love the flash benders because by bending the top part you are actually already focussing the light on the subject.

More power
But you can also start by adding 1 more strobe (this will double your light output, add one stop), if you need another stop remember you need 2 more, you have to double every time to get one stop more of light.
Hope this helps.
BTW all this also applies (except HSS) when using studio or battery powered monoheads (non system flashes)