All posts about light meters.

Using the meter for balance. 

I love using a lightmeter.
Not because it’s cool, but because it simply makes my life a lot easier and it doesn’t make me look like an amateur that’s just guessing my exposure. 

Now a lot of people think a lightmeter is difficult to use. But in essence it’s pretty simple. Just hold it in front of the area you want correctly lit and voila you have your exposure. (Don’t point towards anything, it’s an incident meter so hold it on front of the area you want to be correct. In most cases this does mean to meter towards the light source btw). 

In this shot I actually used a combination of reflective and incident. First reflective to meter the outside and when I got the look I want (I metered a cloud and and opened up 2.5 stops. This is done because the reflective meter will give you the value for 18% gray so you have to calculate from there) 

Now that I know the exposure to get the sky the way I want I simply use that same aperture to set up the strobe and done. 

As you can see. Using a meter takes out all the guess work. Want to know more about lightmeters? Check out my instructional video about the meter on www.frankdoorhof.com/videos 

Tip : Strong backlighting

In the 70’s they knew….
Using strong backlighting can be cool, it creates cool lens flares and it really spices up a shot, I won’t say that after the 70’s the photography went south and flat but in all honesty I sometimes am stunned by the questions I get during workshops about lens flare and backlighting, so I thought it would be cool to write a small blogpost about them.

Whenever I post an image with a strong backlight people ask me for the filter I used?
Now don’t get me wrong I do use filters… I love DxO filmpack and Alien Skin Exposure for tinting my images and I use a LOT of MacPhun intensify to spice up the pop of my images, but the lens flares are in 99% of the cases 100% real.

The shot on top we shot during last weeks workshop with iris and is just a strobe right behind our model without any modifier.
If you meter in front of the model (in this case pointing towards the camera) the exposure on her face will be correct, in fact it’s the scatter light from the studio lighting her face. This is also the cool thing about using an incident light meter (A sekonic in my case), if you hold it in front of the area you want correctly exposed you will get a proper exposure. Now it’s up to you to determine the look you want. In this case I only used one light so it COULD be that the backlight is way too strong, you can than do a few things. You can feather the light (turn it away from the model), or move it to the side of the model so not all light is hitting her (when using a reflector), or (when using a bare strobe) move it further back, or use a reflector in the front, all these techniques will do one thing, lower the contrast between the backlighting and front light.

In essence it looks like a very easy setup, but if you just throw in your lighting you will probably fail, or need a lot of Ps work, so make sure to meter correctly.
If you want to learn techniques about metering, check out our video on the light meter via Video downloads

When you want to do these kind of shots make sure to practice a lot with a mannequin or doll before doing it live with a model.

Some more samples where I used strong(er) backlighting from the sun and strobes.

 

Want more in-depth tips and techniques?
Check out my book “Mastering the model shoot” or get one of my instructional videos via Direct video downloads

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Sekonic news

You know I love light meters right?
Well I’ve been testing a new Sekonic for a while now and can tell you that’s it the “perfect” meter for all you Elinchrom users out there.
It doesn’t include a 1 degree spot meter (for that you still need to get the 758) but for the rest it’s one cool meter.

 

Sekonic LITEMASTER PRO L-478DR-EL/L-478DR-PX Series
Additional Radio System of Elinchrom and Phottix

Sekonic announced two new light meters compatible with the systems of its alliance partners Elinchrom and Phottix.

The new models of L-478DR-EL Series and L-478DR-PX Series, developed with cooperation of Elinchrom in Switzerland and Phottix in Hong Kong, offer wireless triggering and power control of Elinchrom flash units and triggering of flashes and radio triggers using the Phottix Strato II protocol, respectively.

Both use Sekonic’s breakthrough DTS (Data Transfer Software) system that automates meter calibration to the camera-in-use and expanded Cine features that put these meters in a class of their own. Each meter features a distinctive, signature-color rubber surround and name badge for the flash brand it controls.

Flash Triggering with Phottix Strato II Protocolproducts 
The L-478DR-PX flash control screen allows selection of a single group or a combination of groups for flash brightness measurement. The F-number value for the light being measured appears in a central area on the screen as well as over respective group selection button.

The measured value for each group is maintained as a visual record of the brightness-difference of the lights in use so that lighting ratios can be easily determined. The L-478DR-PX group selection and triggering is compatible with Phottix flashes and radios that are compatible with the Phottix Strato II protocol. This includes flashes connected to the Strato and Strato II receivers and the Atlas II transceivers. Compatible Phottix flashes include the Indra360, Indra500 and Mitros+ series flashes designed for use with Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. For more information about Phottix products, see www.phottix.com.
 

Elinchrom HS system first tests

You probably already read some things about it, but Elinchrom recently released their new Skyport and that introduces a whole new way of shooting images outside (and inside). In case you didn’t let’s quickly tell you “all about it”

 

Skyport
The skyport is the system for triggering Elinchrom strobes (and they also have an universal version of course), main advantage of the system is that you can also change the output of your strobes and turn on/off the modeling lights, use groups and channels etc. A pretty cool system in a remarkable small package. Well you can skip the small in the new incarnation of the skyport, you could say it’s matured now.
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But as you can see it’s a good thing, because one of the first things you notice is the big LCD display, and that is awesome. You can now see which strobes are active, you can select the strobes and change settings, and of course you can still change the output of the strobes, switch between groups and much more.

 

In short the new system has the following new features.
1. Much stronger, so longer distances (something that was needed in my opinion)
2. ODS control, later more but very important for HS use
3. Focus assist beam (very handy in darker studios)
4. HS
5. USB for updates
6. Uses normal AA batteries (yeah)

 

But the biggest thing is of course: HS

 

What is this HS?
Well it’s actually quite easy to explain… it makes it possible to sync at higher shutter speeds.
Normally studio and location strobes (except small flash and some other brands) are limited to the so called X-sync which often means that you can shoot up to 1/125 or 1/160 without any problem but above that it’s hit and miss to let say 1/200 and after that you will start to see black bars (second shutter curtain).

 

Now when you’re used to this it’s not a real problem, but it does limit your creativity, you can’t fight the sun and shoot wide open, simply because the shutter speed would be way too high, you can of course use ND filters but then the camera has problems with focussing so perfect…. well far from.

 

The HS system from Elinchrom breaks this barrier and makes it possible (in certain configurations) to shoot all the way up to 1/8000 of a second. Which is pretty cool and something that was not possible yet on the Elinchrom system. They achieve this by very clever timing with the TL pre-flash and making sure everything is syncing as good as possible, and this way it “seems” like you have strobe power over the total range of shutter speed, and this is true but… there are some things you have to realize and that you probably don’t read in other reviews, so that’s why I wanted to give some attention to it.

 

What you need to know
In theory (and real life) the system works awesome, it doesn’t eat your battery (which a strobed system would do where the flash is repeated constantly, like speed lights) and the Quadra for example recycles very fast, just like you’re using it normally.

 

What happens is that the timing is so accurate that it seems the whole sensor is lit even with 1/8000 of second as shutter speed, but… this works only with SLOW strobes, for example the D-lite series (believe it or not) are perfect for this, but an ELC on the middle setting (clocking in at 1/5600 of a second) is not very good for this system (it actually cuts off at app 1/500 on a Canon 5Ds without fine tuning I have to add), but the BrX, D-Lite etc. all work surprisingly well, and this is very cool because this means you don’t need to buy new strobes. Then why did Elinchrom release new heads (the Quadra HS head for example), well that’s easy to explain, the HS head is a VERY slow head and this means it’s perfect to reach that 1/8000 of a second shutter speed without any problem. So in short, shorter duration strobe heads will not work that well, long duration heads will work perfectly.
The other thing you have to realize that (and it hurts to say this) you can forget about the light meter.
The reason for this is simple to explain but sometimes hard to understand (yeah it sounds funky I know).
To achieve the higher shutter speeds the camera cuts the strobe off earlier, with ODS you can tune this but, the effect is that the higher the shutter speed the LESS of the strobe duration is used.

 

If for example a strobe has F16 on 1/125 it’s not also F16 on 1/4000. In fact it could very well be F2.8 by that time. And no that’s not a bad thing, it’s simply how these systems work, and the same happens with speed lights, you loose light output the higher you set the shutter speed, ANY system on the market has this “problem”, but thanks to the digital polaroid on the back of the camera we can check.

 

We did some tests very quickly with the Elinchrom Quadra and the HS head in combination with a Canon 5Ds and it was easy to reach shutter speeds of 1/8000 f2.8 and get some stunning results that were not possible before during day time. It’s a bit getting used to for me to constantly check my digital polaroid, but within a few minutes it becomes second nature, and because the skyport is very easy to operate and give more and less light to the strobe it’s actually something you get used to very fast… and if you never  used a meter before… you will probably don’t even notice this.

 

In practice
It’s incredibly handy to be able to control your DOF on location, but most of all to control the ambient with the shutter speed over a MUCH greater range than from 1/125 to the minimum you can hand held. You do (again) have to take notice that if you change the shutter speed to let in more ambient light you have to adjust the strobe, but already after one hour of use I found myself doing it almost automatically and nailing the exposure almost spot on every shot I took. And let’s be honest I rather be able to break the barrier of 1/125 and not being able to meter than to meter and be stuck on 1/125. For your creativity this is a HUGE step forward. Plus you can now do almost everything with just the Quadra, add a maxi light and you’re in lighting heaven so the say 😀

 

Canon and Nikon
At the moment the system only works on Canon and Nikon, Sony will follow soon (I hope very soon), you can of course use the new skyport already on Sony, Fuji, MF etc. but it will do actually everything EXCEPT the HS option.

One could say that Elinchrom is late in the game with their HS system, but I have to be honest the product I see now (and worked with) is superieur to what I’ve used before (note : I don’t really care for ETTL on these systems) and I rather wait a bit longer and have something that works like this than cut corners.

 

I’m very excited about the system and can’t wait for the Sony version.

We filmed two small videos for the HS system, and today I share some images from the video with Nadine, videos will follow later.

 

Let’s start with just natural light, everything else is strobed.

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