All posts about light meters.

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….

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Tip on pointing the meter

Often I’m asked where to point the meter when metering.
You have to realize that the light meter is an incident meter, meaning it meters the light falling on the meter…. so if you know which part of the subject you want to be lit correctly you hold the meter in front of that part. In the studio this often means you meter towards the light source, however sometimes you don’t, like in this shot that I took during the Photokina.

Frank Doorhof Leaf 0221

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Using backlighting and metering tip

Often light is coming from the front or the side, however it can be very interesting to use light from the back.
Now how do you meter something like this?
In fact it’s very simple.
An incident light meter will meter the light falling on the subject and give you the correct reading, if you put that value in your camera you’re subject will be properly lit. Now a lot of people tell you different things about light meters, ranging from “you don’t need one” to ….. well let’s put it this way a lot of confusion is caused.


Trust me when I tell you that a light meter is just a tool, it gives you a way to very quickly get a proper exposure and it’s not hard to use. As you can see in these examples I metered the front of the face of the models and put that exposure in the camera, the only light source used is an Elinchrom Ranger behind the model, so the “scatter light” actually lights the model and is metered. In a studio environment it will often (99.9%) means you’re metering towards the light source, but as you see with this setup I now actually metered towards the camera. Just remember that you hold the meter in front of the area you want to be correct and meter “the light” that is hitting THAT area, it can be the strobe straight on, but also scatter light or ambient light.


Enka workshops Augustus 15 2014    199

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Many different looks from one setup

Often I’m asked what kind of setups I use and what kind of modifiers.
What people often don’t realize is that with only one modifier you can chance a lot just by playing with the angles and controlling the contrast/lightfall off. In fact placing a light closer or further away also makes a huge impact on the image look, add to this the option to feather a light source (using the sides of the light) and you know that there is a lot possible with one modifier and light.


It gets even more interesting when you are combining two strobes and for example add a gel to one of them.
During the workshop this weekend I made a setup like this with our model Lennaa and decided it would be a cool thing to share on the blog.


I started out with one strobe with a red gel.

Lenaa Juli 25 20142025

To get a bit more “punch” in the image I added another strobe without gel under the same angle to mix the two.

Lenaa Juli 25 20142035 Read more