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A little bit about the light meter

Todays fact :
How to make Frank sad….

Sometimes we work together with a company that sells some of our videos, and don’t get me wrong we love those guys and we have had a great relation, so this is not to bash them in any way but it does EXACTLY show what’s “wrong” with photography today.

Recently I recorded a new instructional video on the use of the light meter called “Mastering the model shoot : the light meter” this video explains not only how to read and use the meter but also shows examples of light setups that are normally really difficult to figure out and take a lot of test/trial and error shots while with the meter they can be set up in seconds. The video literally shows everything a photographer should need to know about the meter.

The responses on this video has been incredibly well so I thought why not offer them this video also for a nice action, right?

Imagine my surprise when I got this response this morning:

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Actually we were reviewing this Lightmeter video and it looks great, no doubt but its just that we feel the light meter nowadays is only used by very few photographers. It was mostly used in the early 2000s and before.

So we may not get good sales for this deal. Can you refer us some other product of Frank which is doing great now a days?
Would love to know more details if there is any.
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Excuse me?
The fun thing is, and really mean this… this is one of the things I hear A LOT…. and it’s just very short sighted.

 

Let me give you an example
You go the doctor and you have to have surgery.
You are on the bed and just before you close your eyes you hear this Doctor :”Hummmm nurse where is the appendix again?”
Nurse :”Pfff I don’t know, why don’t you just start cutting and if it’s not there you can always close it up”
Doctor :”good idea, but with my experience I will probably be close enough”

Sounds ridiculous right?
Well it’s about how photographers perceive photography today, we will just take some test shots, compare it on the “digital polaroid” on the back and we will correct the rest in Photoshop. Or even better… I can guess it very good… I’m normally about a stop off… (Yeah that’s double the amount of light so pretty close dude)

Or how about this one, a real story:
“I never ever use a light meter…. it just doesn’t make any sense…. you know why?… I love to overexpose all my shots by about 0.5 stops to get my signature look, so a light meter….. (scuffs) not for me”

Yeah “dumbo” so how do you know to over expose by 0.5 stops if you don’t know the correct setting.

And don’t even get me started about videos online that get thousands of views where photographers claim they don’t use a light meter because models are not 18% gray…. that’s reflective metering smartypants not incident, in fact that’s why you SHOULD use a meter because your camera tries to make everything 18% gray…. and I can go on and on and on and on.

 

In Essence…
The light meter is a tool, it’s just like a ruler a carpenter uses it’s not an old fashioned tool it’s hypermodern, there are versions with touch displays, there are apps on your phone that can do it. The light meter is not a vampire that will sucks all the creativity out of you at night when you leave it too close to you on your nightstand (btw don’t think I sleep with my light meter).

 

The light meter is a device that meters your light
In photography light is our language.
If people would take the time to LEARN that language they would find that they don’t need a meter to take photographs but that the meter is a tool that will help them to INCREDIBLY speed up their workflow, get CONSISTENT results and cut down their time in Photoshop and Lightroom AT LEAST in half, and on set probably tenfold.

People discarding the meter as pre 2000 are still thinking light changed when we switched to digital, but in essence it didn’t, we still need an Aperture and shutter speed and ISO, that didn’t change… I don’t tell you you NEED a light meter to take the photos you see from professionals, heck even a lot of pro’s don’t use a meter, what I do tell you is that if you want to make those (or your) photos QUICKER and more CONSISTENT you should really try a light meter.

In all these years I teach I have converted more people to a light meter than you can count (and I can remember), NONE of them came to my workshop with the idea they were missing it, MOST (if not 99% of them) leave the workshop with they idea they actually need a light meter for the simple and pure speed I set up my lights.

And that’s all it is… a very simple tool to help you with that.
And to be honest if you take the 70 minutes to watch the video you will actually know the meter by heart, because in essence it’s incredibly easy to use and to operate (despite of what some people tell you online)

So to make a long story short :
Head over to http://www.frankdoorhof.com/web/shop-videos-etc/direct-video-downloads/ and select the light meter video and use the code “light” and get a 20% discount (about the same the other offer would have been).

But I do ask you, and I normally don’t do this that much…. feel free to retweet, repost and tell people about this little rant… because I really do feel sad that a tool that is so handy for photography is put into such a bad light (no pun intended).

I will keep this code active for the next 1-2 weeks.
And if you try it on all our other videos… well it might work too 😀

Here is also the trailer we shot for this video :

Again this blogpost was not made to bash the company which we consider as dear friends (we really do) but to actually point out a “prejudice” I encounter all the time and to be honest I don’t know how it ever was created but I really wish people would think before they take their position against the light meter.

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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A topic on the light meter

I recently put a topic on social media and got so many good responses that I thought it also needed a place on the blog. Now let me make one thing 100% clear before starting this topic.  The light-meter is a tool, it’s nothing less and nothing more. If you don’t use a light-meter you’re not a bad person, you are without any doubt not a lesser photographer than someone who is using it, I think that from all “photographers” out there now a days less than 1% is using a light meter, from the pros this percentage will be a little bit higher and as you know those people can create stunning images.

I for one however strongly believe that someone that is into photography should at least look at the light meter to see what it does and how it operates, because if you use one, one thing is for sure it WILL speed up your workflow considerably and also helps you to create the same quality of exposure over and over again.

 

Now in the past I’ve written a lot on the subject and I still believe that there are areas that I did not touch (so who knows what you will see more in the future), during my workshops and talks to photographers I find that the group using a meter is very very small, when I talk about the reasons I often get the same responses “You don’t need it with digital right?” and that’s ok, with digital you can indeed judge an image on the “instant polaroid” on the back of your camera or on your screen. However I also get responses like “I use the histogram”, “I always thought meters were only for the landscape guys”, “I was told that the meter was inaccurate and that with digital you could nail the exposure so much better”…..

 

I’m not sponsored by Sekonic (and trust me I tried :D) but somehow the whole light meter thing did got me thinking and I decided a few years ago during PSW to do a class on why I use a meter with stunning results (I believe they sold out the meters in a few hours) ever since it’s been a solid part of what I teach.

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