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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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Beltcraft studios set 3

For the next set we used a corner of the studio that was available with an unique prop, well I never worked with something like this before.
Nadine had the perfect outfit for this….. a cross between fashion and a gymnastic Ninja 😀

Nadine Beltcraft workshop-220

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Why you should trust the meter

After my workshops a lot of students switch to the use of a light meter.
They see how quick it is to setup the lights, meter the background, make sure there is detail in whites or blacks and much much more but that’s “only” part of the story. Let me tell you two stories that are real life stories and will show you a different side of why to use a meter….

 

The workshop story
A while ago I taught a workshop for a group of professional photographers (always a tough crowd), most of them (to my surprise) did not use a meter. After my story about why to use a meter and telling them that it was really a great tool to make sure you get what you want it was time for my photoshoot. Now believe it or not but the first shot I took was terrible, whites were all blown, blacks were blocked up and it was just plain terrible….. Some of the people in the crowd were a bit like “yeah, sure that’s why we don’t use a meter”, and some asked “ok, so now you’re gonna tweak the lights, right ?”

 

I surprised I think the whole crowd when I did not change anything on the lights but asked for the remote of the projector. In a few seconds I changed the brightness and contrast settings and the image looked the way I intended, now I hear you think “yeah sure, that’s not the way to do it”, well actually they also asked me about that (of course), so to prove my point I reset the projector and showed a grayscale 10 step bar. On the non adjusted settings there were only a few bars visible. And after setting the brightness and contrast all bars were shown, and also the image was showing up correctly.

 

The Glyn Dewis lens story
During the first “Frank Doorhof and Friends” workshop there was a small problem with one of the light setups.
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Extra note on calibrating lightmeters

Something a lot of people struggle with when calibrating the light meter is the calibration… on this blog I have a special selection on light meters (check it out :-)).
When I teach my students to calibrate the meter to the camera I always use an 18% gray card and shoot this in a as flat as possible light situation and make sure that in the workflow I use the values for this card are 128.128.128

 

Here is where the confusion starts.
Some cameras are calibrated different, cameras use reflective metering and are set in values between 12-18% gray. Meaning that some cameras will yield different exposures, which can be compensated. A lot of this has to do with the gamma curves and different colorspaces. For example when we look at LAB a gamma curve of around 2.47 will Yield a 128.128.128 value, but mostly gammas of 1.8 and 2.2 are used in colorspaces like sRGB and ProPhotoRGB.
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