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Thread: Light Meter

  1. #1
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    Light Meter

    Is there any advantage to using a light meter for incident light readings outside in ambient light - no flash - if you are shooting RAW and can adjust the EV in post?

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    Raycer's Avatar
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    Re: Light Meter

    Yes - one would have the appearance of an old school professional photographer.
    To me, the light reading TTL is what matters. Correct me if I'm wrong, chimpping with histogram will tell you way more information than a light meter.

  3. #3

    Re: Light Meter

    The light meters in modern cameras are pretty accurate. I don't think you need an external meter at all. For flash in a studio, either portrait or still life, they are very useful. You can test fire your flash, get a reading, set the camera, and it comes out right first time on manual. Not all meters read flash light.
    Last edited by carregwen; 10th December 2010 at 04:39 PM.

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    Re: Light Meter

    Understanding the use of light meters, and the difference between in camera and handheld:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfKzY...eature=channel
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jun_h...eature=channel
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozHMj...eature=related

    For most recreational shooters, a hand held light meter really isn't necessary but be aware that the camera's meter can be fooled at times. It's because the camera reads "reflective light" (light that is bounced off the subject), in extremes contrasts or reflective sources it can fool the camera. Hand held meters records "incidental" light, meaning it measure the actual amount of light falling on the subject and is a lot more accurate.

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    Re: Light Meter

    In all seriousness, it depends on the scene. If it's a normal, reflective scene then most in-camera metering does a good job - but - in camera metering is easily fooled in scenes that are predominantly light ("polar bear in the snow"), or predominantly dark ("Black cat on a black rug"), or in particular, scenes with back lighting. In any of these situations, an incident light meter will give accurate & consistent results.

    This page from Sekonic's website gives some good examples ...

    http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/classroom_2.asp

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    Re: Light Meter

    Many beginners have a tendency to under use the abilities of their camera's light meter's modes (spot, partial, and center weighted average). This explains metering and exposure: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tut...a-metering.htm. With time and a lot of practice, you will eventually train your eyes to "see the light" and apply the proper method of metering. It's best to experiment and practice while in manual mode which will give you the most control.

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    Re: Light Meter

    I prefer to always use a hand held meter and set the exposure by incident light, i.e. the light that illuminates your subject.

    This Sekonic page "Incident vs. Reflected The benefits of using light metering" shows the effect of incident versus TTL reflected light exposures.

    plus the video "Too dark? Too light? just right!" with Will Crockett can be downloaded from:

    http://fridayphotoschool.com/dl/

    which also explains the trade offs. I know Will tends to be rather long winded, but the ability to see what he's talking about helps understanding the concepts. ( Remember, the Friday Photo School Foundation series of videos and intended for beginners. )

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    Raycer's Avatar
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    Re: Light Meter

    Excellent points that you guys pointed out that in-camera light meter can be 'fooled' by a dominate colour featured in the scene and one must understand the in-camera meter and the camera's metering modes. Has anyone mentioned grey cards here yet?
    It is hard to argue that there are advantages of a incident light meter, especially when it is so well documented and presented by Sekonic's marketing group. However, I am still having a difficult time fully understanding 'the correct exposure' that everyone is talking about. Perhaps it is because my intend, output and more often than not, my perception of photography is just art work, or an interpretation of one's memory and vision. Since my view of 'the correct exposure' is depended on the photographer's intend, the 'correct' set up is where the photographer wants the subject to fall on the dark-light scale. With this in mind, the in-camera spot meter does an excellent job for the purpose.

  9. #9

    Re: Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Raycer View Post
    Since my view of 'the correct exposure' is depended on the photographer's intend, the 'correct' set up is where the photographer wants the subject to fall on the dark-light scale. With this in mind, the in-camera spot meter does an excellent job for the purpose.
    My Panasonic G1, being a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder. allows me to use the spot meter very accurately. By moving the camera around the scene, I can find the metering that produces a result that I want not what the camera wants. The bonus is you can see the results in the viewfinder immediately, and just before you shoot. I know you can do something similar with an ordinary DSLR, but you have to start chimping to see the result, by which time the subject could be gone.

    With the G1 you can get the right metering for a more creative shot, fix it with the exposure lock button, then take the shot.Here's an example. I saw these benches last week and thought that despoite the strong sunlight they would make a good shot, but I needed an unusual exposure. I used spot metering on the brightest part of the metal, saw the result in the viewfinder, adjusted it slightly by moving the camera, locked it, and shot it. Not sure how I could have done that with an off-camera meter.

    EXIF

    Light Meter

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    Re: Light Meter

    I don't doubt that the camera build-in lightmeters do a real good job. You can use the histogram to check your exposure.

    But still I do use a handheld lightmeter in specific situations.

    When making exposures for a HDR stack I often use the handheld meter. It's not the trivial when you can do with a small bracket series. But in more complex situations it's really cool to work with the spotmeter.

    In more complex situations incident measurement with a handheld meter can be an effective solution. If you have a subject with some white (or near white) surfaces and/or some black (or near black) surfaces -- the reflective meter in the camrera do what it can to expose these as neutral grey. Using a handheld incident look at the light hitting the subject and is a more objective metering.

    In the studio setting up light, working with light ratios using the handheld meter to measure flash and ambient light is so much more effectitve. You can of course just work your way through taking test shots, evaluating histograms etc But it's way more effective with the handheld meter.

    I use the build-in meter in most situations, but there is situations where the handheld meter is a real cool tool

    -- Søren

  11. #11

    Re: Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    In all seriousness, it depends on the scene. If it's a normal, reflective scene then most in-camera metering does a good job - but - in camera metering is easily fooled in scenes that are predominantly light ("polar bear in the snow"), or predominantly dark ("Black cat on a black rug"), or in particular, scenes with back lighting. In any of these situations, an incident light meter will give accurate & consistent results.

    This page from Sekonic's website gives some good examples ...

    http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/classroom_2.asp
    In which case, can't you dial in a certain amount of exposure compensation?

    I've read all 3 of Scott Kelby's Digital photography book and he said that using a light meter is very handy in a studio environment. Just place the light meter at the subject's chin and dial in the settings into the camera. But I'm no studio photographer, so I cannot verify if this is indeed the case.

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    Re: Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Blazing fire View Post
    In which case, can't you dial in a certain amount of exposure compensation?
    Yes - but how much? If it's literally a black or a white, then that's pretty easy, but inthe real world it could well be a pale yellow - medium red - dark green etc, which all have different grey values.

    I've read all 3 of Scott Kelby's Digital photography book and he said that using a light meter is very handy in a studio environment. Just place the light meter at the subject's chin and dial in the settings into the camera. But I'm no studio photographer, so I cannot verify if this is indeed the case.
    Kinda - normally you'd do it the other way around and adjust the lights to give you the aperture you'd like. They're also essential for key/fill lighting ratios etc. Just finished a 475+ frame studio shoot - would have been lost without my lightmeter.

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    Re: Light Meter

    I have used both reflective and incident light meters and each has its place. A meter is not, IMO, essential for most DSLR photography with the exception of working with studio strobes. However, even with studio strobes, the meter is not an absolutely essential item if your strobes are equipped with modeling lights.

    I can almost judge the exposure for any lighting setup by eyeballing it and come in pretty close. One or two test shots usually puts me right on the money. As far as lighting ratios go, it really doesn't matter exactly what the ratio is. What matters is what the lighting looks like on your image. Again, with modeling lights, it is possible to come pretty close to the ratio I desire, just by eyeballing the modeling light ratio.

    Of course, I have had a lot of experience with my lights and I can pretty well tell you by looking at the results of the modeling light on the subject whether it will result in a pleasing image or not.

    On the other hand, if you are a proponent of blind shooting (sometimes called Strobist doctrine) of using jury-rigged hot shoe flashes as studio lights; I would expect that the meter is an absolutely essential tool.

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