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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #1
a_roadbiker
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Default Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

Hello friends. For indoor flash photography and portraits, even outdoor stuff, how necessary is it really to use a light meter? Face it, the camera itself has a very good light meter and ETTL does a very good job too. So is a light meter really that important?

Just curious to get a collective opinion.

Jim
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #2
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

I presume you question the need for a 'hand held light meter' (vs. the metering in your camera).
  • The in-camera meter is a 'reflected light meter' and is going to be subjected to what Kodak calls 'subject failure'...when the object being metered departs from 18% tonality; that is why Exposure Compensation is available -- YOU have to tell the meter that your subject is brighter or darker than 18% tonality!
  • A handheld meter which uses a hemispheric dome is an INCIDENT light meter...it reads the light falling on the scene, and is never prone to 'subject failure' because it does not care nor does it meter light coming FROM the subject, it measures light GOING TO the subject!
  • A handheld meter also may be a FLASH meter, which measures studio light intensity...those are NEVER ETTL compatible lights, and your flash metering ONLY handles ETTL flash.
None of the above are opinions, they are FACTS. Opinions vary about whether you can get away with NOT using a handheld meter. If you do not care about wasting your time, or that of your subjects, you can do just fine without a hand held meter.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #3
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

That depends. I own one but never use it. But then I don't really do studio work. Then again, I'm so used to how my camera meters, light in general and my strobes that I find I don't really need one.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #4
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by a_roadbiker View Post
Hello friends. For indoor flash photography and portraits, even outdoor stuff, how necessary is it really to use a light meter? Face it, the camera itself has a very good light meter and ETTL does a very good job too. So is a light meter really that important?

Just curious to get a collective opinion.

Jim


Jim,

This guy has a pretty slick set up with lights, light meter and camera(duh he is using a lead credo). http://vimeo.com/m/56027369

Basically he fires the flashes from his light meter and sets his camera and starts shooting.

So do you NEED one. I don't know. I don't use one but I'm not this guy... I would if I didn't just spend my tax return on speedotron lights haha.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #5
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

My light meter is collecting dust on the shelf.

A tool of the past i.m.o.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #6
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

I use my handheld light meter (a Sekonic L-358) far more than the meters built into my DSLRs.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #7
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

I also bought the sekonic L-358 and never use it. The thing is i always nail my exposure in one or two test shots.

P.S. I almost shoot outdoor with one naked flash and no studio. Maybe I'll use it in the studio.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #8
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

This question always seems to get answers in two polarized groups.
What often seems to be missing in the answers are situational qualifiers and experience level of the photographer.

When using speedlites, I often rely on ETTL and because of experience and practice my results are great.
When using studio lights, I always have a hand held meter to get the ratios set between fill, main and accent lights. Then, can use the remote power control feature the system incorporates to adjust the power up and down to very aperture during the session.

Using non-ETTL capable lights outside, on the go, I tend to get the exposure via test shot. This works well because I am using one light, with known output at a specific distance as a fill with the sun.

I guess the answer, for me, is it depends on the circumstances. Just like everything else in my kit. A light meter is a tool that's available to help be get the job done quickly and professionally.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #9
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

Thanks for the feedback! I have mixed emotions about using one. I can see where it would be beneficial, but I also agree with the comment just above ("The thing is I always nail my exposure in one or two test shots."). I would suggest that dong this probably takes less time than setting up using a light meter.

The reason why I asked is because, although I am not new to photography, I am new to making a business of it and I want to get into portraiture. This could be a type of work in which a meter would be beneficial, but then there the "...one or tow test shots" thing. Anyway, I posted something in a LinkedIn forum about doing this kind of work and asking for lighting suggestions, and this one guy gave me all kinds of sh@#, suggesting that "Just because you bought a bunch of stuff and now you want to take portraits does not make you a professional photographer." Well to that I say, no kidding. He also went on to say that since I am participating in a Pro Photo group that I should already know that I need a light meter. For one, thing I think he has some nerve getting in my face like that, and how does he know whether or not I even have one? All I asked about was the kind of lighting to use: Speedlites or strobes (Alien Bees, et. al.).

Anyway, Like I said, I can see where in some cases a meter would be beneficial, but I can also see it laying around collecting dust too.

Thanks again everyone.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #10
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

that guy in the Pro Photo Group is rude. I will stay in POTN.

Mine is on the classified: sell thread. I'm not seeing myself put up a studio. I love doing family portrait outdoors.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #11
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

As I mentioned, the meter is useful for setting ratios for the lighting scheme.
Whether you use speedlites or monolights depends on the situation. I use both for portraits.

For quick head shots its often easier and quicker to put speedlites into umbrella frame modifiers and use ETTL metering. For other situations it works well to setup monolights with modifiers.

As for the Linked-In poster. Sounds like he needs to remember how he learned the craft. I'm confident he got help at least once from another photographer. He'd have to be a hermit to claim he learned it all by himself.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #12
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

I must admit, the POTN crowd is much nicer and more well-informed. Especially when it comes to Canon-specific topics, as well as overall photographic questions.

Thanks!
Jim
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Last edited by a_roadbiker : 23rd of June 2013 (Sun) at 14:24.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #13
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

I rarely use mine anymore. Even for all my off camera lighting, I find that I can adjust my lights by chimping.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #14
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

For all of the folks who aren't using their light meter shoot me a PM on your price. Why let it sit when you can sell it.
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Old 23rd of June 2013 (Sun)   #15
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Default Re: Light Meter. Do I really need to use it?

here's mine in the ads

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/....php?t=1299094
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