Light meter

mgblunt

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Can someone explain how to use a light meter correctly and how to transfer that information to camera settings?
 

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First, we'll need to know which meter you have. And eventually, we'll need to know what camera you have.
 

tirediron

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And what/how are you trying to meter? Ambient light? Strobed light? Incident metering or reflected?
 
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mgblunt

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First, we'll need to know which meter you have. And eventually, we'll need to know what camera you have.
OK I don't have a meter yet I am trying to determine whether it would be helpful to have one I just don't understand how the information is used on the camera I have a Nikon D3200 and a couple of flash guns and softboxes I'm trying to get better at portraits indoor and out.
 

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Well, then you need more help choosing a light meter first. THEN worry about how to set the camera.

Basically, there's two types of light meters, incident and reflecting. Incident measures how much light is falling on the subject. Reflecting measures how much light is being bounced off the subject. Both have their pros and cons.

You'll also need to figure out if you want a meter that can read speedlights / strobes / monolights etc.
 
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mgblunt

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Well, then you need more help choosing a light meter first. THEN worry about how to set the camera.

Basically, there's two types of light meters, incident and reflecting. Incident measures how much light is falling on the subject. Reflecting measures how much light is being bounced off the subject. Both have their pros and cons.

You'll also need to figure out if you want a meter that can read speedlights / strobes / monolights etc.
I do want one that can read speed light and strobes I guess what I'm asking is what kind of reading do the meters give you to make the changes in my camera? Do they give you a f/stop number or some other method of calculating exposure?
 

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Well, then you need more help choosing a light meter first. THEN worry about how to set the camera.

Basically, there's two types of light meters, incident and reflecting. Incident measures how much light is falling on the subject. Reflecting measures how much light is being bounced off the subject. Both have their pros and cons.

You'll also need to figure out if you want a meter that can read speedlights / strobes / monolights etc.
I do want one that can read speed light and strobes I guess what I'm asking is what kind of reading do the meters give you to make the changes in my camera? Do they give you a f/stop number or some other method of calculating exposure?
The light meter will ask what iso and shutter speed you are using. It will then tell you what f/stop you need to be at.
 

480sparky

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Many will allow you to set the ISO you're wanting to shoot at. They will then give you a choice of shutter speed/aperture combinations. Others may simply give you an EV (Exposure Value) readout, and it's up to you to do the math after that. Some can be set to do either.

With my Starlite, I can push the button for a reading, and get, say, 1/125 at f/8. Suppose I don't want to use 1/125, but 1/500 instead. I just roll a dial until 1/500 is displayed, and it will display f/4 along with it.

When measuring flash /strobes only, it will not measure ambient light. It will merely return the aperture required for the ISO I've set it at.

Mixing ambient and strobes gets too complicated to discuss at this point.
 

Alexr25

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Take a look around the Sekonic web site, Fill-Flash Tutorial , they have lots of good tutorial videos about how to use their exposure meters to meter flash and ambient light.
 
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mgblunt

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Many will allow you to set the ISO you're wanting to shoot at. They will then give you a choice of shutter speed/aperture combinations. Others may simply give you an EV (Exposure Value) readout, and it's up to you to do the math after that. Some can be set to do either.

With my Starlite, I can push the button for a reading, and get, say, 1/125 at f/8. Suppose I don't want to use 1/125, but 1/500 instead. I just roll a dial until 1/500 is displayed, and it will display f/4 along with it.

When measuring flash /strobes only, it will not measure ambient light. It will merely return the aperture required for the ISO I've set it at.

Mixing ambient and strobes gets too complicated to discuss at this point.
Thank you the information can you recommend a meter that works like the Starlite you mentioned but doesn't cost an arm and a leg? I did a quick scan on B&H and most of them are anywhere from $600.00 to $900.00.
 

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Mine is the original Starlite, not the new model. You can save a good chunk of change buying older models and/or used.
 

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Firstly, you must understand how a meter works. All meters read/measure light ... then the meter reports this measurement as a Medium Gray (usually 18% or 16% gray).

So what does all this mean?

It means if you reflectively measure a black wall, center the needle, take a shot and make a print (making no adjustments in the processing and printing) ... you will end up with a photograph of a gray, 18% wall.

If you reflectively measure a white wall, center the needle, take a shot and make a print (making no adjustments in the processing and printing) you will end up with a photograph of a gray, 18% wall.

That is the basis for all light meters. The photographer needs to adjust the camera settings to reflect what they are capturing. In this case shooting a black wall, which is darker than 18% gray, you center the needle and then override the meter's recommendation and underexpose a few stops from the meter recommendation, (either aperture/shutter speed/ISO or a combo of those adjestments), in order to capture an exposure which is close to the actual scene and which requires minimal post manipulations. If the wall is white, the process is similar to the black wall but for white you override and overexpose from the meter's recommendation (aperture/shutter speed/ISO) in order to properly expose for the sdene.

There are two types of light meters. One is reflective and works similarily to the meter in the camera. A reflective meter measures the light bouncing/reflecting of the subject. The other is called an incident meter, it reads the light originating from the light source (see gray card). Both types meter for medium gray.

A modern digital camera light meter is a very complex, computerized device. Your camera computer takes the medium gray measurement and depending on your meter selection (Average, Matrix, Spot, et al) will manipulate the medium gray measurement (internally override the basic meter recommendation of medium gray) and attempt to optimize the meter reading to match the scene.

There is also a device called a Gray Card. It is colored to reflect medium gray. Armed with a gray card, you don't have to interpret the meter's recommendations for over/under exposing. The Gray Card is reflects how the meter measures. So, if you use a gray card you typically won't need to make any adjustments. (An incident meter and a gray card should deliver similar measurements/readings/recommendations even though the incident reading is measuring the light source and the gray card is measuring the light bouncing off the subject.

Metering is not a snap and I hope I have provided you some food for thought prompting you to grab some reading material and expand your working knowledge of photography and light and start experimenting with manual exposures.

Understanding how the meter works and making exposure adjustments reflecting your understanding of metering and light is a giant step to becoming a better photographer.
 
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mgblunt

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Firstly, you must understand how a meter works. All meters read/measure light ... then the meter reports this measurement as a Medium Gray (usually 18% or 16% gray).

So what does all this mean?

It means if you reflectively measure a black wall, center the needle, take a shot and make a print (making no adjustments in the processing and printing) ... you will end up with a photograph of a gray, 18% wall.

If you reflectively measure a white wall, center the needle, take a shot and make a print (making no adjustments in the processing and printing) you will end up with a photograph of a gray, 18% wall.

That is the basis for all light meters. The photographer needs to adjust the camera settings to reflect what they are capturing. In this case shooting a black wall, which is darker than 18% gray, you center the needle and then override the meter's recommendation and underexpose a few stops from the meter recommendation, (either aperture/shutter speed/ISO or a combo of those adjestments), in order to capture an exposure which is close to the actual scene and which requires minimal post manipulations. If the wall is white, the process is similar to the black wall but for white you override and overexpose from the meter's recommendation (aperture/shutter speed/ISO) in order to properly expose for the sdene.

There are two types of light meters. One is reflective and works similarily to the meter in the camera. A reflective meter measures the light bouncing/reflecting of the subject. The other is called an incident meter, it reads the light originating from the light source (see gray card). Both types meter for medium gray.

A modern digital camera light meter is a very complex, computerized device. Your camera computer takes the medium gray measurement and depending on your meter selection (Average, Matrix, Spot, et al) will manipulate the medium gray measurement (internally override the basic meter recommendation of medium gray) and attempt to optimize the meter reading to match the scene.

There is also a device called a Gray Card. It is colored to reflect medium gray. Armed with a gray card, you don't have to interpret the meter's recommendations for over/under exposing. The Gray Card is reflects how the meter measures. So, if you use a gray card you typically won't need to make any adjustments. (An incident meter and a gray card should deliver similar measurements/readings/recommendations even though the incident reading is measuring the light source and the gray card is measuring the light bouncing off the subject.

Metering is not a snap and I hope I have provided you some food for thought prompting you to grab some reading material and expand your working knowledge of photography and light and start experimenting with manual exposures.

Understanding how the meter works and making exposure adjustments reflecting your understanding of metering and light is a giant step to becoming a better photographer.
Thanks for the detailed explanation I have been studying photography for about four months now and I have gotten pretty good at getting good exposures using manual mode I'm just not sure buying a meter would be worth the money right now but what I will do is take your advise and do some more reading on the subject. Thanks again for your time!
 

tirediron

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...I'm just not sure buying a meter would be worth the money right now but what I will do is take your advise and do some more reading on the subject. Thanks again for your time!
With the sophistication of today's in-camera meters, and the ability to make adjustments in software such as Lightroom, unless you're a zone-system photographer doing large-format landscapes, or working with strobes, meters aren't all that useful any more. Pretty much the only time I drag mine out (I still have at least four IIRC) is for setting up my studio lights or speedlights for portrait work.
 

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