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Thread: Anybody still using a Light Meter

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    Anybody still using a Light Meter

    I do, as does my shooting buddy, whenever we're shooting with lights but I get the feeling that it's getting less and less popular. I don't begin to understand or use some of the more exotic things that some of these meters are capable of but for base lighting and ratios I find them very useful. My current favorite is the Sekonic 558R but I'm toying with the idea of upgrading to their new 758DR which is programable for use with the particular sensor used in your camera or back.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    I do, as does my shooting buddy, whenever we're shooting with lights but I get the feeling that it's getting less and less popular. I don't begin to understand or use some of the more exotic things that some of these meters are capable of but for base lighting and ratios I find them very useful. My current favorite is the Sekonic 558R but I'm toying with the idea of upgrading to their new 758DR which is programable for use with the particular sensor used in your camera or back.
    Funny you should mention this right now David. If I can make it to the DPI lighting workshop, I realized I'll be discussing lighting without the use of a light meter ... which I haven't used since shooting film. I'm not sure I even know where my light meter is

    Actually, I've never been much for more scientific approaches. I am far more of an intuitive lighting person, and grasp the nature of light visually ... which came about by training as a painter at art school ... when you have to actually paint light, it really alters how you look at it. So I adjust visually, and know enough about the properties of light, light modifiers, ratios and distance to subject to achieve most of what I want to capture and do it rather quickly. I don't do anything by formula, and couldn't instruct anyone on classic lighting patterns if my life depended on it. I just look at the subject and plot a way to light it that conveys an idea, or depicts the subject in a certain way.

    However, I'm not sure this approach is for everyone, nor perhaps is the best way to go about it. It simply works for me.

    I AM however, interested in investigating new thinking in lighting. Subtractive lighting intrigues me. Working with steady lights also interests me. I like your work with light. I like Irakly's sort of dark take on light ... almost anti-light, or minimalist ... (it's the Russian in him I think.)

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    I do!

    In studio, metering becomes critical when dealing with more than just one or two lights. When you have a shot with six or seven lights, and you are trying to match intensities, it is far quicker to meter each light and adjust than to tweak as you go based on the on-screen results. When shooting with lighting on location (with the sun) I can't imagine not using a meter. For one, you can't rely on your on-screen results in daylight (which you can't see). And secondly, you are often going for a certain ratio vs. the sun to achieve a desired effect. Add more than one light outside and the meter becomes all the more indispensable. Distance from your subect and different modifiers also give widely different light output outside. For location shooting, trust your meter.

    I relate the use of a light meter for a photographer to the use of a tape measure for a carpenter. Tell the carpenter that you want him to build a table out of some uncut pieces of wood, 30" in heigh with a top surface 24" x 38". Then, take away his measuring tape. I'm sure an experienced carpenter could build you a table, but it will be less accurate and take him longer without it. Or, he'll just laugh at you and tell you to give him back the tape. 30 years of experience bulding furniture doesn't mean he can accurately visualize what 38" is.

    Not only do I use a light meter, but I also use the new Sekonic C-500R digital color meter as well, so that I dial in my K temp and tint before shooting. No more white/gray cards or MacBeth color checkers. I meter, set it, forget it and have dead-on results with no PP tweaking. The carpenter's moto is measure twice, cut once. I believe the photographer's moto should be meter twice, shoot once.

    All that being said, I think that Marc's table top work in studio is stunning, meter or not. Experience is something there is no shortcut for.

    Oh, and the 758DR allows you to calibrate your camera's true ISO and gives you a visual display of your dynamic range, before you ever take a shot or peek at your histogram. There is a video of this on the Sekonic blog.

    David
    David Farkas
    Leica Store Miami

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    I've gone full circle on this with digital. Used to be you set up your set, balanced your lighting with a meter and confirmed it with a Polaroid or 6... Then you tweaked, burned more Pola, and re-checked with your meter. Then you shot your shoot, meteirng your subject after about each 6 or 8 frames just to make sure everything was still kosher.

    I started doing the same thing with digital and it worked, so no reason to change, shot that way until about 6 months ago.

    Then I got lazy one day, set the lights up Zen-style (yes, based on experience, but still Zen since I didn't actually meter outputs) and took a snap. Checked histo on-camera -- way more accurate than the meter anyway -- adjusted exposure (I was off 1/2 stop), snapped again, moved the lights a bit, adjusted one down 1/2 stop, snapped again, perfect, shot the shoot. Instead of metering in-between every 6 or 8 frames, I glance at the histo and make sure it's behaving.

    Cheers,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Funny you should mention this right now David. If I can make it to the DPI lighting workshop, I realized I'll be discussing lighting without the use of a light meter ... which I haven't used since shooting film. I'm not sure I even know where my light meter is
    We were going to try and keep this a surprise until w could confirm it, but if Marc can swing it, he will be attending our lighting workshop as our special guest instructor!!!

    PS: We still have 7 slots for the workshop and need to fill at least 3 or 4 more to make it a go!
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    David F,
    Since you and Andre taught me lighting, it's no surprise I'm in the light meter users group. I was so impressed with the specs on that 758 DR I bid on one on ebay and won it. Since it calibrates for three cameras I'll be able to use it for my new Sinar back, the Nikon D3 and my DMR. Hope it works as well as advertised. I'd love to have the color meter too but it's a bit pricey. Also, my new back doesn't dial in Kelvin, so unless you use that reading in post I'm not sure what good it would do me.

    Jack, sure hope Marc can swing coming to the workshop. I think I just read in another post that he has a conflict with a paying job. Not sure that Zen lighting will work for me as I think I have bad karma

    Marc, you need to rethink your priorities

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Money? Or ... no money? Priorities are clear.

    Haven't won the bid yet ... so it's TBD.

    Ommmmmmmm ... see the light with your inner eye .... Ommmmmmm.

    Feels like .3 stops less on the left light, and the background light needs a tilted scrim to feather it .... Ommmmm.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post

    Feels like .3 stops less on the left light, and the background light needs a tilted scrim to feather it ....
    Exactly. And the irony is that is what I did with film too, I just took the meter reading to make sure my estimates were on track, then a Pola to confirm it

    Digital is SOOOO much easier
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Jeez... I can see it now. Snacks at the lighting workshop will be twigs and leaves, meals at vegan restaurants, all in the name of Zen lighting. I'll start practicing now...

    NAM - MYO - HO - REN - GE - KYO

    Me, I'm a lightmeter, steak and potatoes kind of guy

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    David, no worries, we're going to demonstrate how to use a flashmeter at the workshop. What we're saying is it's not that we don't know HOW to use a lightmeter, it's that we've discovered we don't NEED to use one.

    OHMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm.........

    ,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    I use a light meter whenever I don't have a histogram.
    -bob

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    Member Greg Lockrey's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Since 90% of my photography is about making copies of fine art, for really large pieces I use a camera and I absolutely need a meter to determine even lighting throughout the copy area. I can't depend on the just seeing the image on a screen.

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Lockrey View Post
    Since 90% of my photography is about making copies of fine art, for really large pieces I use a camera and I absolutely need a meter to determine even lighting throughout the copy area. I can't depend on the just seeing the image on a screen.
    Understandable.

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Another aspect of this is the use of digitally controlled generator boxes with extremely fine control to each head.

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Another aspect of this is the use of digitally controlled generator boxes with extremely fine control to each head.
    This is an often overlooked thing that is very important. Being able to dial in the precise amount of light for something like copy work, or even just to re-create a setting is important, and prevents spending a lot of time testing and retesting, filtering, moving lights and thus changing the light aspect, etc. The combination of light meter and finely tuned generator is the way to go. Looking at things onscreen, even to a larger monitor is good to catch stuff like shadows, hotspots, etc., but not so much for evenness of light output control, I do not think. Of course getting the meter in the proper location and having it calibrated with the lights/camera is important, but from that point on, it does make things a lot easier and repeatable.

    LJ

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Quote Originally Posted by dfarkas View Post
    I relate the use of a light meter for a photographer to the use of a tape measure for a carpenter.
    David
    If you cut the board too short, you're screwed. At least a short exposure you could double expose!

    I used mine yesterday in a light box to shoot some product for the "Friends of the Library" Gift Shop promotional material for my wife. Great in a light box. The other thing I did was scale focus using a carpenter's tape measure to determine the distance. At the close end of the focus scale, for multiple product shots with the same setup, it's easier than centering the RF patch to where you want to focus. I used my 50mm nokton at f/16. My first time using a light box (a friend donated the use of the setup a fed department uses for photographing archeological type things that they are conserving, I just hauled in a bag of trinkets to their setup and added my M8 & laptop).

    So, 2x2 Lightbox, Exposure Meter, Tape Measure, Grey Card, M8, 3 halogen lights, tripod.

    robert

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Looks like the meter readers have taken the lead Jack and Marc... I have no doubt, I mean none, that you guys have forgotten more about lighting than I'll ever know, but at one point I'm sure you used them. Also, and this is a big plus when shooting models... having a light meter makes you look like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Hang one of those around your neck next to your Hoodman viewer with a white balance device around your wrist and BAM you're a pro

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    Re: Anybody still using a Light Meter

    Have not used a meter in years. It's all about Zen lighting for me. LOL

    Seriously I can read a LCD pretty well and in most cases after one shot I have it nailed but I come from the days of no polaroid,no meters and shooting Kodachrome. You learn very fast what your lighting is doing. Frankly lighting is what i do best.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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