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Thread: Is a light meter worth it

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    Is a light meter worth it

    So i seen some videos recently for strobing and almsot all of these guys used light meters
    so i checked out a sekonic l-758dr for $569 US at b&H which is a fair bit which is what i saw 2 of them using

    so my main question is for strobing indoors and out is it better to use these instead of the on camera meter?

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    A meter is not very useful for balancing lighting, at least not as useful as actually chimping which gives you a fairly faithful representaion of ratios. I don't bother using meters, and I have plenty of them (even with the wiz-bang Pocket Wizard radio triggers built in), simply because it's easier to chimp, although this seems to be too low brow for some to cope with. You really won't be any more professional, creative, efficient etc etc with a meter.

    If all you are doing is shooting indoors with strobes then a meter is potentially quite handy because you can quickly reposition a light and check it's intensity with the meter. Especially if you've found a way you like to work, ie aperture/shutter speeds that you like to use so you can set the lights to suit. I think they are potentially fine in that scenario. But I still prefer to chimp because I would do that anyway so I'm just eliminating a step!

    I use strobes outdoors almost all the time, both balanced with other lighting and as the entire light source, and I don't bother to bring any meters, ever. It's more of a hassle than it's worth.

    JJ
    Last edited by jjphoto; 05-01-2011 at 5:55pm.

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    what he said
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    are you serious? Shelley's Avatar
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    I don't always use the light meter, but I am starting to use it more. I find it helps me get the correct reading quickly and understand the lighting for my studio set ups. I am fairly new at it and maybe as I get more experience I will not require it. I don't use it when birding.

    Starting to do fill flash more for portraits outside and I have found the light meter invaluable in helping me get it right, again new for me. I have to get good as I am moving in to people stuff - and they are quite different to the birds.

    I use the sekonic L358 - decided it was good enough for what I wanted.
    Last edited by Shelley; 16-01-2011 at 11:10pm.
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    I don't think it's necessary, but I DO think that it can make you more efficient in the studio.

    Want to set the background to blow out at a stop above your scene? Easily done with a meter. Several test shots required without.

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    i ended up buying 1 and it has saved me alot of time actually . i havent always used it and have only used it with the strobes it did make it quicker and easier and i was able to set background to a different stop quickly whre i was taking a bit of time trying to chimp it on the screen i think over time with use i will start to have figures in my head and wont/rarely need it at some point

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    Chimping???

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    Chimping is checking the image on the back of the LCD after each shot

    Usually done by chimpers

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    Quote Originally Posted by snat56 View Post
    Chimping???
    I read somewhere that the term comes from - a photog hunched over his lcd and uttering "ooh ooh" noises having spotted a keeper!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jjphoto View Post
    A meter is not very useful for balancing lighting, at least not as useful as actually chimping which gives you a fairly faithful representaion of ratios. I don't bother using meters, and I have plenty of them (even with the wiz-bang Pocket Wizard radio triggers built in), simply because it's easier to chimp, although this seems to be too low brow for some to cope with. You really won't be any more professional, creative, efficient etc etc with a meter.

    If all you are doing is shooting indoors with strobes then a meter is potentially quite handy because you can quickly reposition a light and check it's intensity with the meter. Especially if you've found a way you like to work, ie aperture/shutter speeds that you like to use so you can set the lights to suit. I think they are potentially fine in that scenario. But I still prefer to chimp because I would do that anyway so I'm just eliminating a step!

    I use strobes outdoors almost all the time, both balanced with other lighting and as the entire light source, and I don't bother to bring any meters, ever. It's more of a hassle than it's worth.

    JJ
    While I can understand why someone cant be bothered using one, to say that they're not useful is nothing but delusional.

    Even after all these years I still cant accurately gauge between a 1/4 of stop difference and a 1/3 of a stop difference - and chimping on the back of your screen isnt going to tell you the difference either. Yep fair call if you dont choose to use one, but saying a light meter is not useful is hugely misleading.
    Last edited by Longshots; 04-02-2011 at 8:26pm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longshots View Post
    While I can understand why someone cant be bothered using one, to say that they're not useful is nothing but delusional.

    Even after all these years I still cant accurately gauge between a 1/4 of stop difference and a 1/3 of a stop difference - and chimping on the back of your screen isnt going to tell you the difference either. Yep fair call if you dont choose to use one, but saying a light meter is not useful is hugely misleading.
    Who's misleading and delusional?

    If you'd actually read my post you would have noticed that I never said "that they're not useful", these are your words. I also explained the circumstances where they are potentially useful although it was really just one example.

    It seems you don't really understand why some one wouldn't use a meter otherwsie why would you choose to twist my preference to not use a meter into laziness?

    JJ

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    I have the L-358 with PW module and while I agree you can get away without using it, the meter does make getting multiple light setup sorted much faster. I find it useful if mixing speedlight and the Rangers with sunlight. Again cn be done by chimping for most requirements, but models and clients get a bit annoyed when you spend too long and have to take several shots each time you change the lighting positions, aperture etc and that can make it look like you don't know what you are doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Longshots View Post
    and chimping on the back of your screen isnt going to tell you the difference either.
    Not even if you're chimping with a histogram view? Just wondering if that'd make a difference.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    I have the L-358 with PW module and while I agree you can get away without using it, the meter does make getting multiple light setup sorted much faster. I find it useful if mixing speedlight and the Rangers with sunlight. Again cn be done by chimping for most requirements, but models and clients get a bit annoyed when you spend too long and have to take several shots each time you change the lighting positions, aperture etc and that can make it look like you don't know what you are doing.
    I'd always envisaged shooting tests before the model came into play... But i'm now supposing that's not always practical. Is that what you mean?

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    What I mean Dan is when you have the model ready to go, and you may setup your first set of shots without meter prior to model arriving, but when you move location, position of lights, model, the light is fast changing around sunrise/sunset or changing lenses etc then the meter can be a time saver especially in multiple light setups.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jjphoto View Post
    Who's misleading and delusional?

    If you'd actually read my post you would have noticed that I never said "that they're not useful", these are your words. I also explained the circumstances where they are potentially useful although it was really just one example.

    It seems you don't really understand why some one wouldn't use a meter otherwsie why would you choose to twist my preference to not use a meter into laziness?

    JJ
    I did actually read your post, and here is where we have a point of difference - you said this:


    Quote Originally Posted by jjphoto View Post
    A meter is not very useful for balancing lighting, at least not as useful as actually chimping which gives you a fairly faithful representaion of ratios. I don't bother using meters, and I have plenty of them (even with the wiz-bang Pocket Wizard radio triggers built in), simply because it's easier to chimp, although this seems to be too low brow for some to cope with. You really won't be any more professional, creative, efficient etc etc with a meter.

    If all you are doing is shooting indoors with strobes then a meter is potentially quite handy because you can quickly reposition a light and check it's intensity with the meter. Especially if you've found a way you like to work, ie aperture/shutter speeds that you like to use so you can set the lights to suit. I think they are potentially fine in that scenario. But I still prefer to chimp because I would do that anyway so I'm just eliminating a step!

    I use strobes outdoors almost all the time, both balanced with other lighting and as the entire light source, and I don't bother to bring any meters, ever. It's more of a hassle than it's worth.

    JJ


    I'm didnt cut anything out because I dont want to be accused of misquoting you.

    But referring to your opening statement in your first paragraph you say:

    A meter is not very useful for balancing lighting, at least not as useful as actually chimping which gives you a fairly faithful representaion of ratios. I don't bother using meters, and I have plenty of them (even with the wiz-bang Pocket Wizard radio triggers built in), simply because it's easier to chimp, although this seems to be too low brow for some to cope with. You really won't be any more professional, creative, efficient etc etc with a meter.
    Not very useful
    - not as useful as chimping ?


    I'm happy to not use one from time to time. I didnt meant to imply that I or anyone else was being lazy. Not my intention at all. But to answer the question, a meter is definitely useful

    Recall that the question was "is a light meter worth it ? ".

    I did say that
    while I could understand why someone couldnt be bothered to use one
    , but please note that I didnt say it was laziness - my reference was to those experienced enough to simply judge, albeit relying on an average style of light.

    I did say that I thought (and maintain that thought) you were delusional if you think you can tell the difference between 1/3rd of stop, and a 1/4 of stop difference between the light, inside or outside, strobe or ambient, because it cant be done. I'm afraid that chimping simply isnt going to tell you that information. Thats why I think your point is misleading.

    What may look blown, may be blown out and non recoverable, you simply could not tell the subtle difference between a stop over , and a stop and half or a stop and a third. Using a meter and clearly demonstrates that you can control the subtle highlights and the shadows, which even the best preview (and please remember that you're previewing a low res jpeg for the preview) screen isnt going to be able to demonstrate. Know what they are, then you'll be way ahead. That subtlety is what makes using a meter "worth it".

    BTW seen your work, and I'd congratulate you on some very nice auto images Clearly you have experience and skill, but if I wanted to help someone get to a similar level, I would definitely suggest that unless they can judge moving lights around, balancing them with ambient and then producing an image with a exposure range that needs little post work, then again supports a good reason to at least start using a meter, and eventually get to a level that you dont need to use it I know plenty of experienced photographers who cant be bothered (doesnt mean lazy) to use their meters, but thats only because they're experienced enough by that point.
    Last edited by Longshots; 05-02-2011 at 9:40am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gamble View Post
    Not even if you're chimping with a histogram view? Just wondering if that'd make a difference.
    If you're only worried about the average, then a histogram is going to help, because thats all a histogram is going to be able to demonstrate - what the range throughout the image is going to show, not how much the highlight on say the back of someone's head is going to be, or how dark the shadow is at the bottom of an image.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Longshots View Post
    If you're only worried about the average, then a histogram is going to help, because thats all a histogram is going to be able to demonstrate - what the range throughout the image is going to show, not how much the highlight on say the back of someone's head is going to be, or how dark the shadow is at the bottom of an image.
    In Live View I can see my live histogram. I set it to indicate brightness (other option is RGB) and when I move my cursor around the scene the histogram updates with the levels exposed to that area. I'm not trying to be argumentative but this seems to me to achieve a similar outcome to what you would with a light meter. No?

    I mean we're talking about a quick levels setting in the heat of the moment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gamble View Post
    In Live View I can see my live histogram. I set it to indicate brightness (other option is RGB) and when I move my cursor around the scene the histogram updates with the levels exposed to that area. I'm not trying to be argumentative but this seems to me to achieve a similar outcome to what you would with a light meter. No?
    Well --- if we are trying to set a ratio over 2, 3, 4 or more lights I would imagine that turning 1 light on and then taking a picture to examine the histogram, turning that light off and another on and taking a picture to examine the histogram -- ad infinitum till all the lights are "tested" would be a lot more time consuming and a lot less accurate than simply turning lights on and off and measuring the outputs accurately with a meter.
    I am in the "use a lightmeter" camp on this issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gamble View Post
    I mean we're talking about a quick levels setting in the heat of the moment.
    Mostly carefully set up and planned shots don't involve decisions made in the heat of the moment.
    Last edited by I @ M; 05-02-2011 at 1:06pm.
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    As it happens This weekend I'm presenting some studio lighting workshops.

    I was doing a one on one teaching session yesterday with someone who believed - quite passionately - that they could use the histogram to check their exposures while using strobes/flash.

    I demonstrated that by taking two readings (this was using studio flash), I had the highlight and shadow readings, twice as fast as they could accomplish taking a shot, and reviewing the histogram.

    And in response to the point about live view and moving the cursor around - that would also take considerably more time then simply using a meter.

    A few minutes of using and not using a light/flash meter, clearly demonstrated the usefulness of a meter. I'm pretty confident that my enlightened friend will post his opinion here very soon

    And to go back to the OP's question - the in camera meter is going to utterly useless for manually measuring the light from a flash/strobe.

    And again sorry, but a histogram is just not going to tell you subtle differences between 1/3 and 1/2 stops. Each time you change the settings of one, then 2, 3, 4 and more lights, to take a shot each time, reviewing the shot, reviewing a histogram is soooooooo slow.

    I can absolutely assure you that in the "heat of the moment" I can take a reading and set my camera for the first correct shot, faster than someone guessing, taking the shot, reviewing the shot, and checking the histogram.

    A meter does make it faster, and it gives you great control.
    Last edited by Longshots; 06-02-2011 at 7:35am.

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