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Gear Talk => Software & Accessories => Topic started by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 06:41:45 AM

Title: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 06:41:45 AM
I'd be interested to hear your opinions on whether you think a light meter is a worthwhile accessory for landscape photography, particularly one measuring reflected (or spot) metering.

I was thinking of purchasing the Sekonic L-758DR. The video below makes what seems a good case for it's use, but then it would as it's produced for/by Sekonic. It's one of many videos from Sekonic.

Just to pre-empt the obvious question (that I also had) "why don't you simply use the camera's spot meter?", one answer appears to be that you can use the meter to take multiple spot readings and the Sekonic will average them out for you.
It also allows you to 'profile' your DSLR's sensor so you know it's dynamic range and will show the exposure range with reference to your camera's capabilities.

http://youtu.be/UpZVPSRSf6U (http://youtu.be/UpZVPSRSf6U)

All opinions gratefully received. Thank you.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Hillsilly on October 02, 2012, 07:27:01 AM
Guilty.  But I only use it with my film cameras.  My RB67 doesn't have a built in light meter.  And while the meter in my Mamiya 6 is ok, I still occassionally find a light meter to be a good reality check - especially when using flash.

With my DSLR, I find the preview from the LCD and histogram more than sufficient.

Perhaps I'm getting lazy, but as there is no direct financial cost with taking digital photos, I'm quite happy to snap away until I've got the exposure I want.  And bracketing isn't necessarily a bad option as it can give you post production possibilities.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Danielle on October 02, 2012, 07:34:09 AM
Actually, I have an RB67 too hence my reason for one. I've had it for years.

However there are times I purposely want to meter ambient light as opposed to reflected even with digital where I can just chimp. But at least I use it.

If your working with off camera flash, then well, that's obvious. Light meter comes out.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: pwp on October 02, 2012, 07:56:06 AM
I still use a Sekonic flash meter, but more for quickly getting ratios correct in multi light setups.
But if I inadvertently leave the Sekonic in the studio when I do a location shoot, I don't particularly miss it.

-PW
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: webexpert on October 02, 2012, 07:58:36 AM
I believe that it is an expensive equipment justified only if you do setup scenes or studio photos with large differences in light and when bracketing is not a solution (due to subject movement) . I tend to have with me a grey card in case that I want to photograph something very dark or light (i.e.snow) but I when I am outdoors, usually I find something grey to photometer i.e. a large stone, some clothes).
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: leadphoto on October 02, 2012, 08:00:41 AM
I use the L358 with the pocket wizard adapter.  I find it extremely use full for light set ups.  I also use it for when wedding ceremonies end up with the bride and groom in shadows under a tree and the rest of the ceremony under full sun.  Its very useful when scouting locations with mixed lighting and/or low light and can quickly jot those numbers down instead of getting lots of gear out.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: mws on October 02, 2012, 08:07:05 AM
I have no experience using them for landscape. I do use a L358 for my Fuji GW690, I have also found myself using it for multi light flash set ups. Even old used meters are quite expensive on eBay.

Do you know anyone who has one? Maybe you can borrow it for a while and see if it helps.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 08:24:54 AM
Thanks for all your replies so far.

Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who could lend me one. I don't do studio work with lights, but maybe I will in the future...

I like the comment about scouting locations, that's a good idea thanks :)
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Hillsilly on October 02, 2012, 08:52:06 AM
Maybe look at the second hand market.  If you can do some simple maths, then the older Pentax and Minolta spot meters are well regarded.

Nearly every serious photography book I read advocates a spot meter and the zone system or similar including sketching the scene and pencilling in all of the readings to determine the exposure and look that you are seeking.  To me, it seems overly complex and cumbersome....but then, my failure to do this consistently (and my fear of snakes!) might explain why I'm not a world reknown landscape photographer.  I suspect that one of the main benefits of using a light meter is that it makes you think more about what you are doing.  That alone might lead to better photographs. 

Actually, I have an RB67 too hence my reason for one....

You've never been tempted by the metered prism finder?
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Immaculens on October 02, 2012, 09:11:25 AM
got a Polaris Flash Meter a few wks ago and still learning it... the web is chuck full of Seconic videos but few Polaris... the instruction manual is... weak. But it has the features I need and the price was right and the quality is there.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: RLPhoto on October 02, 2012, 10:24:40 AM
I'd be interested to hear your opinions on whether you think a light meter is a worthwhile accessory for landscape photography, particularly one measuring reflected (or spot) metering.

I was thinking of purchasing the Sekonic L-758DR. The video below makes what seems a good case for it's use, but then it would as it's produced for/by Sekonic. It's one of many videos from Sekonic.

Just to pre-empt the obvious question (that I also had) "why don't you simply use the camera's spot meter?", one answer appears to be that you can use the meter to take multiple spot readings and the Sekonic will average them out for you.
It also allows you to 'profile' your DSLR's sensor so you know it's dynamic range and will show the exposure range with reference to your camera's capabilities.

http://youtu.be/UpZVPSRSf6U (http://youtu.be/UpZVPSRSf6U)

All opinions gratefully received. Thank you.

If I still shot MF or Large Format Film, I always had my Light meter.

Now with digital, I prefer a RGB histogram. It works for me. Why bother with a light meter?
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Plato the Wise on October 02, 2012, 10:28:21 AM
I have a spot meter and use it at times. I used to shoot with a Hasselblad 501 and it had no meter so it was a necessity. It is actually very useful for managing scene brightness and allows the photographer to control the exposure the way they envision the lightest and darkest points of a photo with a high level of accuracy.

This is especially important if you are photographing landscapes or architecture in the early mornings or evenings and use split ND filters.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Tayvin on October 02, 2012, 10:37:52 AM
I still use my Sekonic 608 to figure out lighting ratios on set.  It's also a great way to buy time if you have a lot of clients watching you and you're trying to solve a problem.  Clients love light meters  8)

Strangely enough, I use my 5D II as a meter when I'm shooting MF film.  It works perfectly.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Studio1930 on October 02, 2012, 12:17:09 PM
Like a million others here, I have the L358 and I use it for ambient readings and not reflective.  I don't shoot landscapes so I prefer not to meter reflective unless I am simply using the meter in camera.  If I break out the L358 (did this a few days ago for a studio portrait) then it is to setup lights rather than check distant reflective light.

I would think the in camera meter would be just a good and quicker unless your camera doesn't have one (or isn't reliable).  Tayvin is right though, clients love light meters.  You quickly become "professional" in their eyes.   :P

Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Zv on October 02, 2012, 12:22:14 PM
I've never used one, though I am curious. It seems like an unnecessary step, and an extra thing to carry round. Doesn't it just try and expose for 18% grey? Not everything is 18% grey you know. Isn't that why we have Lightroom anyway, to fix slight exposure probs? Or am I in jpeg territory? uh oh!
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 12:28:35 PM
 ;D I'm lovin' the 'clients love light meters' comments. But I'm just an amateur, so no clients. Maybe my girlfriend will be impressed when I take readings under her chin!

I have a 1DX so, yeah, it has built-in metering. I just want to make the most of the locations I find myself in.

I've ordered the L-758DR today so I'll be taking it to South Africa next week. Hopefully I'll have time to learn how to use it first!

I'll try to do some camera-metered vs Sekonic-metered comparison images while I'm there.

More comments welcome  :)
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 12:34:40 PM
@ Zv
Yeah, I'm curious too...
From what I've picked up, I would spot meter (using the handheld) the brightest area, e.g. white cloud in sky, which gives the exposure for mid-grey, then shift that exposure to the right, e.g. 2 stops, to make it the brightest object without clipping.
As above, it sounds like this could be done via spot metering with the camera, but I'm going to give it a go anyway!
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Studio1930 on October 02, 2012, 01:40:47 PM
I have calibrated my L358 meter to expose to the right by 2/3 of a stop so I don't have to make adjustments to the readings.  There is a way to calibrate those meters to zero them in to whatever setting you like.  When I shot slide, I would calibrate my meter to slightly underexpose and now with digital I have it almost 1 stop overexpose.  :P
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Gennadiy on October 02, 2012, 02:23:19 PM
I'm also curious to learn whether light meters can help amateurs with correct exposures. Most of the problems I run into happen when I have a brightly lit background with a subject in front. Will these meters help with that?
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Elbows on October 02, 2012, 02:32:16 PM
Gennadiy,
That sounds like you need to add fill flash to get the lighting on your subject to match the bright background. I think the meter could help in that situation. Search for 'fill flash' on you tube :-)
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Sashi on October 02, 2012, 02:38:36 PM
Hi, didn't watch the youtube video, but am giving my two cents based on what I believe you could use it for.(I have a sekonic spot meter)......(and a camera)

If you using it for getting an average reading to set exposure, just use your camera on evaluative metering, it will do it better. You always have the histogram and highlight clipping warnings on your camera to tell you otherwise, and the correct exposure is always a quick dial shift and shutter press away. Besides which it really is best to expose to the right to capture more detail in your image then dial it down afterwords in your raw processing.

If your using it to help you decide which grad filter to use, dont. Your better of sticking on the filter that visually suits the image to your liking.

If you got this to help with a safari in South Africa, don't. Them pesky leopards don't stay still enough to get an accurate scene reading.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Gennadiy on October 02, 2012, 02:56:25 PM
So for this type of photos an exposure meter does not offer anything that I cant get with a fill flash? I better spend some time to learn to use my flash...
Thank you for your input

P.s. What if it is really bright out and the sync speed of 1/200 may not be enough?
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: mws on October 02, 2012, 02:59:29 PM
;D I'm lovin' the 'clients love light meters' comments. But I'm just an amateur, so no clients. Maybe my girlfriend will be impressed when I take readings under her chin!

My wife said, "what are you doing, and what did you buy now"
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Goshdern on October 02, 2012, 03:13:23 PM
If we're shooting without lights, we just use the camera's metering system.  if you are mixing ambiant and flash/strobes you will waste a ton of time if you do not use a lightmeter and have your work cut out for ya in post.

I got the L-758DR and after spending some time learning how to use it right I get great results now.  It can be used to ensure that no point in your scene falls outside of your camera's dynamic range as well (after calibrating it to your camera).

For those who are asking why would you use it... If you use your histograms and LCD to wing it (in combination with the camera's metering system and metering mode you have it set in etc) you are most likely bringing your images into editing software to fix the exposure, right?  With a (proper) light meter reading it's just right.

For example, take a pic without flash turned on and balance it so the background/sky looks great.  Using those settings adjust your strobe to match that power and you should get nice blue sky that isn't blown out and you can adjust your background brightness with shutter speed from there.

It can be done without a meter obviously, others have posted they do it without one.  But I don't understand why someone wouldn't take the time to learn to use one if you can afford it.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Policar on October 02, 2012, 03:57:36 PM
When I shoot film I always use one, when I shoot video I use one sometimes.

For digital stills...nah.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: ghstark on October 02, 2012, 04:05:28 PM
I always use a Light Meter at Weddings. It may slow you down a little but it saves me a lot of computer time after the Job.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: hammy on October 02, 2012, 07:42:35 PM
i bought one few months back. expensive.... and it doesn't include the profile target. used it once and haven't taken it out since. they have a new one now (L-478) http://www.sekonic.com/ (http://www.sekonic.com/)
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Danielle on October 02, 2012, 08:15:56 PM
I know I can get a metered prism for my RB67, but of course it will only read reflected light. I can meter reflected light on my meter as well. So I never brought one, it wouldn't speed anything up much anyway and would likely make an already heavy bulky camera even more bulky. I'd be better off spending money on another lens.

To those who want to know, I'm talking about an older mechanical medium format film camera, yes I still use it and yes I love it. No electronics what so ever, no batteries, nothing. And probably more reliable because of it.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: symmar22 on October 03, 2012, 02:55:29 PM
I use a Minolta SpotMeter when I shoot architecture and landscape with my Linhof Technika 2000, and a Sekonic L-508 to adjust the strobe light ratio in the studio. When shooting available light with a digital camera, I rely on the integrated metering, I find the camera's spotmeter works quite well.
Title: Re: Who uses a handheld light meter?
Post by: Ryan708 on October 03, 2012, 03:44:16 PM
So for this type of photos an exposure meter does not offer anything that I cant get with a fill flash? I better spend some time to learn to use my flash...
Thank you for your input

P.s. What if it is really bright out and the sync speed of 1/200 may not be enough?

3 options!

1)lightroom is pretty amazing but not ideal
2)Most higher end flash's have high speed synch, which will allow way over 1/200th. I find this quite useful for outdoors
3)You can use a polarizing and/or ND (neutral density) filter to make the scene appear darker to the camera, then enabling a slower (1/200) shutter speed to be correctly lit