Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 27: Metering Part 3: Using a light meter

Uploaded by adoramaTV on 15.08.2010

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Woman 1: Adorama TV presents Digital Photography one on one. Where we answer your questions.
Here's your host, Marc Wallace.
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Marc Wallace: Hey everybody, welcome to this week's episode of Digital Photography one
on one. I'm Marc Wallace.
Well, we're continuing our series where we're talking about metering. Specifically this
week we're going to be talking about the basics of metering with a light meter like this one.
So let's start by looking at our question.
This week, we got a question from our overseas friends. This one's from Christopher in Poland.
And Christopher asks:
[background music sets in]
"How do you use a light meter to measure continuous light and strobes?"
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Well Christopher, with a light meter like this one, metering is very simple. Just think
of the exposure triangle. In the exposure triangle, you have aperture, shutter, and
ISO. And those three things work together to give you the correct exposure.
With the light meter, you enter the ISO and one other part of the exposure triangle, and
the meter gives you the third part. For example: you can enter the ISO and the shutter speed,
and when you take a reading, the meter will give you the correct aperture value. Or you
can enter the ISO and the aperture value, and the meter will give you the correct shutter
Now remember, if you're metering studio strobes, you'll always enter the ISO and the shutter
speed, and the meter will give you the correct aperture value.
Well today, I'm using the Sekonic L-358 to show you some of the modes that we have. And
I highly recommend using Sekonic light meters, because they're, I think, the best meters
on the market. You can't find one that's better.
You'll want to take a look at these modes here. Now, we have several modes and these
are what you'll see at the top of your light meter. We're going to go through these one
by one. The very first one here looks like a sunshine. That is called daylight or ambient
mode. And that's the mode that you would use if you're metering anything that has continuous
Like the sun, or if you have tungsten lights, or if you have continuous lights in the studio
that are always on, this is the mode that you'll use. It's a very common on all light
meters. In fact all light meters have this. And that's the one you'd use for constant
Now, the next one is called... it's got a little flash here on Sekonic meters... it's
called auto reset cordless flash metering, or cordless flash mode. It's a mouthful, but
really what this does, it allows your meter to, you push your button and it waits, and
it'll wait up to about 90 seconds and it's waiting for a flash to fire. So it's really
nice if you don't have a sync cable or a radio trigger to use. We're going to actually go
over this in one of our upcoming episodes on advanced metering, using the Sekonic light
Now, there's another one here, it's got a little "C". And that's for corded flash. And
this has been around for years and years and years. And what that allows you to do, is
take your light meter and plug in a cable, it's called the sync cable. And that goes
to your flash and so when you push the meter reading button on the side of your meter,
your flash will fire. So this is on, again, all light meters. It's been around for years
and years and years.
Now, recently companies have come out, most notably PocketWizard, that allow you to replace
that cable with a radio trigger. And so this is the mode that we have here. It's called
wireless flash radio triggering mode. And that little radio antenna there, sometimes
it looks like a "T", because it's not as big as our big screen here, but it's actually
an antenna. What that allows you to do is, when you take a meter reading, it triggers
your flashes wirelessly.
OK, now that know about the modes, we're going to show you two of these modes, basic ambient
metering and wireless radio triggering. We're going to show you the basics of both of those
modes. So we're going to start with ambient reading. So let's get going.
All right, so let's first talk about how to meter ambient light. Erica here is our model.
And what we're doing is, I've set my Sekonic meter here to ambient mode, which is the first
little mode right here on the dial. And we can do here is in ambient mode, we can choose
to either shoot in aperture priority or shutter priority, meaning that I'll tell the meter
I know what aperture I want to shoot at, you tell me what shutter speed to put my camera
on, or I can say I know what shutter speed to shoot at and you tell me what aperture
value to set my camera to.
So we're going to start out with our meter set to aperture priority mode. And so, what
I've done is I've set two variables. I've set my ISO value at 100, which is what my
camera's set to, and I've set my aperture value to 2.8, that's the aperture I want to
shoot at. What I don't know is what shutter speed to use. So it's very simple.
Once I have those two things set, on the side of the meter here there is a meter button
and I can push that. So I'm going to just put this right under Erica's chin. I'm going
to point this right at my camera and then when I push this, it tells me my shutter speed.
So my shutter speed is 400. So now, I can just walk back to my camera, set my aperture
to 2.8, my shutter to 400 and I can shoot that and it would be a perfect exposure.
Now, let's pretend like I had a certain shutter speed I want to use. So I'm going to pull
a number out of the air, I'm going to say I want to shoot at a 125th of a second. Well,
I'm going to put this in a different mode. I'm going to push my mode button, you know,
roll it to the left. And now I I've got a little square around the "T", which is the
time value. So I'm going to tell it, I want to set my shutter speed to 125. I'm doing
that by just rolling this and as I roll that it changes the shutter speed. So 125, and
I need to know what aperture value to use.
But I don't actually have to re-meter. It will just tell me, it knows what my last meter
reading is, but we'll verify it. So I'll do this and I'll click. And again it just says
five, and so now I know that if I put my camera on 125, I need to set my aperture value to
five, and then, I'll get a perfect exposure. Now, what if I wanted to know what would happen,
let's say, if I needed to shoot at ISO 200 or 400? Well I don't even have to re-meter.
I can just push this ISO button and I can roll my dial and let's say I'm going up to
ISO 400. It says I need to go to F10. I go down to 200 it'll tell me, oh, I need to shoot
at 7.1.
So the nice thing about a meter is that you can just meter once then change all the different
parameters to see what different exposures are going to do, so you can make the creatively-correct
decision. So I'm going to put my ISO back down to 100, and I'm going to set my camera
to 125 and an aperture value of 5. So let me go over and do this.
Now, I have my camera set to manual mode, and that's what you want to do when you're
using a light meter like this, because you're not using the built-in meter anymore. So I've
set my camera to manual mode. So I'm going to set my shutter speed to 125 and my aperture
value to 5, and I have my ISO at 100, so everything matches what my meter was.
So, Erica, look right at me. Perfect.
[camera shutter sound effect]
Mark: And I can look on the back here; it's a perfect exposure. And that's how simple
it is to use a light meter on location when you're metering ambient light. Now we're going
to go into the studio and look at how to meter light in a studio lighting situation.
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Mark: All right, now that we're in the studio, let's talk about a couple of different modes
that our meter can do. Again, here we're with Erica, and what we're going to show you first
is there's a mode that allows you to hook up a sync cable to your meter. Almost every
single light meter has that, but we're going to use a PocketWizard that's built into this,
so we don't really need this here. So I'm going to throw that away.
So I'm going to change my mode, and I've got a mode here that has a little antenna on that,
and what that means is I'm going to trigger my flash wirelessly. So when I push my metering
[flash fires]
Mark: flash fires. And so that's the way I recommend you set up your meter, is
use a Sekonic with a built-in PocketWizard. That way you don't have to have that nasty
sync cable built in.
OK. So, what we do here is: again, we're going to set two parameters and let the meter solve
for the third. But when you're shooting in a studio, really you have to set two specific
parameters; that is the ISO setting and the shutter speed, and your shutter speed should
be set to your camera's sync speed.
Now, I've done three or four videos in the past on sync speed, so we're not going to
cover that here, but you can go back into our Digital Photography One on One videos
and see a bunch of videos on sync speed. So take a look at those.
But, on the camera that I'm shooting with, the sync speed is two hundredth of a second,
so I've set my meter to two hundredth of a second, and I've set my ISO to 100. And so,
again, my ISO is set to 100. Some cameras, like some of the Nikons, can only go to ISO
200 as their lowest ISO setting, so if I was shooting with a Nikon like a D90 or something,
I'd set this to ISO 200.
But the point is you want to keep your ISO as low as possible in the studio so you don't
have a lot of noise. So, I'm setting mine to ISO 100. My camera's sync speed is 200.
And then the other thing that I'm going to get is the aperture value, and really, when
you're in a studio, that's really all you're looking for, is the aperture value.
So a lot of times when you have an assistant or somebody metering, they're just calling
out a number, like seven, or six-five, or five-four, four-five, something like that.
And they're not saying anything else, just this, like, "Oh, it's metering at four-five"
because all you really care about is the aperture value.
So, what I'm going to do here is, this little lumisphere thing, make sure that it's up when
you're metering in the studio, getting general lighting. Now, there are some reasons why
you would have to have this down, and so, in a few weeks we're going to have some advanced
metering techniques, and so we'll talk about when you need to have this down. For basics,
though, you want to have this up, and you want to put this as close as possible to your
Now, ideally, you want to have your lumisphere as close to the eyes of a model as possible
if you're shooting portraits. Now, I don't do that because I don't want to jab somebody
in the eye. And so, it's really uncomfortable sticking this in front of somebody's face,
so what I do instead is I'll put it right underneath a person's chin, and that makes
sure that this is in line with her eyes so I'm getting about the exact same distance
from the light by putting it under the chin, and it's a little less intimidating than,
"Ah, I'm going to stick you in the eye."
OK, so that's why I stick it there. And then, the lumisphere needs to point right down the
lens of the camera's lens, so right down the barrel of the lens, I guess. So point this
right at your camera. Push the meter button.
[flash fires]
Mark: The flash fires, and then I'm looking here; this says f/11. That's my aperture value,
and I would set my camera to this value, f/11, take a shot, and I'll have a perfect exposure.
So it's very, very simple. Let me go over it one more time. Set your ISO and your shutter
speed exactly the same as your camera, then meter under the chin, right at the camera,
and once you do that, it's going to tell you what the aperture value is. Set your camera
to that aperture value, and you'll have a perfect exposure.
Now, there's one other thing I need to cover really, really quickly to make sure that your
meter and your camera are set correctly, and that is: out of the box, a lot of meters move
in half-stop increments, and most cameras move in third-stop increments. So, on a Sekonic
meter, you can adjust your meter to either move in half, full, or third-stop increments,
so I suggest you make sure your meter is set to third-stop increments. And there are different
ways to do that, so make sure you check your user manual, because on different meters there
are different ways to do that.
On this one there's some switches on the back, and if you have this meter, the best way to
do it is: the first two switches down, and then the last two switches up, and that'll
get you in the right settings. For other meters, make sure you check your user manual.
OK, now what we're going to do is I'm going to take a couple of pictures, and just show
you what this looks like here at 200, f/11, ISO 100. So Erica, are you ready?
Erica: Mm-hmm.
Mark: Awesome. OK, we're going to take a couple pictures and show you how that looks.
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Mark: Awesome. Well, those pictures look really good, and those are the basics of metering.
So please stay tuned for part four of our series, where we talk about some advanced
light-metering tricks with this, the Sekonic L-758DR. We're going to be talking about how
to get light ratios to look right, and dynamic range, and all kinds of stuff like that. So
please stay tuned, and to make sure you don't miss a single second of our videos, please
And as usual, if you have questions about photography or photography-related gear, you
can send those to me at Thanks for joining me. I'll see you next week.
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