I should use a flash meter a lot more than I do.... Why?
Well over the last year I have gotten to know the power output from our Bowens Gemini flashes quite well, and i know that if the KEY LIGHT is set to X then my camera will have to be set to "approximately" f stop/Y, 1/200th, iso 100 (X and Y are naturally variables that are dependant on one an other). But what about FILL FLASH, HAIR LIGHTS etc? Well with a bit of experience you will get to know how much extra, or how much less you can use and combined the histogram in your camera you get a very good guide to your over all exposure. Never trust just the preview on your camera screen ... it lies always - use at least the histogram to check your exposure or better still proof everything with a flash meter before you start, especially in difficult lighting situations. This will save you a lot of time in post production. At first it seemed so complex, but it’s really not!
It really is as simple as these 7 (6) steps:
- Enter the ISO that you want to shoot with into your light meter.
- Use the white plastic dome on the meter (incident-light) for your reading
- Aim the light meter (the round white plastic dome part) at your camera’s lens.
- Push the button on the side of the meter (or have your subject or assistant push it).
- Fire the flash.
- Enter the shutter speed and aperture settings, which the meter gives you, into your camera.
- Take a perfectly exposed picture, smile and say thank you to your model.
A few more tips trick and pointers:
- If you’re taking a portrait, have the person hold the light meter directly under their chin or nose.
- If you change your flash power or the direction of the light, you need to take a new meter reading.
- If you have a newer light meter model, they are made to be aimed at the camera lens.
- If you have an older light meter model, they might need to be aimed at the light source. Check your light meter’s user’s guide.
- Step 4 and 5 can be combined into 1 easy step if you can attach your flashes to your meter e.g. you fire your flash via a sync cable.
- Don't shoot above the recommended flash sync speed of your camera (refer to your user hand book)
- Don't stand between your flash meter and your flash when doing a measurement... Sounds obvious but I've seen it happen more than once
When you are using a meter it will only tell you how much light is hitting your subject, and not how much light is being reflected. It is good to understand that different surfaces, textures and colours reflect light differently and this my be something to take into consideration. Most people will use their in-camera meter (screen and histogram)because they’re lazy (yeap ... just like me). But when I use a hand-held flash meter, it really cuts the post-processing time because I don’t have to make any exposure corrections in Photoshop or Lightroom etc.