Should I purchase a Sekonic L-358 lightmeter for my work?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by dan_k|6, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. I keep hearing how the pro's and serious amateurs rely on a lightmeter to nail their exposures. I'm the photographer for our Church. I shoot at our Church and 2 other affiliated Churches. I'm not a paid professional just a hobbyist.
    I have some serious equipment and I want to know if learning to use a lightmeter would help my work out.
    I shoot with a Nikon D200, 17-55, 80-200 2.8, SB-800, Quantum Turbo SC. I like to shoot TTL most times but now I want to get into shooting in Manual and Auto modes.
    I rarely use a tripod. Most of my work is walk around, then shoot. The shooting is fast and goes with the flow of the Church service or event. With this type of shooting, how do I incorporate a light meter like the Sekonic. Can you tell me how I have to incorporate the light meter into my shooting. I'm a newbie when it comes to the lightmeter. I just see portrait photographers in the studio using them with posed models. I'm not sure how to incorporate it into faster shooting sessions.
    Thanks
     
  2. One of the most important things a light meter will do for you is serve as a laboratory for better personal understanding of the differences between the light that's falling on a subject and the light that's reflected to the camera (and its sophisticated but easily fooled meter). They aren't the same thing.

    I also use a D200, and sometimes use a handheld meter. I use it quite frequently in a studio setting or while doing product type shots (as a flash meter, primarily), but I do also use it in more dynamic situations as something of a sanity check - especially if I'm using one or more strobes.

    Here's the thing: if the strobe is on the camera, it can be more difficult for you walk the meter over to your subject and still trigger the strobe. You want to meter the light in the configuration in which it's going to be actually used, so unless you can remotely fire the D200 (while it's on a tripod), then the meter could be much too cumbersome in that role. iTTL and a bit of chimping/compensating is more likely to serve you in that capacity.

    That being said, the meter can really help you to get a sense of the available light in an area where it's not rapidly changing (say, up at the business end of a church - where you don't want your camera's reflective meter to be fooled by white dresses and black suits or to be fooled by people with especially pale or especially dark faces). But if you shoot the same venue on a regular basis, you can probably arrive at a recipe for that space over time, and do so without an incident meter. For shifting available light (say, window light through the course of a late afternoon, when you're using your 80-200/2.8 without a strobe, and are up against strong contrasts), the meter's a very useful tool.

    The D200's dynamic range can work against you if the light's marginal, and an incident meter can help you to keep the shot "exposed to the right" just so, while preserving detail. The camera's own meter kills a few sacrifial lambs here and there, when it doesn't understand the scene. You can catch it in the act using the camera's histogram and blinking highlight display - but if you'd rather concentrate on your shooting, having the exposure perfect on the way in really helps.
     
  3. A light meter will not be of much help to you given the scenario you describe.
    A light meter is helpful to and necessary for photographers using studio strobes fired by PocketWizards, with the camera in manual mode. In practical usage it works as follows. I setup studio strobe lights and subject for a given shot, and then perform a test framing and focus. I set the aperture based on the amount of depth of field I desire. In studio, my shutter speed, and synch speed, are usually 1/125th/sec. I then place the Sekonic meter at the subject in various locations and have the Sekonic fire the studio strobes to test the light level. I then adjust the various studio strobes until I achieve the meter reading I desire. For example, given a short depth of field head shot, I might have: ISO 100, shutter 1/125th, aperture F/5.6. I then adjust the output in joules on my Bowens Gemini Digital strobe, in 1/1th f-stop increments, until the light meter reads F/5.6 for the given ISO and shutter speed, in response to a test strobe firing. The secondary lights are adjusted for the desired effect, for example the rim and hair lights usually require only quite small amounts of, usually hard, light.
    Shooting tethered to a computer with a large LCD, the Canon EOS Utility software automatically downloads each photograph and shows them on the large LCD for visual verification and possible further fine tuning of light levels. Once the desired lighting and so forth are achieved, the actual shot series begins with the subject.
    The light meter is required in such a context, foremost, because the camera is in manual mode. The light meter also contaians a built in Pocketwizard transmitter that fires the strobe lights just as the PocketWizard transmitter on the camera can fire the studio strobes, so that it can obtain a meter reading, simulating the lighting achieved during a camera exposure.
    This kind of scenario can be emulated by setting one or more SB-800 units into SU-4 manual mode, which provides 1/3 f-stop adjustments. An SB-800 can best be used in such a scenario with either a white shoot-thru umbrella, or reflecting onto an umbrella. Then setup the stand mounted SB-800s, with one of them attached to a PocketWizard transceiver. The others will fire when they "see' the flash from the PocketWizard connected SB-800.
    Anyone shooting with iTTL and/or without a way to synchronize the Sekonic with the strobes would not have a way to get a proper synched light meter measurement of the strobe output.
    The scenario described above assumes a context with the opportunity to make adjustments and so forth. Live event photography does not provide such an opportunity.
     
  4. The phrase:
    "Bowens Gemini Digital strobe, in 1/1th f-stop increments"
    should have been:
    "Bowens Gemini Digital strobe, in 1/10th f-stop increments"
    The Bowens Gemini Digital strobes can be adjusted in 1/10th f-stop increments. The equivalent value in joules is proportional as light output increases, say from 16 joules to 500 joules (watt seconds). The flash output of most current model, higher end, studio strobes, such as Profoto, Broncolor, Hensel, Speedotron, Elinchrom, Bowens, and similar brands, can be adjusted in 1/10th f-stop increments.
     
  5. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    "A light meter will not be of much help to you given the scenario you describe."
    I agree.
     
  6. "A light meter will not be of much help to you given the scenario you describe."
    I agree too. I use mine (L-358 for studio w/ PW's and LF work).
     
  7. Daniel:
    I have some serious equipment and I want to know if learning to use a lightmeter would help my work out.
    I think that knowing which are the basics of the light/flash meter functioning OF COURSE will help with your work. Do you understand the difference between INCIDENT and REFLECTED lights? Do you know what type of light meter has your camera? Understanding this principles will make you better photographer.
    I use my L-358 to make my studio portraits of snakes or art work. For the remaining scenarios I rely on reflected light meter of my cameras, that today are very accurate.
    Most of my work is walk around, then shoot. The shooting is fast and goes with the flow of the Church service or event. With this type of shooting, how do I incorporate a light meter like the Sekonic. Can you tell me how I have to incorporate the light meter into my shooting.
    For this type of work I, personally ,consider as un-practical to use the incident light meter. Inside a church the lighting conditions push you to use higher ISO's or low speeds if you want to work with environmental lighting. I think a dedicated flash is the appropriated option.
    I hope have helped
    JC
     

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