Why I use a light meter

Why I use a light meter in the studio.

Many photographers don’t use a light meter. I prefer to at least start the photo shoot with the meter. It’s a jumping off point that helps me to create a balance in the shoot. Later on, I do tend to try different flavors.

The main reason I use a meter is that when I work with strobes, my modeling light can only give me an estimate for coverage. For most strobes, the modeling light is maybe 100 watts but the flash from the strobe is much 300+ watts in some cases.

So, why doesn’t the eyeball mark 1 work for me? Well, when you trigger the strobe, it pulses for a brief fraction of a second. That split second isn’t enough to visualize where the strobe is going to cover. You really can’t visualize the intensity and falloff of a flash of light on a subject.

What I do is take several meter readings on my subject in order to get an idea for coverage and shadows. Even when I’m shooting beauty close ups, it helps me to understand where my highlights and shadows are going to be. I’ll admit it’s not a perfect solution either.

Finally, I have also found that a meter isn’t exactly where I probably will shoot. I usually find myself going either 1 stop brighter or darker than the meter. This comes partly from the differences between a meter and the camera sensor. But it’s also a matter or taste. The meter give you a baseline for mid key lighting. The artistic choice comes from either exposing higher or lower than what shows on the meter.

A word about collaboration

I  want to talk a minute about collaboration. So many times photographers around here don’t want to work with each other. We see each other as competition. But the one thing I’ve found in the last few years of collaboration is that you learn from each other.

See, if we had some big name photographers that shoot fashion & glamour, I’d try to apprentice with them. But we don”t. I find myself instead working with other people at the same level as myself, and yet still learning a lot. I can watch other people and how they shoot and learn what works and what doesn’t.

We also work as art directors for each other helping newer models to try new things.

You need to work as a team so that each person can push each other.