A modern light meter is a flash meter as well as an ambient light meter. And that can be good, but it can also be confusing. How do you meter when using a flash outdoors, when you meter both types?
For instance, for a shot like this?
Here is how I do it:
- I set my camera to the mode I want – manual, usually in this case.
- Now, I decide on ISO. Say 100.
- Then I decide on shutter speed – say 1/200th sec. No more than the camera’s fastest flash sync speed, usually around 1.200th second.
- Now I set those values on the light meter and I press the button to meter the ambient light and read the aperture that this gives me. (I can use the light meter in ambient mode, or I can use my camera. I prefer the light meter. )
- Then I set my camera to what I want with respect to that, say -2 stops w.r.t ambient. So if the meter reads f/4. I may use f/8 instead.
- Then I switch to flash meter.
- I now fire a test flash with my flash – and then adjust flash power and distance to give me exactly this aperture.
In fact it is often a bit of an iterative process:if step 3 does not give me a good aperture value (e.g. it gives me f/2.0 or f/16), then I will choose different shutter speed or ISO values until I get a value I like. Or if even at full flash power I cannot get the desired aperture in step 7, I adjust ISO and go back to step 1.
Try this technique: all you need is a manual camera, a manual flash (and a way to fire it), and a light meter.
And then you too can make shots like this:
That shot was taken at one of Joseph Marranca and my Mono workshops.
And there is good news: the last ever Mono workshop, on April 23, is open for booking. And it will be a very special one. Can you say “green screen”, “waterboarder”, and “amazing portfolio shots” as well as “learning great light and flash technique”? Sign up now if you want to have a great photographic learning experience.