I recently gave a short talk about my favourite gadget/tool, Thinking about what had made the most difference to my photography, my flash meter sprung to mind.
Sekonic Flashmate L-308S – about $200 from B&H
Essentially you tell the device what ISO you want to use, walk to the subject, point the meter at the lights and fire them.
It then tells you the F-stop needed to expose the picture.
When the flashes are providing most of the light, the shutter speed is not a factor – special effects folks may blanch here.
What made me love this gadget?
- Saves me a great deal of time
- Produces good results
- Gives the client confidence I know what I am doing
- Gives me confidence
A long time ago…
I started shooting portraits using speedlights and thought I could apply the same techniques that I used for agency real estate shooting.
- Set the exposure on the brightest source of light (a window)
- Chimp the flash power (or exposure) to bring the light up to where you want it.
Chimping did not work well for portraits. I would tether the camera to my tablet and adjust the flash power till it looked about right on the screen, positioned away from the camera.
This looked good on the small screen over during the shoot and, for example. although this image was rescuable from a raw file, there quite a few images that were about 1 stop overexposed.
White background “wash out”
When trying to get a flat white background on seamless paper, things would soon go wrong. On the small screen the pictures looked good, but back at the ranch, they were all “washed out” by overexposing the background. It took longer to rescue these, plus there were a lot of images.
A waste of time and effort
If you are not shooting at home or in a studio, or if you just want to use several lighting styles, the whole chimping process needed to be repeated each time. The problems that occurred meant I needed to excuse some results when going through pictures with the client. These problems could be resolved when shooting – that said you are busy posing, remembering your right and left, and working with them to get cool expressions and that takes your focus off the tech.
Now I can talk to the person being photographed, pose them and when that’s done
- Hold the meter in front of them and fire the strobes with the trigger.
- The meter will then tell me the F Stop needed for some given ISO, I often prefer to use F8 or F11, so may tweak the lights to give me what I want.
- I will measure the light coming off the backdrop, if I shooting F8, I’ll want that at a max of F5.6
After that, I focus on my subject and take pictures.
Here is a picture that is straight out of the Camera.
- Post work will then be focused on cropping and any retouching, and not fixing field problems.
- Pretty much on the first use of the Flashmate I was
- just amazed how I had managed without it.
It has paid its way in just the time saved.
The same approach works just as well for the film.
Chimping just can’t be used with film – so you have to get the exposure correct before you take the shot.
The flash meter makes this quick and easy, I now often take shots with my old medium format camera with great results.