How-to: Perfect Exposure without Photoshop

The light meter. Does anyone still utilise it?

This light measuring device seems out of place with all technology advancements. I disagree.

Let me show you some scenario where it is more efficient with a light meter.

Correct exposure value of your subject
If you are shooting on a location or working with multiple strobes, how do you determine the best exposure value of your subject?

Place the light meter in front of your subject, point it to the camera and get an exposure reading.

If your subject is lighter or darker than mid-gray, increase or decrease exposure value by 0.5 to 0.7 stops.
STEPS TAKEN: ONE

Determine light ratio
Let’s say you are working with a model today. You want to create some moody shot. So the lightings are going to be quite contrasty.

Say you want to work with a lighting ratio of 8:1 (3 stops main light to 1 stop fill light).

Place the light meter in front of the model, facing the main light and take a measurement. (For example purpose we assume it is at f/8). Now, you need your shadows to be 3 stops darker than your main light. Repeat the first step but the light meter now faces the fill light. Adjust the power of your fill light until it reads f/2.8.
STEPS TAKEN: TWO

Get a pure white background
Do you spend hours on post processing, using Photoshop so you can get a pure white background?
Or do you notice too much flare in your photos when you shoot with a white background?
The secret to this: a light meter.

You read that right.

First, your background is going to be 2-stops overexposed from your camera settings.
So, if your camera setting is at f/8, your background reading should be at f/16.

Take a few readings of your background. Have your light meter placed in front of the background, facing the camera. I would do 5 readings: 4 at the each corner of the camera frame, and 1 in the middle.

There should not be a difference of more than 0.5 stops at each reading. If they do, you need to tweak your lights so they can cover more background area.
STEPS TAKEN: FIVE (1 in the middle, 4 at the corners)

Preserve details in your rim light
I want you to take a look at your photos. Take a close look at your rim lights (or hair lights, or whatever light that is higher exposure than your main light). A rim light is supposed to accentuate textures, be it hair or clothes or anything.

Is your rim light a blotch of pure overexposed whiteness with no details?

Try again with 1 to 1.5 stop higher exposure than your main light. Remember to face the light meter to the rim light.
STEPS TAKEN: ONE

* Pro tip: Always stand behind the light meter. Hold it with your arms fully stretched. Make sure you are not blocking any lights hitting on the light meter.

Sekonic L 478-D light meter from Amazon.

I am using and very happy with Sekonic L-358 but it has been discontinued. Looks like Sekonic is moving towards touch screen display.

If you don’t care much for high tech, this basic model Sekonic L-308S-U will do the job just fine.

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Disclaimer: I only recommend a useful product that I have personally used. I don’t receive any monetary compensation from the brand company that I recommend. I earn a small commission (4%) whenever you purchase a product through my Amazon affiliate link.

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