Light Meter vs Post Production

photodad1photodad1 PhotodadPosts: 566Registered Users Major grins
edited August 8, 2013 in Technique
I have been looking at purchasing a Light Meter to save time on setting my exposure and relying on the camera. Are Light Meters worth the money or can I achieve the same result with CS6 in post production?

Comments

  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,419Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 20, 2013
    Doesn't your camera have a light meter built into it? Why not use it?

    I do own a Sekonic L- 358, incident light meter and flash meter, and find I rarely ever use it, EXCEPT as a flash meter, where I find it can be quite handy. But for basic exposure I use the meter in my camera, along with some judicious interpretation of my histogram. Having a basic awareness of Sunny 16 is always worthwhile as well.

    If you really want a hand held light meter, understand the difference between an incident meter, and a reflected meter.

    There are some apps these days to convert your smart phone to a light meter, both for iPhones and Android phones; a quick Google search will turn them up.

    You can fine tune your exposure in the RAW engine in CS6 or Lightroom, but getting a good exposure to start with is fundamental for finest image quality, isn't it?
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • photodad1photodad1 Photodad Posts: 566Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 21, 2013
    The Canon 5DmarkIII does meter very well. I've got the sunny 16 rule down. It's mostly for indoor or shady areas.
  • joshhuntnmjoshhuntnm Las Cruces, NM Posts: 1,819Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 21, 2013
    I'd think your camera can meter well enough. If you get within a stop or two you can fix the rest in post.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,086Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 21, 2013
    The built-in meter of your camera is pretty marvelous technology.

    The reason to use an external, hand-held meter these days is to mix flash with ambient when you have a large number of external flash units which have light modifiers (for a common instance). Background lighting in a "remote" shoot and any other carefully-crafted light setup (several reflectors, for example) would be another.

    It is important to understand how to "shoot to the right" in low contrast scenes, and how to expose for the subject (while protecting valuable highlights) in high-contrast scenes. Proper use or your camera's histogram, including the very important RGB histogram representation, is also extremely important.

    For these things I will refer you to existing resources:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/expose-right.shtml

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/digital-exposure-techniques.htm

    http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/histograms2.htm
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 21,086Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 21, 2013
    joshhuntnm wrote: »
    I'd think your camera can meter well enough. If you get within a stop or two you can fix the rest in post.

    In a wedding/event situation "and" during candids, I largely agree. PJ/street and sports/action are other categories where a "close" exposure, without subject overexposure, may be close enough. It's still important not to overexpose important detail in the scene, because overexposed detail is mostly lost forever.

    For wedding formals, portraiture, landscapes (scenic, vista, panoramic, compressed, etc.), cityscapes, architectural, aerial, astro, product, food, macro, nature, fashion, glamour, etc., I would want much closer control over exposure.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,419Super Moderators moderator
    edited July 21, 2013
    Ziggy, I think an useful exercise for folks interested in metering and correct exposure, is to shoot a Kodak 30 step grey scale and color chart as in camera jpgs. -- And do it with various Exposure Values in Manual mode so that they cna see what a small exposure error does to one's image.

    One will quickly learn that digital files really need accurate exposure to capture the FULL grey scale and to place it in the image properly from white to black, and to to not alter the colors in their jpgs... Admitedly, RAW files can be more forgiving as edited in the Raw engine, but correct ( +/- 1/2 stop ) is the best practice for the best, least noisy images. JPGs really aren't much more forgiving than Kodachrome was.... An interesting thing I learned when I did those exercises.

    Yes, if your exposure is within +/- 2 stops, your RAW file can probably be rescued in the RAW editing, but it will not be as good as a more appropriately exposed file.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • doyledoyle RallyRaidReview Posts: 29Registered Users Big grins
    edited July 22, 2013
    Back in my early film days, I used an inherited AE1 Program with a broken meter. Because of that, I was forced to use a hand held light meter for all exposures. It was probably one of the greatest teachers of anticipating shutter speed and exposure inter-relations I could have asked for. As the only meter I had, it was crucial but in the end, I am much better off for it and can usually pick my shutter speed and guess within a stop or two where I should be. In my opinion, getting the right exposure is paramount from the beginning and only the minimal amount of post processing should be used to tweak...but that's only my view.
  • BilsenBilsen Not Like -- the Others Posts: 2,143Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 6, 2013
    I use my Sekonic L-358 for basically everything indoors and out. It meters better than my camera and combined with a gray card custom WB, it cuts my PP in almost half.
    Bilsen (the artist formerly known as John Galt NY)
    Canon 600D; Canon 1D Mk2;
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  • perronefordperroneford Major grins Posts: 550Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 7, 2013
    Bilsen wrote: »
    I use my Sekonic L-358 for basically everything indoors and out. It meters better than my camera and combined with a gray card sutom WB, it cuts my PP in almost half.


    People who don't use a meter NEVER get this. Getting it right in camera saves SO MUCH TIME it's not even funny.

    Getting it right in camera also pays major dividends when:

    1. You are not doing your own post. (Editorial, Advertising, Commercial)
    2. You have a client (or clients) looking over your shoulder. (Nearly ANY magazine shoot)
    3. You are working with a collaborative team. (Nearly any shoot not just for you and the model)
    4. You need to get images posted same day (or same hour). (My normal sports workflow)
    5. Your images are being pushed out live to an editor. (High end sports workflow)

    If photography is just a hobby for you, or you're just shooting for your own entertainment, then I can certainly see how metering would seem an unnecessary burden. But when you are getting paid, and are part of a team, using a meter seems as important to me, as using a lens.
  • DonFischerDonFischer Major grins Posts: 128Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 7, 2013
    People who don't use a meter NEVER get this. Getting it right in camera saves SO MUCH TIME it's not even funny.

    Getting it right in camera also pays major dividends when:

    1. You are not doing your own post. (Editorial, Advertising, Commercial)
    2. You have a client (or clients) looking over your shoulder. (Nearly ANY magazine shoot)
    3. You are working with a collaborative team. (Nearly any shoot not just for you and the model)
    4. You need to get images posted same day (or same hour). (My normal sports workflow)
    5. Your images are being pushed out live to an editor. (High end sports workflow)

    If photography is just a hobby for you, or you're just shooting for your own entertainment, then I can certainly see how metering would seem an unnecessary burden. But when you are getting paid, and are part of a team, using a meter seems as important to me, as using a lens.

    This is interesting. Someone above said get it within two stops and fix in in post processing. I don't do that well and I've wondered if photographer's are still good photographer's or are they so so photographer's but good post processors? It seem's to me anyway, that most important any more is to be a good PP, they can fix darn near anything. Saw a photo of a bear on FB. Really dark and could barely make out it was a bear. They the guy posted the after photo, unbelievable!
  • perronefordperroneford Major grins Posts: 550Registered Users Major grins
    edited August 8, 2013
    I think it's important to be good at both. My post skills have come a LONG way in the past year and I can now do nearly anything I need to do from basics like stray hair removal, to more complex tasks like taking objects out of a photo (telephone pole, car, etc. or simply removing a tattoo from a model.

    But that doesn't preclude using a meter. I did a shoot recently where I was edge lighting a model. And in that instance, I needed the light to fall off 3 stops across the model's body. How the heck do you do that with just a camera meter unless you run back and forth taking sample shots, adjusting light-t0-subject distance, and light power. I just don't know. Last year, I shot in a new-to-me civic center when my home volleyball team played another local school. I pulled out my meter, and walked the floor. That way, I knew what to set my camera for, as well as if there were any dead spots lighting wise on the floor.

    I shot roller derby 2 weekends ago. There I used my meter to test my light falloff from the near part of the track, to the point furthest away. And I was able to dial in the strobe aim by measuring the light at specific points on the track. I don't know HOW you do that with a camera.

    Oh well, to each their own I guess.
    DonFischer wrote: »
    This is interesting. Someone above said get it within two stops and fix in in post processing. I don't do that well and I've wondered if photographer's are still good photographer's or are they so so photographer's but good post processors? It seem's to me anyway, that most important any more is to be a good PP, they can fix darn near anything. Saw a photo of a bear on FB. Really dark and could barely make out it was a bear. They the guy posted the after photo, unbelievable!
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaPosts: 14,419Super Moderators moderator
    edited August 8, 2013
    The beauty of an incident meter, like Sekonic's L-358, is that you will be shooting in Manual Mode, so you have total control over your exposure, you are not allowing the camera to try to second guess your exposure. And you can add flash to ambient with complete control and understanding. For studio shooting this is invaluable. For Landscape shooting, not nearly so much. Sometimes you cannot meter the incident light falling on a distant subject at all. I do not think of this choice as either/or But both.

    As I said earlier, I think digital files need very accurate exposure. Indeed, I think they need the same accuracy positive transparency film needed years ago, + or - 1/3 stop.

    Whether you use an incident meter, or the meter in one's camera and a review of the histogram, both will work. One may be better at one task, and the other at a different task.

    I do agree that using an incident reading in studio shooting will probably be faster, and appear more accurate, to a client. Although, a properly exposed RAW file MAY ( indeed probably should ) look worse than an under exposed one on the camera's LCD or an external monitor. Depends on your belief in "Expose to the Right".

    I also do agree that the closer you are in camera, the less work later at a computer, and this is important to a working pro. Shooting, and Post Processing, are both valuable tools, that a working pro should possess, even if they do not plan to use them both all the time.

    One of my definitions of a pro, is that they know not just one way, but many, many ways to skin a cat....AND which way is best for a given situation.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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