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How to Use a Light Meter

Before you get started, there are three simple things you’ll need to do before you measure the light from your flash: (1) Enter the ISO that your camera is set to into your light meter (so, if you’re shooting at 100 ISO, you enter 100 ISO). (2) Enter the shutter speed you’re going to be using (in a studio, I generally use 1/125 of a second—a good, safe shutter speed for working with studio flash. So, go ahead and enter 1/125 of a second). And, (3) make sure the round white plastic dome on the meter is extended (turn the wheel so it extends out). That’s it—you’re ready to put it to use. Most people aim the light meter at the light itself, but today’s meters are actually designed so they work with that white plastic dome aiming back directly at your camera’s lens. If you’re metering a person for a portrait, position the meter directly under their chin, with the dome aiming back directly at the camera. Now, push the measurement button on the meter, and then fire the flash (if you’re firing your flashes wirelessly, make sure you get a light meter that has a wireless trigger built right in, so when you push the measurement button, it fires the flash for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to have your subject hold the meter under their chin and push the measurement button, so you can walk back to your camera to take a test shot, which fires the flash). When the flash fires, it instantly tells you the exact f-stop you need to dial in on your camera for a perfect exposure. Go over to your camera, make sure you’re in manual mode, set your f-stop to what it said (make sure your shutter speed is still set at 1/125 of a second) and you’ve got it—perfect exposure. As long as you don’t move the light or change the power of the flash, you can continue to use those settings. If anything does change, just take a new meter reading the same way and dial in your f-stop just like before.

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