Basics of Metering – The Simple Truth
I just received an email from a reader who is experiencing some confusion about how to use her light meter to calculate a lighting setup.
I have written several lighting tutorials, like this one on Low Key Lighting, but this seemed like a good opportunity to do a little refresher course for everyone. To set the stage, here is the email from my reader, Sharon:
Please can you help me with metering in the studio.
See below, totally confused and getting orange skin tones?
Incident light meter reading, from the subject point the meter at each individual light (all lights on), main, fill, rim, back lights ? Please can you give example, of each lights aperture and what I would put in my camera, aperture to use?
Or from the subject, point the incident meter towards the camera with all lights on?
What Are We Trying to Light?
I am going to break it down into very simple terms. If I can wrap my mind around the basic physics of a thing, I can understand that thing.
When we are setting up and metering lighting, what are we trying to do? Measure the light falling on the SUBJECT.
Therefore, the light meter should be placed in the same position as your subject, with the light sphere/dome aimed towards your CAMERA position. Check out the lighting diagram in my High Key Lighting Tutorial.
Why? Because you want to light the SUBJECT and you want the subject to look best through the lens of the CAMERA.
But HOW Do You Meter From the Position of the Subject?
Well, you could wait until the subject shows up and ask them to sit/stand/lay where ever it is you intend to photograph them. Then you could ask them to hold the light meter very near their face, aimed towards the camera.
However, if you’re not very experienced yet, that method could be a little nerve wracking. Or maybe your subject doesn’t have opposable thumbs. What then?
I like to set my studio up for a shoot the night before. I use a very tall bar stool with a big box stacked on top, high enough to approximate the height of my subject. I lay my light meter on top of the box, with the sphere aimed at my camera, then I fire my lights and take meter readings.[…]