Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter€29.95
- Frank makes it easy to understand the light meter
- Good combination of presentation and demonstration to drive the lessons home
- Great for beginners: No prior experience with a light meter required
- There were some continuity errors with information presented out of the expected order
Mastering the Model Shoot: The Light Meter by Frank Doorhof is a great educational video product for anyone who wants to learn how to use a light meter. Frank covers when and why you want to use a light meter to get beautiful light with accurate exposures, and then he dives into demonstrations to show how it's done.
The timing of Frank Doorhof's new instructional video, Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter, is perfect for me. After years of shooting without a light meter, I finally decided to purchase a Sekonic L-758DR DigitalMaster Flash Meter. Didn't have a damn clue how to get started. When I saw that Frank released this video, I didn't hesitate to buy it. Those who follow Frank know he's an advocate of using a light meter to make accurate exposures quickly. So how did he do at teaching me how to use mine?
Why Bother With A Light Meter?
I already wrestled with this decision, obviously. Does a photographer absolutely need a light meter?
There are plenty of photographers who take wonderful photos without them. Some think you just need to look at your histogram. Others question the meaning of the phrase “correct exposure” as an artistic choice, not a cold calculation of mathematical variables.
Then there are always the “fix it in Photoshop” folks. Clearly, there is no single solution to achieve a nice photo, so why did I plunk down the money to buy a light meter?
As Frank says, it's a tool that can save you time.
That's it. Nothing magical. Having a light meter simply means that you can get to the exposure you want to create without shooting a lot of frames to see if you're over or under exposed.
No more experimenting to eliminate blown highlights or lost detail in the shadows. Using a light meter means you can quickly measure the amount of light falling on your subject and make your creative decisions using that information.
Using the Reflective Light Meter in Your Camera
You'll hear some people say that there is a light meter already in your camera. That's true. It's a reflective light meter that measures (depending upon your camera), somewhere around 12% – 18% grey.
Just take a picture of some snow to see how that works.
Instead of getting a white field of snow, you get a grey mess that requires you to compensate your exposure. For ambient circumstances, that often works well.
The reflective light meter in your camera is of no help when you start using strobes, though. How do you tell your camera to meter for the fraction of a second when the strobe fires?
That's why I bought a light meter.
My Choice of a Light Meter
After years of shooting without a light meter, I finally decided to purchase a Sekonic L-758DR DigitalMaster Flash Meter.
Didn't have a damn clue how to get started. When I saw that Frank released this video, I didn't hesitate to buy it. Those who follow Frank know he's an advocate of using a light meter to make accurate exposures quickly. So how did he do at teaching me how to use mine?
I decided to give it a try for a studio shot that I wanted to use in a composite image. I needed soft, well exposed light on my model and an 18% grey background to make it easy for a cut-out. Here's the original shot using small flash.
The light on the model is very soft, yet directional. You don't see any major hot spots on her skin, but there are still shadows to define her cheek bones. The background exposure gave a nice 18% grey that I needed for post processing. The light meter made it easy to get both exposure values I needed for the subject and the background.
What Is A Proper Exposure?
Frank starts off his video with two lessons. The first is to make sure that you understand full f-stops, as that's how he advocates using the light meter. For example, full f-stops include 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, etc.
If you have a lens that opens up to f/1.8, that is an increment of a full f-stop. To get the proper exposure, you need to know how to translate the reading from your light meter to work with incremental aperture settings on your camera.
The next part of the intro debunks the notion of using your histogram instead of a light meter. Take a look at his example (click to enlarge).
Frank discusses both ends of the histogram to see if you're losing information in the blacks or whites. Then what makes the rest of the image work? Isn't your histogram supposed to have a bell shape to it?
This image doesn't fit that mold. He shows that the background is perfectly white, the blacks still have detail, and the model's face is well exposed.
Except, what value should the model's face have? Is this histogram telling you that you have a good or bad exposure? Neither, really.
All a histogram does is show you a graphical representation of values that range from 0,0,0 (Black) to 255,255,255 (White). It does absolutely nothing to tell you which values should be in between or where they should rank on the histogram.
Given that your subject and environment will change from one shoot to the next, the histogram can't really tell you if you have a proper exposure or not.
You may not want the exposure that a light meter gives you, either. Maybe you want a darker image than what it thinks is a proper exposure. That's OK. At the very least, a light meter gives you a standard baseline to start making your creative decisions.
Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter video comes with with a collection of separate videos. There are two short introductory videos and then twelve chapter videos that make up the course of about 70 minutes.
- What is the light meter and why use it?
- How to read the light meter
- Incident and Reflective, how to
- Where to point the light meter
- Shooting against a white seamless
- Trick with white background
- Detail in black
- Which light meter to buy, the difference between the 478 & 758
- Setting the light meter for outside
- App and Yashica
- Why calibrate the light meter?
- How to trigger the light meter, three ways
Frank recorded the video in 4K and distributes it in 1080P high definition files. The overall quality of the video is excellent. Great clarity, clear sound and good use of informational graphics to support his lessons. I noticed one or two continuity issues, but nothing that got in the way of the information.
Part of the video has Frank discussing the concepts, but he backs up his words with demonstrations shooting with a model and showing the results, as well as supporting text to reinforce the lesson.
In addition to getting a detailed instructional video on using the light meter, you also gain insight into lighting setups, working with models and other creative decisions that Frank demonstrates during his video.
This is a video that you may want to watch more than once to grasp all of the concepts that Frank teaches. Some of his lighting setups deal with ratios and measurements that sound simple, but may leave you scratching your head for a moment.
Don't worry. Frank explains everything he does so you not only know how to do it, but why you want to do it in the first place.
By the end of the video, you'll realize understanding how to use the light meter can give you creative lighting possibilities that you may have never tried.
What The Video Doesn't Do
Frank uses the same light meter that I bought, but this video is not about a specific light meter. In other words, it isn't a product demo. You'll see how a light meter works, but he doesn't go into the specific buttons and dials as an overview or tutorial of the specific light meter.
The video is about using a light meter, not using this light meter. Therefore, the concepts should still apply if you use some other brand or model of light meter. You still have to read your manual.
The Light Meter And Creativity
I heard a professional photographer that I admire and respect dismiss the light meter because he thinks of himself as an artist, not a photographer. I wouldn't disagree with his self-assessment, but I think he's wrong about the light meter.
Using a light meter doesn't kill creativity. It doesn't decide which exposure you will use or what is the artistic definition of a proper exposure.
It's a tool. It measures light and calculates variables. The exposure decisions are still up to you, the photographer or artist, to decide how to apply that information. Don't blame the tool.
The responsibility for the image you want is in your hands. All the light meter does is help you make the decision without wasting time.
If anyone really believes that a light meter limits your creativity with regard to exposure, then they should take a good look at Frank Doorhof's portfolio and just shut up.
Where To Buy Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter
I'm very pleased with Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter by Frank Doorhof and have no problems recommending it. I'll be watching it a few more times to let the lessons sink in as I put them into practice.
You can purchase the video from Frank's web site: Mastering The Model Shoot: The Light Meter