How do I use a handheld light meter? I have a Sekonic L-308S and it's confusing

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by sygyzy, May 28, 2013.

  1. sygyzy

    sygyzy Member

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    Hi,

    I bought a Sekonic L-308S to use with vintage/old film cameras that either had broken or unreliable meters (for example: Yashica Mat 124G). Anyway, I realized I don't know how to use it and I certainly am not getting any sort of reliable or predictable results by trial and error. Yes, I do set it in shutter priority mode and have set the ISO (to 400). I know there's an incident mode and reflective mode and I know I can either place the "eye" facing the subject, from the camera's POV or by the subject facing the camera's lens. That gives me four possibilities or modes.

    When how do I know which to use and when? Some situations are helpful such as taking a picture from a subject too far to walk to (like a mountain). In that case, I am forced to use reflected mode (pointing toward subject, eye exposed). What would happen, though, if I was pointing the meter at the subject but had the eye covered by the lumisphere?

    Can anyone help me out with an easy to understand explanation or guide on how to use a light meter?
     
  2. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    If you point it at the subject with the plastic dome in place, you will severely overexpose. As a general rule of thumb, use reflected light for B&W, and incident for color. I have the same meter. For reflected light readings, point it at the scene you wish to meter, and point slightly downward to exclude an overly bright sky from inflating your reading.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I do not agree with Tom.

    Reflective
    You can use reflective reading for color print, color slides and black & white film. I have done that for only five decades. Dome off. Aim the light meter at the subject from where you will be taking the photograph. Do not aim it to include the sky [or much of it] because that will cause the light meter to believe that the scene is brighter than it is.

    Incident
    With the dome on, stand at the subject's position and aim the light meter towards the camera. This can be used for color print, color slides and black & white photography.

    I prefer the reflective measurement, but I will use the incident meter for photographic studios, or when the scene is mostly white [snow] or mostly dark since reflective reading are not accurate when the scene is very bright or very dark.

    Do not use the dome for a reflective reading, even though there are some at APUG that believe that is the thing to do. I have thoroughly researched that subject on the internet, at Kodak and at many photographic libraries. There are no articles or books that discuss that method. Period. When I talked to optical engineers, their response is that they would like to know what drugs the people who make such recommendations are on. Again, there is no accepted photographic journals nor any photographic books that discuss such blither. Take the blither of using the dome for reflective reading and flush it down the toilet.
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Incident meters, when used properly, are just as accurate as reflected meters, and easier to use. If possible, stand with the meter in front of the subject and aim it at the camera to take a reading. If that isnt convenient, hold the meter up in the same approximate light as the subject to take the reading. Make sure not to shade the light dome(unless your subject is in the shade).

    http://www.sekonic.com/products/l-308s/overview.aspx
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Mostly, I agree with Sirius on this, although ....

    1) I use incident metering at least half the time, and sometimes all of the time.
    2) You can use incident light measurement if you are able to move the meter to where the light hitting it is the same as the light hitting your subject. So even if you cannot get to the subject, you may still be able to use an incident reading.
    3) To the best of my knowledge, I've never read anywhere on APUG where someone has recommended using an incident dome to take a reflected light reading. Where there is some dispute, however, is whether to use a dome (or something else) when an incident reading is taken, and whether it is better to point the dome at the camera, or at the source of light.

    For someone new to using a hand meter in incident mode, I would recommend using the dome and holding it at the subject's position, pointed toward the camera.
     
  6. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    My personal preference is to generally use reflected light readings. These DO occasionally require that you understand what you are metering. If the scene doesn't have an "average" sort of reflectance, you should interpret this and make adjustments. For example, consider a backlit person standing in a doorway - do you want the face to have normal brightness (as in a portrait), or do you want the face to be darker to give the sense of being backlit?

    Situations where I tend to use incident metering are limited. They would generally be where a "normal" sort of subject is mostly frontally lit, especially when the subjects are people (such as studio portraits). The incident meter won't be fooled by the color of the subject's clothing. For example, if you are photographing a bride and groom, you may realize that they both should get the same exposure setting. An incident meter gives this desired result. Had you used "average" reflected light readings of them individually, the black tux in one and the white dress in the other would cause the meter readings to vary.

    Many people seem to prefer incident readings the majority of the time.

    BTW, a few months before you joined, Mark Barendt wrote a pretty decent article on incident metering - it can be found here: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum216/115941-primer-incident-metering.html
     
  7. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Beat me to it Bill. :smile:
     
  9. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    It is not a problem to have the invercone up and take a reflected reading.

    Incident readings are quick and effective, but should not be the only metering method on your repertoire — for now, just startingn out, yes, but in the future, diversifying into spot metering will kit you up to tackle even the most difficult lighting with relative ease where incident or reflective will not work.

    For beginners, the time-honoured approach of measuring the light falling onto the subject by way of aiming it back at the camera, holds well. An extension of this (on meters equipped with memory function, which is very useful) is to use the memory mode: read one side, place it in memory; read the next, place that in memory too, and another, then average. An example is portraiture with mixed ambient lighting where the face is unevenly illuminated — all aspects of light are measured.

    There is no substitute for actively experimenting with metering when you first start out, and taking notes as you go along, which you can reference later when you are viewing the negs. Be sure to set the meter to 1 or half stops (for negs) or 0.3 (third) stops with transparencies. Readings for negs will allow you some leeway for making mistakes, while metering for transparencies will require you to be more discriminating and accurate.

    With whatever film you are using, what faults you see will effectively be a springboard to launch you into getting progressively better results by repeating your work and making variations.
    As you can see, there is some debate here on just what method works best, and that debate will no doubt grow and grow and grow.
    Have a look at Sekonic's own How to video here. :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2013
  10. sygyzy

    sygyzy Member

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    This has been super helpful, fellas. I see now that I really only have two choices and the idea of using the dome for a reflected reading or dome off for an incident reading just DOESN'T MAKE SENSE! I am not sure why I even thought they were valid choices. I feel much more confident now when I go out and shoot. I will try both and see which result in better lit photos. And of course I'll stick to reflected if I can't get near the subject.

    Are there any special situation or caveats I should be aware of, besides the ones mentioned already (ie don't point a reading too much toward the sky)
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Great go out there and shot film. The more photographs you take, the more you will learn.
     
  12. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Dome up for all readings as you start out.

    A number of situations may cause problems or doubt e.g. mixed outdoor light, dark vs light areas, changing light... . Ideally a spot meter is best here (this will not be in your immediate repertoire, but if you stick to the game, it certainly will be in the future), or a meter with memory function (IIRC the L308S does not have a memory function). Just step back and examine the scene, and if you wish, grab the bull by the horns and meter however you see fit. Again, keep notes of what you are doing and refer back to these at the lightbox. As they say, "it will all come out in the wash!". :smile:
     
  13. Marc B.

    Marc B. Member

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    No, if you are making a statement, you're correct, this doesn't make sense.
    Just to be sure we're on the same page...you use the dome at the subject, for incident readings.
    You remove the dome when you are standing some distance away from the subject...for reflected readings.

    Also, a great trick for eliminating/reducing bright sky-light from skewing your reflected readings;
    hold your hand, hat or clipboard, a little above and slightly forward of the light meter.
    Think of...wearing a brimmed hat to shade your eyes from the sun. Same principle!

    Marc
     
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  15. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    If you want to make it easy, for a subject you can walk up to, use the dome and measure incident. Just make sure you are not creating your own shadow....

    To me, reflective mode with these are not that useful. Reflective mode measures light reflecting from your subject and hitting your meter. But.... without an ability to POINT to a certain spot of your subject, you have no idea what part of your subject you are measuring. Say you have a person with blond hair and white skin wearing dark gray suit. To make it more interesting, standing in front of a highly reflective pond. What now.... Yes, it can sort of measure average but how do you know the view of field of your meter is same as your lens?
     
  16. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I did see someone on APUG said that.
     
  17. sygyzy

    sygyzy Member

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    Wow, awesome responses and super helpful. I am new to this community (and really shooting film) but I already love it here. Very friendly and eager to help folks. Thanks again, I really appreciate the help.
     
  18. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Oh, you'll be right, mate. Mind you, there are a couple of bizarre posts here. For now, just go out and experiment and have fun and don't be too concerned with the pseudo-scientific and authoritarian views espoused on metering.
     
  19. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Geez, as a user of the pseudo scientific method of incident and pretty much non-authoritarian, I have to include myself amongst those who have NEVER heard anyone using a domed/Inverconed meter for reflected readings. Wonder what the Weston manual says about that?
    Check out reply #11 it's totally correct

    Anyway, Incident metering either at the subject or IN THE SAME LIGHT as the subject gives the same exposure. To meter the far side of the Grand Canyon, Hold the meter with the dome facing the lens, no need to fly across it.

    Reflected CAN be influenced by the reflectivity of your subject. IE:a dark subject will overexpose because the meter sees(interprets)
    the reading as a middle gray and want you to open the lens or use a slower shutter speed.
    Conversely a bright/light subject will under expose because the meter wants you to use a faster speed or smaller aperture.

    Obviously try either method and look at your results, then make your choice.
    Rather than starting out using several methods of metering, use the two simplest around, incident and reflected.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    If using the dome or ivercon for relfected readings, then every lightmeter manufacturer would advise it. But, gee, they never say a word about it. Maybe things work differently in Australia, after all the toilets do flush backwards.

    That is why I recommended using an incident meter for those situations.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2013
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    You can learn the Zone System tones and typical subject matter, and when the scene is nearby you can explore by walking close to things and taking close-up reflected readings, and "place" the readings on their usual Zones.

    The first thing you can try is... meter the palm of your hand in the light with reflected light. "Place" it on Zone VI. (Open up one stop to give more exposure than meter reads). Logically, you know your hand is bright and if you were to use a bright reading as-is, you would underexpose the shot. So you open one stop when you meter your hand. Now switch to incident mode and take your reading normally pointing at the camera.

    If you did it right, the readings should agree - and this should boost your confidence.

    I've recently been using a Master II meter with Zone Sticker, and have been enjoying this technique of reflected light reading - without necessarily requiring a spotmeter. The digital interface of your meter isn't as easily adapted to Zone System stickers.
     
  22. Noble

    Noble Member

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    [​IMG]

    If the mountain is being illuminated by the sun and you are being illuminated by the sun just orient yourself in a line that is parallel to the line from your camera to the Mountain and turn your back to the mountain and take a reading.

    I will often have some idea of how I will be oriented to take a shot and just orient myself that way and then turn around and take an incident meter reading and then hike off to where I'm going to take the shot. If you are shooting in the middle of the day and the light isn't changing much because of moving clouds or the sun rising and setting you can take a reading and then hike for fifteen minutes and then take your shot. That solves the shadow/distant subject issue a lot of the time.

    You have to understand what exactly it is you are metering. There is nothing magical about being close to the subject.
     
  23. Mark Feldstein

    Mark Feldstein Member

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    Take a look at the Sekonic manual for this over here:
    http://www.sekonic.com/downloads/l-308s_english.pdf
    The quick start manual for the 308 S over here:
    http://www.sekonic.com/downloads/l-308s_quick_english.pdf

    And for an excellent uncomplicated education on how to use a light meter, check this out:
    "The Hand Exposure Meter Book" by Martin Silverman, Jim Zuckerman and Bob Shell Published by the Photo Books Division of Mamiya America Corp. First Edition 1999. You can find it over here, among other places.
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...s&field-keywords=The Hand Exposure Meter Book The same basic info applies today as it did in 1999. Only the meters have changed (to protect the manufacturers. ;>)
    Mark
     
  24. Zelph

    Zelph Member

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    Do what Mark suggests and READ the frickin' manual. Makes things much easier all the way around.
     
  25. Marc Stager

    Marc Stager Member

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    While on the subject of meters. I have a Luna-Pro F, and I just inserted a new Lithium 9V battery. The battery test button sends the needle off the scale, like it is getting way too much voltage. Should I not use lithium and go beck to regular alkaline cells like a Duracell or Energizer, or is there an internal regulator in the Luna-Pro which will still give me accurate readings with a strong battery. I prefer to use the long lasting lithium cell if it doesn't throw off the meter.
     
  26. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG.

    My Gossen Luna Lux uses a regular alkaline 9V battery.