How to use hand-held light meters for studio portraits


posted Monday, January 18, 2016 at 4:21 PM EDT


In a video for Adorama, photographer Daniel Norton covers the basics of using a handheld light meter. While camera's are always improving their metering capabilities, they're still unable to meter studio flash set-ups.

Using a Sekonic L-758DR, Norton covers the features of the light meter and how to use it. This meter has a spot meter and an incident dome. An incident dome meter measures the light falling on a subject. When you're measuring for a particular light, like in a studio set-up or when using artificial lighting, you want to point the dome toward your light source.

Another great tip he has is that you should take an ambient light reading even when you're using artificial light. After plugging in your parameters, such as shutter speed and ISO, the ambient light reading is to make sure that the ambient light won't end up affecting your final shot captured using the lighting setup.

In another video for Adorama, photographer Mark Wallace uses a now discontinued Sekonic L-358 light meter to cover how to use a light meter for metering light ratios.

He covers a four-step process for metering light ratios. In trying to figure out the value of one light in relationship to another light, you first press meter, then memory, then delta EV, and then meter again. You want to meter your key light first, and Wallace goes so far as to wear a dark-colored shirt so that he isn't reflecting additional light toward his meter. When metering the fill light, by holding down the measurement button on the light meter, the light meter gives us the difference in exposure value.

If you're interested in buying the Sekonic L-758DR light meter used in the first video by Daniel Norton, please help support our site by purchasing it through either of our trusted affiliates, Adorama or B&H

The updated Sekonic L-478 light meter comparable to the Sekonic L-358 used in the second video by Mark Wallace is available from our trusted affiliate B&H.

(Seen via Digital Photography School