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Samship8 Nov 28, 2003 1:35 AM

Digitals and metering a strobe light question
Is there some function on the Nikon 5700 (or any digital camera) that I can use (as far as metering goes) that might negate the need for a strobe light meter? Or do I really need to use my light meter with my strobes?

Thanks all,
Film guy trying to cross over to digital (with some apprehension)

wsandman1 Nov 28, 2003 9:05 AM


I recently went through the experience of learning to use a digital camera with external (off camera) strobe lighting. You'll need to use an external light meter to get quick, consistant, well metered photos using off camera strobes. However, if fixed lighting is used with digital cameras, you shouldn't need an external meter or polaroid.


padeye Dec 2, 2003 9:01 AM

Some people use the historgram but that can be very unreliable depending on the scene and how well you can interpret the graph. Bottom line is it can be done but you'll get much better and more consistent results with a good flash meter.

drewson Jul 26, 2004 5:56 PM

A flash meter is recommended for flash light metering because an in camera meter does not properly respond to a short duration flash. A very basic meter like this one

will do just fine.

Aug 5, 2004 12:25 AM

Sorry to dissappoint you, but I've shot hundreds of images using a digital camera without ever using a light meter. Setting the camera at the "Daylight" or "Flash" whitepoints, is almost always dead on...if not, I set it with a white card. I normally shoot in manual mode & set the parameters much lower than I expect the lighting to be. I've never taken more than 3-5 test shots (less than a minute) to set my camera for proper exposures. If this were film, I could understand the worry about light meters & such...but it's not film. Aug 31, 2004 4:44 PM

I am having the same problem with decision to buy light meter. I have found through experience that if I do indeed need something get the best available. Like the Sekonic 358. I have purchased many cheap lens and flash and always end hating them in the long run. If I had saved my money and purchased L series glass I would be much better off.

Now the delima of a flash meter. I believe I will eventually ned a flash metter espeacially as I start to add more lights. Curently I like taking a test shot or two, setting my aperture and shuuter speed where I want and using my histogram. When looking at the histogram I have found the taller the spike the more saturation of color I will have. I try to keep the spike as close to center and away from either the left or right edge.

I have learned what to look for in a good histogram, by taking my favorite shots and studying the histogram. I then look at the EXIF data and record how the camera was set. I know it would be nice to also be able to record how the lights wher eset with a light meter.... But I would rather have two strobes and guess than to have only one stobe dead on.. To me guess work is what makes the shot creative anyone can use a meter....

[email protected] Sep 1, 2004 11:40 AM

With one monolight, and with the assist of histogram, guess work is easy, and if you have all the times in the world to go through the trial error, eventually, you will get the shot you want. Basically, if you know the guide number of the flash head (by ISOand default synchro), and the distance from the flash to subject, with a simple math, you can get the F stop. With more than one flash head, you really do not want to mess with guess work, too comlicated for guess work. As you said, you had some bad experience with buying lenses before, same here if you're going to buy the flash meter, by at least the decent and useful oneone or later on, you will have to spent time to sell it.

To look for a good flash meter, it must have the following basic function:

be able to read ambient light and flash light with cord and non-cord

be able to read in reflected mode and incident mode

be able to determine the flash ratio using EV function

Advanced functions:

Spot metering

Multi spot metering with average function

Highlight and shadow analysis function

Special function:

Flash/abient analysis function: this is one of the best feature to me, as you getting into fill-in flash indoor and outdoor, you will be able to determine of how much flash light and how much ambient light to be mix in the final results. I would not buy any flash meter if it does not have this function.

The Sekonic 358 has most the above functions except spot metering, the L508 and L558 has almost all of the features, the L608 has them all.

Guess works are not creative, your imagination and composition are, at the end, the flash meter is only a useful tool to help you achieve better results.

Cheers Sep 1, 2004 6:07 PM

Thank you very much on the flash meter info. There is sooo much to learn to be a good photographer. So much for the days when I just put my camera on full auto pointed at the subject and pressed the button. Having no idea or care as to what the camera was actually doing. Now, as my eye for photos has become more trained I see things in photos that I used to didn't even notice. Like catch light in the models eyes or a really nice softly blurred background. I like it even more when the light drops off completely behind the subject so that the background disapears into the darkness. The problem is how the heck do they do that :roll:. Making these effects happen is not so easy... I can actually see the difference in a sharp L series lens and a cheap lens. So what started out as just a simple purchase of a cheap digital SLRthinking that alone would give me better pictures has now turned into much more. In any case, I realize I will need a light meter to be able to get the affects I want consistently. I will also need at least two flash heads. I will probaly end up takinga class because this is not easy to figure out by trial and error. I have an engineering degree and build computer networks for a living but for the life of me can't figure out exposure compensation or when to use it.

In any case thanks for the help, this forumis my classroom so forgive me if I ask a lot of questions? I have developed an insatiable eye for better photos.

Mikefellh Sep 1, 2004 7:44 PM

Samship8 wrote:

Is there some function on the Nikon 5700 (or any digital camera) that I can use (as far as metering goes) that might negate the need for a strobe light meter? Or do I really need to use my light meter with my strobes?
Depends on really how you want to meter...many will hold the lightmeter in front of the model's face pointing at the main strobe and trigger the strobes with it, and see what to set the camera to (in manual mode) depending on how much light they have set the strobes to (depending on the mood they want to set).

The light meter in the camera on the other hand is metering *reflective* light, light reflecting off the model to the camera.

I admit I'm not a portrait photographer, but have learned all that from workshops I've attended where a strobe triggered light meter is always used...I've been following this thread with interest, and felt the above needed to be added. Sep 2, 2004 1:38 AM


Is there some function on the Nikon 5700 (or any digital camera) that I can use (as far as metering goes) that might negate the need for a strobe light meter?
I have been debating the light meter issue also and have been testing using the histogram. The problem with digital cameras is they can only measure ambient light not flash. I think histogram is really only helpful with one strobe. If you have more than one I think you will still need you meter. Also, both Canon and Nikon have E-ttl based flashes that negate the need for a strobe light meter.

digital guy learning what film people already know.

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