Using a Handheld Meter for Portraits

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

All modern cameras have some kind of built-in light meters and some even have spot meters but I still occasionally still use a hand-held meter, especially when photographing people outdoors.

My current hand-held meter is a Gossen Luna Star F2. Yes it’s old but it’s also small, lightweight and takes reflected or the incident readings that I like to use when making portraits. (Incident metering reads the intensity of light falling on the subject, rather than what’s reflected by it.) The meter also measures flash, making corded or non-corded flash readings in my studio. Tip: If you don’t own a hand held meter but have a smartphone, consider Pocket Light Meter, an iPhone app that lets you to use your phone as a light meter.

red.whiteWhile working with portrait subjects, I like to measure the light on both sides of a person’s face to determine the lighting ratio.

There are all kinds of rules of thumb telling you what the ideal ratio is but Renaissance painters used a technique called chiaroscuro that featured ratios that would make most studio photographer’s hair stand on end but created art that has transcended the centuries. The “right” ratio—for you—will vary depending on the shape of the subject’s face and the look you want to produce for the final image.

How I made this shot: This portrait of Andrea was shot with Canon EOS 50D and one of my favorite lenses, the now discontinued EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens, with a Manual mode exposure of 1/125 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 200.

Andria appears in my book “Available Light Glamour Photography” is available from Amazon with new copies selling for just $17.43 and used copies starting at $12.79, as I write this. Kindle copies are $16.56 for those preferring a digital format.

Author: Joe Farace

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