Measuring Light

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet Cliff Lawson, an award-winning portrait photographer. He rented the studio, and he had brought all his own lights. There wasn’t much I could help him with, so I left him to set up. After he set up, he asked if I could sit down for a test shot. I sat down with the lights set up around me. He clicked the shutter button and said, “That looks okay.” I took a look and was blown away. The light was pretty much perfect, and my portrait looked fantastic. Here’s that one test shot (edited by Cliff)…

Brown, Eric 4454
But what was even more impressive is the way he set the light levels on four flash units, each with different modifiers: He completely dialed in the exposure levels without even having someone sitting in the chair! 
He used a light meter to dial in that exposure and set the various lighting ratios between each light. He didn’t need a model to know how bright each light needed to be. He simply measured it out with his light meter. 
I bought a light meter over a year ago. It seemed like it should be important even though I had no idea how to use it or why I would use it. Now I could see how powerful it is to be able to get your light perfect without doing a dozen or more test shots. 
So I hired Cliff to teach me how to use my light meter and measure my light, both indoors and outdoors. Here’s what I was able to get by metering my light…