Light Metering and The Zone System

Today I was reintroduced to the Sekonic Light Meter. I was very familiar with this device as I had been using the same model for the past 2 years at college. The Sekonic Light Meter allows you to take a reading of what you are taking a photo of and will allow you to create the perfect exposure by working with The Zone System. (explained further on) No matter what the lighting conditions are like, the Light Meter will give you the correct ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed for your camera to allow your picture to be just how you want it.  By taking the metering from the part you want to stand out, this will give you an idea of what the image will look like. This is called pre visualization.
A light meter can be used to help make different parts more exposed in an image. Here are some studio examples.

This silhouetted image was created by taking the light reading towards the light. This is because we wanted to darken the subject to a complete black.

This shadowed effect was created by taking the reading from the tip of the nose

This ‘Light Pool’ effect took a few attempts to get right. To create this, the light reading was taken from a shadowed part of the face. The aperture that was wider than what my lens could go to, so we had to adjust this on the light meter so the specific aperture to be given a more accurate reading.

Different Parts of a Light Meter

To begin working with the Sekonic Flash Meter, press the power button.
To the the right of the power button is the infra cone. This slides from left to right. In the image above, the white sphere is covering the light sensor. This allows light to be reflected from all angles to create an average reading. When the sphere is switched down to the right, this is used for a more direct reading.
The ‘MODE’ button allows you to scan through 3 different settings. Ambient Lighting, Cordless Flash Reading and Manual Cable Flash Reading.
When on AMBIENT, there are two sub-settings.

EV – Exposure Value.                                     F/T – Gives you the correct F Stop and Time (Shutter Speed)

The Zone System

This system was first used by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer back in the 1930’s. It was a technique they used to create the correct exposure for an image. The zone system is made up of 10 stops. Each section of grey is different to the section 1 stop above/below it. Anything darker than zone 3 will be pitch black, underexposed and hold no detail and anything lighter than zone 7 will be over exposed and also showing no detail.

The zone system plays a big part when it comes to metering light. The zone system is all about different exposures and picturing how an image will look before it has been taken. Therefore, Light Metering takes the reading to give you the perfect exposure no matter what the lighting situation is. If you took a reading of a street in the morning, the light meter will give you the correct settings for the image to be a perfect exposure. However, if you were then to do this reading in the dark, on the same street. The meter will give you very different settings, yet the image will still be the perfect exposure as the light meter works to keep an image in zone 5 of the zone system, which is known as the middle grey.


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