Film Photography with Strobe Lighting

Lesson 8/26 - How To Set Up A Light Meter & Strobe Unit


Film Photography with Strobe Lighting


Lesson Info

How To Set Up A Light Meter & Strobe Unit

Alright, so the next piece of equipment you absolutely need, and you should all already have one if you're film shooters, but you need a light meter, right? So as a film photographer, I always say, your light meter is the most important piece of equipment you can have outside of your camera. My light meter is my best friend. So every light meter is slightly different. I use the Sekonics, but all the basics are the same. What you need to know is that if you're gonna work with the light meter with studio lighting, you wanna make sure that your meter can be put into a flash mode. So on the Sekonics, that looks like a little lightning bolt. So sunshine mode is for ambient light, and the little lightning bolt icons are for flash modes. So my Sekonic is like really old, I think I got this in 2002. So it's been with me for a while, so it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that the newer ones do, the newer Sekonics have different, much more variety in what kind of a flash mode you can be ...

in. But they all, again work the same. So lightning bolt, just plain lightning bolt is what I'm in all the time, and what happens when you're in that mode is when you press your button to take a reading, the meter will pause until you fire your strobe. So you can test your strobe, and then it will wait for that and then it will fire. If your Sekonic has a lightning bolt with the C, then that means you could plug in a sync cable here, I have a really long one in my studio that hooks into my strobe, and I can meter that way, and I think the newer ones have an air remote option as well, that you can do it wireless. I just keep it in the little lightning bolt, and it makes it, it's really easy. And then like I said, when you're setting your light meter, that's a little different as well. So normally when you're shooting with natural light or ambient light and you're setting a light meter, you set your ISO and your aperture, that's what I always do, and then that shutter speed falls where it wants to. When you are setting up your meter to work with studio lighting however, you need to set your ISO and your shutter speed, because remember shutter speed is really important when working with strobes, different than when working with studio lighting, and you wanna be, we wanna make sure that you're at that sync speed. Alright? Now I'm gonna go into detail and show you exactly how I meter, I just wanted to show you how you set your meter up to get ready to be using your strobes. Okay, next piece of equipment we need is your strobe units. This is where it gets fun. Gonna move this out of the way. So just like with triggers, just like with anything actually when it comes to strobe units, there are a ton of different choices, and again, ranging in price all over the place. So I love using, I now use these little Profoto B2s in my studio, which are these little cutie pies, and I love 'em because they're super tiny. (laughs) Like isn't that the most adorable strobe unit you've ever seen? They're really light, they're easy to use, and for me, because I'm, the space that I'm working in, they're just enough power for me, I don't have to worry about bringing in anything really huge. They're powered on a battery pack and they work great. I love these, but they are a little more on the spendy side of things. I used an Alien Bee, I can bring this out here, for years and years and years, and it worked just fine. So really, the only thing you need to know is that even though there's lots of different brands that you can get into with strobes, they all basically work the same. And there's two sets of controls that you need to be aware of, and you need to know how to use when you are getting into studio lighting. So model light, every strobe unit out there will have a set of two lights to control. It's gonna have a model light, and it's gonna have the strobe light. I'm just turning these on, I'm not gonna blind you guys, so they're gonna face this way. But the model light is the light that is just always on, so you just keep this model light on, it's always on, it has nothing to do with the light that's actually gonna light your image. It's really just there so you can see your light, so you can see how it's falling on your clients, it helps with placement, it helps with looking at catch lights and all of that kind of stuff. And most of the time, I'm gonna turn this around, most of the time in the older strobes anyway, you can see, so the model light is the one here in the middle, the strobe light is the round one. These have that same system, but they're just behind these glass, but every light has a model light and a strobe light. When I am working in studio, I always keep my model light on and I always have it on as high as it can go, because I like being able to look at that light and see where it's going. Again I learned this, I taught myself this coming from window light, looking at window light, and having that model light helps me visualize it. It's just, it's good for control, and I just wanna say again, I already know I said it, but I'm gonna say it again, the model light will not affect your image. That's not the light that's taking your photo. The light that's shining when it actually pops and when it takes your photo is the strobe light. So on this one, it's here, and the strobe light is just that, it fires that flash when you hit your shutter, and that's, that light you can control its power as well. So can you see this? So on the Profotos, you can turn 'em up here. On the Alien Bees, you can control the power of your model light with this fancy slider doohickey. Controlling the power on your strobe light is how you're gonna eventually control the look of the light that's on your image. So understanding how those two things work, and that you can control two different sources of light on your strobe unit, is important. One thing, some people ask this question all the time, do the numbers here, 'cause these look like aperture numbers, do the numbers here correspond to stops? Which is a good question. Kind of yes and no. So in theory, every time you go up a level, you're supposed to be adding a stop of light, but it doesn't necessarily correspond to your camera. So if you're at Profoto and you're down here at four, that doesn't mean you're supposed to be shooting at f4, that's just the power. (laughs) And that power looks different, so like here on the Alien Bees, you have full power, 1/2 power, 1/4 power, 1/8 power, 1/16 power, 1/32 power, so it's just a way to talk about it. I just don't want people to think that if you see these numbers, that that means what f stop you're at.

Class Description

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.


a Creativelive Student

Wow! with a lot of online stuff out there one can become rather overcome with too much information, however, the way Sandra presents her courses is just perfect! Her honest and simple and easy to understand approach was just what I needed. Not once did I think she was just going through the motions, she really loves what she does and it shows. To be able to rewatch and rewatch was also a key for me. Since I have dyslexia I have to take things one half step at a. time. After completion of the class I had a new found confidence when using strobes. A must have.

Micah Hewett Images

Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!

Gabby de Janasz

Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!