06. Measuring light and achieving the correct exposure

How do you best measure the power of the light from your studio lighting to ensure perfect results? Do you apply visual, theoretical, histogram or light meter readings for the best results? Find out more as Karl shows you the advantages and disadvantages of each method.


  1. That is it, I am not going to use a light meter as often. After watching this video I took a photo of a flower in a cup where I decided an f-stop of 2.8 and adjusted the light power and created an awesome photo.
    You explain it in such a way that it was easy to understand.

    1. Thank you Patrick, I’m happy to see that you can understand this way of working.

  2. Love the way you explain…Your understanding of light is phenomenol..:)..I am glad I am here..:)..I made a right choice to improve my understanding..

  3. I mainly use my meter when I need to create repeatable results, like head shots for a team program, but this is a great point of view for creative portraiture.

  4. Now I understand why my pics go too over or under . RIP SEKONIC 478 D

    1. Great stuff Mohan, i’m sure you will find it a better way of working as you get used to it.

  5. Having a calibrated monitor tethered into your camera in a studio is surely a great way to get the shot. A couple of points in favor of using a light meter could be in order I think. If we calibrate our meter to give us the look we want at f/11, then firing a couple of pops and adjusting the power using the remote is very easy and fast. The final verdict using a calibrated monitor is always right.

    1. Hi Chick, yes a light meter will always get you in the ballpark but calibrating it for one subject doesn’t mean it will be correct for the next as shown in the video based on each subjects individual qualities such as diffusion, reflection, colour etc. I’d say put the camera at f11 (if that’s the depth of field you wanted) and set the light to it’s mid power and then take a test and simply decide to go up or down based on what you are seeing.

  6. This is the most enlightening lesson I have seen on light meters and how they can ruin our own creative input. You are a great teacher, Karl!

  7. Really good lesson Karl. It forces me to keep my creative juices flowing, and I love your explanation….it is the lighting that you wanted, not what you were told to do. Really simple but profound way of thinking. Thanks!!

  8. Well two Sekonic light meters now for sale lol, well one, I’ll keep one for outdoors.
    Really found that informative I think as new photographers we may use a light meter as a “Comfort Blanket” believing it will give us all the answers when it is evident it won’t and will sometimes actually try and deceive us.

    Keep them coming Karl, I’m loving being part of this little clique.


  9. Karl,
    You just made me save around 600$ and change my mind to not to buy the light meter I was going to…

  10. Outstanding video. I’ve never used a light meter yet myself and always felt like I was cheating somehow or breaking the rules, so to speak. I totally agree with the complexities of how light interacts with surfaces, especially with multi-light/reflector setups. The artist must have creative control over the image, not the gear. Technology cant replace individual judgement and knowledge. Thats why we learn to turn all auto features off in the camera and shoot manual in the first place.

  11. I thought myself how to use flash without a light meter and then bought a meter and my lighting was all screwed up . The only time i use the meter now is if someone ask me for a picture and there press for time,
    But totally agree with Karl. Your eyes are the best light meter.

  12. Thanks! For me this was definitely one of those “aha!” moments and has made me rethink my own reliance on a light meter. I absolutely get the logic of this and can’t fathom why so many high-level professional trainers are still demonstrating using them. Can you please explain how you work this way when you’re not shooting tethered (experience, or using the LCD display?) – I noticed that the histogram for the first “correctly exposed” image of the dummy showed most of the tones were off to the left, so trying to gauge the exposure through interpretation of the camera’s histogram alone could be difficult, and personally I don’t find the LCD a particularly accurate guide to what the camera is recording.

    1. Hi Alistair, if it looks reasonable on the LCD screen and i’m shooting RAW then I know it’s in the ballpark enough that it will be OK, I keep an eye on the histogram just to be sure nothing is out of range.

  13. Amazing! This is really useful course that teaching people the true things.
    Thanks a lot! And I want to learn more and further from you.

  14. I started watching this chapter as someone who uses a lightmeter in the studio, due to lack of confidence, and by the end of the video I wanted to stand up and applaud. I’m self (YouTube) taught prior to this course and thought I had some understanding of light, it’s incredible how many things I was getting wrong and I’m feeling much more confident about using my lights.

  15. This is the best investment I have ever made. Without a doubt. Thanks for the special offer. This is more addictive than any TV programme.

  16. This is so great! as a beginner i always wonder, what if i want another aperture? or if always going to use the same aperture just because the light meter say so?. A friend told me to buy one because it help to improve the depth of field or to reach a better subject in focus, is this true or it has nothing to do about it?

    Your videos are amazing and makes me understand a lot of things.

    1. Hi Daniel, no please don’t waste you money on a lightmeter. Just keep following this course as you are doing and practise what is being shown and it will all start to come together. Cheers Karl.

  17. Hi Karl

    I have a lot of your DVDs and very nearly didn’t bother signing up.
    This video alone is worth it to me.

    I’ve just bought a couple of Godox AD200’s and soft boxes and I am looking forward to trying some of what you have shown in this video.

    Onwards and upwards

    1. Hi Malcom, thanks for signing up there is a lot more stuff to come and with our live shows, competitions and gear discounts we believe it really does make membership a bargain! Good like with your Godox and softbox tests. Cheers Karl.

  18. The amount of money I just saved on the light meter I wanted just paid for 28.57 months of Karl Taylor Education…nice!

  19. Hi Karl,

    I just spend quite a lot of money upgrading my gear, a seconic light meter was on my list, but I opted for a awesome lens instead, boy am I glad I did not buy it. I am really starting to understand light now a lot better than I thought I did. You are making me think like pro! I have spend a fortune on a diploma in photography, now I wonder why I bothered, I should have just found you a lot sooner. I am glad I am here 🙂

  20. That’s a nice and interesting clarification Karl! I wasn’t expecting the difference to be so significantly different, but it makes total sense what you said.

    So, here is a question that relates this lesson with the previous one: can a light meter correctly measure the light output taking into consideration the possibility of a shutter speed that’s fast than t0.1? I mean, in the previous lesson we discussed that if the shutter speed is faster than the flash’s ability to output all its light, the flash could get cut off by the shutter speed, resulting in an under exposed image. Does a light meter use shutter speed settings as part of the measurement?

    1. Hi Kryn, as far as I’m aware no. The light meter isn’t aware of each flash manufacturers flash durations long or short. Although I haven’t used a light meter for 12 years so they may have added this feature but I doubt it as flashes change all the time. The simple fact remains though, that if you experimented with different shutter speeds you’d see the resulting change on screen so you could figure out what was going in and make a note at which speed the full flash burst was captured.

  21. Yes, I agree. I was trying to see if this was yet another reason why light meters are no longer a necessity, or even reliable for the intended purpose.

  22. Hello Karl. Thank you so much.!! You just saved me some $$$ a light meter was on my wish list. I totally get what you mean. Your approach is perfect for creating different looks using light. This is exactly what I need. I need to incorporate this type of thinking in my work for portraiture.

  23. I shoot a lot of film and use a meter continuously as my old Mamiya’s have no built in meter. I find myself using the meter even with digital when the lighting is such that it could fool my camera’s built in meter (which looks at reflected light if I understand it correctly). I make adjustments after the initial shot if needed (as you mention – doesn’t cost anything with digital), but find a few seconds with the meter gets me very close most of the time and I generally don’t adjust much.
    So the question for me is – wouldn’t using the meter in a reflected light mode fix many of the issues called out? Wouldn’t changing the position of the meter on the subject also help with quickly getting exposure correct?
    Thanks for the great content. I am really enjoying the site and picking up a lot of useful information.

    1. Hi Douglas, Of course there is nothing wrong with using a meter to get in the ‘ballpark’ and as you have experience shooting film you will of course need it that situation as I did. The purpose of this chapter though was to demonstrate how with a good screen tethered and looking at the histogram you don’t actually need one and in some cases they can set you off on the wrong path. The key thing is establishing in your mind what you want the shot to look like so that you arrive at that result and not one that a computer told you you should shoot.

  24. Really impressed with the content so far Karl – the clarity of your tutorials is excellent. I’m just curious to know why you haven’t included ISO as a way of adjusting exposure alongside the other 3 approaches you mentioned. Or am I missing something?

    1. Hi David, thank you for your kind comments and I’m glad you are enjoying our content. Our courses are designed to carry people through in a logical learning process and ISO is covered in an earlier module in the ‘Essentials’ section. In studio photography when you generally have all the light that you need then it makes more sense to work at the lowest or default ISO to reproduce the best quality image and simply adjust the power of the lights accordingly. When I wrote the script for this course I considered the level that people would be at given that they had moved to studio lighting and had to make the assumption that those using studio lights already understood ISO, depth of field and shutter speeds. Cheers Karl.

  25. Wish I saw this before shelling out £350 on my Sekonic 478DR about a week ago :@

  26. Great explanation….now I realise why I struggle with my light meter to get the shots I want.


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