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Thread: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

  1. #1

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    Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    Goethe was right (even if it killed him to say it). I need more light. Continuous lighting, with several bright CFTs (these) isn't giving me enough, especially when using paper negatives. So I bought a single strobe kit and want to play. My initial plan is to use a digital camera and set it to manual, correct ISO, shutter of 1/60 and play with the aperture until I get something that looks right, then transfer the settings to the LF camera and shoot. Initial tests with the set up suggest for HP5 at ISO400, I require 1/60 and f16 - and that's with the strobe set to about half power. Is this a reasonable and valid approach, or should I buy a flash meter?

    Second question: if it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?

    Chris

  2. #2
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    You'll have to do a little testing to see if the digital exposure will be a good guide to the film one. My guess is that you might get a better correspondence if you rate the HP5 at EI200, but this should be easy to test for yourself. You can also (probably) adjust the contrast of the dslr image to better match your film results. What you're doing is, in effect, making a modern Polaroid exposure. The trick, even in that case, is to know how the test exposure will relate to the real one.
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

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    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    If you can find the guide number for your flash, it will help. That was all many of us had to work with long ago. Also, the modeling light on my White Lightning tracks close enough to the strobe output that an incident meter reading could be used with a fixed offset to the indicated exposure.

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    ghostcount's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    Quote Originally Posted by chrism View Post
    ... if it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?

    Chris
    Sekonic L-308. In Youtube, search for "Joe Brady".

    Do not forget bellows factor when translating exposures from either digital camera or meter particularly at portrait distance.
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    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    The only flash meter I've used is a Minolta Flashmeter IV. It works well and is pretty affordable used. Digital works too, but think of it as a meter rather than a judge of tones as digital responds differently to highlights and shadows than film, just as films can differ.

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    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    Quote Originally Posted by chrism View Post
    Goethe was right (even if it killed him to say it). I need more light.
    Reminds me of King Claudius' famous line in Hamlet: "Give me some light!"

    Quote Originally Posted by chrism View Post
    If it has to be a flash meter, any advice on a decent cheap-ish model and does anyone know of any online tutorials for their use?
    Like Ghostcount I love the L-308, esp. its small size and reasonably low cost – the Minolta Flashmeter IV has many fans here, too.

    I fit my L-308 in my shirt pocket and it takes a single AA battery. How's that for convenience? Ambient, reflective, and flash measurements. Mine once survived a fall from a cliff when it bounced off boulders like a pinball. I've shared this story somewhere in a long lost thread. The upshot is the surprisingly shock-resistant plastic. Easy to use and interpret, too.

  7. #7

    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    I have been using Profoto for over 10 years. Initially with 35mm film and I bought a Sekonic L-358 with built-in Pocket Wizard and it's the best thing since sliced bread.

    Then I moved to digital and the flash meter is less useful so I sold it.

    Then I move to 4x5, so I purchased another L-358 with built-in PW, and it still is the best thing since sliced bread.

    if you use color neg films or good B&W film (such as the HP5), you have so much latitude that a basic 18% gray incident reading with the flash meter is sufficient for most if not all cases.

  8. #8
    I live in Connecticut now.
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    Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    Same advice as RichardMan, been using Profoto for 7 years with a Sekonic L-758DR and I wouldn't shoot without it unless under duress.

    I would say that with some of the complicated cinematic lighting I use, even digitally I use the meter to check.

    I find HP5+ at box speed, especially with strobes is more than enough, I wouldn't shoot at 200 for sure, but really it depends on your methods.

    You don't need to get the fancy one I have, but having one that supports the pocket wizard frequency, and a few used pocket wizards like the Plus II model that are older but solid and reliable you can get them pretty inexpensively

    Good luck!

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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    You've given me much to go and read about - thanks, guys!

  10. #10

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    Re: Advice for a beginner with a strobe

    I think you may wish you bought something bigger. I use these, http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...tt_Second.html , and one of them in a softbox gives me around f/16-22 on digital @ EI 200, with the box about four feet from the subject. On 8x10 xray film, which I think is around EI 50, counting the bellows extension for a portrait, I use between f/5.6 and 8. With paper (EI 3 or something???) it's going to be much worse for you than that. Also, if you haven't figured it out yet, shutter speed is irrelevant; effective shutter speed is the speed of the strobe, around 1/800 or so, depending on the strobe.

    Your only strategy is first, to turn your strobe up full blast, then move it in closer.

    I have a meter, but I don't use it. As long as you have it, and once you figure it out (like everything else, there's a learning curve), a digital camera tells you about lighting direction, reflections, lighting ratio and much more, all in, than a meter can possibly tell. Often with skittish subjects I will run a series of DSLR shots first in a session to get the subject calmed down and used to the process, too, and to explore posing options. Try that with a meter. :-)

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