Breaking New Ground

Without mentioning names, a poster on one of the photo websites wrote that he didn’t find the need for using a light meter at all.

He wrote:

“I found this device useless in the studio and out.. Now, with all digital and instant photo preview, do you really use it?
I still did not get why you can’t just see all needed info on a computer, while reviewing the image?”

Then another poster wrote that he got a kick when he saw the Sekonic bridal shoot video that I appeared in.

He wrote:

“I kinda’ got a kick out of watching Steve Sint endorsing Sekonic’s.
Steve has used those setups a hundred plus times. He is well aware of his metering, ISO, lenses, distances etc…In the commercial, I don’t think he needed a flash meter. ;)

I responded by writing:

“Try tens of thousands of times! In fact my first assistant says if me and my meter disagree something (either the meter or the lights) are set wrong or the meter is broken…:) But, that being said, while I no longer need to use my meter for basic exposure info I am VERY interested in where each of my light’s power setting is in RELATIONSHIP to all the other lights I’m using.”

While I still stand by what I wrote, because in truth that is exactly why and how I use my meter(s), I thought about my response (and the whole thread in general) for a long time.

While it is true that if I set my camera to ISO 160 and equally split 375 watt seconds between two Dynalite heads positioned traditionally (main at 45-60 degrees off lens axis and the fill on the opposite side but closer to the lens axis) with one aimed into a 60 inch and one aimed into a 54 inch Photek umbrella, with the surface of the 60 inch umbrella being about 4-5 feet from my subject and the surface of the 54 inch umbrella being about 9-10 feet from my subject, the correct exposure is between f8.6 and f11 (but closer to f11). Given the lighting description I just described the exposure information I just supplied is ALWAYS true!

I also know that a white (or light) colored background has to be lit to about f5.6 so as not to blow out and still reveal detail without intruding on my subject. See photo below:

Knowing all this would make it seem that I don’t really need a flash meter (be it a Sekonic or other brand) at all as the very first poster suggests. But, the portrait lighting set-up I described above is the simplest, most straightforward, lighting set-up I ever use! The truth is my lights are constantly being moved around from image to image as I look for variety in my lighting. Even then I know that when I push my main light in a foot or so closer I have to stop my lens down a 1/3 or 2/3’s of an f-stop!

However, the more I learn, the more complete I become as a photographer, the LESS interested I am in doing things the way I’ve done them thousands of times before. At this point I’m always (always!) looking for ways to do things differently. Not just for the sake of being different but instead I’m interested in how my lighting can be used to reinforce and clarify the message I’m trying to achieve. See photo below:

The plain fact is, if YOU find yourself in a situation in which you’ve done a specific kind of photograph the same way thousands of times before, maybe you should kick yourself in the butt and figure out a new way to do it. Doing it the same way thousands of times can get boring and that “boring” feeling can then creep into other parts of your photography!

The funny part is, the more I struggle with this, the more I change what I’ve done before into what I’m doing now the more I rely on my light meter. Not for the basics mind you, but, as I said above, to figure out how to get all my light sources to work in harmony with one another and how each source fits into the lighting scheme I am using as part of a unified whole.

This is not easy! It’s the kind of thing that can make your hair hurt from using that computer between your ears! But, it sure beats boring!

Good luck, and good shooting!

Posted on May 8, 2010 at 9:41 am by Steve Sint · Permalink · 4 Comments
In: Tools & Organization, Working with Flash · Tagged with: , , , ,

Workshop/Demo on 5/17/10

When: Monday, 05/17/10

Time: 7:00 PM

What: Light Modifiers and How to Use Them

Where: Sweetbriar Nature Center

62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown, NY 11787


Sponsored by: The Sweetbriar Nature Photography Club and Sekonic Meters

Admission is Free. There will be a drawing for a Door Prize

info: or (631) 439-0812

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 10:01 am by Steve Sint · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Workshops & Lectures · Tagged with: , , ,

Understanding How Your DSLR Works

Understanding the SLR (D or otherwise)

I got it.  I missed it….but I saw it!

I know exactly when I figured this out. It was an epiphany.

I was standing on a long, narrow, straight, wooden dock in Mexico. A few happy, glistening, really young kids were skipping up the dock right towards me. The long shot was worthless but as they got closer they’re moving bodies filled my frame beautifully as I took picture after picture.

Through a string of about 5 frames I saw perfect photo after perfect photo in my viewfinder. I was so high about it. But when I got the film back from my lab I had 5 almosts – each of my paper pictures showed the scene a moment too late.

Some might think it was because I was shooting film instead of digital.

Nah, I don’t think so. I think it has to do with the mechanics of the SLR (D or otherwise). If you see the perfect picture in the viewfinder of your DSLR it means the picture is not being taken – at least not at that exact moment! The mirror that’s reflecting the picture (you think you are taking) up to your eye is blocking the real picture from being captured. That means, in fast moving situations, if you are seeing the perfect picture as you push the shutter release you don’t have that picture!

How it Works

Click on the sketch to see it bigger!

What can we do? What can we do?

In fast moving situations you have to learn to shoot a few milliseconds before the perfect picture happens. How the %$&! are we going to do that? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

Half of the term “digital photography” is “photography”.

Posted on April 29, 2010 at 11:10 pm by Steve Sint · Permalink · One Comment
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , ,

What’s in MY Case

I’ve been lecturing and teaching quite often lately (click on “workshops” at the bottom of this page for a constantly updated list of the upcoming events). And, although I usually speak about lighting (actually, I’m more a fan of lighting than camera stuff) at the end of each workshop or demo a few of the attendees always ask me which camera I use, which lenses I carry, and what’s my favorite f-stop. Since I don’t really have a favorite f-stop because I’m a non-discriminatory f-stop user, I sidestep that question and instead focus (poor pun – sorry) on what I pack in my assignment case and why I include it. I find the questions interesting because I usually don’t even have a camera or my camera case with me when I teach! But, regardless of my feelings about my specific camera equipment choices, I can understand everyone’s fascination with the camera(s) we all use. They feel great in our hands and are sleek, sexy, and just the coolness. With these thoughts in my mind, here’s a tour of what’s inside the (airline carry-on legal) Pelican 1510 roller case I carry for assignments and, for good measure, what I carry in my small Domke F-803 satchel when I want to travel light.

Pelican 1510 Roller Case pelican1510_lr

This is how my case is laid out. Starting from 12:00 there is the Sigma 50-150, the yellow blob directly below it is a ditty bag filled with my tools. Moving clockwise, there is one Nikon D300 with the 17-50, the 24-70 zoom, the 16-85 zoom, next (at 6:00) the blue ditty bag holds my empty CF cards, my two light meters, and, finally the second D300 with the 24-85 mounted on it. In front of the case (left to right) there is Hoodman Loupe, the two PocketWizard transmitters, the 2 SB 800′s, the two spare D300 batteries, the small roll of white gaffer tape and one of the Quantum HV cables for the SB800. All the items in front of the case tuck in on top of the meters or are sprinkled around the two D300′s.

The List

1. Two Nikon D300 DSLRs (formerly two Nikon D200’s, and at the rate camera technology advances, soon it will be the next latest and greatest model.) Note the rubber bands around one of the bodies – they’re there to hook over a PC cord tip to make sure the cord doesn’t come loose in the middle of a shoot.
2. 1 Nikon 17mm – 55 f /2.8 zoom lens with hood
3. 1 Nikon 24mm – 85 f/ 2.8-4 zoom lens with hood
4. 1 Sigma 50mm – 150 f /2.8 zoom lens with hood (see the photo below that compares the Sigma to an older 80-200 f 2.8 Nikon. Note that the Sigma weighs 20 (!) ounces less and costs 1/3 as much. Also note that the Sigma is the equivalent of a 75 – 225 on a small chip D300)

50 -150 vs 80-200

5. 1 Nikon 50mm f/ 1.4 lens with hood from an old Nikon 105 f 2.5 (see the comparison photo below – note that the D300’s smaller than full frame chip means the longer hood doesn’t vignette)

50 1.4 vs 105 2.5 hoods_lr

6. 1 Nikon 85mm f /1.8 lens with hood
RE: #’s 5 & 6: if it’s a totally indoor assignment I substitute #’s 7 & 8 below for #’s 5 & 6 above
7. 1 Nikon 24-70 f 2.8 zoom lens with hood
8. 1 Nikon 16-85 f 3.5-5.6 zoom lens with hood
9. 2 extra numbered Nikon D300 camera batteries (see photo)
10. 2 Pocket Wizard Radio slaves (one transceiver and one transmitter)
11. 1 Sekonic L-358 meter with Pocket Wizard module
12. 1 Minolta FlashMeter IVF (pronounced “4F”)
13. 1 ditty bag of tools (see photo: note that the small box wrench fits the leg bolts on my Gitzo tripod)


14. 1 ditty bag for spare meter and Pocket Wizard batteries (all dated and I use the oldest first – see photo)

dated batteries

15. A small roll of gaffer tape
16. 8 4GB Sandisk Extreme IV CF cards and 5 2GB Sandisk Extreme IV CF cards in a ditty bag.
17. 2 Nikon SB-800 (one with diffuser cap and a Lee 5600K to 3200K filter – cut from a Lee gel sheet #204, Full C.T.Orange )
18. 1 HV cable for the SB-800 (Quantum)
19. 3 different sized custom fill flaps (for the SB-800’s – see photo below)

fill flaps

20. 1 Hoodman Loupe (this little item is a life saver when I work outdoors!)
21. 3 sharpie CD safe pens (dual point)
22. Business cards
23. Model releases
24. A copy of the day’s assignment contract
25. A few 1 quart Zipper Lock Freezer bags (to put full CF cards into)
26. Some white topped hatpins for a boutonniere if needed

Domke Satchel

Oddly, the contents of my Domke Satchel is much more difficult to describe because it is constantly changing depending on what I’m trying to do. Also note that my Domke F-803 satchel is tiny (see photo below that compares a standard sized Domke F2 to the F 803 Satchel) so, whatever I carry in it is a tight fit! Let’s start with the constant things that are in it first.


There is always the following in it:

1. 1 Nikon D300 body
2. I spare D300 battery
3. 2-3 4 GB Sandisk Extreme IV CF cards
4. I Nikon SB-800 with diffuser cap and a Lee Full C.T.Orange filter taped over the flash tube (inside the cap, over the actual flash reflector)
5. 1 set of 4 lithium AA batteries
6. My three custom fill flaps
7. A Leatherman Wave
8. A couple pens/markers

The constantly changing lens choices I carry are as follows:

The Minimum:
1. 1 Nikon 16-85 f 3.5-5.6 zoom lens with hood

One step up – if I want to get a little more serious:
1. 1 Nikon 16-85 f 3.5-5.6 zoom lens with hood
2. 1 AF-S Nikkor 55-200 f4-5.6G ED VR lens with hood

Or, if I want to get really serious:
1. 17mm – 55 f /2.8 zoom lens with hood
2. 1 Sigma 50mm – 150 f /2.8 zoom lens with hood

Or, if I feel the need…the need for speed (thanks Tom)
1. 1 Nikon 24 mm f 2.8 D lens with a 35 mm lens hood on it (some days I switch out the 24 for a Nikon 35 mm f 2 D lens with a 50 mm lens hood on it)
2. 1 Nikon 50 mm f 1.4 lens with a 105 f 2.5 lens hood on it
3. 1 Nikon 85 mm f 1.8 lens with the standard (for that focal length) hood on it

OK, that’s it! The next time someone asks me what I carry I’m sending him or her to this page! Questions and comments are always welcome: Steve at


Shutterbug – excerpt from Digital Portrait Photography

Shutterbug posted a book review and an excerpt from Digital Portrait Photography.

“Steve Sint has photographed over a million portraits and his wealth of knowledge on everything from the basics of good composition to the fine details of advanced lighting techniques are all shared in this handsome book. Sint discusses setups and backdrops; the most flattering ways to pose both individuals and groups; tips on making the sessions fun and comfortable for everyone; and insider info on using electronic flash, both indoors and out. ”


The Beauty Light & Classical Portrait Lighting

Posted on February 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm by Steve Sint · Permalink · One Comment
In: Steve Sint on the Web · Tagged with: , , , , ,