[BTS Video] Matthew Jordan Smith Explains Metering Your Subject Perfectly

Some of my favorite behind the scenes videos we've featured on Fstoppers are of Matthew Jordan Smith. He speaks well and always articulates his lighting and setups in a way that both amateurs and pros can understand. In this video Matthew talks about exposing for a high key background, metering your subject's face for dramatic studio light, and balancing ambient backlight with a studio keylight. I'll be honest and say that I've never used a Sekonic Light Meter but I can see how useful they can be for more advanced studio lighting. I think Matthew might be the only professional I know of shooting on a Sony DSLR! I guess it goes to show that your camera brand makes little difference in producing great images. Check out more of Matthew's tutorials here.


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If you like what MJS does, make sure to take a look at his Creative Live workshop this weekend (November 12-13). It's right here : http://www.creativelive.com/live

Justin Hee's picture

Nigel Barker also uses a Sony DSLR for your information :D

Celebrity Portrait photographer Brian Smith is also a Sony user.  :-)

Nice try taking that concept out into the wedding world - you have to master your lights and master exposure compensation and flash compensation.  No time for all those meter readings!!!

That's he doesn't shoot weddings.

I really like Matthew's vids. There is still a tonne of information to learn from him about light but i think in today's digital world this technique is a little old school.  Tethering to a computer with full lighting control on top of the camera via wireless systems is a speedier approach these days...  For beauty anyway.  Once everything is in place you know longer have to move.

I can't believe I haven't been able to find those whites tiles that creates reflects on the floor in the last 2 years in Canada.... Argg... :)

Doesn't have to be "kitchen tiling", I'm using opaque acrylic on top of my white backdrop. You should be able to score that in Canada if I can do it in Finland :D

I have to find the link to the video, but, Matthew talks about his choice in Sony equipment being about the lenses. Sony uses all Carl Zeis lenses for their DSLRs.In his words "It's all about the optics for me." But its true that it's all about the artist and what he or she brings to the instrument.

Patrick Hall's picture

yeah I've heard people make that argument.  But Zeiss has been making lenses for the Fmount forever and you can get most of them for Nikon as well.  Every Sony I've held just seems plasticy (even more than canon) and they use that crazy proprietary hotshoe and clunky menus.  I haven't tried the newest cameras so maybe they have made progress but the only way I'd think you could stay with sony would be if you were heavy into Minolta.  But then again hasn't all that equipment become obsolete over the last 10 years?  Obviously anyone can shoot on any brand but Canon and Nikon are owning the market for new lenses, accessories, and 3rd party add ons.

Patrick Hall's picture

I guess Sony gets the AF version but IMO the Canon and Nikon manual version looks way cooler :)

I agree completely with your take the feel of Sony equipment, being a Nikon user and Canon owner of camera and lenses. I've played with a friend's sony DSLR and it just felt... hollow, for lack of a better description. Despite that, I say without ego that my portraits were just as solid as if I used my Canon, not because a Sony (or Canon or Nikon, which would've felt better) was in my hands, but because the camera was used by me. But you guys have already made the gear-is-no-excuse point clear with the wonderful iphone shoot, made a while ago, and as everyone who has blessed this site with their BTS videos.

Garrett Graham's picture

Meters are fine for certain types of photography. I am of the Joel Grimes philosophy for the most part.

"You cant rely on technical equipment to make a creative decision" and I agree! My light meter is what I see in the back of my camera and I adjust to what I see.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think Matthew's point was that your camera is either doing spot, matrix, or center metering.  It's not able to meter every point of your scene (unless you zoom in and use spot).  For one light or two I agree you should be fine without a meter.  But I can see the advantage when you know the ratio in your head and want to do something like the snooted look he did in this video.  

"But I can see the advantage when you know the ratio in your head"
I think that's the key point here, if you know what different ratios will look like in the final image.
I'm certainly not experienced enough to know that. 

Matthew's work is so inspiring... 

Makes me feel like an old man.  I grew up shooting film, and there was no way you could do a studio shoot with strobes without metering, unless you wanted to spend a fortune on Polaroids, or you metered once, and were able to replicate the same lighting and same setting shoot after shoot...it's always interesting to read that there are (quite good) photographers who have never used a handheld light meter.  I still use one when I'm shooting static studio portraits with Protofo and any other non-TTL strobe.  It certainly isn't practical for action, but, as with all most other things in the "equipment" category of photography,  it doesn't hurt to have experience with one.

they use Sonys because Sony pays them and hands them a camera. Those pros shoot with medium format film and digital when shooting a real shoot. sigh, i guess the brainwashing marketing really is working. i like Sekonic's motto "now more than ever", its great marketing and its their way of holding on as long as they can now that everyone can look at the back of their camera and know what the light is doing.