Perfect Exposure at 1st shot: 3 Flashes & 1 Flash meter

I invite you to read the previous episode which explained how to obtain a perfect exposure from the 1st shot using 1 Flash & 1 Flash meter. While in this episode we still use my Sekonic L-358 you can still achieve the same result with much cheaper Flash Meter found on the market. We are not using any fancy calculus here, and the features used in this episode are really the most basics ones.
Sekonic Flashmeter
Sekonic Flashmeter

Setup your 3 Flashes (or more) the same as a 1 single Flash

With such a header, I have probably killed any suspense but it really all comes down to this and yet in my workshops so many times have I heard my students saying how complicating it is to arrange a multiple Flash setup and they really struggle to obtain a perfect exposure. Even with the assistance of a Flash meter. So what do they do wrong?

Well, the only real rule one needs to keep in mind is to set one Flash at the time. Trying to measure all your Flashes at the same time is pointless and extremely challenging to distinguish which Flash does what and how much it affects the others.

3 Flash setup

There is no limit when it comes to the number of Flash one can use in one setup. In this episode, I decided to go for the classic 3 Flash arrangement. Let’s see what it consists of:

3 Flash Setup
3 Flash Setup

The power output

The exposure for each flash will depend solely on the effect you, the photographer, want to obtain. Here I made the decision to have
  • my Fill Light 2 stops under my Key Light
  • my Rim Light 1 stop under my Key Light.
I believe this gives me a pleasing result without much drama. The sequence of steps for a 3 Flash setup:

Flash A

This Flash is positioned roughly about 45 degrees to the right of my subject and at a 45-degree vertical angle. There is no rule here but the vertical angle is to mimic a light coming from above such as the sun.
  1. Turn your 1st Flash (Flash A) on, set it on manual mode and choose a power output value. I like to use 1/4 as it saves the battery and has a pretty good recycling time (time it takes the Flash to be ready for the next fire).
  2. Turn your Flash meter on and set its ISO value to match the one set on your camera.
  3. Place the Flash meter near your subject and aim it at your Flash.
  4. Somehow trigger the Flash Meter in combination with the Flash. Either use a PC cable to link the 2 or use a radio trigger as shown in the video.
  5. Read the F-stop value given by the Flash meter.
  6. Either:
    1. Use that F-Stop value (Flash meter reading) and set your camera to the same value
    2. Change the Flash power output to enable your to get the Flash meter reading to match the Aperture value you want with your camera. This can be also be achieved by changing the distance between your Flash and your subject.
    3. When your Flash meter reading equal your desired Aperture value then take the shot. In the video it was F4.
1st shot with 1 flash and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
1st shot with 1 flash and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
You can see the perfect exposure on the right side of my subject and the strong shadows cast on her left side. While this is an interesting look this is not what I was after for this episode.

Flash B

This flash is simply positioned on the opposite side to my Flash A.
2nd shot with 2 flashes and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
2nd shot with 2 flashes and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
You can see how the shadows on the right are still there but much less dramatic than before. The last thing I wanted in this setup was to even the light on both sides. This is a creative decision, and in a near future video, we will see the effect of different ratios between Flashes.

Flash C

This Rim Flash is simply pointing at the back of my subject’s head.
3rd shot with 3 flashes and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
3rd shot with 3 flashes and 1 flash meter (not retouched)
Here we can see the effect brought by the 3rd Flash. A gentle light is falling on her head and her far shoulder giving a sense of dimension.


Once again the Flash Meter enabled us to get a 3 Flash setup up and running in no time. Whether you use 1,2,3 or 10 different flashes, the method remains the same: take care of each flash separately starting with your main light aka the Key Light. You could still achieve the same result without a Flash meter, but it would require taking multiple exposures throughout the setup. Also, it is worth noting that when using a Flash meter you do not have to be worried about the distance between your flash and your subject. If you were to not use the Flash meter, one method would be to use all the flashes at equal distance from your subject so you could set each power output about each other. So you could have Flash A set to 1/2 power, Flash B 1/8 power and Flash C 1/4 power. This would give you the same result as in the video. However, as you saw in the video, I do not care much for the power value of each Flash, and this gives me the freedom to position the flash at any distance I wish. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends using the Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter buttons, you can even leave a comment or question below.

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