One thing that is coming back to me from a few local photographers who talk to me on a regular basis from reading the off camera flash blogs is that I frequently use light meters and other tools when I shoot. They find they can do the same thing, and don’t need the same equipment. Don’t make this mistake!
Tools are developed because they serve a purpose. Prior to digital and chimping, we relied solely on those tools. Digital has made me lazy. Sure, we used Polaroid to check reflections or to put the model at ease with how they would look, but we always used a light meter. This was our life line. Again, I usually test a few times with a light meter, then as a shoot goes forward, put the meter away. Why? I am lazy and have a good idea what will happen once I get a few tests with the lighting setup, and from experience, know what minor little changes will do with the lighting.
But, someone without the experience or tools is taking a guess. This isn’t to say that the person can’t create some creative and good images, but rather that they won’t produce consistent results with the photos they create. If they want to produce a similar photo, they can’t. It will always be different.
The biggest reason I hear for not having them is that they are complex; the second reason is that they cost too much money. You will find they are always well worth the money spent, and they really aren’t difficult at all. For instance, a light meter is a simple point and click of a button. White balance is setting your lens to manual focus, putting the filter in front of the lens, and taking a picture. Color checker is just taking a picture with the target in the initial image with a specific lighting set up. A colorimeter is simply adjusting the monitor with your driver software, then sticking a colorimeter on the display – the software really does all the hard work.
Always get and use the tools! For instance, a color checker is something always overlooked. Something to set custom white balance. And, the light meter. Finally, a colorimeter to make sure you see the right colors on the display when you edit. Use the tools. They will save you a lot of grief and time.