Why’s my flash meter not working?

Why’s my flash meter not working?

There are no photos to look at in this post. No behind the scenes videos. No tips or advice. Just one simple nugget of info that will hopefully go out into the world and save someone a little of their sanity.

On the advice of Zack Arias and Frank Doorhof I decided to dabble in the world of flash meters and treated myself to a Sekonic L-306S.
Sekonic L-308s
Out of the box, in with the battery and I’m off and running, playing around metering ambient light. Being a typical bloke/geek I didn’t bother with the manual but the 308S is fairly self explanatory so I fired up a flash and set about trying a little strobe metering to make sure everything was working as intended. It wasn’t.

No matter what power I set the flash to or where I held the meter the display always read “EU” – the symbol for underexposed – not enough light to even register. Once or twice I got a reading but then back to “EU” it went.

I started to think the meter might be faulty so I took drastic steps and sat in the lounge and read the manual! I even checked the videos on the Sekonic website. My male pride was restored when I realised I’d made no stupid mistakes. I also noticed that the meter was displaying “0” as I’d expect and not “EU”. I turned it off, back on, switched modes and it was working fine so into the studio to test again. “EU” straight away – no reading!

And then the penny dropped. Cordless Flash Mode sets the meter to wait until it sees a flash and then meters it. Simple and effective but confused by my energy saving LED lightbulbs. The 50Hz flicker LED bulbs give off is like 50 very low power flashes every second which the meter was detecting. The bulbs in the other room are halogen – no flicker, no confusion.

So the lesson is, if your flash meter is not doing what it should, make sure it’s not because of your light bulbs!