When And Why To Use A Light Meter

Lighting is very crucial in the photographic journey and as a photographer, it’s your responsibility to understand it. Traditionally, photographers used a handheld light meter to measure the amount of light that falls on a subject (incident light) or the light that’s reflected by a subject (reflective light).

Light meters convert these measurements to define the most appropriate shutter speed and f/stop to use when taking photographs. However, things have changed and thanks to the current technology, digital cameras are equipped with an inbuilt light meter which eliminates the need to have a handheld light meter.

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However, experts recommend the use of a light meter regardless of whether using a digital or non-digital camera to gauge exposure settings that will, in turn, improve your work. In this article, we will tell you when and why to use a light meter to ensure that your images look amazing.

How light meter works

A light meter works in two ways;

• Reflective readings

Reflective readings on a light meter can produce accurate results in most cases and interestingly, they have a close resemblance to a camera’s meter.

Reflective readings specifically measure the light that’s reflected from the subject and if you point the meter sensor at dark areas or snow, it will have exposure problems in the same way a digital camera with an inbuilt light meter will.

• Incident readings

Have you ever wondered what the best strategy to overcome under or over compensation is? Well, taking an incident light reading is what you need. The meter measures the light that falls on the subject and it doesn’t get confused by the reflective qualities of the subject.

How to use a handheld light meter

Now that you already know what a light meter is and how it works, it is very important to know how to use it as this will improve your photographic experience and ensure that you produce nothing but high-quality images. After turning your unit on, you’ll find different icons with different measuring modes and you should use each accordingly as shown below;

• Sun icon – Ambient and non-strobe metering
• T Icon – Shutter speed
• F Icon – F-stop or aperture
• Lightning Bolt Icons – Strobe metering
• ISO – Film speed

When to use a light meter

As stated earlier, a light meter is very important and regardless of whether your camera is digital or not, you should have one and if wondering when to use it, let’s find out.

• When using more than one studio lights, it goes without saying that they will be different and you can using light meter helps you to measure their ratios and determine the best setting for individual light

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• When doing your shooting outdoors, use the light meter to measure the sun and any other light sources thereafter and this will help you to determine the best angle to get great shots
• When doing beauty shots or portraits, you need a light meter to take various readings across the face of the model to have an understanding of the lit parts and the ones that are shaded

Reasons to use a light meter

• A light meter helps you to produce accurate images
• It helps you to have a location scout and determine the best shooting environment for high-quality pictures
• It determines the best lighting setup you need to produce photos with all their glory
• It masters and matches contrast ratios

Bottom line

Taking photographs is not rocket science but the difference between an accurate, high-quality and glorious image and a blurry image depends on how well you choose your lighting setup.

It is likely that you are contented with your digital camera because you’re well aware that it has an inbuilt light meter and will produce images as you command. However, you can take your photographic experience to a higher level by equipping yourself with a handheld light meter and capture images in their true definition.