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Gear & Apps

How to Use a Light Meter | Fundamentals To Improve Your Photography

By Justin Heyes on January 29th 2018

One of the last pieces of equipment newer photographers tend to think about getting is a dedicated light meter. In this digital age, dedicated light meters don’t get quite the appreciation they deserve, and have fallen out of fashion, but there is a resurgence of photographers that are beginning to use this fantastic tool. The A-Team over at Aputure show different ways in which light meters are used in film making, many of which apply to photographers.

*Check out our review of the LUMU light meter for iPhone at the link below.

[REWIND: Lumu Power Review | Turns Your Phone Into A Touchscreen Flash, Color Temp, and Chromaticity Meter]

Basics On Light Meters

A light meter objectively measures the light and breaks it down into measurements that photographers can use, (Shutter speed, ISO, F-Stop). There are two kinds of light that they meter: reflected light and incident light.

Reflective meters are the one that reside in digital cameras. The light is measured from the camera’s position and is what is reflected into the lens. In-camera metering has become quite great over time, but a reflective meter only tells half the story.

Incident light meters measure the light falling on a subject. Incident meters can accomplish their job with more accuracy, and finesse, in situations that would fool a reflective meter, such as strong back-lighting.

Using the data provided by a light meter can help a photographer better understand light and how it behaves. Knowing the quality of the light and where it falls will help you control the look and feel of your image and has the added benefit of better consistency between shots.

Some would argue that light meters are unnecessary for most situations. The one I keep in my bag doesn’t always get used for every occasion, but it has saved me in a few difficult lighting scenarios. A good dedicated meter can be bought for less than $200, and they even come as iPhone accessories

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Alan Berry

    Useful quickstart summary, thanks guys. I understand the use for f stops but the foot candles measure was above my head I’m afraid, sounds like a distance away with a standard candle light, I assume? The Aperture M9 sounds handy due to is size, nice and portable!

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