As perhaps one of the last pieces of equipment newer photographers think about getting, especially in digital, light meters perhaps don’t get quite the appreciation they should. Granted, in-camera metering has become quite a bit better over time (depending on camera model), and histograms on your LCD help to see what’s really going on, but a dedicated light meter accomplishes its job with more accuracy, finesse, and I believe, teaches you to be able to read light better.
They can be, frankly, unnecessary for most occasions of a more casual nature, and if that’s mostly what you’re dealing with, then the expense of a dedicated light meter may have you neglecting one. Then, of course, there’s having yet another piece of gear to carry. Lumu, is a company/product that brings light metering to your smartphone. It’s effectively the lumisphere (actual reader) that plugs into your phone much like a Squareader does, and combines with its software to turn your phone into an elegant, easy to use interfaced light meter.
It was born of Kickstarter, and while most Kickstarter photography products are a bit rubbish, this doesn’t seem to be, and by user accounts, it certainly isn’t. Fully funded and in production thanks to the good-faith of funders, the product ships in style, with its own beautiful case, a neck lanyard option, and software to be downloaded is of course, included. There are two apps available, and though one is for typical purposes, they’ve included a second app which is for pinhole photography. At $149, it’s around the price of many good light meters, and not nearly as much as some, which can run into hundreds. And it’s tiny, so it can go anywhere.
A Short Word On Light Meters vs In-Camera Light Metering
Understanding the value of a light meter requires a small touch of insight into light metering itself and how the devices work. Your DSLR measures reflective light, which is the light that bounces off the subject and hits back into the camera. This is great in a way since you can meter from a good distance away, and does a decent job taking in an entire scene, but it’s limited. Strong variances in brightness and color can trick it. DSLRs also can’t meter for strobes/flashes precisely.
Incident light is the light as it falls onto the subject. This is why when using a light meter on a face, the meter is held at the face with the lumisphere pointing in the direction of the light. This is the better choice, that’s more true. Dedicated light meters can do both incident and reflective, and you can measure strobes individually. This way you can record settings which will allow you to recreate a look easily in a studio, for example.
Another great benefit of a dedicated light meter is the it will help calibrate your eye, and mind, to light in any particular environment. You’ll be able, after a while, to better judge required settings for proper exposure without having to meter, with great accuracy.