Photography Light Meters

To get the best exposure, many photographers use light meters, which provide them with a distinct measurement of the available light. While even the most basic light meter will give photographers guidance on shutter speed and aperture, others provide more detailed information, allowing users to take photos in complex lighting conditions. These devices are designed to be an effective way for users to improve image quality.

What's the difference between in-camera meters and handheld meters?

Most digital cameras come with a built-in light meter, which provides a smaller range of information than handheld meters. Handheld light meters can more accurately read in extreme lighting conditions, like side lighting, backlighting, snow, flash, or extreme contrast. This can help users to achieve more accurate exposures.

What types of light readings do light meters provide?

There are three primary types of light readings:

  • Incident: This measures the amount of light falling on a subject. To take this kind of reading, users place the meter next to the subject and toward the camera. This measurement is highly accurate when photographing subjects that are nearby and stationary as in portrait photography. It may need more adjusting, however, when photographing far away or mobile subjects.
  • Reflected: This measures the amount of light reflected by the subject. Most cameras are equipped with this type of meter. When using a handheld meter, they average the reflected lighting conditions throughout the scene and determine the best settings for the photograph.
  • Flash: This measures the brief burst of light created by a flash. This can prove useful for photographers who frequently use their flash setting.
What other features do light meters have?
  • Spot Metering: This is designed to help users meter a small section of an image area, with angles of view ranging from 1 degree to 10 degrees. This type of metering ensures that the subject of an image is accurately exposed, especially in difficult lighting conditions. When snapping a picture of a small, backlit still life or portrait, for example, spot metering prevents the bright background from overwhelming the exposure measurements.
  • colour: Some light meters analyze colour information, providing metrics on colour temperature, CRI measurements, and more.
  • Memory Mode/Latitude Display: These features allow users to sync the dynamic range of their camera with their meter, which results in enhanced exposure settings.
  • Touchscreen LCDs: Many light meters come with LCD screens.
  • Cine Modes: For anyone who likes to use their camera's video function, cine modes can be very useful. They provide information on shutter angles and frames per second.
  • All-Weather Designs: When taking photos in the natural light of the great outdoors, it's important to have a light meter that can stand up to the elements. Many are waterproof and are designed to avoid rain damage.
Content provided for informational purposes only.