…where “old” does not mean “outdated”.
I am talking about the light meter.
Some of you may think this is a tool that rusty old photographers used to use in the 1960s.
Not so. Modern, cool, young photographers like me (you are as young as you feel) use them too – every day.
The light meter is different from the light meter built into your camera:
- Unlike that camera meter, it is not a reflective light meter, but an incident light meter. It measures light falling onto your subject. Unlike your camera, which measures light reflected from the subject. So for the camera, the subject affects the measurement. A dark subject will reflect less, a light subject, more. So the camera will expose a dark-skinned person in a black suit differently from a light-skinned person in a white suit. And that is wrong: the camera should not care about the subject. Light is light. (Yes, true: keeping the exposure constant means that a dark subject will look darker than a light subject. But hey – that is exactly the way it should be!)
- Also, the modern light meter is a flash meter as well. It reads the bright pulses of light emanating from a strobe (or a speedlight set to manual). Which is exactly what the photographer uses it for.
- It is more accurate, sensitive, and quantitative. It can read light in stops or EV (exposure values), and it can read up to tenth of stops.
If you have never used a light meter, I urge you to start. When you shoot portraits, you have little choice, but even for outdoors light, and especially for mixed light, a meter will make your images’ exposure guaranteed good.
Use your mter as follows:
- Set the meter to the right mode (Flash, or ambient);
- Set the ISO to your camera’s ISO;
- Set the shutter speed to your camera’s shutter speed (e.g. 1/125th sec);
- Press the reset button, so the aperture displayed is zero;
- Hold the meter where your subject will be;
- Fire the flash;
- Read the value;
- Set that value on your camera.
You will not look back, once you get the hang of this excellent tool!