Tipster: How To Choose The Right Light Meter


Getting perfectly exposed pictures is not a simple task. Today, we are looking into light metering and the best method to achieve optimal exposure. When shooting analogue photography, to be able to get all parameters aligned perfectly is truly a master skill. Metering is the art of reading the light available before you take an image. To properly read the light, we must use a light meter.

A light meter measures the light present in a scene, helping to determine the correct settings and balance shutter speed and aperture for your film of choice. The definition of good exposure is to get balance in the shadows and highlights without sacrificing any details. Nevertheless, metering allows you to be intentional in your photographic practice and expose your light to create specific looks.

Credits: slyvanus2001

Achieving an ideal exposure can be challenging without any kind of light meter. It is possible with the classic Sunny 16 rule, which provides a rough guideline for outdoor exposures. However, this method is not without its failings.

Different Types Of Light Meters:

  • Incident Light Meters: These measure light directly. The incident light reading is the reading of the intensity of light falling on the subject.
  • Reflective Light Meters: they read the light intensity reflected off the subject. Exposure can vary if pointed toward dark objects or ultra-reflective objects.
Credits: lostinthought68, neneohcs, _fin_, clownshoes & tmills1520

Incident light meters are also known as handheld light meters while reflective light meters are commonly referred to as in-camera light meters, or as spot-metering tools.

Handheld light meters provide the most accurate readings by placing the lumisphere in front of your subject (the white ball) and measuring the light hitting it. Reflective in-camera meters produce an average reading of the overall reflected area, where projected through the camera. Lastly, the spot-meter reads a specific point, depending on where you are positioning your meter.

Incident light meters have helpful features such as flash metering and exposure compensation. Many models can read incident light as well as reflective light.

Pentax Spotmeter V, source Flickr

Where and how you measure your light will give different responses, depending on whether you meter for the highlights or the shadows. Therefore, metering and achieving a well exposed photograph is the art of balancing the highlights and the shadows, and knowing your film of choice and the way they behave to make educated decisions to properly expose your photo.

Lastly, smartphones nowadays can be a great alternative (in case your camera has no metering feature or you can't afford to buy an incident light meter). There is a wide range of free light meter apps available and they work as reflective light meters, as they read the light reflected to the camera's phone.

How much do you rely on your light meter when you take your photos? Share your experience in the comments below.

written by eparrino on 2024-05-21 #gear #exposure #gear #tipster #light-meter #tech-junkie


  1. rbanalog
    rbanalog ·

    Many smartphone apps do support Incident Light Reading. I use myLightMeter but there are other apps as well

  2. stereograph
    stereograph ·

    i use a analogue minolta meter, i love this tool for pinhole and longexposure stuff like IR.
    importent for me is that i always can see the whole exposure row with one view.
    ... but sometimes i feel like i don' trust the meter! :-)

  3. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    🤣 @stereograph Somehow, I too, don't trust the meter sometimes...

More Interesting Articles