Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lighting 101: A Light Meter

In the next handful of blog posts we're going to delve into the wonderful world of lighting, because honestly, lighting is crucial to photography. Everyone, both newbies and pros alike, are worried about exposure that is, whether it be over- or under-exposure.  Light meters can be quite useful pieces of professional photography equipment to take away your worry. Light meters are very accurate. They measure light in tenths of an f-stop.

But you might be asking, "Can't I just use built-in camera meters?" Well you can, but unlike handheld light meters, they aren't confused by contrast, backlighting, sidelighting, snow, or flash. Picking out a meter can be just as difficult as a choosing a camera. But there should be at least three modes of exposure measurement: incident (measures light falling on a scene), reflected (reads light bouncing off the subject), and flash (gives you the correct exposure by reading the light burst from the external flash).

Another feature to look for is the ability to read light from a 1° angle. This will give you more control over the exposure, regardless of the distance to the subject. Also consider a meter that can fire a studio strobe. Most Sekonic meters can do this wirelessly. Others will only trigger a strobe when a cord is plugged in. The meter should also be able to record several pops from the strobe units and calculate the correct exposure. This is important when working in a studio with food, stock, and still life.

Check back next week to learn more about nifty photography lighting tools.

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