Photography Lighting: Metering

Photography lighting is a very important concept to master if you are serious about photography. You will need to understand how to use the internal-light meter in your digital camera to ensure all your shots are exposed correctly.

The light meter included with your camera is actually very easy to understand. You don't need any specialist tools for this other than your camera.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Photo Meter
  • Digital Camera
  • Flash Gun

Step 1 - Understanding the Purpose of Light Meters

Light meters are also known as exposure meters and these are useful devices which can measure how much light is available in the environment. Photographers commonly use light meters to find out how long the camera should open the shutter for. The light meter is a complex piece of equipment which considers your film speed, aperture and shutter speed. All of this information is used to calculate the exposure settings.

Step 2 - Buying a Light Meter

There are two main types of light meters which are available and these both work slightly differently. You can either use incident-light meters or reflected exposure. You will need to know how to use these light meters to get the best results.

Reflected-light meters work by measuring the amount of light which is reflected by the objects that you are photographing. This type of light meter is normally included in your camera as the inclusive-light meter. These are normally used to calculate the exposure settings for cameras. However, these reflected-light meters are not useful for every situation. If you are taking a photo which will contain any light colors, then this light meter will cause wrong readings.

Step 3 - Using Incident Exposure Meters

Incident exposure meters help you to measure the amount of light which falls onto whatever you are taking a photo of. These work by placing a sensor close to the subject which measures the amount of light.

For this reason, landscapes are best read with a reflected-light meter. Many reflected-exposure meters can be used to take basic incident-light readings by placing them near the subject, facing the camera. These types of light meters aren't perfect either as they have their own limitations.

Step 4 - Interpreting Results

If you use these light meters, you need to learn how to interpret the result. First you will need to set the ISO, which is the speed of the film in your camera. You will need to look at the user manual to find out how to set the ISO speed on the light meter; this is normally changed by turning a dial on the side of the meter.

Some modern meters have buttons instead of dials to set the ISO and aperture settings. When the settings are entered you then need to point a reflected-light meter towards the subject that you intend to take a photo of. Whenever taking a photo with a high contrast, use an incident-light meter to get better results. This meter reading must be done closer to the subject.