If you wanna expose your shot correctly, a light meter will be your best friend. Don't just eye it, meter it precisely!
Learn More About Light Meters
Of all the camera equipment you would think to add to your gear bag, light meters may be one of the last things to come to mind. However, for pros with a keen eye, who are committed to creating illuminating content, these handy gadgets are indispensable tools of the trade.
For experienced photographers, a light meter (also referred to as a lux meter) is nothing new. But for novices (or folks who are not aware of every gadget under the sun -- perfectly understandable), what is a lux meter, are they worth using, and if so, where can you find a good one for a fair price? Stay tuned as we answer all these questions and more in the next few paragraphs.
What Is a Light Meter?
Essentially, light meters tell you how to get proper exposure when you’re taking a picture. Photography buffs know getting the right image takes some tweaking -- setting the aperture, the ISO, your camera’s shutter speed, etc. to get a good picture. But light meters do that work on your behalf (how kind of them).
For example, by entering your specifications with the push of a few buttons, your lux light meter will then tell you the proper calculations so that you no longer need to test or tweak to find the correct exposure.
There’s a lot of technicality to it, but ultimately, the calculations are made using incident reading, (or incident metering) and reflected light readings (or reflected light metering).
Incident Light Meters
Incident metering (most common in studio work) is done exactly where the light and subject meet. So for incident readings, light meters should be placed on the subject where exposure is the most critical.
Reflected Light Meters
Reflected readings mean the illumination bounces off the subject and is interpreted by the position of the camera.
Incident light is more accurate.
Funny enough, you’d think that a device that calculates a photographer’s perfect shot for them is only for newbies, but that’s not necessarily the case. Light meters are very much an experienced photographer’s good friend.
Are Light Meters Worth it?
Off rip, a good handheld light meter is more accurate than your camera’s built-in meter. Light meters can read exposure with flash (which cameras don’t do) and, as was previously mentioned, they’re fast, giving you proper calculations in mere seconds -- saving you tons of time during both the shooting and editing process by default. Imagine what you could do with all that extra time? Maybe shop for some more robust home & studio gear to help further optimize your workflow.
Another benefit of light meters is that they help photographers create a kind of “muscle memory” by helping you understand how exposure works. Also, though they do the calculating for you, handheld meters allow you to adjust and customize its calculations to fit your preferred look, so, no matter what, even with extra help, in the end, you remain in control.
Though there are cheap light meters that you attach to your phone, we don’t roll that way here at Moment. We only carry the best gear in our shop curated by pros, yet we keep affordability in mind. Here are two light meters hand-selected by in-field use.
Best Handheld Light Meter
For the perfectionist content creators, we want to introduce you to our premier option, the Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate Light Meter. It’s pocket-sized and the smallest of the Sekonic light meters. It features dedicated modes for photography, cinematography, and HD cinematography. The Sekonic L can toggle between incident light and reflected light, has a 40-degree reflected light metering, contains an LCD, and is considered “the most versatile and affordable photo/cine meter in the market.”
Hopefully, if you’re a pro, we’ve led you to the holy grail of the digital lux meter. And though this isn't a comprehensive guide, for those new to the game & looking to learn a little more, we hope we've made the basics of light meter photography a bit easier to comprehend. Before you hit the “Checkout” button, we'll answer some quick, frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does a light meter do?
Light meters tell you how to get precise exposure when you’re taking pictures. Typically, getting the right shot takes tweaking, muscle memory, and a little guesswork to set the aperture, the ISO setting, and set the proper camera’s shutter speeds, etc., to get the precise exposure. But light meters do that work on your behalf with a few clicks of a button.
Are cheap light meters accurate?
Sort of, but not necessarily. You can find some decent cheap light meters if you search far and wide, but they won’t give you the lighting accuracy that top-shelf light meters provide. At Moment, we’ve done the searching for you and handpicked the Sekonic L-308X-U Flashmate Light Meter -- renowned for being the best, most powerful, and versatile photo/cine light meter in the industry (while still being affordable for photographers).
What is a light meter called?
A light meter goes by a few different names, such as lux meter, digital lux meter, flash meter, and most accurately of all, an exposure meter. All these names refer to the same thing -- a handheld device for calculating and determining the proper exposure for photographs.
Why are light meters expensive?
Light meters can be considered relatively expensive because their technological requirements of precision aren't easy to duplicate, enabling photographers to take photos with the most accurate exposure as fast as possible. Light meters can calculate and determine the proper exposure for your pictures in fractions of seconds, essentially saving photographers time shooting and editing. Built-in meters in your camera are no match for the power of dedicated light meters.
Do you really need a light meter?
In the right hands, light meters are indispensable tools that allow photographers to capture the most accurate shots possible, as fast as possible.
What should I look for in a light meter?
Cheap light meters can make it hard to get accurate readings. Buying a high-quality light meter is an investment in your craft, career, and skills. Look for a light meter that is easy to program and allows you to find the best exposure by simply entering your aperture, ISO setting, and shutter speed -- the device handling the rest for you. The best light meters allow you to control any two to find the third option + enable you to customize settings.
As we covered, a small gadget that many folks wouldn't even consider can actually make a massive difference in the accuracy of your photos, the speed at which you take them, and essentially their overall outcome. For photographers who want to create the best content possible, a light meter is worth the investment. If you need more information on what they are and how they can work for you, reach out to a friendly and knowledgeable Gear Guide for assistance.