Using Lightmeters

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Using Lightmeters

Post by Admin on Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:11 pm

Using Lightmeters by David Vickers.



Whilst many people rely on the meter in the camera, for many years, cameras weren't fitted with TTL, iTTL, dTTL meters. What if you're using a medium format camera that doesn't have a CdS cell fitted to it? What if you are using large format gear?

Well, you could use the Sunny 16 rule (or perhaps more like the Sunny 11 rule here in the UK) - it works, but when faced with walking down a street with buildings either side, or walking through a woodland on a sunny day, where does that leave your exposure? I realise that many people can and do use this rule regularly, and I often use it to guess what it should be before getting out the meter. But there are different types of meter, so you need to be sure how to use it to get the best out of it.

There are three basic types:


  • Incident reading meter
  • Reflected reading meter
  • Flash meter

The meter shown below is an early Weston Master meter that I use on a regular basis, and it provides reflected light readings. The reflected light meter sees everything as standard grey and therefore provides an exposure reading based on that. The meter is ideally placed close to your subject and pointed towards it to get the reading. It has the disadvantage that if you point it at a black object then the meter 'normalises' it to 18% grey; it therefore tends to overexpose dark objects (meaning that you will need to under-expose to get the correct exposure (very light objects work in the opposite manner).




The following image shows a meter that can be used for either reflected readings, or incident readings. Incident readings measure the amount of light falling on your subject, rather than the light being reflected from it; this has the distinct advantage that it is not affected by the reflectance of the subject. So, an incident reading is not affected in the same way that a reflected reading off of a black subject (or chrome for that matter). Ideally you would use this by placing the meter up close to the subject, with the meter pointing back towards the camera.




When it comes to reading light from a flash (strobe), the burst of light is so quick that normal meters will not be able to react quick enough to give you a correct reading. For this situation, a flashmeter is required (shown below). This particular model takes a reading and provides an aperture to use (remember that flash light is basically unaffected by the shutter speed as long as you remain under, or at, the sync speed for your camera). The flashmeter is used in the same manner as the incident meter above, and several models are available that can provide you reflected / incident / flash readings.




There are other options available to you - spotmeters for example allow you to measure light within a 10 / 5 / 2 / 1 degree cone from the meter, and are especially used by those afficionados of the Zone System.

Personally, I like my Weston Meter, it uses no batteries and complements my '37 Leica II. I've just had new cells fitted and it's been calibrated - and it's ready again for another 60 years service.

If you want to know where you can get your Weston Meter serviced / recalibrated, just ask in the comments.

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David Vickers.
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