Explore the use of the light meter and the various exposure modes to enhance the quality of your photographs.
This article is a segment of the Digital Photography Course. Click here to return to the main course overview.
The light meter, a fundamental device in photography, can be integrated into the camera (internal light meter) or used as a separate unit (external light meter). Its primary function is to measure the amount of light needed to achieve correct exposure. This is done by recommending an appropriate combination of exposure time and aperture, in relation to the set ISO sensitivity.
Light meters are mainly classified into two categories:
- Reflected Light Meters: These are typically built into cameras. They work by pointing the camera towards the subject; the meter measures the light that is reflected from the subject back to the camera. It’s a particularly effective measurement in scenarios where the light is evenly distributed.
- Incident Light Meters: These are usually external meters, preferred in controlled environments like photographic studios. They are positioned near the subject, with the white hemisphere facing towards the camera. They are ideal for high contrast situations. In such cases, the meter can be pointed directly at the light source and calculate an average between this reading and that of the shadow areas, for optimal exposure balance.
Moreover, the integrated light meter in a camera can operate in different modes, each suited to specific light conditions and to achieve particular atmospheric effects. Choosing the correct exposure mode is crucial for capturing the desired image, influencing factors such as depth of field, motion sharpness, and overall light balance in the image. Understanding and mastering these modes are therefore essential for every photographer aspiring to create technically accurate and artistically expressive images.