The Science of Precise Lighting With Light Meters

In an era where digital cameras offer advanced metering systems, the relevance of a traditional light meter might seem diminished. However, for photographers seeking precision and consistency in lighting, especially in complex setups, a light meter remains an indispensable tool.

Coming to you from Ab Sesay with Adorama, this helpful video tutorial dives deep into the practicalities of using a light meter in various lighting scenarios. Sesay begins by explaining the concept of a stop of light and its visual impact on images. He demonstrates this with a three-light setup, showing how exposure changes with each stop. Understanding stops of light is essential for managing the intensity and quality of light in a scene.

Sesay then delves into the exposure triangle – the relationship between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed – and how these elements interact differently with flash and continuous light. He provides practical demonstrations of changes in exposure when altering these settings, both in flash-only and constant light conditions. 

The video also covers mixing flash with continuous light, a scenario that poses unique challenges. Sesay's thorough explanation of how to meter a scene with multiple light sources, including a main light, fill light, and accent light, is a treasure trove of knowledge for photographers looking to enhance their lighting skills and become more versatile in the studio. He also discusses developing a lighting diagram, an essential tool for replicating and planning lighting setups. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Sesay.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Because of RAW file editing and EVF's giving you a preview of the exposure, people don't necessarily have to be so precise when exposing. They can eyeball it in the EVF or rear screen and RAW allows a fair bit of recovery. Software also helps to clean up photos that may contain too much noise. It doesn't take away from using a decent light meter though, especially studio portrait photographers springs to mind but with the technology we have, a light meter isn't necessarily a must have item anymore.

It's not a must have, but it makes life so much easier and shortens the postprocessing time and work significantly.