Tips for Using a Handheld Light Meter


In modern DSLRs they all have a light meter built-in to the camera. But sometimes you want a more accurate reading, or to measure the amount of light when using flash (your camera can’t do that), in which case you would turn to a handheld light meter.

Check out this video from Adorama TV (host Daniel Norton) for some light meter basics.

This second video is more advanced. Once again from Adorama TV, with host Mark Wallace, this one covers how to meter for light ratios. Read more about ratios here: Lighting Ratios to Make or Break your Portrait.

In the video above he is using the Sekonic L-358 light meter. Here are a couple other choices, also made by Sekonic. I personally use the L-308 and it works just fine. You don’t need one that’s really fancy but the one he used does have the memory storage for comparing the light, the L-308 does not. So if you want that feature you may want to opt for the L-358.

Have you used a light meter before? If you are shooting with speedlights or studio lights you may find it necessary, but if you shoot landscapes and use mostly natural light you probably do not need one. Let us know your experience in the comments below.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darlene Hildebrandt is the Managing Editor of dPS. She is also an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles, online photography classes, and travel tours. Get her free ebook 10 Photography Challenges to help you take better pictures or check out her online photography courses.

  • walwit

    I’m not a professional that may be why I don’t see the point of a light meter, I mean: If there is no rush you can always resort to try and error until you get the right light, if you are in sports you can’t use a light meter. Any thoughts?

  • Henry

    With light meter you can reproduce the same light ratios every single time.

  • SteveR

    While there are times when a light meter is not practical, many times it is. Sports or event photography make the use of a light meter impractical; however, most portraits will be better if a light meter is used.
    Even if there is no rush, when you can nail the exposure in one or two shots, your subject will be more relaxed and less tired than if you try shot after shot to get correct exposure.

  • varunkarthick
  • Steve Norris

    If you use studio flash or speedlights for product or portrait work you will definitely need a separate meter that measures flash values for accurate exposures. Remember that what looks bright enough on your LCD review may be well underexposed in reality.

  • walwit

    I appreciate your comments, I’m looking forward to make studio photography in the near future.

  • rob Lamont

    Sometimes the camera light meter can be fooled by darker, lighter colours and subjects. My kit includes a couple of older medium format film cameras so the light meter is always with me. It’s a good backup, just to be sure.

  • Brett Valentine

    I find I always grab for it when I pull out my medium format lenses (Zeiss Jena P6 mount) with my a-99 DSLT since there is no electronic connection with the camera body. Quicker than experimenting with apertures and te lack of compensation in the electronic viewfinder. . .

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