Light meters are dead, Long live the light meter!

Analog Light MeterIn the age of digital – light meters have, for the most part, lost popularity with photographers. With digital cameras it is easy enough to just take a photo, review the image immediately, and adjust your exposure as necessary. However, If you want to take the guess work out of getting perfect exposure then an incident light meter may be for you.


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Tutorial: Using the Gossen Luna-Pro Analog Light Meter

Note: If you don’t know why you need a light meter check out Light meters are dead, long live the light meter!

The Gossen Luna-Pro is the best light meter I’ve found used for less than $100. Is is an older model analog light meter and as a result takes a little more effort however as you will see it is still quick and easy to take a reading and you can take the money you saved and put it towards some new glass.

Side note: The Gossen Luna-Pro also works with flash which is a nice perk.

Here is a quick tutorial for taking a meter reading with the Gossen Luna-Pro (Other analog meters should be similar).

Step 1: Set the ISO (ASA).

  1. Turn the inner wheel until the ASA arrow points to the desired ISO.

Step 2: Taking a meter reading:

  1. Hold the meter near the subject and point the white bulb towards where the camera will be.
  2. Press the red button on the side to activate the meter
  3. Turn the outside wheel right/left until the needle lines up with “0”

Step 3: Reading the exposure values:

  1. Now that the reading is captured. The proper shutter speed and aperture values will line up as illustrated below.In this example a shutter speed of 1/125th @ aperture ƒ2.8 will provide proper exposure.

    Note: Any  other shutter speed + aperture combinations that line up on the meter will produce the same exposure. 

Click here for a link to the full manual:

Understanding your Camera’s Light Meter & Tips for Dealing with Difficult Lighting

Digital cameras are getting surprisingly good at capturing proper exposure in most lighting conditions. Cameras judge proper exposure based on how much light is reflecting off of the scene back to the camera. This is called “Reflective Metering”. The camera compares the reflected light value against 18% gray (middle gray). This method works out fine when a majority of the metered area is a medium color however, is problematic when shooting bright or dark scenes.

For example, say you were to take a photo of a snow covered field in bright sunlight. If you meter your exposure off of the snow the image would turn out under-exposed and the snow would look gray instead of bright white. Why? because the camera is trying to map the bright white of the snow – which encompasses most of the image – to 18% gray.

There are a number of ways to combat this problem. Here are a few common ones:

  • Use when in aperture priority, shutter priority, or auto modes use exposure compensation to override the camera’s meter.
  • Switch to manual mode and purposefully under/over-expose until the scene is exposed properly.For tips on how to use manual mode check out our Manual Exposure Cheatsheet

Using a gray card like this one , or a light meter are also great ways to help take the guess work out of figuring out the proper exposure. Using the camera’s  spot metering setting and metering off of a mid tone color in the scene works great also.