Like many individuals, early in my images profession, I had many questions on what tools to purchase. The suggestions that I keep in mind had been to purchase nice lenses, a sturdy tripod and a light-weight meter. So I did, nevertheless, sooner or later in my picture profession the sunshine meter ended up on a shelf as a substitute of a images backpack.
On this article, I’ll clarify the distinction between the meter in your digital camera and a handheld mild meter, why I’ve began utilizing one once more and why it needs to be part of any photographer’s digital camera bag.
Incident metering versus reflective metering
Publicity in images is all about mild. How a lot there may be, the place it’s coming from, its colour, and so on. The sunshine meter constructed into cameras that measures this, usually, are of the “reflective” sort. They measure the sunshine being mirrored off of your topic. Whereas they’re subtle and sometimes pretty correct, this mirrored mild will be influenced by the floor materials of your topic.
When mild hits a floor, three issues can occur. The sunshine is absorbed by the floor (absorption), bounces off the floor (reflection) or transmitted via the floor (transmission). Whereas some supplies will solely do one in every of these, generally, there’s a mixture of all three.
With incident metering, we measure the sunshine falling on an space. Whereas it might have handed via one thing like clouds, that impact is uniform throughout the scene. It isn’t being affected by what it’s bouncing off of, comparable to shiny steel which displays mild, or a mossy log that absorbs mild. Typically incident metering might be extra correct than mirrored metering, though, fact be advised, typically the variations should not sufficient for us to note. Nonetheless, in some situations that distinction will be drastic, inflicting you to underexpose or overexpose your pictures.
The 18% grey normal
The 18% grey (aka center or impartial grey) normal is a continuing that photographers and digital camera producers base exposures on. Let’s say we take away the colour from a scene and take a look at solely the tones. All of the brightness values from black (shadows) via white (highlights) in a scene. “18% grey” is strictly midway between black and white. It’s the common brightness between the deepest shadow and the brightest mild.
(I do know you’re pondering, “Why not 50% grey?” As a result of that is based mostly on an exponential curve, not a straight line. Mathtastic!)
18% grey is used as a typical as a result of it’s the solely brightness the place the tone displays again as a lot mild because it receives. So, an 18% grey scene might be metered identically by both an incident or a reflective meter. Nonetheless, most scenes should not completely impartial grey in brightness!
Think about a snow scene or a sundown — scenes with numerous highlights or shadows. The snow scene will mirror much more mild, the sundown scene far much less. With snow, the digital camera’s reflective meter will possible render an publicity that’s too darkish, making the snow look grayish or “muddy.” The meter will let in too little mild because it assumes the scene needs to be darkened right down to a center grey common. Conversely, the sundown scene will seem “washed out,” because the digital camera will permit in an excessive amount of mild to render as center grey.
Each of those points are the results of measuring mirrored mild out of your topic as a substitute of the particular mild falling in your scene. The extra the scene diverges from a median of center grey, the extra the calculated exposures will differ between your digital camera’s meter and the hand held incident meter. The incident meter is precisely capturing the sunshine within the scene, whereas the reflective meter is thrown off the reflectivity of the topic.
Ought to I trouble if my digital camera has a light-weight meter?
Quick reply, sure. However in a special and fewer managed method.
Lengthy reply, sure. However in a special and fewer managed method. The sunshine meter constructed into your digital camera is measuring mild mirrored off your topic, not the sunshine falling in your topic. It’s a delicate however vital distinction as a result of method mild interacts with completely different supplies.
Take the waterfall within the above scene. Mild coming via the tree cover is falling on the moist rocks and water. With the meter, we’re measuring the sunshine falling on the scene, earlier than it has been affected by what’s it falling on. A moist rock displays mild in a different way than a dry one. Water depth, completely different vegetation and whether or not the water is evident or murky, all can have an effect on the mirrored mild values.
If attempting for particular results just like the traditional “dreamy water” look fashionable in waterfall images, it is a pretty exact shutter pace, sometimes within the 1-second vary. A reasonably small aperture can also be used (f/10-16 normally) to attain a big depth of area inside the scene. Little modifications in mild ranges on this atmosphere can play havoc together with your publicity, with out you realizing it.
Utilizing any of the “artistic” modes like Aperture or Shutter Precedence, with out a exact measuring of sunshine, will hand over management over what your closing picture appears like. Aperture Precedence offers up management of the shutter pace, so your water blur is out of your management. Shutter Precedence offers up management of your aperture, or what’s in focus all through your picture. Is the digital camera fairly good at this? Type of, largely, form of, however not at all times. Utilizing Guide mode with constant metering out of your mild meter offers you probably the most accuracy in a state of affairs like this, so you possibly can maintain your artistic selections if the sunshine falling on the scene modifications.
Whereas we will repair a lot after the actual fact, the place constant exposures are important it’s at all times higher to get it proper within the area than should guess later and repair all of your exposures in post-processing.
Talking of artistic management, one of many largest drawbacks of any in-camera meter is its incapacity to measure flash. Our best artistic management comes after we add or subtract mild from a scene to attain our imaginative and prescient. Since your flash doesn’t fireplace till you journey the shutter, your metered studying to calculate the publicity might be wildly completely different out of your precise publicity with flash. A lightweight meter can measure flash throughout a check shot, supplying you with a constant and correct publicity in your photos.
What I exploit
Over the previous yr, I used to be lucky to obtain the Illuminati incident mild and colour temperature ambient and flash meter to guage. It shortly earned a spot in my gear bag, a spot not many objects can declare! It’s a fairly modern product that mixes a light-weight meter and a colour meter that connects to your smartphone.
Whereas there are mild meters that additionally measure white steadiness, they’re normally on the excessive finish of the value vary. This can be a a lot lower-cost merchandise, easy to make use of, for photographers or videographers, and is in regards to the dimension of a thick triangular drink coaster. It’s small, sturdy and light-weight, taking the place in my pack of a light-weight meter, colour meter, grey card and drink coaster.
Making life simpler
My pack is already filled with devices, gear, and different photographic sundries. I’m a “multigenre” photographer, so at any second I may bounce from a black and white panorama to pictures of a bear, to a trend shoot. Normally not on the identical location, however you by no means know. Having the ability to have one gadget that gives extremely constant outcomes, and is dependable is of nice worth to me.