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   Sekonic Light Meter!

  



 Last Updated  - 5th March 2014



 

5th March 2014

The Sekonic Light Meter!

Many young photographers will probably not read this article and regard the light meter as a remnant of a passing era of photography - not so!

"Why would I want a light meter when my camera's exposure meter does all the work for me and in any case, I use a
modern electronic viewfinder which cuts out all the hassle because 'what you see is what you get' and I can adjust the exposure until the scene is to my liking in the viewfinder. Why use a light meter or even hardware filters when my Adobe Lightroom software and post processing can iron out all the defects of the lighting in an image"

The Purist Photographer and most professionals would shake their heads in disbelief. Using an external 'hand held' light meter which has been calibrated to your camera (many already have presets to match most of the popular professional cameras)
is the one piece of equipment which is invaluable for professional photography. Professional photography is not just about earning money or owning a professional camera it is about applying techniques which in themselves, are professional in approach. There is no substitute for correct appliance to your photography and it is part of the development of your skills over a period of time.

Unfortunately many of the young photographers of today live is a fast world where their skills are backed up by
the assumption that the technology of a digital camera will support their photographic efforts and post processing in Adobe Lightroom software will correct any image defects. You cannot blame Adobe, most photographers, myself included, have embraced the technology but our photography has suffered as a result. The world is now full of digital artists, hacking at 'RAW' image files in post processing to produce that work of art.


The Reliance on Adobe Lightroom Software

It would be nice to think that the camera exposure meter is 100% accurate but that is not the case. So many 'hobbyist' photographers place a great deal of reliance on it and invariably shoot 'RAW' image files which can be tweaked in Adobe Lightroom software during post processing at a later stage to open up the dynamic range.

There is a great deal of scope using Lightroom and the photographer can bring down the highlights whereby the harsh white reflected from the nameplate of a ship in the harbour can be reduced whereby you can clearly read the name and the foreground shadows around the hull can be lifted so that you can see the waterline and the hull colour where it enters the water whilst the bright sky can be cleaned up to bring out the resolution and dynamic range in the clouds. All of this can be achieved providing the photographer has not BLOWN out all the resolution in the sky, the nameplate and lost the detail in the shadows.

Once a photographer recognises the inefficiency of the camera exposure meter which manifests itself in very uneven lighting conditions and high instances of incident light falling on the scene he will begin to realise that even looking through an electronic viewfinder he might not 'get what he sees'. Even adjusting for the visual of the scene in the EVF does not mean that later you will not be using Lightroom software to drop the highlights, raise the shadows and raising the vibrancy and saturation to make the image 'pop'.
The camera in aperture priority mode and using evaluative (matrix) metering reads reflective light from a scene and calculates the shutter speed in relation to the ISO rating and the aperture set by the photographer. It also produces a histogram of the reading for the display screen, either in the viewfinder and/or the LCD screen. For a large proportion of even balanced light scenes this will prove relatively accurate but in scenes where the light is uneven and where there is incident light which falls on the subject, the meter will struggle to accurately determine the parameters. The camera exposure meter can cause the settings to overexpose the highlights and the photographer when attempting to adjust the exposure compensation can underexpose the image. The camera's exposure spot meter in conjunction with the camera's dynamic range capability can assist to provide more evenly balanced parameters but the spot meter still cannot compensate for incident light. Even the most pedantic landscape photographer who has taken a great deal of trouble in setting up his camera and tripod, the ISO, aperture and shutter speed and placed his reliance on the exposure meter and the LCD screen, might return home to spend a few hours tweaking the 'RAW' image file using Adobe Lightroom software.

Lightroom is akin to the darkroom development of film and it is becoming a fact of life in the digital age. To a certain extent it does impact on the photographer who desires to capture a scene using his skills with the the minimum of post processing but over a period of time he may spend more and more time in the digital darkroom whereby his photographic skills are blended into digital
artistry.

To break the dominance of Adobe Lightroom and reduce post processing and file conversion to the absolute minimum the photographer would have to spend a fair bit of money on additional accessories. A 'hand held' light meter with incident light and spot metering; both metering systems calibrated to the camera's dynamic range to assist in the production of a 'RAW' image file which is correctly balanced for exposure and dynamic range AND Lee filters to froth the water in a waterfall, graduate uneven light and to 'pop' the colours in the image for effect.

An excellent Sekonic L-478DR Litemaster Pro Light Meter will cost around 288.70 vat inclusive from Amazon and a starter pack with lens adapter from Lee Filters, around 270.00  vat inclusive in the UK but realistically for professional landscape photography the Lee filter package costs could rise to as much as 550.00 for the extra filters required.

Videos on the Light Meter and more on the Sekonic Range of Light Meters

Using a Light Meter for Better Portraits -

Using a Light Meter for Landscapes with Outdoor Practical Tips (24.02 on the video is worth checking) -


Associated Articles -




 

 

If this article has assisted you in any way - please donate to my Charity of Choice   -   The Sick Kids

 

Richard Lawrence
Scotland
United Kingdom

 

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