# Quick Tip: Should You Buy a Light Meter?

This post is part of a series called Ready, Set, Exposure.
The Ultimate Beginner's Introduction to Exposure
The Complete Handheld Lightmeter Guide

Today we're taking a look at the once ubiquitous light meter, and how it can still help you in today's world of cameras attempting to do it all for you. We'll walk through what a light meter is, and suggest a few potential uses for your photography!

## What Is a Light Meter?

A light meter simply measures the amount of light in a scene. This is a very handy value to know in photography, as we can then set the exposure time perfectly. When using a film camera, a light meter becomes far more important due to expensive film and processing costs.

Light meters come in two kinds, reflective and incident. In-camera light meters are almost always reflective, as they reflect light from the whole scene. Handheld reflected light-meters also require a photographer to stand next to the camera to record the whole scene.

Handheld incident meters, on the other hand, require a photographer to go as close to the subject as possible in order to get a reading.

Mike turner has written an incredible in-depth tutorial on the subject, which I would happily recommend anyone for further reading for a complete explanation.

Image courtesy of mirsasha

## Do You Really Need One?

There is a lot of debate between professional photographers, but in my opinion the answer is yes. They offer considerably more detail than the in-built meter inside your Digital SLR, and can often improve your pictures in certain scenarios.

An example of a good use of a incident meter would be when taking a photo of a model. Using a light meter, you can record the light on their face, clothes and shoes. You then simply add the figures given together and then divide to get an average - this should suggest a very accurate exposure value.

If you are still using a film camera without an in-camera light meter, then this product is a must - it removes all the guess work involved.

Although I think everyone should have a light meter if within their budget, they are another piece of equipment to become familiar with, carry round, and set up every time you want to take a photo. After the first few shots it can become tiring.

Modern day SLR cameras are amazingly accurate at metering, and problems generally only occur when you are either in extremely sunny or dark areas. It is during these times the light meter can come in most useful.