Do You Need a Light Meter?

Yes! While histograms provide a convenient way to see how an entire scene will be reproduced (or not), they really don't tell the whole story. They can show the tonal range of a scene, but interpreting the effects of controlled lighting can still be difficult or impossible. And they don't provide information in camera terms (i.e., f-stops). That's the job of a light meter. See Figures 34-36.

Most camera manufacturers only give you an approximate representation of the subject histogram, Figure 35, because they realize the viewing window is too small to provide accurate detail. (There are some exceptions to this, Figure 36.) Cameras that offer more data are more expensive or are designed for the slower-paced studio environment where there is time to analyze and reanalyze both lighting and exposure.

In the end, the way you record your vision of a scene or subject is all about how you interpret and control the light falling on it, the combination of photographic techniques you use to capture it, and the care you use in exposing the image.

A handheld light meter enables you to see light more completely, and make the types of decisions that will make you a better photographer.

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