Metering Techniques:
How to Use an Incident Light Meter for Digital Photography

 

We'll begin with the simplest lighting you'll encounter.

In normal lighting, the subject is pretty evenly illuminated. Examples include subjects lit by overcast or cloudy sky, subjects in the shade, and subjects lit directly from the front, or from an angle that is not too large, by the sun without very deep, dark shadows.

The metering technique with the incident meter in these types of lighting is super easy. Stand by your subject, point the white dome directly back toward the camera position, and take the reading. Set your camera to the aperture and shutter speed the meter indicates, and take the picture!

Below are some real-world examples:

 

Stop Sign

Photograph of a stop sign in full sunlight, metered with an incident light meter.

This stop sign is lit evenly by the sun. I held the incident meter in front of the sign, dome pointed at the camera. The resulting exposure is perfect. The white parts of the sign have full detail, as does the house in the background. At the same time, the shadowed areas are not too dark.

This is a straight rendering, no tonal adjustments were done to the RAW file in Lightroom.

 

 

Red Truck

Photograph of a red truck in front of a pink house in full sun, metered with an incident light meter.

This photograph was a fairly typical sunny-day scene. This straight rendering, with no tonal adjustments, shows good midtones and full detail in whites.

Shadows are a little dark, and can be lightened if you want. The main objective was to make sure the whites rendered right. Dark tones that go too dark can be recovered when processing the RAW file much more easily than can whites that go too light.

 

Photograph of a red truck in front of a pink house in full sun, metered with an incident light meter. Shadows were lightened with the shadow recovery slider in Lightroom.

The final image after I lightened the shadows using the Shadow Recovery slider in Lightroom.

 

 

Dead Sunflower in the Snow

Photograph of a dead sunflower covered in snow in overcast light, metered with an incident light meter.

This dead sunflower was photographed in soft overcast light. Everything rendered beautifully, from the bright snow to the darker parts of the dead leaves.

This is a straight rendering, no tonal adjustments were done to the RAW file in Lightroom.

 

 

Voors Jewelry

Photograph of a storefront lit by soft evening light and metered with an incident light meter.

This jewelry store was lit by soft evening light late in the day. I stood in front of the building and pointed the incident meter's dome back toward the camera. The exposure the meter recommended was perfect.

This is a straight rendering, no tonal adjustments were done to the RAW file in Lightroom.

 

On the next page, I'll show you real-world examples of photographs made in high contrast light and how to meter them for perfect exposure using the incident meter.

 

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