Perfect exposures with light meters

Rebecca Greig

Discover how to use a light meter to gain accurate meter readings for correctly exposed images

Perfect exposures with light meters

Occasionally you may find that your camera produces images that are either too bright or too dark. This is usually down to your camera’s internal light meter taking an incorrect reading of the scene, which in turn causes it to use incorrect settings that will over or underexpose the shot.

In most cases your camera’s meter will do a good job and produce a reasonably accurate reading, but in some more difficult lighting situations, where there are very bright areas contrasted with very dark areas, it can be really tricky for it to obtain a correct exposure. This is where using a dedicated light meter will make all the difference to your imagery.

Having the advantage of being able to take the light meter away from the camera enables you to achieve a much more accurate reading of the light that is available. This reading will then tell you exactly what shutter speed, aperture and ISO combination you should dial in to your camera in order to produce a correctly exposed capture.
If you’ve never so much as touched a light meter before then don’t worry, we’ve provided an easy to follow step-by-step guide that will show you how to successfully use a light meter in order to obtain an accurate meter reading for perfectly exposed images every time.


1  Set Ambient Light mode Start by turning on the light meter and then setting it to Ambient Light mode by simply pressing the Mode button a few times until the Sun icon becomes highlighted on the LCD screen.


2 Adjust the ISO Next you’ll need to set the ISO value. On our light meter this can be done by holding down the ISO button on the front and using the up and down buttons on the side to adjust. We set ours to ISO 100.


3  Set the shutter speed Most light meters work in Shutter Priority mode, so you’ll also have to set the shutter speed you wish to use. Dial in 1/250sec, which is fast enough to shoot hand-held without fear of camera shake.


4  Take a meter reading To take a meter reading, place the light meter in front of your subject so that it’s facing the camera, then press the metering button – the resulting reading will be displayed on the meter’s screen.


5  Adjust exposure Once you’ve gathered a meter reading successfully, switch your camera over to Manual mode (M on the mode dial) and continue to dial in the corresponding Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture settings.


6  Take the shot With your camera now ready to shoot, take a quick test shot of your subject and review the image on the back of the camera – the image should be perfectly exposed for the ambient light in your scene.

  • Tell a Friend
  • Our Twitter provides the latest photography news and our Facebook fan page is the best place to communicate with other Digital Photographer fans.