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11-14-2011, 11:28 AM   #1
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Do I really now need a light meter?

Ok I have moved up to dslr and got the k-r and have been taking pictures both auto mode, p mode, and manual. Manual is where I want to learn more. Most pictures have come out ok, I have taken the bad and really bad pictures in all modes. So I have looked around on the internet and thought for the least amount of money do I need to get a light meter now?

I probably would spend no more than $40 looking for used ones. Is this worth spending the money on for this amount? I figure if I get one it will help me take pictures quicker and not make as many mistakes when in manual mode. Yes I do believe that mistakes help you learn and with digital you can easily delete the picture. I probably would look for a ambient model. Or just save my money for maybe a year from now a really good lens.

11-14-2011, 11:34 AM   #2
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I have never used one...but then I have no plans to be a professional or shoot in studios.

Here is a good article on the subject:
Quick Tip: Should You Buy a Light Meter?
11-14-2011, 11:50 AM   #3
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you already have a pretty good light meter, it is called the histogram in your camera, and with a little attention to the detail you see in the histogram, you should be able to get the most out of your camera without a light meter..

Look up on the internet how to interpret the histogram, and loook at the histogram for your shots. you will learn a lot.
11-14-2011, 11:58 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
you already have a pretty good light meter, it is called the histogram in your camera, and with a little attention to the detail you see in the histogram, you should be able to get the most out of your camera without a light meter..

Look up on the internet how to interpret the histogram, and loook at the histogram for your shots. you will learn a lot.
plus one to this. I have light meters i don't carry - even when i shoot with my medium format film cameras i'm as likely to use the meter on my dslr to get a read and preview the scene. look at the histogram and go from there. (like using my light meter and a polaroid back )

I don't know what you have done to study how to expose, but if you haven't read it and only want to spend $40 it would be much better spent on
http://www.amazon.ca/Understanding-Exposure-3rd-Photographs-Camera/dp/0817439390

one of the best books for this i've read

11-14-2011, 12:05 PM - 1 Like   #5
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No
11-14-2011, 01:25 PM   #6
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The one application where you really need a meter these days is with flash photography, and for that you need a flash meter, not just an indecent ambient meter (the type that you are likely to find for $40). Of course any flash meter will also function as an ambient meter.

Others will disagree with me, but if you want to control lighting ratios as in a studio with multiple lights contributing to the overall exposure, or if you want to balance flash with daylight to capture the full tonal range of your subject and scene a flash meter is the best way to achieve great photos. I use and adore the Sekonic 758, but it's hideously expensive for most folks (I paid $400 used, a new one will set you back $700) but the 358 and the 308 are a bit more reasonable, and may be easier to find on the used market. I think Gossen, Polaris, and Kenko also make decent flash meters. If $40 is your budget right now, I'd say save up a bit and get a good quality meter that will help you grow and make the right decisions about exposure.
11-14-2011, 02:53 PM   #7
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That is the one area where a meter is still a very useful tool ( I like a good 1 degree spot meter like the Pentax Spotmeter V as well but it's not a $40 meter either, heck even the original is not close to $40 and it uses a mercury battery)
11-14-2011, 02:53 PM   #8
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No disagreement here. I have a Sekonic 358 and I prefer using it versus taking a test shot then guessing how many stops to adjust for flash. It's invaluable for my flash photography, but I don't use it for much else. As for the OP, if you want to learn more about manual mode, forget about the light meter. Use your camera's meter, take photos, and make adjustments (e.g. shutter speed, aperture, ISO) until you find a result you like. The practice is invaluable, helps you get a feel for your camera's behavior, and helps you understand exposure. That experience will help you learn manual mode better than a light meter spitting out which numbers to use.

11-14-2011, 03:02 PM   #9
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the light meter is only spitting out a generic number in any case based on 18% grey, you may not want that exposure (after peterson read ansel adams Zone System which is generally beyond a beginner level)
11-14-2011, 03:18 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by eddie1960 Quote
the light meter is only spitting out a generic number in any case based on 18% grey...
This may be true with a reflected-light meter, not so with an incident-light meter.

Back to the OP's question....

There is already a good reflected-light meter in the camera. Better yet, this meter can do spot metering. For $40, I don't think you can find a better meter.

Even the best meter can't make the decision for you. You'll still have to learn how to take the data reported by the meter and make adjustments. You can do that right now with the meter in the camera.

I have several good meters, but don't use them in day to day shooting. I most often use a Minolta IV-F only when learning the behavior of a flash (I restore/repair flashes for fun) and a Pentax 1 degree spot meter to learn the dynamic range of a scene.
11-14-2011, 03:23 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
...you need a flash meter, not just an indecent ambient meter...
No, you don't want any indecent meter. You can get arrested for that......

Sorry, Max. I can't help it. I've been proofreading my son's college application essays a lot recently.
11-14-2011, 05:51 PM   #12
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Ok as one of those female singers sang NO NO NO (lol) light meter. I have gone to my local library and taken the exposure book out maybe 1st edition and will read that. And I will be looking on the net about the histogramo too! Cool just needed some thoughts, probably will not be taken studio photos either.
11-14-2011, 06:12 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
No, you don't want any indecent meter. You can get arrested for that...... Sorry, Max. I can't help it. I've been proofreading my son's college application essays a lot recently.

And spell check makes a monkey of me... as if I needed any help.
11-15-2011, 05:42 AM   #14
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I never found the need for an external light meter, and I never found the need to go fully manual either. Because my first camera was a Pentax ME Super I also never find the need to do other than Av photography.

However I do use use the exposure compensation, in combination with the histogram and the 'blinkies' (not sure if the Kr has those) to deal with difficult situations.

My experience is that in most situations the camera's own metering does a fine job. I'm using a K7 but that has applied to just about any decent camera I've ever had - Pentax, Canon and Olympus. I see plenty of poorly exposed images on Flickr and the common causes are badly handled manual exposure, or sticking to auto rather than thinking about what an appropriate ISO etc. for the situation would be, bearing in mind the camera's limitations.
11-15-2011, 08:04 AM   #15
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One thing that I will say about histograms is it still helps to previsualize your scene and get a general idea of what your histogram should look like before you take the shot.

For example, let's say you're taking a picture of an white egg on a pile of sand on a beach on a sunny day in Florida. Let's forget for the moment that this is a odd thing to photograph. So you set your camera to Av or P or whatever, and let's say you want to shoot at f/5.6 to take advantage of the peak performance of a particular lens. You compose the shot, push the shutter button half way and it reads 1/4000th, no problems with hand holding there. So you take the shot, and your histogram shows a nice clean spike right in the middle, no blinkies. Perfect exposure, cut, print it, it's in the can, right?

No.

The histogram in this case should have been slammed against the right side of the screen. For the egg and the sand to appear white you almost need to see those blinkies, at least a few, maybe not clustered together in large areas. What's more if you try to correct the shot on an uncalibrated LCD, and then try to print it, it's still going to turn about about a stop under.

Now with a light meter and your camera set to manual, you can walk up, meter the ambient light, see that at f/5.6 the proper shutter speed is 1/1000th, take the shot (and more importantly, a series of shots) smile at the blinkies on your histogram, and go home with the knowledge that it truly is in the can. You may still want to apply a bit of recovery in Lightroom if you're loosing too much detail in the highlights, but then since you shot in manual, you can apply it to every other image in the series, and you're golden. Every print will be properly exposed with almost no PP necessary.

Now an egg on a beach is pretty easy to previsualize, which is why I chose it as an example, but what about a more complex scene - a night time cityscape, and just to make it more difficult, you've got two gorgeous models in your shot, one fair skinned and one dark skinned, and you're lighting them with a flash. Oh, and these are agency models who are getting paid 75 dollars an hour. All I can say is good luck with your histogram, I couldn't do it.
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