Camera metering v hand held light meter
Shooting film can be a worry for many photographers new to the analogue process, especially if you are used to digital cameras with the instant feedback you get by looking at the screen on the back of your camera. Obviously with film you don’t get any feedback. Added to that the array of different film types with different characteristics it really can be a daunting prospect.
Getting the correct exposure is vital in both digital and film photography as both differ, let me explain… When shooting digitally your camera meter is set up to take reflective meter readings that are bias not to blow highlights, in other words not to over expose. Film is different, it’s important to gain the correct exposure to show detail in the shadow areas not the highlights so by allowing more light through to the film plane allows film density to build and prevents underexposure. If negative film is underexposed the result is murky, poor quality prints.
Personally I’m not a fan of reflective meter readings taken from the camera due to the fact that the meter is only assessing a very small part of the scene, there may be a lot of dark areas in the scene which will result in overexposure, on the other hand there may be a bright spot in the scene this can result in underexposure. So, the correct way of assessing the exposure is to use a hand held light meter. The hand held light meter will measure the ambient light, in other words the light that’s falling onto your subject. This is a much more accurate way of gaining the correct exposure value and will give you the full tonal range recording highlights and shadows. Using the reading from the hand held light meter as your base you can then make informed adjustments whether you are using film or digital.
Hand held light meters come in many shapes and sizes, some with large price tags and some with small. My advice would be to spend around £100 to £150 on one. It’s a once in a lifetime purchase and in my opinion will be the best investment you will ever make. It will improve your photography instantly and will help you get the consistency required which is equally important whether you are shooting film or digital.
How to use a hand held light meter.
If you would like to learn more on Camera metering v hand held light meter why not teat yourself to a film and darkroom weekend workshop.