Why The Pros Never Shoot Without This Tool

When lighting a scene or setting an exposure, light meters are often substituted with a variety of other tools and techniques that may provide quick results, but often fall short of communicating what exactly needs to be done. For example, histograms and waveforms are great for determining if an image is too dark or too bright, but translating what is being shown on the screen into an actual camera setting still requires guesswork and can result in an incorrect exposure. Light meters are specifically designed to remove guesswork. They provide filmmakers with a measuring stick to accurately determine their exposure and translate it into specific camera settings. This results in more consistency and predictability, especially with projects that are lit across multiple locations or productions that last multiple days.

While other tools exist, that can help us generally evaluate light and its affect on an image, a light meter provides a layer of specificity that gives us complete control over how others see our work.

They Remove All the Guesswork

The fact is, if you are not using a light meter to obtain an exposure, you’re guessing.  That means if you trust your eye, a waveform, a histogram, zebras, or anything other than a light meter, you’re simply guessing, and that will eventually lead to mistakes. Using a light meter creates consistency and allows you to accurately repeat results over and over, which ultimately saves you time and money

They Help Us Create a Style

A light meter objectively measures light and breaks it down into shutter speeds and apertures. However, that’s only half of it. Once you have a reading, creative choices and stylistic decisions become a lot easier to make. Does the scene need to be darker? Are you trying to achieve a specific depth of field? Do you want a consistent look across different camera angles? All this is possible using a light meter.

They Give Us Control

Light shapes all imagery, and learning to control it is essential to becoming a great filmmaker. With a light meter all measure of creative possibility is at your fingertips.  From high frame rate capture to picking the perfect aperture for a scene, a light meter is the only tool on earth capable of providing accurate exposure data to quickly inform creative decisions regardless if you’re using it for HD Video, DSLRs or Professional Cinematography.

They’re a Necessity in Low Light

When shooting in low light, even a small change in lighting can change the feel of your scene. It’s key to be able to correctly measure your scene’s light. Especially as camera’s ISO sensitivities increase, being able to accurately measure low levels of ambient light is a necessity to achieve your creative vision.

They Help Us Look Like We  Know What We’re Doing

Lets face it; using a light meter helps you look like a pro. Even if you’re not using all of the functions to help light your shot, using one at all will get you closer to perfection. Each journey starts with the first step. On top of it making your shots better, you’ll impress those around you when you use the right tool for the job. 

While it can be intimidating to spend several hundred dollars on a light meter, doing so will open up a world of creative possibilities for you as a filmmaker and can help you demystify the complexities of lighting. With over 50 years of creating light meters under their belt, Sekonic is proud to be the go to choice for filmmakers and photographers across the world. With the announcement of the new L-858D-U Speedmaster Light Meter, Sekonic has pushed the boundaries of what this tool can do for content creators. Available today for $599, the L-858D-U Speedmaster is the world’s first multi-function light meter for photographers and cinematographers. For further details and specifications about the L-858D-U visit Sekonic’s website.

Susan Schmierer
Susan Schmierer
Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and Creator Handbook Magazines.

Related Content