Gear skills See the light!

Rod Law­ton dis­cov­ers there’s more than one way to take a light read­ing

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

Why would you use a hand­held light me­ter when your Nikon D-SLR has a me­ter­ing sys­tem built in? Be­cause dig­i­tal SLRs can only mea­sure the light re­flected from a sub­ject. Most of the time this works well, but the me­ter can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween sub­jects which are in­trin­si­cally dark or light. All it sees is the amount of light, and ad­justs the ex­po­sure ac­cord­ingly.

We set up two still lifes to show what hap­pens. The cam­era has no idea that the back­ground be­hind the bi­cy­cle is black, just that there’s not much light. It in­creases the ex­po­sure to com­pen­sate, so the back­ground comes out grey. With the shells against a white back­ground, the cam­era ‘sees’ a lot of light and re­duces the ex­po­sure, so again the back­ground comes out grey.

Our hand­held me­ter can record the light ac­tu­ally fall­ing on the sub­ject, not just the light it re­flects back. This is an ‘in­ci­dent’ light read­ing. Th­ese are more dif­fi­cult to mea­sure be­cause you have to place the me­ter along­side your sub­ject and point it back to­wards the cam­era. There are times where this isn’t pos­si­ble (if the sub­ject is too far away, for ex­am­ple) but in sit­u­a­tions like this, it works bril­liantly.

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