Every photographer could use a decent light meter. Even though camera metering is great, there are situations where you can use a light meter to get better results.
For example, when you’re photographing a wedding ceremony in a huge venue and you want to know what the light readings are exactly where the couple is going to be and not for a bigger part of the room. Or you want a baseline to go off of for a reception or event venue where the lighting conditions are fairly consistent.
Or, if, like me, you like to shoot film from time to time and you get filled with anxiety about your settings.
And the best light meter is the one you have on you all the time – on your phone! Because how often are you going somewhere without your phone?
The Pocket Light Meter App
I’ve been using this light meter app for five years now, and, I have to say – it’s GREAT!
Being able to get readings to shoot manually is extremely helpful in many different situations. Being able to save them for later is even better. And always having a light meter on you? That’s the best!
But How Much Is It?
I know what you’re thinking – “Yea, I bet it’s not free!”
No, it’s not free. It’s $10.99 – plus another $1.99 to remove the ads. So, let’s say $13.
Why should you spend $13 on an app when your camera has a built in meter?
As a matter of fact, it meters just as well, if not better than my $3000 camera. I’ve tried it at many events logging directly against the readings from my Canon EOS DSLRs, and the Pocket Light Meter is always very close to the Canon readings on spot readings. And for getting a reading to use manual settings to photograph a room, 95% of the time the app wins, in my experience.
You can also choose the spot where you want to meter with the touch screen. It’s just like focusing when you’re taking a picture with your camera phone.
Keep track of your readings
No more writing down your readings on a piece of paper or in a separate app. You can log your meter readings AND have those logs immediately uploaded to Dropbox.
You can also add a note to your log entry (“Ceremony location” or “Back of church” or whatever – the readings are automatically included). Which is great if you want to quickly access several different readings throughout a shoot.
The best feature…
It has a color meter as well. While you can use the exposure meter in your camera and probably only have to do minimal adjustments in post to get the same effects, this color meter has saved me a lot of time.
There are so many little gadgets out there to get a custom color temperature reading. I know because I’ve owned about seven of them over the years. They break. You leave them in a different bag. They take too long to attach to your camera then you’ve got to take a photo with them and use that as the basis for a custom white balance reading – and you’ve got to have enough ambient light to accomplish that trick.
You COULD buy an ambient color temperature reader (another device to take up space in your bag) – those start around $20 on their own.
“Yea, my camera has an Auto White Balance setting though…”
Ehhhhhh, one of the things I’ve always noticed is that AWB doesn’t always work. Your camera is smart but it’s not THAT smart. I find Canon’s AWB settings to end up a little ‘cool’ overall, and this app nails white balance much better than my camera.
It can be a little hard to tell, but the photo on the right is about 200 degrees Kelvin warmer than the photo on the left. Not entirely noticeable in this photo, but as the day went on and lighting conditions were varying, having that set color temperature made post production a breeze. All of my photos from the camera with the custom white balance from the Pocket Light Meter had a uniform look (and the color temp was perfect for my needs).
The photos from my other camera, which was set to Auto White Balance, were all over the place, and they all needed to be ‘warmed up’ in post.
And then there’s the bane of every wedding and event photographer’s existence – DJ LIGHTS!! They’re crazy. Bizarre colors that make people look like aliens. Sure, you can just convert all of those photos to black & white, or spend hours trying to balance the color of each picture. Or, you can use the color temp feature on this app. I set up a test using an LED ‘grow lamp’ because it put off that same purplish blue light that I see all the time from DJ and entertainment companies lighting units.
Set to AV metering on Auto White Balance
Not good. Now, using the setting the Pocket Light Meter App gave me.
Wow! That actually looks like a human hand! Is the skin tone perfect? No, but it’s a LOT better than the auto setting gave me. Still a bit purplish but definitely a usable photo.
QUICK EDITOR’S NOTE: As you may have noticed, the ‘log’ you save to your phone or Dropbox does not include the color temperature reading. So be sure to mark that down!
Is it going to replace your $300 Sekonic meter? No. It’s pretty basic and it can’t sync with a flash for studio work. However, the features it does offer are great for those who want to try shooting manually.
I always have my phone with me. Having this app means one less piece of equipment I have to put in the bag.
Head over to the iTunes store and pick up a copy today!
Yes, unfortunately Pocket Light Meter is not available for Android at this time. The closest thing I could find was beeCam Light Meter. The interface is very similar to an actual physical light meter, but it lacks the touch screen spot/focus.
Do you use a light meter when you’re shooting? What kind? What type of photos? Tell me in the comment section!