man standing in the forest and lighting front  by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Guide to Incident Light: Why You Need | How to Measure | Recommendations

There's more to light than meets the eye. Light is made up of different wavelengths that interact with our eyes in different ways, and it turns out that not all light is created equal. In fact, the quality and quantity of light can significantly impact how we see the world around us.

This blog post will explore what incident light is, why it's essential, and how to measure it. By the end, you'll better understand how to use light to your advantage in your photography and other visual media. Let's get started.

What is Incident Light?

Incident light is a measure of the light that hits a surface. It's used in photography and other visual media to control the way an image looks.

In photography, incident light is measured with a light meter. A light meter helps you to understand how much light is hitting your subject, and it's an important tool for getting the exposure of your image just right.

Why is Incident Light Important?

Incident light is essential because it has a significant impact on the way our images look. The quality of light can affect the way colors are rendered, how details are seen, and the overall mood of an image.

a girl walking in the grassland during the sunset

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

By understanding incident light, we can take better photographs and create more impactful and visually appealing photos.

Incident Light VS. Reflected Light

It's essential to understand the difference between incident light and reflected light. Incident light is the light that hits a surface, while reflected light is the light that bounces off of a surface.

In photography, we're mostly concerned with incident light, as it's the light that affects our images the most.

Incident light is generally considered to be more accurate than reflected light, because it doesn't rely on the reflectivity of your subject. However, reflected light meters can still be useful in some situations.

If you're photographing a dark subject, for example, it can be difficult to get an accurate reading with an incident light meter. In this case, a reflected light meter may give you a more accurate reading.

So, Which Type of Light Meter Should You Use?

Ultimately, it depends on your personal preference and the situation you're shooting in. If you're not sure which type of meter to use, we recommend starting with an incident light meter. Once you get more experience, you can experiment with reflected light meters to see if they offer any advantages in your specific photography situations.

Why You Should Measure Incident Light

1. To Get the Right Exposure

Exposure is a measure of the amount of light that hits your film or digital sensor, and it's controlled by three factors: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. One of the most important things you can do to improve your photography is to learn how to get the exposure right. Using a light meter to measure incident light is the best way to ensure that you're getting the exposure right.

2. To Avoid Washed Out Colors

amazing exposured photo of a woman looking into the sun

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash

When light hits a surface, it can cause the colors to become muted or less vibrant. By measuring the light and adjusting your settings accordingly, you can avoid this problem and ensure that your colors are rendered accurately.

3. Create the Right Mood

The quality of light can also have a big impact on the mood of an image. Different types of light can create different moods, and by understanding incident light, you can use it to your advantage to create the right atmosphere in your photographs.

Here are some examples;

Soft light: Soft light is very flattering and can create a romantic or dreamy mood. It's often used in wedding photography to make the bride and groom look their best.

Hard light: Hard light is less forgiving, but it can be used to create dramatic images with high contrast. It's often used in fashion photography to create an edgy look.

Natural light: Natural light can create a very relaxed and natural mood. It's often used in lifestyle and travel photography.

Artificial light: Artificial light can be used to create almost any mood you want, from warm and inviting to cold and clinical. It's often used in product photography to show off the product in the best possible light.

4. Save Time Used in Post Processing Photos

If you get the exposure right in the camera, then you won't have to spend as much time editing your photos. This can be a huge time saver, especially if you're processing a large number of photos.

5. Improve Your Photography

In general, learning how to use a light meter will help you to take better photographs. By understanding incident light, you'll be able to control the way your images look, and you'll be able to create more impactful and visually appealing photos.

5 Best Incident Light Meter

1. Sekonic Flashmate Light Meter

Sekonic Flashmate Light Meter

Image Credit:amazon.com

Specifications

  • Display Type: Analog
  • 40-degree light reading
  • Accuracy: +/- 0.1 f-stop
  • Metering range: 0-19.9 EV at 100 ISO
  • Flash range: f/1.0 to f/90.9 EV at 100 ISO
  • Battery Type: CR2032 lithium
  • Modes: Photo Mode, HD Cine Mode, Cine Mode

Pros

  • Very accurate
  • Small and lightweight
  • The Analog display is easy to read
  • Measures both ambient and electronic light
  • It comes with a strap to hang around your neck

Cons

  • More expensive than some other options
  • The Lumidisc is not included with the light meter.

2. Gossen Digisix 2

Gossen Digisix 2

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 1.28 Ounces.
  • Dimensions: 0.9 x 1.97 x 2.95"
  • Display Type: Digital
  • Accuracy: +/- 3
  • Battery Type: CR2032 lithium
  • Timer: 1-30 seconds
  • Metered Value Memory: Yes

Pros

  • Very accurate
  • The digital display is easy to read
  • Small and lightweight
  • Comes with a camera bag with temperature monitoring
  • Has a reliable integrated alarm clock.

Cons

  • No flash metering

3. Voigtlander VC Speed Meter II

Voigtlander VC Speed Meter II

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 3.2 ounces.
  • Dimensions: 2 x 4 x 4"
  • Display Type: Analog
  • 30 degrees light reading.
  • Metering range: 1-20EV at ISO 100
  • Accuracy: +/- 1/3 stop
  • Battery Type: 2 SR44 Silver Oxide Batteries/LR44
  • Modes: Ambient, Flash, LED, HMI, Plasma

Pros

  • Very accurate
  • Automatically shuts off after 10 seconds of inactivity to save power.
  • It fits snugly on the camera's hot shoe.

Cons

  • It lacks Incident metering.

4. Sekonic L-208 Twin Mate

Sekonic L-208 Twin Mate

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Dimensions: 2.6 x 1.8 x 1"
  • Display Type: Analog
  • Accuracy: +/- 0.1 f-stop
  • Battery Type: CR2032 lithium
  • ISO: 12-25 thousandths on each side

Pros

  • It is perfect for beginners
  • An affordable option
  • It can measure 30 seconds up 1/ 8000th inch at an f stop of choice
  • Hold mode, which locks reading until you release its button - this helps if there are extended periods where exposure needs evaluation (like taking long shots)

Cons

  • Lacks flash metering
  • Lacks LCD screen

5. Gossen Digisky

Gossen Digisky

Image Credit: amazon.com

Specifications

  • Weight: 3.52 ounces.
  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.6 x 1.0"
  • Display Type: Digital
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable lithium batteries
  • Operation Time: Approximately 8 hrs of continuous operation.
  • One hand operation
  • 45 - 315 degree operating angles

Pros

  • Easy navigation settings.
  • A large digital display is easy to read
  • Small and lightweight
  • Measures both ambient and electronic light

Cons

  • Weak plastic exterior
  • It is pricey

Conclusion

Measuring incident light will help you get your images' exposure just right, and it's a critical skill for any photographer. There are a variety of incident light meters on the market, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The best meter for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. We hope this guide has helped you to narrow down your options and choose a suitable meter for your photography.

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