Simple put, a light meter measures the light and tells you it’s intensity. Modern light meters, such as the Sekonic Speedmaster we’re using in the video above, do all kinds of calculations with the measured light for you. Apart from the raw lux or candela, it can help you to set the correct aperture, shutter speed or ISO on your camera.
The L-858D-U comes with a tons of such calculations. For example, you have a list of color filters which you can set. It will then measure the light with the selected filter compensation. This is one of the first great benefits of working with a light meter. It allows you to work fast and save time on set.
Since I had very little experience with a light meter (only used it once on a school project), I invited Matthew Workman from Cinematography Database. He has a lot of experience in high end productions as a DP and shares some of his insights on light meters in general.
In the video above we took the light meter to a test and tried to measure a very simple light setup. To our surprise, it was a lot of fun to work with it. It made me think a lot more about light intensity and the different stops in a scene.
Besides the test, we also used the light meter on a real production. The idea was to create a temporary studio in a bakery, where we had someone in front of a white background. While the camera guy was setting up the dolly and the crane, I was busy with lighting the background and setting up the lights properly.
It saved us a lot of time, which for me is it’s strongest benefit. But like Matthew also explained, it’s hard to recommend a light meter to beginners. If you wanna get serious at cinematography and get into the film industry where you work in teams, there’s where a light meter comes in!