I’ve been shooting more and more film lately for fun. Simple trips to the beach and surfing. Ice cream excursions. Travels out of town. Pizza parties. Morning walks. We already spend plenty of time in front of a computer so using film for these little, daily memories is great as it means no added screen time and fun surprises when we get the film scans back!
Most people that are new to film come in with two main concerns. Firstly, you need to know how to correctly meter, or expose, the image, when you can’t simply check the back of your camera. And two, most film cameras do not have any sort of auto focus, and if they do, it’s probably not overly accurate or reliable. Today were gonna address the former concern.
To create a properly exposed photo, you need to know what your shutter speed and aperture should be set at. To put another way, you need to know how much light to let into your camera. Almost every modern camera from DSLRs to your phone can do this automatically now, but many film cameras rely on the photographer to control this.
Some film cameras do have built in meters to give you an idea of what the correct exposure is, but this comes with a number of issues. Firstly, they’re often very rudimentary and it can be difficult to tell if your camera is giving you an exposure reading for the entire scene or one small part of it. Second, given the age of these cameras, and the often difficulty in finding the correct batteries to power them, it’s not uncommon for them to give faulty and incorrect readings.
And while some cameras also offer some auto modes, like Aperture-priority, it’s still important to understand exposure so that you can know the situations when you should and shouldn’t trust your camera’s meter.
Simply put, all this comes down to the fact that the more you understand the light you’re working with, the more control you have over what your camera is doing. And the more control you have over your camera and light, the more you can control exactly what your photos will look like.
So, how do you meter a scene without using your camera? There are some simple tricks that are great to remember, such as the sunny sixteen rule, but the most common solution is to use a handheld light meter. These tend to be big and bulky and, being as I’m often already traveling with several cameras, I like to keep my gear as minimal as possible. Enter the Lumu!
The Lumu Light Meter is tiny! And it plugs directly into my iPhone so no extra gear to haul with and keep charged. With their app, it’s super easy to take ambient readings of the current light or spot reading of exact areas and plug those settings into your camera. As a bonus, it also can read the color of a scene which is a huge help when getting your white balance correct in post with digital photos. Seriously, being able to have this thing disappear in a camera bag or a pocket and pulling it out only when you need is a game changer for traveling with film cameras for me.