Using a Photographic Light Meter

How to use your hand-held light meter in digital photography. Specifically created for beginners.
106 reviews
  • Don Giannatti Photographer, Designer, Author and Educator

    Don Giannatti has been a photographer for more than four decades. Starting with a desire to do fine art photography, he quickly made the jump into commercial. Over the decades he has owned studios in Phoenix, New York, Chicago and LA. A wide range of clients kept him shooting everything from studio product to fashion, beauty and travel.

    With a preference for photographing people and still life, Don feels that lighting is the most important part of the image making process. Understanding the light and how the subject reflects the light helps photographers visualize the image before starting the shoot. This “subject centric” approach to light is what he teaches and is the subject of much of his writing.

    He has authored three books for Amherst - all currently available at (keyword Don Giannatti).

    Don current maintains a studio in Phoenix, teaches workshops all over the world, and writes for the online Photography magazine, Lighting Essentials (

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Using a Photographic Light Meter

How to use your hand-held light meter in digital photography. Specifically created for beginners.
106 reviews


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NOTE: this class is given freely to all photographers who want to know how to use their light meter in digital photography... it is simply produced and is more informational than glossy. It will be continuously updated when new materials become available.

This course is designed for those photographers who have just begun using a hand held light meter or who may not know what to do with their meters. or why they are important and useful tools for making images.

The light meter is a device that measures the intensity of light, whether that light is being reflected from a subject (reflected light) or falling upon the subject (ambient or "incident" light). The light meter is a tool that helps a photographer create more accuracy in exposures.

We take a very close look at all the ways a light meter can help a photographer develop a stronger understanding of the light, as well as learning how the different tonalities are expressed through a light meter.

Real world examples and some simple and fun exercises will help the beginning light meter user develop good habits, and stronger lighting.

From reflected light readings to "placing the exposure" for maximum artistic presentation to using the ambient dome for flash in studio, this course is a simple to follow discussion of meters.

NOTE: We do not discuss the operation of any specific (Brand) kind of meters. You will still be required to read your manual to find out how to set your specific meter up, and the specific ways it works. But all meters DO the basic same things, and that is what we discuss on this course.

We use video and a few PDF's to show how to use a light meter in both reflective and ambient modes. There are three exercises to be done by the student that will help them learn their specific meter.

The course should be done in order, and there is over 2 hours of video content as well as PDF documents for your files.

If you are ready to learn to use a meter, to take control of your exposure this course is for you. Many photographers will tell you that 'chimping' is all you need to do. I disagree... there are far more reasons to use a light meter than merely exposure... and we will discuss them in this class.

The class is free... enjoy and keep shooting.

Please see my two other courses on UDEMY:

Portrait Lighting with Simple Gear

Natural Light Beauty and Fashion Photography

Thank you,

Don Giannatti 

    • Camera and Lens
    • Basic knowledge of their camera operations in Manual Mode
    • Light Meter (reflected and ambient)
    • Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, GIMP
    • Working knowledge of Photoshop Layers
    • Over 17 lectures and 2.5 hours of content!
    • In this course you will learn the difference between reflective light meters and ambient light meters
    • Students will learn which meter is best for different situations
    • We will discover the powerful ways a light meter can help a photographer pre-visualize the image before exposure
    • Students will gain more confidence with the use of their meters, and gain more confidence with their lighting
    • Learn to use Photoshop to visualize tonalities and begin to see the world as a photographer
    • Beginning Photographers with a Light Meter they do not know how to use
    • Intermediate Photographers who want to take more control of their images
    • Photographers who may have a light meter and are not familiar with how it works


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  • SECTION 1:
    Introduction to the Photographic Light Meter
  • 1
    Introduction to Light Meters
    Welcome to this free series of classes on using a hand held light meter. While we will touch on "exposure" our main focus is on the use and handling of a hand held meter.
  • 2
    An Introduction to Why I Use a Meter
    Why I like light meters, and why I think photographers - especially new photographers - should be familiar with them.
  • 3
    What a Light Meter Does
    Light meters measure light. Whether reflective or incident (ambient) the main function is to give a photographer a starting point for basing their exposure.
  • 4
    Setting the Meter Up for YOU
    Making sure the meter will respond to the way you photograph is one of the first things you do when setting up your meter.
  • 5
    Finding Exposure Values with an Reflected Light Meter
  • 6
    Photoshop Discussion of "Target" Shoot
  • 7
    Using a Meter to "Place" the Exposure
    13 pages
  • 8
    "Finding Middle Gray" an Exercise to Develop Seeing Tonality
  • 9
    "Placing" the Exposure: Forest in Deep Overcast
  • 10
    Paige in Natural Light with Camera Meter
  • 11
    Ambient Light Meter Introduction
  • 12
    Ambient Light Meter Introduction Part Two
  • 13
    Dome to Camera or Sun: In Photoshop
  • 14
    Incident Light Meter and Photos: A Discussion
  • 15
    Incident (Ambient) Light Meter in Studio
    A few techniques for using an incident meter in the studio with lighting.
  • 16
    First... Find the Ambient Light: Part One
    Figure out what your meter is telling you when you "First - Find the Ambient"

    We look at the ways that finding exposures when using flash outside are accomplished.
  • 17
    Ambient and Flash - a Discussion
    A discussion on ambient light as the foundation for adding strobes or flashes to the shot. It is your decision how much to include the ambient light into your flash photograph.


Hours of video content
Course Enrollments


  • 84
  • 17
  • 3
  • 1
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  • Roberti Rivas
    Great insight about using the lightmeter!

    The instructor was pretty clear explaining how to use the lightmeter, and why it works for him using his method.

  • Lana

    This course explained exactly what I wanted to learn. I feel confident now, ready to start using my meter, ready to begin trying different setups, working with the light to create the exposure I want! Thanks so much!

  • Reggie B

    Simple yet excellent information. I knew I needed a meter and this course gave me a greater understanding on what a meter actually "sees" and how to use that info to fit what I want out of a photo. In addition it gave me a much better understanding of the zone lighting system, the fact that the meters are measuring for 18% gray no matter the tone of the metered area, and how to see the tonal range of a scene better. All of this is explained in a simple and effective manner.

  • David Spears

    Helpful intro to light metering, some of the terminology could have been explained, like what is "chimping" in one of the lectures.

  • Jeff Whiting
    Seeing the lightmeter in a new light

    I found this course really useful, and it has changed my thinking on photography and controlling the ambient light. The information I received on this course will certainly improve my photography. Don Giannatti held my attention with his real world examples. In fact, throughout the course grabbed my camera, grey card and lightmeter to identify the results for myself. This was especially helpful. I have already recommended this course to my colleagues who have a keen interest in photography.