Many photographers swear by using a good light meter app, but how can you know which one’s best to use? What are these apps for anyway? Are they actually worth using? This light meter page is designed to demystify the world of light meter apps.
We’ll explain their purpose, describe some common use cases and explore some of the best options out there in 2021.
What is a Light Meter?
In short, a light meter is a tool that photographers and cinematographers use to measure the amount of light in an environment. If you’re using a more modern high-end camera, you’ll likely have access to a built-in light meter.
Older models of DSLRs are less well equipped. If you’re still using an older camera, a light meter application might be for you. Light meter apps are designed to bring this functionality right to your smartphone.
Why is a Light Meter App important?
Light is one of the most fundamental aspects of photography. Knowing how much light you have available tells you how to approach the rest of your shoot. It makes it much easier to set the right aperture, shutter speed and much more.
Do Light Meter Apps Really Work?
Absolutely! Modern smartphones are more than capable of accurately taking light readings for a given space. That said, there are a few things to keep in might when using light meters on your phone:
- Your app will only be as effective as your phone’s hardware
- Accuracy can vary depending on the specific app you choose
- An “incident light” meter refers to an app that uses your phone’s light sensor
- A “spot meter” means that the app is using your phone’s camera lens
- Some apps offer both of these features, some don’t
Best Light Meter Apps: Our Picks
This section will run through our favorite options for light meters in 2021. We’ve weighed their feature sets and performance against their pricing structures and other offerings.
1. Lux Light Meter Pro
Available for iOS on iPhones and iPads, Lux Light Meter Pro makes it easy to get quick, accurate light readings wherever you are. With nearly 4K user reviews, the app has maintained a rating of 4.2. Overall, it appears to run very smoothly and gets accurate results when compared to a traditional meter.
Dual Camera Use
A great feature of this light meter app is its ability to use both the front and rear-facing cameras on your phone. This gives Lux Meter users increased flexibility when setting up their shot.
It’s easy to taking readings with Lux. Users have two options:
- A one-time reading
- Real-time measurements
One-time readings take a single measurement of a given environment. Real-time readings adapt live to any environment you point your phone at.
Perfect for Private Use
The developers of Lux describe it as well-suited for personal use at home. The UI, features and functionality are designed to be easy to use and simple to understand. If you’re new to using an app like this, Lux is definitely worth checking out.
2. Pocket Light Meter
This light meter app is a paid option for iOS devices. It’s designed to bring the power of a professional light meter to your smartphone. At nearly $11, it’s far from the cheapest option around. What it does offer, though, is a level of accuracy that surpasses some of the free options available.
Pocket Light Meter gives readings in kelvin. This results in measurements that are far more granular and robust than other methods. Provided you’re familiar with readings in kelvin, this can add a new level of accuracy to your exposures.
We’ll level with you — this app doesn’t use the slickest UI around. That said, it probably doesn’t need to. The interface is remarkably easy to navigate and, perhaps more importantly, it gets the job done quickly.
This one won’t be useful for everyone, but it can come in handy in more situations than you might expect. This light meter app lets users add field notes to their recordings as they work. This can make it much easier to pick back up where you left off if your focus is needed elsewhere for a while.
3. Light Meter Free
This Android app is a great choice if you’re not on iOS. It crams a fair amount of punch into a simple, free package. While the UI is fairly bare-bones, there are plenty of tools available that make this a great choice.
Light Meter Free offers an incident light meter (using the phone’s light sensor) and a spot meter (using the phone’s camera lens). This provides more metering options than some free apps out there and can make it much easier to get the exposure you’re looking for.
Color Temperature and More
This is a great option if you’re looking for an Android meter app that can do more than one job for you. Light Meter Free can also measure color temperature, help calculate your reciprocity, and give accurate depth of field readings too.
4. Lux for Android
This free app for Android has a better looking UI than some of the options out there. What’s more, it still manages to function very well as an accurate smartphone reader.
Options for Photographers
This app measures the lowest, average and highest possible brightness levels for a given environment. This data can make it much easier for film photographers and videographers to get the lighting setups they need.
Great Log Functions
One thing that really stands out about this option is how easy it is to record and store notes for a given reading. If you regularly flit between a handful of different studio environments, this feature will come in handy. You can quickly check your data from last time without having to re-record.
5. LightMeter (David Quiles)
Now for something a little different. Developer David Quiles built this $2 smartphone app with old school photographers in mind. Even the UI is made to resemble an old-fashioned meter device.
Excellent Reflected Light Measuring
From reading the reviews and results of this app online, the reflected light measurements appear to be your best bet if you want the most accurate reading possible. If you’re working in a professional setting but are without your dedicated device, this app will serve you well.
Low Light Alerts
Inexperienced photographers may struggle to know when they’re working in an environment that simply doesn’t have enough light to get the result they’re looking for. Apps like this one come with built-in low light alerts that let the user know when more light is probably needed.
Why Use Light Meter Apps?
There’s a long list of potential use cases for apps like these. Many of them, predictably, are related to photography. You might be surprised to learn, however, that some people use their smartphone meters in other ways too.
The Primary use – Exposure
If you know a little about photography, you’ll understand the importance of the exposure triangle for getting accurate, effective shots. This triangle consists of three camera settings: the ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
A good light meter app will tell you the right values to use for these settings in a given environment. This makes it much easier to choose the right settings quickly and accurately.
Other Use Cases
While not everyone will download a meter app for the use cases below, we’ve seen plenty of people discussing them online. Some people use these apps for the following:
- Checking sunlight levels for plants when gardening
- Checking the brightness of light bulbs at home
- Testing the effectiveness of lighting electronics
- Checking light levels for lessons on photosynthesis
- Comparing the brightness levels of different rooms in a house
While limited by the hardware of your specific smartphone, light meter apps are more than capable of delivering the accurate reflected light measurements you need. We hope the list above will make it easier for you to find an app that works for you!