5 Ways to Use a Color Meter in Photography Sessions

Here’s an incredible piece of technology that can save you hours and hours of post processing time and speed up your whole workflow: a color meter. Shooting under lights—any lights—can be a problem. With artificial lights, especially in a multi light environment, you’ll have issues dealing with color casts. Even with natural light, the light keeps changing and that means constantly adjusting your white balance. Using a color meter is an effective way to counter this. Jay P. Morgan shares five reasons you should use one:

1. Measure Color Temperature in Natural Light

Use a color meter to measure the color temperature when shooting outdoors in natural light.

why to use a color meter

The natural world is a Pandora’s Box speaking in terms of color temperature variance. If your subject is standing in the shade they might appear too blue. If there’s grass in the foreground it could reflect on the subject’s face. Basically, if there are prominent features in or outside the frame that reflect a color, the color temperature in your image could be skewed. A color meter solves this problem effectively.

2. Work with Mixed Lighting

Illuminati color meter

When shooting indoors and in a mixed lighting environment, you have a to find a balance between the different colors inside the room and find the right color balance that can take care of this issue. As such, if there is a tungsten light interspersed with sunlight, you meter each one of them and then find the best meter reading that takes care of all these lights.

3. Use LED Lights

setting white balance in mixed lighting situations

Similar to the above situation, when using LED lights in a room, you can take a meter reading of the practicals. Then adjust the white balance on the LED lights so that they match the white balance of the practicals. This saves a lot of time during post-processing by avoiding cross over white balances—two different white balances on the same image.

4. Test Lights for Consistency

testing lights for color balance consistency

These days, LED lights are all over the place. You have lights which have a green tinge and others that are magenta, and so on. To ensure that all your lights are on the same white balance take a meter reading and adjust the lights before you start the shoot. It can even tell you the gel that you need to put on your light to be able to make it a neutral 5300 or 5600 degree K.

This is especially important when using a white background and two different LED lights (with different color casts) illuminating the background and creating a weird transition effect in the process.

5. Match the White Balance of Strobes and Ambient Light

white balance with strobes and ambient light

When shooting with a strobe, take a white balance reading of the strobe and then meter the ambient light. Now you can match the white balance of the strobe with the ambient white balance and use the right white balance on your camera to make the exposures.

Do you use a color meter? Share your experiences and tips below!

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