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Learning to use a 35mm film camera can be intimidating. There is no display to check so you need some way to measure the exposure without burning the frames like you would with a digital SLR . A light meter app can save the day.

Why do you need a photometer?

If the film camera you picked up was well maintained, your internal light meter might be working fine. But many of them degrade over time, giving you an exposure reading that is at least a little off the mark. If you have the cash, you could look for a dedicated light meter.

Or you can just use your smartphone.

Here we’ll cover how to use a couple of popular light meter apps with your 35mm film camera (or 120mm film if you feel like it). But first, an introduction to how they work.

How do light meter apps work?

Light meter apps use your phone’s internal light meter to measure exposure, just like it does automatically when you use your phone’s camera to take a photo or video. That means that the operation of the application will depend on the capabilities of your phone . If the camera doesn’t works well in low light , the app will not be able to measure accurately in low light because the sensor does not work as well as that of a newer phone would.

Please note that depending on your phone’s light sensor and camera capabilities, some features may not work at all. Some apps may work better with your particular phone than others. We recommend that you download and test various apps to find which ones work best for you.

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Smartphone Light Meter Apps to Help You Shoot Movies

Whether you are an iPhone or Android user, there is a light meter app for you. Some can be a bit confusing to read at first, but they are quite easy to learn.

Here are a couple that you can download and try today. This is not an exhaustive list, just some of the most popular apps available now.

m yLightMeter Pro (iPhone) / Light Meter (Android)

You can find this application developed by David Quiles at iPhone and Android with a slightly different name but with the same appearance. You will know it from the old school interface designed to look like an old movie light meter.

The look of the app is super stylish, but it might intimidate you if you’ve never used a light meter before. Set the ISO of whatever film you are using, say 400. The app will then measure the exposure according to the speed of the film and present you with the shutter speed and aperture settings by turning the center dial.

The app's display mimics older light meters and includes shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings.

Shutter speeds are listed on the dial, which rotates to align with different openings at the top of the user interface. Available apertures range from f1.4 to f22, and shutter speeds range to 1/8000 of a second. You will also get a reading the exposure value (EV) in the lower right area of ​​the screen, which you really won’t have to worry about as you can simply plug in the settings that the meter gives you.

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This app will not just throw up a list of settings. You have to take into account the aperture you want to shoot at, find it on the meter, and see what shutter speed the meter shows you to properly expose. Once you get used to doing that, the Light Meter is pretty simple to use.

You can switch between two measurement modes: incidental and reflective. Accidental metering uses light hitting your phone’s camera to measure an exposure setting. Reflective metering uses light reflected from an object to determine an exposure setting. A small black button in the upper right allows you to toggle between the two, but the developer recommends using reflective metering.

To take a reflective exposure reading, make sure the application is set to reflective. You will see a dot next to the little “r” in the upper right area of ​​the meter, and the white circle in the middle of the screen will show whatever your phone’s rear camera is pointing at. Press the “measure” button just below to take a picture and measure the exposure.

This app has a few more features than a typical light meter app, including multiple ISO settings, low light alert, and more. It’s paid, but very affordable at around $ 4 for the iPhone and around $ 2 for the Android version.

Free Light Meter (Android)

Light Meter Free takes a simpler approach to your display, giving you exposure readings in simple frames. This app also has incident and reflected measurement capabilities, as long as you are using a front and rear camera phone.

The application displays the image and settings in large readable boxes.

When tested with standalone photometers by photography site Photo Workout, this app was stood firm . If you are a fan of the sunny 16 rule , Light Meter Free allows you to calculate those settings, or you can simply use the manual calculator function by entering the film speed (ISO).

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This application is a good option if you are looking for something simple, easy to read and with many functions to take with your film SLR. As the name implies, this app is free to download and use, although it contains ads.

Pocket Light Meter (iPhone)

The pocket light meter uses reflected light to measure exposure settings. At $ 10.99, it’s a bit pricey, so you might want to go for myLightMeter. But if you choose to use this application, it is easy to use and has several cool features.

The application visualization is the simplest of the three, it allows you to take notes.

One thing that sets this app apart is a feature that allows you to save notes on the image you are taking. Light values ​​are displayed in Kelvin, which can help you calculate your white balance if you decide to use this app while manually shooting on a digital SLR.

Choose your meter and go shoot

These apps prove that it is possible to use your phone as a light meter and get good results without spending hundreds on a separate light meter. Download one (or more) to find out what you like and what excites you to shoot. Regardless of which application you decide to use, the important thing is to choose one and get started.

As you go along, you will gain more experience in determining how your photo will look based on the exposure values ​​you set. Despite the common “run out of money, make a movie” joke, it is possible build a foundation in motion picture photography without breaking the bank.

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