Conventional Wisdom on Color Meters : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

What does everyone think of color meters? I went to a workshop over the weekend and using a Gossen ($1000!) color meter and a dozen or so warming filters was highly recommended. I dread carrying around an additional gadget even if I had an extra $1000.

Do most of this forum's users skip it? Just guess at which filter to use? Or what. Can't most or all of an off color film positives be fixed in Photoshop anyway?

I am not talking about using Velvia under mercury-vapor lamp type of correction. Just using Velvia on a rainy day or close to sunset.


-- John Hennessy (, July 19, 2001


While there's something to be said for warming up a picture taken in open shade; do you really want a sunset to come out neutral grey?
Some of the best pictures I've seen, and taken, have had a far from 'correct' colour rendering. And do those photographers who stuff graduated tobacco filters over their lenses care what colour balance they're getting?
Only you can decide how much you need a colour temperature meter, but imagine the number of times that you'd
A) Actually bother or remember to use the meter, and
B) Have the correct mired shift filters with you.
That'll give you some idea of whether it's $1000 well spent.

-- Pete Andrews (, July 20, 2001.

Color meters are great for technical work but not really needed for landscapes. With the meter comes the need for all the correction filters so if you have $1500-$2000 extra disposable money laying around... They are very useful when doing copy and shooting available light in factories and other location stuff but it sounds like your not doing any of that at all...The chromes can be duped and corrected or done in PS very easily!

-- Scott Walton (, July 20, 2001.

As previously mentioned, warming open shade is a good idea, but a color temp meter still can't tell you the specific filter needed for this given how different films will render a scene. Spending a bit of money on experimentation using different filters would probably be better than buying a color temp meter. I agree with the previous post that some of the best pictures use exagerated color temp to their benefit.

For color critical work (e.g. expensive clothing catalogs for mail order), a color temp meter would probably be useful. I haven't tried it, but it's my understanding that color temp meters don't really give proper filtration information for non-continuous spectrum light sources such as the mercury-vapor on Velvia example you mentioned. To solve this problem a device like a spectrophotometer is needed.

-- Larry Huppert (, July 20, 2001.

What difference does it make how many or how few people use it? The question is do you think this is a necessary tool for you and for what you do?

As a professional photographer, I own the Minolta Color Meter IIIF and use it... but only for situations where the color balance is critical as in architectural interiors, copying artwork, or for commercial studio photography of products (and some people) where the color rendering is critical or where I want to make sure my lights are all balanced to one another, or for those times when I want to make them imbalanced to each other for a more emotionally dramatic effect. In the latter two situations I gel my lights.

For landscape work and most architetural exteriors I don't think it is necessary. A good set of 81 series filters is necessary and I carry an 81,81A, 81B,81C, & 81EF. And then I gauge which one to use by looking at the scene with the naked eye and then quickly looking through the filter. It also helps to know your film.

While you can balance off color transparencies in photoshop, that isn't always a solution. It depends on how much time you want to invest, how much money you want to spend on getting images scanned, how much time you have invested in calibrating your color space to the output device and then, and most importantly how good your eye is and how good your Photoshop skills are.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, July 20, 2001.

I use a Sixticolor that can be found for $50. I find it useful to gauge filter shifts, or in circumstances that I question. It doesn't gauge green tho.

-- Wayne Crider (, July 23, 2001.

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