Camera metering explained. A camera’s metering system is responsible for measuring the amount of light in a scene and determining the appropriate exposure settings for the photograph.
There are several different types of metering systems, including evaluative metering, centre-weighted metering, multi and spot metering.
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It can feel very daunting sometimes to work out how to decide which of the four settings to use (some cameras have slightly different names for the metering systems), and so we’re going to have a look at how each of them works and when you should use them.
Evaluative metering, is a good choice in a variety of situations. It is particularly well-suited for scenes with complex lighting, as it takes into account the light and dark areas of the frame and calculates an overall exposure based on the readings from all parts of the scene.
This can be useful in situations where there are both light and dark areas within the frame, such as a portrait with bright sunlight in the background or a landscape with both sunny and shadowy areas.
Evaluative metering is also a good choice for scenes with high contrast, as it can help to properly expose both the highlights and shadows in the photograph. It is also a good option for candid or action shots, as it can quickly and accurately adjust the exposure as the scene changes.
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Overall, evaluative metering is a versatile metering mode that can handle a wide range of lighting situations. It is a good choice for you if you prefer to let the camera make the decision for you when trying to understand how the lighting should be metered for your photograph..
Center-weighted metering is a system that places more emphasis on the light levels in the centre of the frame. It will weigh up the whole scene, but take its primary reading from the centre. This can be a useful metering mode in situations where the subject is in the centre of the frame and the background is not as important.
For example, if you are taking a portrait of a person and want to ensure that their face is properly exposed, center-weighted metering can be a good choice.
The camera will give more weight to the light levels in the center of the frame, where the person’s face is located, and adjust the exposure accordingly.
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Center-weighted metering can also be a good choice for still life photographs, where the subject is in the center of the frame and the background is relatively uniform in brightness.
Overall, center-weighted metering is a good choice when the subject is in the center of the frame and the background is not as important. It is particularly useful for ensuring that the subject is properly exposed in the photograph.
Multi metering is an option that uses approximately 256 different zones across the photos to take its meter reading for the photo. It’s uses this information to try and select the appropriate exposure reading.
This option can be useful for backlit scenes, but is not always a reliable mode for lots of scenes where the light is strong in certain areas of the frame, since it’s using such a wide area of the photo to choose from.
Spot metering is my preferred mode, and is a system that measures the light levels in a very small area of the frame, typically less than 2% of the total area. This allows the photographer to accurately meter a specific part of the scene, such as a person’s face or a highlight in the background.
Spot metering is a good choice in situations where the subject is very small in the frame or where the background is much brighter or darker than the subject.
For example, if you are taking a photograph of a person against a bright sky, spot metering can help to ensure that the person is properly exposed even though the background is much brighter.
Spot metering can also be useful for photographing subjects with very dark or very light skin tones, as it allows the photographer to meter specifically for the skin tones and ensure that they are properly exposed.
Overall, spot metering is a good choice when you want to accurately meter a specific part of the scene or when the subject is small in the frame.
It is particularly useful for handling high-contrast lighting situations or for ensuring that specific tones in the photograph are properly exposed. Spot metering also helps you to create dramatic photographs with high contrast and can be particularly good for people shots or street photography.
Overall, the camera’s metering system is a critical component that helps ensure that photographs are correctly exposed. By understanding how the different metering modes work, you’ll be able to choose the best mode for the specific scene you’re trying to capture.
The best way to fully understand the effect that each mode has is to try each mode out when pointing your camera at the same scene and take a photograph using all four metering options. When you get back to your computer you’ll be able to see how each metering mode handled the scene you were photographing.
It may be a good idea to keep a notepad with you so you can write down the effect that each metering mode has, then you’ll be able to make the right choice on your next photo shoot.
As with all the technical aspects of photography, it can feel daunting but it’s all much easier when you put things into practice – so go and take some photos and see how metering makes a huge difference to your style and exposures. Happy shooting!