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The Metering Modes of Your Camera and How to Use Them

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Metering is a process in digital photography that finds the right exposure for your picture. It is activated by a metering sensor, a device located inside the camera. It measures the brightness of a subject to adjust the metering.

Some people use a light meter to calculate the right settings, but that’s unnecessary if you know how to use the metering modes in your camera. This article will provide valuable tips that will help you say goodbye to your light meter forever.

Why Should You Adjust the Metering in Your Camera?

A camera won’t change exposure in separate parts of the photo. So if you rely on the camera, you may find some sections that are dark and others that are bright.

If you adjust the meter manually, you will get the perfect balance.

The default metering mode of the camera is matrix/evaluative metering. You can switch between modes by pressing the camera’s metering mode button and using the main camera dial.

The camera LCD or control panel will show how the metering is changing.

Adjust the metering until you have the perfect balance between highlights, shadows and mid tones.

What Are the Different Metering Modes on a Camera?

The metering mode will go by different names depending on the camera you own. Nikon calls it Matrix while Canon calls it Evaluative. But both work the same. Basically, they collect data from across the frame giving priority to your focal point.

These modes will focus on bright areas and work on the exposure settings based on those areas.

Partial Metering Mode

Partial metering is a feature exclusive to Canon cameras. It collects data from a small circular area in the metering center of the camera which accounts for about 10-15% of the picture. It is useful when your subject is in the center of the shot as that will be the camera’s focus when it comes to determining exposure.

Spot Metering Mode

Spot metering mode focuses on a dot in the camera that accounts for about 5% of the frame. It sets the exposure according to your focal point. To achieve optimal results, your subject must be still.

Because spot metering uses such a small portion of your shot, it tends to leave other areas under or overexposed while drawing attention to your main focal point. This can be a cool effect, but you won’t want it for every shot.

Highlight Weighted Metering

Highlight weighted metering is similar to spot metering but the camera will focus on highlights instead of your focal point. It prevents whites from blowing out and it’s useful if your subject is white or light colored. Be sure to adjust your shutter speed according to the subject in motion.

Centre Weighted Metering

Halfway between matrix and partial metering, centre weighted metering focuses on a pretty big metering spot. It is ideal for photographers taking photos where the subject is in the center of the shot.

Which Metering Mode is Best?

After experimenting with different metering modes, you may find that some work better for you than others. However, matrix and spot metering tend to work best in most situations.

Matrix should be a go to while spot metering can come in handy when matrix doesn’t work out. It provides more control over the light and dark parts of the scene.

Metering plays a major role in getting the perfect exposure for your photos. Now that you know how to use it, you can get the ideal light balance in your shot. Which do you find works best for you?


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