Written by Marjorie Dawson

Metering Modes Demystified for Cat Lovers and Bloggers

Metering Modes Demystified for Cat Lovers and Bloggers

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After using my DSLR for a while and exploring my digital menus, I came across the ‘metering modes’ option. There aren’t many choices I thought, how hard can this be to understand? Right?

I decided to explore these ‘metering modes’? What are they and why would you need to change it on your camera? Will metering make a difference to a photograph, especially for a beginner?

Let me give you a quick overview so you can explore your camera’s metering options in your own time. Knowing about metering is not critical but it will improve your knowledge and improve your images as you learn more about photography.

Exposure and composition are the two most critical components towards making a great image. 

Digital Photography School

What are Metering Modes?

This is the technical term for your the ways your camera figures out how much light there is when you point it at someone or some cat.

There are three main metering options, or modes, used by DSLR users. I recommend exploring each one in turn so you can make your own informed decisions about which works best with the pictures you plan to take.

Your camera meters the light regardless of the option you have chosen to shoot in e.g. Av/A (Aperture priority), Manual or Tv/S (Shutter priority). It is worth checking your camera manual because on some models metering cannot be adjusted while you are in AUTO mode.

A Little Light Meter History

Metering Modes Demystified
Old fashioned light meter or ‘photometer’

Before digital cameras, photographers used a separate light meter. This allowed them to accurately measure the light on and around the subject they wanted to capture.

A photographer would point their meter at the subject, take an accurate measurement, then adjust their manual settings accordingly for the perfect exposure.

The three types of metering found in DSLR cameras are:

  • Centre (Center) Weighted Metering
  • Evaluative (Canon) or Matrix (Nikon) Metering
  • Spot Metering

Metering 101 for Beginners

Evaluative or Matrix

These may sounds intimidating but learn them, they are describing their purpose. The camera measures (meters) across the whole of your photo’s area and then averages out its measurements. It saves you a lot of work as a new photographer.

Different intensities in the same photo area will confuse your camera and some areas may be either too dark or too bright. This happens when you photograph a cat in the snow, or a dog running across a bright beach. If you have time, try different exposures because over and underexposed photos care hard to fix, even if you try dodging and burning to adjust your light and shade.

Matrix or Evaluative is the default metering mode on most DSLRs and works very well in the majority of situations. It does a good job determining the proper exposure in a variety of lighting conditions.


Centre Weighted

When I am not sure what I am meant to be doing which happens sometimes. I use evaluative metering in my photos because it works in New Zealand’s bright ambient light.

Cat photo of tabby shouting loudly
Portrait of Dot

Most of the light will be measured across approximately 60% of your picture, although the exact amount will depend on the camera and model. The rest is not ignored, it’s just given less ‘weight’ (hence the name).

To see how ‘center weighted’ works for you, experiment. Test it out by taking photos in your home or local area. This option is a middle ground measurement. It is not perfect but it works while you learn and gain more experience with your camera.

You can inject humour into a photograph by looking for a cat's expression

Spot Metering

Instead of trying to measure everywhere at once, spot metering pinpoints a very small portion of the area you want to photo. This can be very precise and is often used if you need an accurate reading for a very small section of a photograph. It will work if you are taking a cat close up like Natasha (above). I have not used this type of metering myself in my photos so cannot share any experiences but this is on my list of ‘things to explore’.

Spot metering is mainly used by professional photographers, and only in certain situations. Say, for example, that you are trying to take a photo of a person in front of strong backlighting.

How do you hold your DSLR, is it the right way?

Check How to Change Your Camera Metering

If you are learning, I will always suggest first checking your printed or online camera manual.

This information is so important when you are learning about a complex camera. My Canon 1300D arrived with a printed manual that has been a real help.

You may not understand some of the technical terminology but as you read more information, and learn more about your camera’s capabilities you will understand more about how your camera works and use it with more confidence.

Metering for Manual DSLR Cameras

I am adding this comment about DSLR metering because I know several of my readers have a DSLR. Learning to use my meter through the lens has been a big help in growing my DSR Manual Mode confidence.

Metering through your camera lens, also known as TTL (through the lens) allows you to learn and use the impact light can have on your exposures. TTL metering measures the intensity of light reflected from the scene through your lens. You can deliberately over or underexpose your image and take more control of Manual mode by adjusting your shutter speed and ISO.

You will find the meter along the bottom of your screen (if you can’t find it, check your model’s manual) and I have discovered that TTL metering is a good way to experiment with the effects of light and the impact your shutter speed and ISO can have. That’s a whole blog post in itself but this is a nugget of food for thought.

Cameras with through-the-lens (TTL) exposure meters measure the average reflected light intensity, yielding reliable exposures for subjects of average contrast and brightness distribution.


Are you ready to discover more about your camera’s metering, let’s explore!

Marjorie Dawson

Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.

She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

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5 thoughts on “Metering Modes Demystified for Cat Lovers and Bloggers”

  1. I think I may have some of those options in lesser form on my Canon P & S camera when I use the P setting instead of the Auto setting.

  2. Figuring out the light levels is critical to great photos. Thanks for sharing about metering modes, Marjorie. This was very informative!


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