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.
NOTE: Thanks to my teaching commitments, I am still working on the graphics for this post as the Pet Parade goes live. They will be up as soon as possible.
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 camera figuring out how much light there is when you point it at someone or something.
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
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
The camera measures (meters) across the whole of your photo area and then averages out its measurements.
Different intensities in the same photo area will confuse your camera so 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.
Try different exposures if you have time because extremely over and underexposed photos can’t be fixed, 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.ReyherPhoto
When I am not sure what I am meant to be doing (it happens!), I use this in my photos because it works in New Zealand’s bright ambient light.
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.
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 it myself in many of my photos so cannot share any experiences but this is next on my list of ‘things to explore’ so I will update this post in due course.
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.Reyherphoto
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.
Are you ready to discover more about your camera’s metering? Let me know in the comments.