What is Light Metering?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Light Metering

Modern Cameras use reflective meters that measure the light reflected off the subject your about to photograph and determines, based on a database of built-in images it uses for reference, what type of scene your shooting and adjusts your exposure accordingly.  Although with modern technology the metering done in your camera is pretty dang good, it’s not infallible.  So we are going to look at the three main metering modes on your camera: Matrix Metering, Spot Metering, and Center Weighted.

Matrix Metering

This mode may also me called multi-zone, segment, evaluative, esp, or honeycomb metering.  Typically this is your default setting on most cameras and most people never venture from here.  But that is why you are reading this, don’t be a follower.  Readers Digest version and all you really need to know is that in this mode your camera measures the light at several to thousands of locations, or zones, in the scene.  The camera then averages out all those results from the different zones and adjusts exposure accordingly.

A difficulty you may run into is that typically the camera adjusts your exposure with a priority given to your point of focus (where your auto focus is directed) so photographing a landscape with vastly different light intensities across the scene will become difficult if your focus isn’t placed in just the right spot.

Spot Metering

This is probably your most useful if your new to the light metering mode change.  Once you select spot metering your camera gives you a point in the center of your scene that covers about 5% of your scene and this is where the light metering will measure the reflected light.  This is ideal for shooting a subject with a bright back-light and you want your subjects face to be properly exposed (not too dark).  Simply half press and hold the shutter button while the spot meter brackets are around the part of the scene you want properly expose and once it’s focused you can recompose the picture.  Don’t forget to exit out of spot metering mode otherwise next time you take a photo your exposure may be way off.

Center Weighted

This is as it sounds, the focus of the metering is done in the center of the scene and then “feathered” out towards the edges.  This mode is perfect for those times when you want to focus on something in the center of your scene but there may be an extremely bright spot or two around the edges that are throwing off the exposure.

As with anything, you’re going to want to take your camera out and test the different modes in different situations to really get to know them.  I suggest you begin to learn them because the more you know about using all your camera’s settings the less post processing you’ll have to do (if any).

Other Photography 101 Tips:

What is Shutter Priority Mode?”
The Difference Between Raw and JPEG
What is Aperture Priority Mode?
How to Use Your Circular Polarized Filter
Camera Lens Filter Guide
What is the “Rule of Thirds”?
How to Photograph Moving Water
Simple Guide to Using Your Camera in Manual Mode

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