Understanding Camera Metering

By understanding the concepts of how proper metering works, a photographer becomes one step closer to achieving its goals of becoming a professional in the photography industry.

Knowing to hear the different metering techniques will help a photographer adjust on the fly on different situations such as shooting with minimal and unusual lighting. This article will help guide photographers to understand the basics of camera metering.

Camera Metering

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What is Metering?

Metering is a feature on a camera which determines the correct aperture and shutter speed setting should be. This depends on the amount of existing lights that will go inside your camera and the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor. During the era of film photography, photographers always rely on light meters to distinguish which correct meter settings to set on their camera. In today’s digital photography age where one can instantly check the results, an understanding of the metering concept will greatly lessen redundant activities such as deleting images and reshoots.

If you point your camera towards a subject, you will see a bar that will show “+” if the area surrounding it has too much light for the exposure settings needed. If the area that surrounds your subject is very dark, the bars will show a “-“, suggesting that light is lacking.

A camera metering function is not only beneficial for the Manual Mode – when you select other modes such as Program Mode, Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority, the camera will automatically adjusts the settings depending on what it states from the meter.

Matrix or Evaluative Metering

Matrix of Evaluative metering mode is the default setting found on many of today’s DSLR cameras. It operates by dividing the entire image frame into numerous “zones”, which are then evaluated on your camera’s specific basis of dark and light tones. Aside from distance, color, highlights and subjects, another important factor which affects matrix or evaluative metering, is where you set your camera’s focus point into.

 Center-weighted Metering

Using the full frame for coming up with the correct exposure is not always appropriate. In such cases where you are trying to take a headshot of an individual with the sunlight behind? This is where the function of a center-weighted metering comes in very convenient. Center-weighted Metering gauges the light in the center portion of the frame and its backgrounds and disregards the corners. Comparing this to Matrix Metering, Center-weighted Metering does not rely at the focus point you choose but only calculates the central area of the photograph.

 Spot Metering

Spot Metering only gauges the light that surrounds your focus point and discounts everything else. It assesses a single cell/zone and evaluates exposure based on that lone area and nothing else. I personally use this technique of metering when I’m photographing birds in outdoor setting. This is because birds usually occupy a tiny area of the frame and to make sure that I expose them properly, notwithstanding if the background is dark or bright. Because light is already evaluated on the spot where I place my focus point, I could get the correct exposure on my bird subjects even when the bird is located in the corner of the frame. Also, if you were taking a photograph of a person standing with the sun behind them, but they occupied a tiny part of the frame, spot metering is the best mode to use. When your subjects does not take abundant use of the framing space, using Center-weighted or Matrix metering modes always results in a silhouette, if the subject was back-lit. Then Spot metering is the correct metering mode to use.

Here is just a short explanation to help you proceed further with understanding the concepts of camera metering. Apply these tips to your everyday photography and examine the results, for sure as you practice your photography the more you will improve in your field.

Next photography lessons:

Photography Intermediate 2: Photography Tips: How To Choose A Tripod

Photography Intermediate 3: Beginners’ Emotional Photography

Photography Intermediate 4: Easy Double Exposure Photography

Photography Intermediate 5: Create a Sense of Depth to Your Shot

Photography Intermediate 6: Maximize the Background in your Composition


About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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