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spot metering

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Learn by Doing Photography – Metering Modes

Learn by Doing Photography – Practice your photography skills with weekly photography assignments. I will post a new assignment every Friday, you can post your pictures at the bottom of this post or on the DigitalCamFan Facebook. If you have any questions please refer to the guidelines, if you have no questions jump right in any time!

Learn by Doing Photography #33 – Metering Modes

This week we’re taking a look at metering modes. Dust off your camera manual and review the different metering modes this week. Or watch the video below by Mike Browne, which is a great tutorial talking about all the different metering modes. He talks a lot about 18% gray, center weighted metering mode, spot metering and evaluative metering modes. He covers all the bases and shows some great examples.

Amy Donovan Photography

This week is just about exploring your metering mode. Try a challenging spot where the light is not average, where there is hardly any light or a lot of contrast. I went for a sliver of light on the street and spot metered off my daughters face. You can see the sliver of light from a porch light on the side walk in the picture on the right. I had her stand right there and just turn towards the light, spot meter and took the picture.

I am so grateful my kids are always excited to try something new with me! As we were getting ready for bed last night I asked Kat if she wanted to go out front. I was going to try taking a picture under a street light, but the street lights on the street are pretty high up and I was looking for a more direct light or closer light source. The sliver of light bouncing around the car in the driveway was perfect. Thanks Kat!

My settings were 1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 6400 on manual

The photograph was taken with the Canon Mark III and the 50mm f/1.8

Be sure to watch the video below:



Correct Exposure Using Your Meter

When you buy your first DSLR camera you really have no idea what any of the specifications mean. When reading about ISO, Spot Meter, Cropped Sensor, AF Points they might as well be written in a different language. Don’t be discouraged, learning the basics and what terms mean what is the easy part. Perfecting your skill will take a lifetime! It’s the journey that is so intriguing to us!

When I started searching for my first DSLR camera back in 2009 my photographer friend’s advice was to go as high as my budget could on the ISO, but make sure it had a spot meter. There are two ways you can have a light meter (in camera or handheld) His old camera had the handheld light meter and he says they’re a must. So that is where I started my search which lead me to purchasing the Canon XSi over the Canon XS

There are usually four types of metering. All cameras are different and might use slightly different names when referring to the light metering on the camera. For instance Canon says “evaluative metering” while Nikon calls the same thing “Matrix Metering”. These pictures below are pictures from the Canon 60D metering modes. So let’s get down to the basics of photography 101, making sure we’re using the proper meter to get the correct exposure for our picture.

Evaluative Metering

The camera looks at the entire scene and sets the exposure automatically to best suite the scene. When all things are average go for Evaluative Metering. Whenever I am on aperture priority I always have my metering set to evaluative. Sometimes I might adjust the exposure compensation. But for the most part the scene is usually pretty average

Partial Metering

Partial Metering covers about 6.5% of the view finder area at the center. Good to use when the background is a lot brighter than the subject because of back lighting. However I never use this one. If dealing with a high contrast situation like that I would just switch it to spot metering which covers 2.8% of the entire scene.

Spot Metering

If I have a high contrast situation like a subject sitting in front of a window or a sunset I will switch to Manual mode and change my metering to spot metering. Spot metering will meter the light right in the center of your frame in an area that covers about 2.8% of the entire scene. Think of it like the size of a quarter.

Center-weighted average

The metering for center-weighted is weighted at the center and then takes an average of the entire scene. Typically the center 80% of the cells are considered more important than the outlying regions. Personally I don’t use this one either.

The two metering modes I use on my camera to measure light are:

1. Spot Metering / Manual – If my scene has high contrast I meter using spot meter.
2. Evaluative Metering / Aperture Priority – If my scene is very average I meter using evaluative metering

What about you? Do you have a favorite trick or tip about metering and how you shoot, please add!

Note – if you’re shooting on any of the automatic shooting modes you will not be able to change your light meter, the camera will do it for you.