Understanding your Camera: Metering Modes

stockxchng-orizont-vintage-camera-1-stock-photo-by-thea0211So you got a camera with hundreds of features that you don’t completely understand yet – don’t leave it stuck on AUTO – learn about the different modes and functions so that you can use your camera it’s fullest.  The terms discussed in this article apply to SLR cameras and advanced compacts.

When you get your camera, check to see if it has a feature for Metering.

Metering is the way that your camera decides what exposure to use (which shutter speed, what aperture depending on how much light is available in the image).  Metering is very important if you want to get well exposed images that are not over or under exposed.  Here are the most common modes:

1.    Multi-Metering or Multi-Zone or Matrix Metering

This is the most common setting. The camera takes the exposure based on various locations throughout the image.  You may see a few dots or line appear that show you the various points that the camera will take the light reading from.  These are usually evenly spaced and cover all the areas of the image.

A problem occurs with this kind of metering when you have very dark or light areas and the camera misjudges the exposure.  For example, if you are taking a photograph on a very bright day and there is a very strong highlight, the camera may think that the rest of the image is also very bright.

2.    Spot Metering

This is the more sophisticated choice. Spot metering means that the camera will take a light reading form just one selected area of the image.  It’s normally the centre of the image but it doesn’t have to be, more advanced cameras will allow you to meter from anywhere in the frame.

This comes in useful when you have situations with difficult lighting conditions – for example in very bright situations, the photograph can take a reading from a mid tone or gray area of the shot to get even metering as opposed to anything too over or under exposed.

Unless you are completely confident in your skills with spot metering, it’s not generally the best mode to go for if you are taking one off images that you cannot repeat because spot metering is difficult to predict at times.

3.    Center weighted Metering

With centre weighted metering, the camera always chooses the area in the centre of the image for its main reading.  This usually means that the item or person in the center of the photograph will be well exposed even if the edges aren’t perfect.

If in doubt you can always use your Multi metering to make sure you are getting a well balanced shot. If there are problems with the multi metering, then try the other modes to see if the result is better.  If you are still not sure, bracket your shots, using the exposure functions to make sure you have images that are in dark and lighter on either side so you can pick the best result.


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