Metering in Camera | From Lastolite School of Photography

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Editors Note: Metering in Camera | From Lastolite School of Photography was originally written by Mark Cleghorn for and has been reproduced with permission.

Metering in Camera

metering in camera 1 - Mark Cleghorn

Which metering mode to choose will depend on the scene or subject you are shooting. For portraits choose centre weighted or spot metering mode.

On camera metering allows for very quick exposure readings to be taken as the light falling onto the  camera sensor through the lens is measured. Then by adjusting either the ISO, the aperture, the shutter  speed or a combination of any of the three an exposure is set.

Although it sounds simple, for accurate readings a little experience will go a long way.  The different metering modes on a camera simply select more or less areas of the scene to analyse before setting a correct automatic exposure.

If you are using the manual exposure mode, the camera’s metering system will give you a guide in the view finder by showing you an under or over exposure reading, you then use these indicators as a guide when adjusting the aperture, shutter speed or ISO to gain a correct exposure.



metering in camera 2 - Evaluative Metering - Mark Cleghorn

Evaluative Metering – An all round metering mode suited for some portraits and even back-lit subjects.

Matrix or Evaluative Metering – This metering mode uses multiple areas of the scene to gather information in tone to generate an average  exposure to the image using the most complicated on camera metering system. This is often referred to as  ‘lazy metering’ as the camera is allowed to decide the exposure and 8 out of 10 times it’s pretty accurate.




metering in camera 4 - centre weighted average - mark cleghorn

Centre Weighted Metering – The exposure is weighted to the centre and then averaged for the rest of the scene.

Centre Weighted Metering – Is probably the most common metering method used when measuring an exposure with a DSLR as it meters for the scene but gives dominance to the centre of the image. CWM is most suited to people photography like portraits and weddings.





metering in camera 5 - spot metering - Mark Cleghorn

Spot Metering – used to measure a specific part of the scene for tone.

Spot Metering – Is the most accurate metering mode when used correctly as it allows you to pick a specific point in the  scene using the TTL for the exposure. Spot metering can be as accurate as 1 degree with a hand held meter but cameras are around 3% of the area of the frame, which makes it perfect for complicated scenes  especially landscape photography where different levels of contrast are almost guaranteed.



metering in camera 6 - partial metering - Mark Cleghorn

Partial Metering is ideal for back-lit images.

Partial Metering – This mode is ideal when the background is much brighter than the subject. Perfect for back-lit sunny  wedding days as it will assist you in the metering, allowing you to keep your distance from the wedding  party if you are shooting reportage candids.

Problems – The only real exposure errors occur when the on camera metering system is looking at either a very bright scene or a very dark scene, this is why cameras have the ability to set a plus or minus compensation to the exposure value being given.

metering in camera 3 top tip - mark cleghorn

Top Tip

For dark subjects – a – Minus setting should be applied in compensation as the metering will bias towards over exposing to bring out more detail, which will at the same time burn out the highlight details.

For light subjects – a + Plus setting should be applied as the camera’s metering will try and underexpose the image to make  white a tone of grey. This results in a muddy and underexposed image.