Chapter 7: Metering And Metering Modes – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide

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The Black Light Studios

Welcome to the seventh chapter of Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginners Photography Guide.

In the last chapter, we took an in depth look at composition in photography. Now we know how important it is to have a well composed image. In this chapter 7, we will take a look at another important element in photography, which is metering and different types of metering modes.

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Table Of Contents For Chapter 7

  • Introduction
  • What Is Metering?
  • What Are The Different Types Of Metering Modes?
  • How To Change Camera Metering Modes?
  • Summary Of Chapter 7
  • Self Assessment Questions (SAQ’s)

Introduction

If you’re new to photography, you’ve only had your camera for a short time and you’ve already browsed through your camera’s user guide, chances are that you’ve seen the notions of exposure metering appear somewhere.

If you check out the specifications of your camera while choosing your camera you will see metering modes in it. Every modern DSLR or mirrorless cameras has something called “Metering Mode”, also known as “Camera Metering”, “Exposure Metering” or simply “Metering”.

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Knowing how metering works and what each of the metering modes does is important in photography, because it helps photographers control their exposure with minimum effort and take better pictures in unusual lighting situations.

What Is Metering Modes?

As mentioned earlier, metering modes is also known as camera metering, exposure metering or simply metering. Metering modes basically decides how your camera determines what the correct shutter speed and aperture should be, depending on the amount of light that goes into the camera and the ISO.

Back in the old days of photography, photographers had to use hand-held light meters to determine the optimal exposure because the their work was shot on a film and the could not preview the results immediately, which is why they religiously relied on those light meters. As the technology progressed and the world of photography become more popular as mentioned earlier, now cameras are equipped with light meter and it has become easier to use it.

Light Meter

Today, every DSLR and mirrorless cameras has an integrated light meter that automatically measures the reflected light and determines the optimal exposure. Now, that you know what is metering modes, let’s get to our next topic:

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What Are The Different Types Of Metering Modes?

There are different types of metering modes. it depends on camera manufacturers as well as different models of camera. You will find different types of metering modes in each camera but each and every camera has three main metering modes, they are as follows:

  1. Matrix Metering also known as Evaluative Metering
  2. Center-weighted Metering Mode
  3. Spot Metering Mode

Some cameras may also have “Partial Metering”, which is similar to Spot Metering, except the covered area is larger (approximately 8% of the viewfinder area near the center vs 3.5% in Spot Metering).

Now, let me explain what those three main metering does:

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1. Matrix Metering or Evaluative Metering

This is the basic exposure metering found by default on all digital cameras. It can be found under several names: matrix metering (Nikon), multi-zone metering (Pentax & Sony), multi metering (Fujifilm), multiple metering (Panasonic), evaluative metering (Canon) or digital ZESP metering (Olympus).

Matrix Metering Mode or Evaluative Metering Mode

Matrix Metering or Evaluative Metering mode is the default metering mode on most DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras. Generally speaking, it is the exposure metering I would recommend when starting out in photography, time to familiarize yourself with all the other important notions, especially that of exposure ( ISO, apertureshutter speed).

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The principle is simple for this metering, the sensor determines the brightness of the scene over the entire image. The camera will therefore in this mode determine the general “right exposure” of the scene so as not to favor dark/black areas and light/white areas. By simplifying, it tries to do its best by analyzing the different brightness’s of your scene.

Here is another simple explanation, by dividing the entire frame into multiple “zones”, which are then all analyzed on individual basis for light and dark tones. One of the key factors (in addition to color, distance, subjects, highlights, etc) that affects matrix metering, is where the camera focus point is set to. After reading information from all individual zones, the metering system looks at where you focused within the frame and marks it more important than all other zones.

Matrix or Evaluative Metering Mode Example

The above image is an example of matrix metering. Matrix or evaluative metering covered almost entire area and decided the brightness of the scene all over the image.

Matrix Metering or Evaluative Metering is the most common metering mode used for landscape photography as you can see in the above example.

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2. Center-weighted Metering Mode

The second metering system is Center-weighted metering mode. This name and icon are similar across the main manufacturers, and it’s a useful metering mode in some situations. Center-weighted Metering evaluates the light in the middle of the frame and its surroundings and ignores the corners.

Center Weighted Metering Mode

When comparing center-weighted vs. matrix metering, our focus point doesn’t matter in this mode; the camera will always use the center of the frame to evaluate the light, offering more consistent results from image to image.

Center Weighted Metering Mode Example

The above image is an example of center weighted metering mode. In this image the centre of the image is used to evealuate the exposure of the overall image. Center weighted metering mode is most commonly used in still life photography and portrait photography.

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3. Spot Metering Mode And Partial Metering Mode

Spot and partial metering work the same way. Your camera only measures the intensity of light from a small circle in the center of the scene. The only difference between this mode and center-weighted is how large that circle is. For example:

  • In spot mode, Canon cameras measure about 2% of the total image area; Nikon cameras measure about 5%.
  • In partial metering mode, Canon cameras measure around 10% of the scene; Nikon cameras don’t typically have a partial metering mode.
Spot Metering Mode

Spot Metering only evaluates the light around your focus point and ignores everything else. It evaluates a single zone/cell and calculates exposure based on that single area, nothing else.

Spot Metering Mode Example

The above image is an example of spot metering mode. In this image the area of the small spot is used to evaluate the overall exposure of the image. Spot metering mode is most commonly used in macro photography.

Now that you know what different metering mode does to your photograph, lets get to our next topic:

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How To Change Camera Metering Modes?

The method of changing cameras metering modes varies from manufacturers to manufacturers as well as from model to model. For example: In Nikon D5500, it is done through the menu setting (Info button). On professional cameras such as the Nikon D810 and Nikon D5, there is a separate button on the top left dial for camera metering.

Changing metering on Canon cameras also varies from model to model, but generally it is done through a key combination (“Set” button), camera menu or a dedicated metering button close to the top LCD. It is the same with Sony, Fujifilm or any other cameras, it differs from model to model.

Summary Of Chapter 7

Metering modes basically decides how your camera determines what the correct shutter speed and aperture should be, depending on the amount of light that goes into the camera and the ISO.

There are three main metering modes:

  1. Matrix or Evaluated Metering: Matrix Metering or Evaluative Metering mode is the default metering mode on most DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras. The principle is simple for this metering, the sensor determines the brightness of the scene over the entire image. It tries to do its best by analyzing the different brightness’s of your scene.
  2. Center Weighted Metering: Center-weighted Metering evaluates the light in the middle of the frame and its surroundings and ignores the corners.
  3. Spot Metering: Your camera only measures the intensity of light from a small circle in the center of the scene.
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Self Assessment Questions (SAQ’s)

  1. What is Metering?
  2. What does Matrix Metering does to your image?
  3. What does Center weighted metering does to your image?
  4. Matrix Metering and Evaluative Metering are same. (True or False)
  5. What does Spot Metering does to your image?

This is the end of Chapter 7: Metering And Metering Modes.of the Free Online Photography Course – The Ultimate Beginner Photography Guide. You can subscribe to The Black Light Studios website to stay tuned and get notifications on the upcoming chapters. In the mean time you can check my other posts on this website.

This is it for this post. Thank You! for visiting The Black Light Studios, I hope you find this article helpful to you and got the information you were looking for. Stay tuned for more posts like these by subscribing to The Black Light Studios website. If you have any suggestion or feedback comment down below or contact us through the contact form via contact menu.

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