Metering- What’s That All About?

Did you know that your DSLR Camera has 3 different metering modes to use?  It’s one of those things that unless you have taken a class, you may not even know it exists!!!  I want to tell you about the 3 options your DSLR camera has because it is summer time and you just might want to know about spot metering!  Have you ever taken a photo where the person turns out really dark and the sun is shining brightly behind them?  Well, there’s really only 2 things you can do to prevent that.  FIRST…change your setting to spot metering.  You can always use a reflector, too.  But, learn what the metering modes are.  It makes a difference!!!  Portrait photographers have to use spot metering a lot.  So if you are taking pictures of people, you might want to get familiar with that one!! 🙂

So, there are 3 main types of metering. Metering assesses the light in a particular area.  Metering takes place when you push the shutter half way to focus on an image before taking your picture.

1.  Evaluative Metering (Canon), or Evaluative/Matrix Metering (Nikon) –This is the “default” setting on most cameras. It is a multi segment/zone metering. It assesses the light over all the zones and averages them together. The camera sets the metering automatically depending on the scene and subject of the photograph. This is the mode to use for general use and for landscapes. (The red part in the sample pics below shows the area the camera is metering the light from.)

2. Partial Metering (Canon), or Spot Metering (Nikon) – This type of metering is helpful for photographing back-lit subjects. The metering is weighted according to the very center of the shot – a very small area of the frame. Use this mode when you have a very specific area of the photograph that you wish the exposure to be based upon.  This is a very useful mode for tricky lighting conditions where the whole scene is either darker or lighter than the point that you want to be exposed correctly.  Good for silhouette shots and used in portrait photography especially when there is uneven light.

3.  Center-Weighted Average Metering (Canon), or Center-Weighted Metering (Nikon)– This metering setting gives priority to the center portion of the photograph, but also takes the average of the surrounding portions of the shot. Basically, this is somewhere in between Evaluative and Partial Metering. Use this setting when the subject is in the center of the photograph and exposed correctly, so that the subject is not affected by the exposure of the background.  This can be used for portrait photography, too, unless there is uneven lighting.

Here are some GREAT resources for understanding metering modes:

1. A Youtube video showing the in camera view of using each of the 3 metering modes AND it shows the same pic taken with each of the modes.  Awesome for a visual learner. Check it out!
2. A few articles online:,


I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about metering today!  Now it’s time for you to break out your camera manual and figure out how to change your settings so you can practice for yourself!!!  Are any of you out there finding the Tuesday Tips helpful?  Hope so!

*The photos shown in this entry come from the Digital Photography School.


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