Metering Mode of DSLR Often Confuses. In our previously published articles like Manual Mode in DSLR, What Camera Mode to Choose Depending on the Situation; we saw that there is no difference in how the meter of DSLR evaluates the scene in Manual Mode, Aperture Priority Mode and Shutter Priority Mode. What camera is trying to indicate further explained on the article on DSLR Viewfinder Using Guide. Here is an Article Explaining Which Metering Mode to Use on DSLR in Which Situation. Exposure is a complex beast and mastering exposure is of the most important matter. We know that exposure is based on three components – ISO, the Aperture Size and Shutter Speed. We have built-in meters into our DSLR/equivalent which actually calculates on the principle of reflected light meters. Each metering mode option measures the brightness of a scene in different ways, depending on what composition or subject you are shooting. Apart from the indication on viewfinder, DSLR camera’s histogram is another important metrics to understand what camera understood. Choosing the metering mode is as important as choosing an ISO or aperture as tat metering affects how your camera processes the scene. Of course you may manually override ISO or aperture but you can not actually make the camera understand “what the thing is” In automatic mode, everything essentially decided by camera, closer type niche is detected and represented by icons by camera like Marco, Portrait, Landscape and so on. By selecting the correct metering mode, we are trying to tell the camera “consider this areas’s light as reference”. This probably makes sense why we need an external light meter, spot meter as well as the “metering mode”. The Metering icon is usually an eye-shaped icon within a rectangle. Your camera have three or more metering modes which can be accessed from menu. Your camera may have dedicated metering mode button or there will be way to assign custom function to certain button to work as metering mode button. Usually your camera has three metering modes.
Which Metering Mode to Use on DSLR in Which Situation : Let Us Know the Modes
In order to understand which metering mode to use on DSLR in which situation, you need to know some basic theory on the three metering modes your camera offers – Spot metering, Center-weighted, Matrix metering. Except the nomenclature spot metering, name of the others specially Matrix-metering may vary depending on manufacturer – it may be termed as evaluative. Furthermore, there may be another forth mode – Highlight-weighted. You need to read your camera’s booklet (or online PDF of that manual) to understand what they are saying. Usually Spot-metering is for a spot, Center-weighted is for considering area of circle at center bigger than spot and Matrix-metering is for larger field, usually whole scene. Highlight-weighted not present on all camera models.
It is very common that a newbie can not understand difference of Spot metering and Center-weighted metering. That is common as kit lens usually supplied for up to mid-range DSLR/DSLM/DSLT. Their aperture may be for closer shot is not wide and there is already compromise with ISO, Shutter Speed for more light. If you have a lens with wide aperture, you can try silhouette of slender thing against white background to understand the visible difference Spot metering and Center-weighted metering. Center-weighted metering will make it imperfect. An used can see visible difference of metering with kit lens via viewfinder with whatever aperture. Meter indicator for correct exposure not always perfect. The moving “meter” you always have on viewfinder is a good guide for a particular metering mode.
But what exactly Spot metering, Center-weighted, Matrix metering designed to do?
Probably most complex to master. Spot metering aka partial metering precise metering to measure exposure only from a small spot right at the center of the frame. Many modern cameras with multiple AF areas can link their focus areas to spot metering to apply spot metering directly on the subject. Spot metering needs to locking which we described in the article How to Use Exposure Lock (AE-L) Button). You do not move the spot. You point the center spot to the region you want to measure and press AEL to lock the exposure. Then recompose and click the shutter. It is for shooting in challenging conditions where you might want to meter and re-compose your shot in conjunction with the AE Lock function. Spot metering difficult and not exactly for the beginners with one kit lens. Most of the kit lens are telephoto and normal common range needs some zoom which makes the aperture too small. This mode may drain battery faster when used with autofocus by a newbie.
Most importantly, perfect Spot metering depends on other settings. You need correct White Balance (WB) for the light type or adjust the Kelvin manually. “Cloudy”, “Sunny” WB usually great for the beginners instead selecting value like 6000 Kelvin. Turn off all in-camera processing such as noise reduction.
Spot metering practically full manual mode.
In Center-weighted metering mode the camera considers a wide area of the frame with a greater consideration to the scene in the center of the frame. It has some assistance by camera’s program. Probably it is better for newbie to not make photos looking like “washed out” without touching other settings.
Matrix metering practically for all purposes and kind of auto mode in metering. Matrix metering mode considers the largest portion of the scene when metering the light and comes up with the best suggested exposure. This is simple way to meter a scene unless the scene too many shadows and highlights. In that case, this mode will make photos looking like “washed out” or “dark” without touching other settings.
Easy List of Metering Mode to Use on DSLR
That is exactly this article is about.
It is like full manual mode. We may use for high-contrast situations like for snowy landscapes, scenes with backlit images, silhouettes. When subject is not filling the largest portion of the frame and you need proper contrast, it is great with carefully tweaking other settings for light.
It is as if “auto mode of spot metering”. It is good for portraits, macro like situations. It is useful when the subject has high contrasts with its background, like a person standing against a setting sun. Such scene will confuse matrix metering. Of course, Spot metering will work for such scene too but probably need mastering the camera.
It is practically kind of “”general purpose auto mode” and actually for evenly lit scenes and or using with flash, studio lights etc. This is the mode probably you want to start as a newbie.
In certain situations, we need exposure compensation to get the right exposure. Factually, more than metering mode you selected, an increment of +1 or more stops of exposure may make the scene looking as desired. In certain situations, we need to tweak the White Balance (WB) like we have discussed above.
To test how the modes make difference more than “contrast”, you can set the exposure at spot metering against a white card and shoot photo of grey card. Then again set the exposure at Matrix metering against a white card and shoot photo of grey card. It is not unusual to find our camera model (and also lens) specific odds with such tests.
Essentially we need proper light, contrast in a photo which is “compromised to auto decide” unlike full automatic mode. Our need of testing and learning is to prevent camera getting fooled and reproducing snapshot looking effect.
We have articles for using external spotmeter or Android app which works like spotmeter. Incident light meters are more accurate than the reflected light meters. That meter of camera not always perfect.