Posted by: David Vernon | October 15, 2008

Different Metering Techniques

Banner Marsh Sunset 3Class started at the Art Guild last night – looks like an excellent group – engaged and lots of good questions. We’ll be stuffing ’em full of info for the next eight weeks and I am looking forward to it.

Let’s follow-up on yesterday’s conversation about WHERE to meter with this conversation on what different metering techniques exist. Remember, your camera’s light meter is basically trying to average everything it sees to arrive at a proper exposure. There are ways to influence that decision:

Spot Metering – measures the light at an extremely narrow angle of view, usually limited to 1 to 5 degrees. So instead of taking in the entire scene and metering EVERYTHING, it takes a tiny dot from the middle of your viewfinder and does ALL of its metering based on that. This is great if you’re dealing with a high-contrast scene – the camera will want to overcome all that contrast and pull your white whites and your black blacks to a middle grey. It’s not as good for a scene weighted slightly one way or the other, but we’ll get to that.

Center-Weighted Metering – measures reflected light throughout the entire scene but is biased toward the center portion of the viewing area. This is the first concept of looking at the whole scene, but taking your subject (if centered) and letting it do most of the driving.

Matrix Metering – relies on a microchip that has been programmed to see thousands of picture-taking subjects, from bright white snowcapped mountains to the darkest canyons and everything in between. As you point your camera towards a scene, matrix metering recognizes the subject from its database, based on the light it’s seeing across the scene, and meters properly. Matrix metering has gotten so good that it’s probably your default choice nowadays.

So think of spot and center-weighted metering as special cases and start with the matrix metering. There might even be a physical switch on your camera’s body to change between modes – or quite possibly just a menu setting.


  1. […] really covers the three directions. Part II of this post will examine the different types of metering your camera’s light meter can do – and how each one works for you. Possibly related […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: