When it comes to camera settings and beginners, metering modes are among the least understood settings.
Many beginners don't know what metering modes are or how to use them. As usual, we're here to help by giving you some detailed explanations about metering modes.
Let's start with the basics...
Every camera out there has a built-in light meter. It uses this meter to evaluate the frame you're pointing it at and to calculate the correct exposure.
One very important thing to remember about the camera's light meter is that no matter what metering mode you use, it will always try to achieve an average brightness of 50%.
That's usually how the camera "wants" to see things, and while it's right most of the time, it can get the exposure wrong. Think about those ruined shots you took on Auto mode and had no explanation for...
With that said, let's have a look at the metering modes.
Depending on the camera manufacturer, this metering mode can have different names.
On Canon cameras , it's called Evaluative Metering, while Nikon calls it Matrix. This is usually the default metering mode on all cameras.
The way it works is it divides the scene into different zones. The actual number of zones is different from one camera to another. Your camera will try to average exposure from these zones, but it will usually give preference to the center of the frame, or sometimes to the zone where the focusing point is placed.
One notable fact about zone metering is that it's the most complex of all modes and it acts almost like the auto mode on your camera, but for exposure. It's therefore designed to work for all-round shooting (particularly landscapes), but there will be situations when it will do a poor job.
Center Weighted Average
This metering mode uses kind of the same principle as the zone system. It will give preference to a certain zone, but unlike the zone system that can target zones that are not in the center of the frame, this metering mode prioritizes the center of the image. This makes it ideal for shots in which the primary subject is centered in the photo.
Its major advantage is the predictable results it can achieve because it keeps the calculations even if you change how the shot is framed.
Some say that spot metering is the most precise mode.
The way it works is by calculating only one spot of the frame and ignoring everything else. The size of the spot is different from one camera to another, but generally the size is 1-5% of the full frame.
It is a great choice for taking portraits and we also recommend it for low light photography.
With that, you have a quick overview of the three basic metering modes.
For more detailed explanations , check out the video above from Spyros Heniadis. Use this overview and Spyros' tips, and get out there and practice using these metering modes.
After all, the best way to develop a deep understanding of how these modes work is to practice and learn the differences between them for yourself!