As a photographer, digital or otherwise, one thing that you need to have a good idea of is the camera metering mode. By metering, I am referring to the process of assessing the light that is reflected off a surface and then the evaluation of the right exposure values for a properly exposed picture. All modern digital cameras employ the reflected light method when it comes to metering a scene; meaning, it actually measures how much light is reflected and not how much light falls on it. This process has its own limitations, but, we shall not be delving deeper into that. Here, however, we shall be looking at how to use the right metering mode for a given scene.

Types of metering mode in a modern DSLR

There are three types of metering modes in a standard DSLR. These are matrix metering, spot metering and center-weighted metering. These are the standard names used by Nikon. Canon uses the terms evaluative, spot and center-weighted average metering system. There is a fourth metering system in Canon DSLRs. It is named partial metering. Now, don’t get confused with the different names and acronyms because different manufacturing companies use different terminology. At the end of the day they are the same. Let’s get deeper into each of the metering modes.

Matrix / Evaluative metering mode

Matrix metering or Evaluative metering is a mode wherein light hitting the sensor from all areas of the scene is considered when assessing the right exposure values. Modern DSLR cameras use complicated metering algorithms which are way smarter than the older cameras of yesteryears. They take into account tonal range, color and other parameters. Today’s 3D matrix metering systems also use distance data which further enhance the preciseness of the process. More times than not they accurately determine the right exposure values for even difficult lighting conditions, where intermittent patches of highlights and shadows make manual metering very difficult.

Why would you want to use matrix / evaluative metering?

This is by far the most sophisticated metering mode available on modern DSLR cameras. In fact it is also the most dominant being pre-programmed on all Point & Shoot cameras as well. If you are a landscape photographer this is the best metering mode to use if you don’t have graduated neutral density filters on you. Even if you do, this mode allows you the best possible results because it takes into account the entire frame when evaluating the exposure values.

Spot Metering

Spot metering uses a tiny fraction of the frame for metering purposes which is only about 3-5% of the whole frame. It is centered on the focusing point that you select. This means you can move the point of focus and meter an off center composition perfectly. Spot metering ignores the rest of the frame for metering purposes. You would be wondering whether such a thing could have a use. You will realize that it does once you read the next paragraph.

Imagine a scene where you want to focus on something very specific and deliberately over-expose (or under-expose) the rest of the frame. Let’s say you are photographing a baby and you want to deliberately expose properly the eye closest to the camera. You set up the scene, use a lot of light plus a white background. When you meter for the eye, the rest of the frame will be over-exposed giving you a high-key result.

Of course there could be other applications as well such as when you need to make an off center composition. So, feel free to experiment.

Partial metering

Partial metering is unique to Canon systems. Nikon systems don’t come with this mode. You would be wondering why all the time only Nikon and Canon systems are discussed? What about other systems like Sony or Fuji? Well, Nikon and Canon are the two largest DSLR manufacturing companies. Sony and the rest does have a presence, but that is nowhere near as dominant as the other two.

Coming back to partial metering, this mode is much like spot metering, which we learnt above, except that here the camera uses a slightly larger area for evaluating the correct exposure. Also, the area used for metering is at the center of the frame. You cannot move it around like spot metering. This makes it ideal for shooting portrait images. Of course you can also use it for shooting smaller subjects that are at the center of the frame.


Center-weighted metering

Flowers Photography

Center-weighted metering is like a combination of both evaluative and spot metering but with a slight tweak. In this mode, the camera takes into account the whole of the frame for exposure calculation, but, the center of the frame is given a priority. This makes it ideal for a number of photo opportunities including portraits, group shots and wildlife photos.

Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib’s love for the road is second only to his love for photography. Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly. He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favourite pursuits.
Rajib Mukherjee

You may also like

Ben Novoselsky October 24, 2016

Using a Softbox as your Key Light

The soft box is your definitive source of lighting a model or an object in order to photograph it. ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 19, 2016

Choosing the Best Travel Photography Lens

A lot of amateur photographers find it difficult to zero in on the best travel photography lens for ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 23, 2015

How to properly use a pop-up flash

A question that most amateur DSLR users seem to ask is what is the correct use of the pop-up flash ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Nikon D4S Discontinued

Nikon has officially marked the D4S as discontinued. One look at the official Nikon Japan website ...

Ben Novoselsky June 9, 2015

Five Reasons to Invest in External Light

People more or less start the same way. Someone somewhere loves us dearly enough so as to send us a ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 28, 2015

The five questions you shouldn’t ask when buying your camera

Call it our ignorance or plain laziness, we hardly make the research to find out more about a ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

The Top 7 Compact Cameras for Travelers Under $2000

When it comes to travel photography you need not only to make great images, which is kind of given ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 5, 2016

Five Ways You Can Use An External Flash In Outdoor Shooting

This article is meant for photographers who want to learn how to use an external flash in outdoor ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2016

Don’t Decide on That Second Lens Until You Read This

Let me start by congratulating you. Why? You may ask. The fact that you are here looking for some ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 1, 2014

Image Stabilization: Why It Matters, Types and How to Use

In the overall history of camera technology image stabilization is a rather recent development. ...

Ben Novoselsky March 25, 2016

The Uses of ND Filters in Landscape Photography

Often, amateur landscape photographers tend to have lots of issues trying to balance an exposure in ...

Ben Novoselsky September 22, 2016

Seven Photography Tools that You Should Possess to Improve Your Images

This discussion is about the tools of trade that we photographers need to possess in order to make ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 9, 2016

Advantage Of Shooting Film In The Digital Age

Old But Not Obsolete
The dawn of digital sensor also brought in the demise of film. In many ways ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

A Guide to Choosing the Right Camera Lens for the Job

Digital interchangeable lens cameras are the preferred choice for shooting professional quality ...

Ben Novoselsky August 27, 2014

5 Tips to Choose an External Flash

Congratulations on buying your first DSLR! Now you are well and truly on the road to photographic ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 15, 2015

Advantages of a hand-held light meter over a built-in light meter

In one of the previous articles on this website I discussed in detail the many different metering ...

Ben Novoselsky April 22, 2016

How to Photograph Birds in Five Easy Steps

Bird photography is a supremely satisfying pursuit if you do it the right way and get results to ...

Author March 9, 2017

Should I Upgrade my Camera Body or my Lens?

It is all too common for a wide range of emotions to complicate the decision to upgrade the body of ...

Ben Novoselsky August 12, 2016

About Flash Sync Speed Limitations and How to Work Around It

We often hear about flash sync speed and how we normally cannot use a flash to sync at extremely ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 1, 2016

Hasselblad X1D-50c: The world’s first medium format mirrorless camera is here

It’s official! Hasselblad is the world’s first medium format mirrorless camera. After months of ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 29, 2015

Working with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

One of the least understood aspects of photography is color correction. Even experienced ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 1, 2015

Five features on your DSLR camera that you probably never use

Your camera comes with three handy metering systems. If you are using a Canon system camera yours ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 6, 2016

Huawei Passes Image by 5D Mark III as Shot by P9, Apologizes

There is only one rule in advertising. It is not all right when you imply something in your ...

Ben Novoselsky August 19, 2016

Why You Should Invest in a Tripod

There are probably a hundred reasons why you should invest in a tripod. I am not going to detail ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 9, 2016

Samyang 20mm f/1.8 Manual Focusing Lens Officially Announced

Samyang 20mm f/1.8

Great news for full-frame shooters. Samyang has officially announced the 20mm ...

Ben Novoselsky September 21, 2014

Using Circular Polarizing Filter (a C-PL Filter)

Photographers shooting landscapes in broad daylight or shooting objects with shiny metallic ...

Rajib Mukherjee June 13, 2016

Google Ara: The Future of Smartphone Photography

Sometime last week during Google I/O, which has now become one of the most eagerly awaited events ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 30, 2016

Introducing Canon Dual Pixel RAW Technology

Last week, the much awaited Canon 5D Mark IV made its debut. The rumor mills have been abuzz for ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 28, 2015

Getting to Know Your Camera Lens

The optical piece of equipment that sits in front of your camera is the single most important piece ...

Ben Novoselsky August 18, 2014

Everything You Wanted To Know About Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density filters are primarily used for balancing exposures. By balancing exposure, I mean ...

Ben Novoselsky December 25, 2015

Shooting videos with your digital SLR – An Introduction

Today’s digital SLR cameras are extremely versatile. They are ideally suitable for not only great ...

Popular posts

Amy Grace October 25, 2021

How to Create a Ghost Mannequin Effect in Photoshop

It can be alarming for e-clothing stores when someone adds a product to the cart but does not ...