In the world of manual photography, where every setting is in your hands, one tool stands out as your guiding light: metering. It’s the silent advisor that helps you navigate the intricate dance between light and exposure. In this article, we embark on a journey to uncover the essence of metering and its profound impact on your manual mode adventures.

Picture this: you’re immersed in the captivating realm of manual mode, where creative control knows no bounds. Yet, amidst the freedom lies a fundamental question: how do you determine the ideal exposure settings? Enter metering—the trusted companion that whispers insights into the labyrinth of light.

But what exactly is metering, and how does it shape your photographic vision? Fear not, fellow explorer, as we embark on a quest to unravel its mysteries. Together, we’ll uncover the fascinating interplay between manual mode and metering, and how this dynamic duo can elevate your imagery to new heights.

As we venture forth, we’ll delve into the nuances of different metering modes, seeking the one that harmonizes seamlessly with your unique photographic style. From the all-seeing eye of matrix metering to the laser-sharp precision of spot metering, we’ll explore their strengths and uncover the moments where manual metering takes center stage.

So grab your camera, open your mind, and prepare to embrace the symphony of light and shadows. Our journey through the captivating world of metering awaits, promising to enlighten, inspire, and empower you in your pursuit of photographic excellence. Let’s embark on this enlightening expedition together and unlock the secrets of metering’s enchanting dance with manual mode.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding different metering modes, such as Matrix, Spot, Centre-Weighted, and Partial, is crucial for achieving properly exposed photos.
  • Matrix Metering is ideal for portrait shooting and low-contrast objects, providing balanced exposure for the entire scene.
  • Spot Metering is best for high contrast scenes and focusing on a specific subject, ensuring correct exposure for the subject itself.
  • Centre-Weighted Metering is suitable for center-focused or full-frame subjects, offering more control over exposure settings but may lead to under or overexposed backgrounds.
  • Partial Metering allows you to focus exposure on a particular region while potentially creating an overexposed background.
  • Manual Metering gives complete control over exposure settings and is useful for photographers aiming to capture shots in unusual lighting conditions.
  • Spot Metering, the most precise mode, evaluates light around the chosen focus point and provides accurate exposure even for subjects occupying a small area of the frame.
  • Spot Metering in manual mode can be utilized in conjunction with “Aperture Priority” or “Shutter Priority” modes to handle tricky lighting situations and capture dreamy portraits.
  • Matrix Metering, splitting the scene into grids, analyzes brightness, subject color, and more to set exposure, making it a versatile choice for landscape and portrait photography.
  • Choosing the appropriate metering mode based on the specific shooting scenario is crucial for achieving optimal exposure and desired results in photography.

Which metering mode is the best?

Most mirrorless cameras offer 3 metering modes:

  • Matrix or Evaluating Metering
  • Centre-Weighted Metering
  • Spot Metering.
  • Partial Metering

Each of these 3 metering modes works best in different types of photography.

Matrix Metering or Evaluate Metering

For most portrait shooting, the Matrix Metering is ideal. This mode measures the light value from all the portions of the viewfinder and then suggests a balanced exposure for the entire scene. Matrix or evaluation metering is useful when taking pictures of low-contrast objects, such as shooting with front lighting or shooting a low-contrast landscape.

This mode will give you the best exposure for the whole scene, even if the scene consists of bright lights or deep shadows. You can even set this as your default metering mode in your camera.

Spot Metering

When you are shooting a high contrast scene or photographing the moon, spot metering is your best choice when taking portrait shots, as the subject will be correctly exposed. Spot metering is about that one spot you want correctly exposed in your picture, that’s why it is most helpful when focusing on a specific object, rather than the entire scene.

spot metering

Centre-weighted metering

Centre-weighted metering is best suited when you need to analyse the object that is in the centre of your frame or if your subject covers the entire frame. Thus, this setting is very well suited for macro photography. One thing to note is that the rest of the image other than the area where your object is might be under or overexposed.

Centre-Weighted metering offers more control over your exposure settings. This mode is generally used when the photographer does not want much light in the background and wants the light to only focus on the centre of the frame.

Partial Metering

Partial metering is a mode in which the metering focuses on the centre of the viewfinder. This metering mode is different from the centre-weighted metering mode. Partial metering is also viewed as expanded spot metering, as the area that is metered is specific, but not small.

Partial metering can be used when you want a quality exposure to the subject and an overexposed look for the background. Partial metering enables you to focus your exposure on a particular region of the photograph.

partial metering

Manual metering vs Spot metering

Manual Metering

Manual metering lets you choose your exposure settings and have complete control over them. You will choose the aperture, ISO and the shutter speed and then the camera will show you what the image will look like with your chosen settings.

Manual metering helps the photographers to control their exposure with the least effort and take better pictures in unusual lighting. You can use matrix metering, spot metering, centre-weighted metering and partial metering in the manual mode. Different metering modes will give you different readings.

Spot Metering

Spot metering is said to be the most precise of all the metering modes. It evaluates light around the chosen focus point or the centre of the frame. This allows the camera to get a precise reading from every area of the scene, which is very useful for high contrast situations. In DSLRs, spot metering is the most common setting that is preferred.

For some photographers, spot metering comes in handy when taking pictures of birds. Since birds occupy a very small area of the frame, it is essential to expose them properly against a bright or dark background. The evaluated light placed on the focus point exposes the bird accurately even when the bird is in the corner of the frame.

How to use spot metering in manual mode?

You can use spot metering in manual mode by choosing “Aperture Priority” and “Shutter Priority” modes. Spot metering allows you to take pictures in tricky or ambient lighting and dreamy and backlit portraits.

Once you set the spot metering mode on your camera, half-press the shutter button. Once you half-press the shutter button, your camera will measure the light and set the exposure for you. After you get the reading, you can change your aperture, ISO and shutter speed accordingly.


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What metering mode for sports photography?

When to use matrix metering?

The matrix metering mode splits the scene into grids, and each grid is individually analysed to determine the highlight and the shadow detail. It sets exposure based on a variety of information including brightness and subject colour. You can choose matrix metering for landscape photography and portrait photography.

It is a standard-setting for most mirrorless cameras. You can use matrix metering for backgrounds which have a nice even light and for the outdoor portrait shootings that will require you to capture multiple shots quickly. Also, if you have to shoot in different lighting situations, matrix metering is your best option.


As we draw near the end of our exploration into the world of metering modes, let us reflect on the invaluable knowledge we have acquired. The power to rescue our photos from the clutches of underexposure and overexposure now rests in our hands.

Remember, metering modes are not limited to manual mode alone; they are a versatile ally that enhances your control in shutter mode priority or aperture priority as well. By allowing the camera to adjust settings based on the meter’s readings, you open a gateway to perfectly balanced exposures.

We have traversed the realm of three distinct metering modes, each offering its own unique strengths to complement different genres of photography. But do not be confined by rigid boundaries, for these modes can intertwine and overlap, adapting to your specific needs and creative vision.

As you embark on your photographic endeavors, armed with a deeper understanding of metering modes, may you capture moments bathed in the glorious interplay of light and shadow. Let your creativity soar, and let your camera become an extension of your artistic expression.

But our journey does not end here. Embrace the ever-evolving world of photography, and continue to explore, experiment, and refine your craft. Share your knowledge, engage in discussions, and inspire others on their own photographic odysseys.

So go forth, fellow storyteller, and let your images paint tales of wonder, emotion, and intrigue. Harness the power of metering, and watch as your photographs transcend the ordinary and become extraordinary. Your camera awaits, ready to capture the magic that unfolds before your lens.

For in the realm of photography, where light dances and moments unfold, metering is your steadfast companion, guiding you towards exposure mastery. Embrace it, wield it, and let your visual narratives shine brightly in the vast tapestry of imagery.