Metering is a necessary tool when shooting in manual mode, as you have to base your settings on something. In manual mode, metering does not have a direct effect on any of the exposure settings, as you can control these settings by adjusting them. Metering offers suggestions in full manual mode on how to set the exposure settings.
Once the camera is metered, it will inform you via the light meter, whether your exposure will be under, over or perfect if you took a picture in the current settings. You can choose to override the advice, or you can accept it.
In this article, I will guide you through which metering mode out of the three is the best for your type of photography, what you can choose between manual metering and spot metering and when to use matrix metering.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Understanding different metering modes and how they work will save your photos from being under and overexposed. Metering modes can be used in manual mode, but they are also useful in shutter mode priority or aperture priority as the camera will adjust the settings based on what the meter reads. There are 3 kinds of metering which suit different types of photography but can be overlapped with each other as per your requirement.