What is Spot Metering?( How to Use it for Better Photos)

Do you often find yourself capturing silhouettes. Scenes with high contrast can often confuse your camera. Consequently you end up with badly exposed images.

Thankfully you can change your camera’s metering mode to spot metering to avoid this issue.

But what is spot metering exactly? And how do you use it? Let’s scroll down to find out!

What Are Metering Modes?

There are so many ways to measure the light coming into the camera. Metering modes let you measure the light in specific areas of the frame. You have the option to choose the entire scene or a small area in the frame.

Most compact cameras don’t allow you to choose your metering modes. In most cases they only use evaluative metering which you can’t override at all.

In general and mirror less options let you manually change the metering. But there are high-end compact cameras.

Below are the four metering modes common in digital cameras:

  • Evaluative / Matrix  – collects data from across the entire frame.
  • Partial Metering Mode –  collects data from a small circular area in the center of the frame. It covers about 10-15% of the entire scene.
  • Center-Average – like partial and spot metering only the area where the metering takes place is much bigger.
  • Spot Metering – like partial metering only uses the dot in the center which is less than 5% of the frame.

These modes come standard no matter what brand and make of camera you use. The symbols that denote each mode are also uniform in light metering photography.

So where can you can find the metering mode button. In most cases, it’s on the back or at the top of your camera. Consult your manual to help you locate this feature on your device.

What Is Spot Metering?

The spot meter allows your camera to measure a tiny area of the scene. The size of that area is between 1 and 5% of the view finder. And that’s small! So it’s the perfect choice to let you pinpoint small details in your frame.

Do you see the focus point in your frame. Apart from focusing it also selects the area you want to spot meter.

By default the spot meter is at the center of the view finder. But you can change the location of the focus point to your desired metered light.

Remember that if you use spot metering your camera will not measure the light in the rest of the frame. It only concentrates on the small area you choose.

Although this is only true when using spot and other selective metering modes. But if you select evaluative metering it will read the light in the entire scene no matter where you focus.

How Do You Use Spot Metering?

Once you select the spot metering mode all you have to do is half-press the shutter button. Your device then measures the light and changes the exposure for you.

All the above metering modes work in most shooting modes. Apart from Full Auto and Program, it also works in Aperture or Speed Priority.

However using manual mode disables automatic metering. Because the metering modes are automatic functions in the camera. Although you can choose where to get an exposure reading your meter still decides the exposure values for you.

In manual mode you choose the exposure settings without the aid of automatic metering at all.

Why Should You Use Spot Metering?

We have already pointed out that spot metering doesn’t look at the rest of the scene. Therefore it allows you to measure the light in the tiniest of details.

This mode is most effective in high contrast situations. You can use it if a backlit scene is turning your subject into a silhouette. If you place the spot meter on the subject’s face your camera will likely get the correct exposure.

But this metering option also causes a few problems. Although it might correctly expose the face it could also give you an overexposed background.

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