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22 Jul 2024

Spot Metering

Description: Spot metering is one of the primary metering modes on digital cameras. With spot metering, the camera measures a small area of around 3%–5% to determine the proper exposure for a scene. By default the camera utilizes the center of the frame.

Getting The Perfect Exposure The First Time Around

By placing your camera’s spot meter over your subject’s skin, from the exposure reading, you can dial in at the correct exposure for your subject’s skin tones and get the perfect exposure within one single shot. That’s always a good use, but you can use spot metering to get the proper exposure for anything; skin, the sky, an article of clothing, or even a particular part of a scene where there’s beautiful light.

How To Get Perfect Exposures in One Shot Video

With the spot meter on your camera and the internal light meter, it’ll help you to get that perfect exposure on the first try, every single time, regardless of what you’re shooting. Just remember that when using the spot meter, use only Manual Mode, and do not use assisted or automated modes because it’s going to create all sorts of strange and undesirable exposures, depending on where the spot meter is. When using assisted or automated modes, we recommend sticking to center weighted average, or an averaging ‘type’ of metering mode.


Spot Metering Precision

Spot metering is beautiful because it only reads the tiny 3 to 5 percent of the screen and gives you that specific reading,  so it’s great for taking a reading of absolutely anything, from the sky, down to minute details. This can be particularly useful when you want to add light to a scene or just expose a scene however creatively you would like.

For example, what if you wanted to light a scene with flash, but don’t want the sky to be blown out? You would point to the sky and place the point on the desired area, and the camera would meter it and tell you what settings you would need to use in order for the sky to be perfectly exposed.

perfect-exposures-spot-metering-manual-photography101-slrlounge-tutorial-1 In this example, spot metering is being used to meter for correct exposure of the sky.

perfect-exposures-spot-metering-manual-photography101-slrlounge-tutorial-2 In this example of the same frame, spot metering is being used to meter for correct exposure of the tree, and not an average of the sky and tree.

Note: Once you have spot metering selected, you’ll want to adjust your settings until the light meter is balanced in the middle to achieve the exposure being metered for.

Shooting Session Example


For the examples given in the video, we want to meter for Whitney, our model’s, skin.  If you’re taking a portrait, it’s often a good idea to meter right under the eye of your subject, and keep in mind that should your subject have fairer skin as Whitney does, it’s advantageous to go one stop over exposed of what the meter reading is.

*The lighter the skin of your subject, the camera tends to meter the exposure a little darker. If you have a subject with darker skin, don’t be surprised if it’s going to be a little bit under exposed when you meter.



When to avoid spot metering

We only use spot metering during portrait sessions and while we’re shooting in manual mode. The reason for this is quite simple. If we’re shooting in aperture priority, shutter priorities, or any of the other program modes, P for professional. I’m just kidding. That’s not what P means. It means Program. The camera is going to be basing and adjusting the exposure based on whatever that little tiny spot meter is covering. This means if that spot happens to be over something dark, like a suit, when you press the shutter, the exposure is going to be too bright. The camera’s going to basically compensate for that dark object, and it’s going to yield an overexposed and blown out image.

If this spot meter happens to be over something bright, like let’s say the sky, then when you press the shutter, the exposure is going to be too dark, because the camera’s going to be compensating for the bright object, for that bright sky, and it’s going to yield a dark and underexposed image. Using spot metering outside of manual mode will result in inconsistent and often unusable exposure, but when used correctly, and in manual mode, spot metering over your subject’s skin will guarantee that the exposure comes out correct on the first try. This will end up speeding up your shoot process.


Spot metering is a highly useful and critical tool you have at your disposal, that will allow you to easily achieve the perfect exposure you desire, the first time around. Using it will facilitate your creativity in almost any shooting scenario and with any subject, allowing your artistic vision to translate into your images, and on to the viewer. It’s going to make you look like a camera whiz, which we all love, and it’s going to allow you to focus on other things rather than trying to figure out your overall camera exposure, and sitting there chimping, and looking into the back of your camera, which is never a good thing.