New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash

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Metering Jargon

Light is quintessential when it comes to photography and understanding how your camera meters light is just as important. Spot Metering, Matrix Metering, 18% Grey, do any of these words mean anything to you? If not, then the video below will teach you everything you need to know.


Understanding The 3 Primary Metering Modes

The 3 Primary Metering Modes

In case you didn’t watch the video above (because you didn’t bring your headphones to work maybe?), I’ll describe the three primary metering modes here. So first of all, what is a metering mode? A metering mode is the portion of the visibly framed area that the camera uses to gauge the exposure reading. I know that sentence is more confusing than Jupiter Ascending, so allow me to visualize it for you.

18-percent-grey copy

The brightest part in this frame is the sky, the darkest is the camera, so the camera averages between those two elements to find the in between 18% Grey area

18 Shades of Grey

Let’s say your camera has eyes like a dog and can only see in black and white. What your camera will do is take the brightest and darkest part of what it sees and exposes the image somewhere in between, which we know as 18% Grey. The metering mode you choose will determine what part of the frame your camera samples to calculate for the 18% Grey.

Metering Mode 1: Averaging


Averaging | Note: The part in red (everywhere) denotes where the camera will meter

Averaging is where the camera looks at the entire scene and exposes accordingly. If you’re trying to get an exposure for a whole scene (like a landscape) and not a specific subject, then this metering is the one you’d want to use.

Metering Mode 2: Partial Metering

The camera meters light from a small sample in the scene. Another common word for this is Spot Metering, which uses a very small part (typically 3-5% of the frame) to measure exposure. Spot Metering usually takes place in the center autofocus point, but some cameras will meter wherever you set the single autofocus point.

Left Partial Metering | Right Spot Metering

Left Partial Metering | Right Spot Metering

When shooting in Manual Mode, we suggest setting your camera to Spot Metering so you can set your exposure based on your subject. Because Spot Metering samples from such a small area, you’re able to get a specific light reading on your subject.

Metering Mode 3: Multizone Metering

This is also known as Evaluative or Matrix Metering. Basically what happens is the camera divides a scene into zones and uses a proprietary formula (based on the manufacturer) to gauge exposure. Because all formulas are different, we’re not exactly sure what the camera is doing to get the exposure. Often the camera will get the correct exposure (especially in ideal constant lighting situations), but sometimes they do not. When shooting in dark scenes or scenes with artistic compositions, the camera might not capture the photo that you envisioned.


Matrix Metering Mode

The Metering Mode I Use Most

The metering mode I use most is Spot Metering. Because it samples from such a small area, I’m able to get the correct exposure I want quickly. In fact, this is so useful that you can often get the perfect exposure in one shot!


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