When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear. Alfred Eisenstaedt
On this show, Lars and I try to explain metering modes, and why it’s important to understand the differences between them.
Altering the mode on your camera only changes how the camera evaluates the picture. Remember whichever metering mode you decide, the meter is always trying to achieve the desired brightness of 50% or for the area being measured. Changing the meter affects how the scene is evaluated, and how the average is calculated. Every camera typically has three to four metering modes, and while the names may vary by manufacturer, they all are basically the same.
Zone metering: commonly is the default option on the camera. The zone system typically divides the full picture. The number of the zones depends on the camera manufacturer and changes from manufacturer to manufacturer, but regardless of the number of zones, the camera evaluates this metering mode as part of the averaging process. Each camera manufacturer has its proprietary way of calculating their average. When is the best time to use the zone system?
All around shooting
Center-weighted metering uses the same perception as the zone, except it concentrates on the center of the frame. So what are the differences between center weighted and zone? In zone metering, the camera decides from shot to shot which area has priority. With center-weighted it’s always the center of the photo. The priority is diminishing as you move away from the center towards the edge. The advantage of Center Weighted over Zone? It is very predictable, the computation is consistent from image to image, always with priority applied to the center. When is the best time to use center weight? Same as Zone
And the last one we are going to discuss is spot metering. This mode gives you the most control and averages just the one area, discounting everything else in the picture. The size of the spot varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it’s generally between 1 and 5 percent of the entire scene. With some cameras, the spot is fixed in the center, i.e. with the center focusing point, while on other cameras the spot can move with the focus point. Where would you use spot?
I will often use spot outdoors when I want to draw the views eye to one main subject. Example a photo of a bird. This metering mode often will cause a natural vignette effect.
So in conclusion, don’t be afraid to test out different metering modes on your camera.
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