Why you should get your camera off matrix metering mode and use spot metering in photography?
What is the spot meter, how should you use it?
In a nutshell, spot metering enables you to precisely choose which part of the frame your camera reads when it measures the amount of light.
You have to think carefully about which part of the image you want to expose correctly, but doing so will give you more interesting photos.
Spot Metering Vs Matrix Metering
A semi interesting shot of a lot of people in a coffee shop would be created if the image below had been matrix metered. Spot metering for the face of the girl in the middle of the shot means that she becomes the focus of the shot and really stands out from the crowd. Much better.
The image was created by Simon Kane on our Street Photography Workshop.
How To Use Spot Metering
All camera’s have different metering modes that you can choose. Their names vary depending on camera manufacturer. Most cameras have all or some of these metering modes: Matrix, Average, Centre Weighted and Spot.
Set your camera to spot metering. The camera will then read light only from a small spot in the centre of the frame. If you put this spot on the part of the image you want to expose correctly the camera will read the light from there. The lady’s face in the image above.
If you are in manual mode adjust your settings until the exposure meter is at 0 while the spot is on the area you’re aiming to expose. That will mean you have set up your camera to correctly expose the part of the photo you are most interested in.
Get The Correct Exposure
Correct exposure in photography is one of the most impactful methods to take your images to the next level.
Once you have mastered it, you will find yourself no longer intimidated by contrasty, direct light. Instead you may find yourself seeking out this type of light so you can create high impact image like these:
In spot metering mode, a reading was taken for the brightest part of these photos. The scenes were quite contrasty, so exposing the brightest part of the image (exposing for the highlights) really brings out that part of the image. The shadows drop to almost black.
Relying on matrix or average metering would have resulted in an image with brighter shadows and overblown highlights. The camera would have tried to get an average exposure of everything in the shot. That’s the way your camera’s meter thinks, it wants everything to be a medium tone.
Controlling exposure in images like these is tricky, but rewarding when you get it right. Using spot metering in photography will challenge you, but the results will be worth it.
Andrew is a professional photographer and the founder of the 36exp Photographers School plus the London Photo Show.