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[Lesson 16] Metering Modes – How Are They Different?

The metering mode is a feature for measuring the brightness of the subject. Each metering mode has a different measuring range, so even when we are photographing the same scene, the exposure value may vary, with the brightness of the photo turning out differently as a result. In this article, let us learn more about the characteristics of each metering mode to get a better idea of how to achieve the appropriate exposure. (Reported by: Ryosuke Takahashi)

Various modes, each with a different metering range

The different types of metering mode vary in their metering range and applicability to a specific photographic scene. The evaluative metering mode, which is the default setting, can be employed in almost all scenes. In this mode, the camera places emphasis on the focused subject and takes into consideration the overall balance based on the position of the AF point in use. Calculation is carried out by an advanced algorithm to convert the metering measurement into the appropriate exposure value.

The spot metering mode has the narrowest metering range. In this mode, the camera reacts only to the brightness of a small area at the centre. Generally, the evaluative metering mode is applicable to almost all kinds of scenes, and is the easiest to use if you are photographing landscapes. However, when you want to perform metering on a specific area, such as in a backlit shot, or when light and shadow overlap intricately in the scene you want to capture, the spot metering mode comes in handy.

It is up to you as the photographer to decide which metering mode on the camera to use. The best mode to choose is the one that allows you to obtain the intended brightness, or in other words, the exposure. You can refer to the descriptions below to help you choose a metering mode that is easy to use for you.

Evaluative metering

This is the default metering mode that can be employed for a wide array of scenes from landscapes to snapshots. Metering, carried out around the AF points in this mode, is well-balanced for the entire image.

Partial metering

Measures the brightness of the area indicated in grey, this mode performs metering on a relatively small area. It can also be used when you are taking a close-up portrait shot.

Centre-weighted average metering

Though similar to the partial metering pattern, the camera also reacts to the surrounding light in this mode. It offers well-balanced metering for the entire image, with emphasis on the exposure at the centre.

Spot metering

Measures only the brightness of the small grey circle. This mode also comes in handy when you want to measure the brightness of the subject's face only, such as when there is strong backlight.

Spot metering

Evaluative metering

The evaluative metering mode offers well-balanced metering for the entire image, carried out in the zones around the AF points. However, as illustrated in the example above, doing so causes the portrait subject to turn out dark under backlit conditions. In this case, using a mode with a narrower metering range that measures the brightness of only the subject will make it easier to obtain the appropriate exposure.

How to change the metering mode (EOS 760D used in this example)

Press the Q button at the rear of the camera body to display the Quick Control menu. Next, select the [Metering mode] icon.

Select the metering mode you want to use and press the SET button.

Ryosuke Takahashi

Born in Aichi in 1960, Takahashi started his freelance career in 1987 after working with an advertising photo studio and a publishing house. Photographing for major magazines, he has travelled to many parts of the world from his bases in Japan and China. Takahashi is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS).