Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spot of Light

Today's post is about spot metering verses matrix metering.  This is a little more technical than normal so if you black out during this I apologize.  If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.  Nikon calls it matrix metering and Canon calls it evaluative metering.  Matrix, or evaluative, metering evaluates the entire frame and determines an exposure for the picture.  It tries to find an average exposure of the bright and dark spots so it doesn't blow out the highlights or make the shadows black. 

Spot metering takes only, you guessed it, a spot of the picture and sets the exposure for that spot.  To use this mode change your camera to spot metering.  Select the focus point you want to use and aim it at what you want exposed correctly and the camera will evaluate the exposure for that section of the picture.  Generally speaking you are going to want to use matrix metering for most of the pictures you take.  However spot metering is is useful for tricky lighting situations.

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while now but needed some examples.  So, while I was in Disney over the holidays I ran across all kinds of tricky lighting situations and got some great examples.  The pictures themselves are b-sides at best but they are good examples of the different types of metering.  Spot metering will change your cameras shutter speed or aperture or both depending on what shooting mode you are in.  So, I have included the shutter speed and aperture of all the pictures so you can see the difference. 

In all of the examples below I have the matrix metering shot first and the spot metering shot second.  This first shot is pretty terrible but it is a good example.  As you know I love blue skies and this sky is far from blue so I switched to spot metering and exposed for the hotel.  Again, neither of these are great pictures but it shows the extremes at which it can change your picture.

f 5.0 1/100 Auto White Balance ISO 200
f 7.1 1/200 Auto White Balance ISO 200
This second set of pictures is a little better.  Here the neon lights were much brighter then the dark night sky.  So the Matrix metering blew the neon out just a little bit for my taste.  So I switched over to spot metering and exposed for the neon lights.  It lost some of the extra details in the picture  but there is enough neon on the building to outline its architecture.  This is very much a personal setting.  With digital you can try the picture in matrix metering and check the screen on your camera.  If you don't like it switch over to spot and try again.  Then choose the one you like the best!

f 2.5 1/25 Auto White Balance ISO 200
f 4.0 1/60 Auto White Balance ISO 200
In this example the Epcot ball was a little dark.  So I switched to spot and pointed at the middle of the ball to set the exposure. 

f 11.0 1/400 Auto White Balance ISO 200
f 8.0 1/250 Auto White Balance ISO 200
This is another picture that's not that great but shows the extremes between matrix and spot metering.  For the first shot the camera looked at the bright sun coming through the windows on the left and the dark globes on the right and tried to average exposure of both.  To me the picture is very dark.  So, for the second picture I switched to spot metering and exposed for the globes on the right side.

f 5.6 1/125 Auto White Balance ISO 200
f 4.5 1/80 Auto White Balance ISO 200
Finally, the building below was very bright from the direct sunlight behind me.  The first shot is again in Matrix metering which in this case did an excellent job of exposing the shot.  Just for fun I switched to spot and metered for the building and it made the over all exposure very dark. I put this one in here to show that there is no one setting that works for every picture.  As I have said before, with digital you should take as many pictures as you want.  Go ahead and change settings and push buttons to see what happens when you take another picture.  You can see what changed instantly on the back of the camera!  Again, photography is an expression of what you see and like, so take pictures of things you like at the settings that make them look the way you like.  Have fun with these settings and try them next time you are out taking pictures.

f 11.0 1/500 Auto White Balance ISO 200
f 14.0 1/800 Auto White Balance ISO 200

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