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Metering modes in Canon DSLR explained

Metering modes are perhaps the most overlooked settings when operating a camera. Most beginners tend to overlook the importance of setting the correct metering mode, or even understand what metering is, for that matter.

Metering is the process by which the camera measures the brightness of a subject and adjusts the exposure. There are at least three different metering modes available in modern-day cameras, with evaluative metering being the default one.

Since evaluative metering applies to pretty much every scenario, most photographers don’t bother messing around with the metering settings. However, with proper knowledge of what each metering mode does, you can take your pictures to the next level.

Also read: Photography 101: Framing and Composition

What are Metering modes?

Aforementioned, metering is the process by which the camera measures the brightness of a subject and adjusts the exposure. There are a number of ways digital cameras do this.

Most cameras will have these three basic metering modes:

Evaluative Metering

In this metering method, the camera breaks down the frame into a number of smaller frames and evaluates the amount of light in each frame. It then analysis the findings to obtain optimal exposure for the frame.

The whole scene is accounted for, but special emphasis is laid upon the area that’s in focus.

Evaluative metering is the default metering mode on pretty much every camera. The advantage of this method is that it works on almost any picture. However, if one area in your photographs differs significantly in lighting from others, you might run into problems.

Spot Metering

Spot metering, as the name suggests, only takes into account the centre AF point of the frame. This works well on scenes with very significant differences in lighting, thus solving the problems we run into when using Evaluative metering.

However, since the area from which it measures light is quite compact (anywhere between 1.5 to 10% of the total picture area), any mistakes in selecting the right spot can cause incorrect exposure.

Partial Metering

This is an alternative to Spot metering on all Canon EOS DSLRs. It is in many ways the stepping stone from Evaluative to Spot metering.

Partial metering works just like Spot metering, but they are targeted slightly bigger than the latter — roughly between 6.2 – 10% of the total image area.

Since it takes a more extensive area into account, beginners are less prone to make mistakes while using this method.

Understanding metering: Centre-weighted average

The easiest way of understanding this metering method is to consider it a mix between evaluative and partial metering modes.

The entire image is taken into account, but special emphasis is laid on the subject in the centre. Also, there is no exposure compensation used here as it applies the same averaging pattern to every picture.

However, if the subject is too small, you might end up with an incorrectly exposed image.

So which one should you use?

Just like with everything else in photography, this answer also depends on what kind of scene you’re shooting. If you’re a beginner though, we encourage that you step out of the super easy evaluative metering zone.

Proper exposure can make or break a picture, and it’s something that can’t be fixed in post-production, so be sure of your choice and snap bangers!

Also read: Photography 101: What do the modes on your camera mean?

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