Do you love taking pictures but just think your end product is off? Are you having a hard time getting the meaning across in your photos?

Then you should consider learning how to get the best exposure.

But how exactly do you find the best exposure settings?

One of the methods is using spot metering. An experienced photographer will know exactly how to use spot metering and all the other metering modes, and so will you after this article!

If you want to learn more about taking pictures, you can read our article on the basics of photography.

spot metering definition

What is spot metering?

Spot metering is a method used to measure light in the center dot of the frame. It measures between 1 and 5% of the frame's lighting.

You can also unlock the dot and choose the specific area where you wish to use spot metering.

Why use spot metering

  • Used to combat tricky lighting
  • Useful to combat very bright/dark subjects or backgrounds
  • Makes your camera focus on the vital area.
  • Useful for silhouette images

What is a metering mode?

Metering describes how the camera determines the appropriate shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. Metering modes are the various modes that a camera can do just that.

Metering essentially measures the light to propose the best exposure settings for your shot.

4 essential metering modes

When you acquire a camera, you'll typically find the following 4 metering modes: Spot metering, Partial metering, Center-weighted metering, and Evaluative/Matrix metering.

spot metering modes

1. Spot metering mode

As mentioned earlier, Spot metering mode is used to evaluate light around the focus point and ignore everything else.

Spot metering is generally used in either portrait photography or bird photography, or other types with a minor subject.

Because it captures data from such a small area, it is excellent for when you're concentrating on specific small areas in the frame.

If your subject takes up less of the frame, another metering mode could mess up the exposure. In contrast, the spot metering mode is more precise.

It is especially good in high-contrast situations. For example, when you have a lot of backlight interfering with your subject.

Another example is when you're trying to photograph the moon. Here the spot meter is pretty much essential for getting a good shot.

2. Partial metering mode

Partial metering mode is a metering mode that works very similar to spot metering mode. The difference is that it covers between 1-5% of the frame rather than covering between 10-15% of the frame.

Partial metering mode is best used in situations where the background lighting is lighter than the subject.

You can also use it in wildlife photography to combat the darker subjects relative to the background. It will result in a much better exposure with more details on the subject.

metering modes

3. Center-weighted mode

Center-weighted metering mode is a metering mode that focuses on the center of the viewfinder.

It essentially takes data from the entire frame but emphasizes the center of the frame.

The center-weighted metering mode is not affected by the focus point. It only focuses on the center of the frame. This is great to use when your subject is in the center of the frame, and you want to evaluate your exposure after that.

It is excellent for headshots or images with a larger subject in the center of the frame.

4. Evaluative/Matrix metering mode

Matrix metering and evaluative metering mode are essentially the same. The only difference is that Matrix metering is the most commonly used term in Nikon cameras, and Evaluative mode is the most used term in Canon cameras.

The Evaluative/Matrix metering mode takes readings from all over the entire frame to create the best balance between the light and dark areas in the frame.

It also takes data from your focal point and ensures that it is more important than the other zones.

This metering mode is an essential metering mode used in almost any type of photography. You can think of it as the all-around metering mode.

If you don't believe any of the other metering modes sounds interesting to you, use the evaluative/matrix metering mode.

spot metering guide

How to use spot metering

Depending on your camera, you will find the metering mode in your menus, on your dial, or by half-pressing the shutter button.

Remember to choose a focus point before activating the spot metering so you're sure to get the correct exposure. Make sure that the focus point is as much in the center of what you want to focus on.

Learn more. Become a better photographer

I hope you learned something about using spot metering and other metering modes in your photography!

If you want to learn more techniques for your pictures, you can read our article on photography. Here you'll learn everything you need to know about different camera techniques!

Can you use spot metering in manual mode?

Yes.