All digital cameras have built-in light meters, in which the light is metered through the lens (or what’s known as TTL metering). Basically, there are three types of TTL metering available in digital SLRs and many compact digital cameras. Primarily, the difference between the three types of meters is the amount of subject area they look at to get their readings.
A number of students have asked questions about their camera’s internal metering systems and when to use the various metering modes. Your camera’s manual may not make it entirely clear, so I will attempt to simplify it:
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Depending on the maker of the camera, the basic metering mode might be called Evaluative, Segmented, Pattern or Matrix. This meter reads different parts of the scene from the entire viewfinder, measures each one, and computes the exposure of the scene. This is the default metering mode for most cameras.
- Evaluative, Segmented, Pattern, or Matrix (depending on your camera manufacturer) – the entire viewfinder.
- Center-weighted – the center.
- Spot – a tinier part of the center.
The Center-Weighted mode measures the light from a specific central portion of the viewfinder. While the meter looks at the entire area you’re photographing, it gives extra emphasis to that central area, which gives you control over what part of the scene is important to you. This mode is very helpful when your subject is surrounded by very light or dark surroundings.
The Spot metering mode has an even more focused measurement than the Center-Weighted mode – usually about 3.5 to 5% of the viewfinder. The spot mode is designed to allow you to take an accurate reading from a very tiny portion of the scene.
More on Lynne Eodice:
Check out Lynne's BetterPhoto instructor bio and her digital online courses on the fundamentals of photography and basics of exposure.
About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Lynne Eodice
The author of Photos That Inspire, Lynne Eodice teaches three excellent online courses for BetterPhoto.com: Learning to Shoot Inspiring Images, Photographing Architecture: Around Town or Far Afield and Pro Tips for Great Exposure. She is also the former Feature Editor for Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic.
A native of Southern California, Lynne was educated at Pasadena City College and Cal Poly Pomona. Her love of photography began after her husband gave her a 35mm SLR as an anniversary gift. She began her career as a feature writer & photographer for local newspapers that included Pasadena Weekly and The Herald Tribune.
Besides having articles and photos published regularly in PHOTOgraphic, she has contributed to Rangefinder, Digital Photographer and California Tour & Travel, as well as PHOTOgraphic’s Buyer’s Guide, Big Book of Photography and Family Photo magazines. Her images have appeared in a popular instructional book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography, and she has marketed her stock photos through Index Stock Imagery in New York.
Lynne has exhibited her fine-art scenic photography at Kolb Studio and the visitor’s center at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California, and at venues throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In addition, she has taught many classes, seminars and workshops.
In the fall of 2007, she was honored as one of the Women Achievers in the San Gabriel Valley in Business Life magazine.
Lynne currently lives with her husband, Dennis and their dog, Chiquita in Altadena, California.