BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 

How to get a meter reading on a subject's face?

What is the best way to get a better meter reading when your subject is far away from you?

To love this question, log in above
1/15/2006 7:53:40 PM

Bob Fately   This is what a so-called spot meter is used for, Shatto - or using a camera's built-in spot reading setting.

The notion of spot reading is simply that the meter is taking into account light reflected from only a small portion of the total scene. For example, a 1 degree spot meter measures the light reflecting from the area defined by a 1 degree angle. For a camera's built-in meter, the "spot" being metered is usually dead center, though on more sophisticated models it can be the specific focus point being used by the auto focus system.

Anyway, assuming the face comprises only a small portion of the total subject matter, spot metering would make the most sense.

To love this comment, log in above
1/15/2006 8:26:15 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  knowing that my camera doesn't off spot metering, you can also lock exposure by setting the metering mode to 'partial', moving in close, and locking exposure for that spot and then recompose. But if you're far away and can't get closer, a spot meter would be the only reliable way to get accurate exposure.

To love this comment, log in above
1/15/2006 10:09:50 PM

Autumn Hernandez   This is a question as a response. If the subject is far away and the face doesn't fill much of the frame, would you really want to meter off the face? Let's say, for example it takes up 25% of the frame and the rest is bushes or something that is a medium tone. Because the face only takes a fraction of the frame, wouldn't you meter off of the other 75% of the medium toned bushes? I mean, this is what I was taught, but of course, I've offered advice on this board according to what I have been taught in my photography classes and was told "you're wrong!" so who knows. I'd just like to see what others say. :/

To love this comment, log in above
1/16/2006 12:25:25 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
Most of the time, when you have a person's face visible in your picture, you will be most concerned with having the face properly exposed. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule.

The rest of the answer to the question is that if you are spot metering the subject's face in an image, you also want to take meter readings of any areas in the frame that are much brighter or much darker than the face as well. Then you can see how many stops darker your shadows will be, and how many stops brighter your highlights will be. This will help you decide if you want to use the spot meter reading from the face or adjust it some.


To love this comment, log in above
1/16/2006 6:01:29 AM

Autumn Hernandez   Thanks Chris. Good to know.

To love this comment, log in above
1/16/2006 9:55:31 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.