Useful Photography Tip #144: Spot Metering vs Evaluative Metering

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm XT10 first impressions (2 of 15)ISO 2001-750 sec at f - 1.4

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Cameras by default are set to metering a scene through the evaluative setting, but they have three different settings. Evaluative will analyze an entire scene and figure out a way to create the scene that the camera thinks you want. Center-weighted metering meters a scene based on what’s in the center of whatever the camera is pointing at and sees. Spot metering meters the scene off of a specific spot that you choose. This is best used in combination with manual autofocus point selection.

Most people shoot and never think about their metering mode. Then when they chimp their LCD screen and don’t like the image, they simply just overexpose or underexpose. But to avoid that altogether, the best route to take is to first consider what you want in the end vision of your photo.

In the image above, Erica was being strongly backlit by the sunlight coming down the avenue. In the evaluative mode, the camera would have compensated for this and made her very dark in order to cater to the highlights. But in spot metering mode, the camera metered for her face due to my metering off of it and autofocusing off of it.

If I didn’t switch to spot metering, the camera would have needed to be set to overexpose the scene by around a stop at most. This can save you a bunch of time in post-production but it can also just make your life easier as far as actually getting the image you want the first time around goes.

In general, the best reason to use spot metering would have to be if only a specific thing in the scene is more important to you and the image more than anything else–such as with a portrait. With a landscape, you’re probably best off with evaluative metering unless you spot meter the highlights, then spot meter the shadows, then find a happy medium point. If you figure this out, you can then go ahead and get the exact photo that you want with less attempts.