Useful Photography Tip #180: Spot Meter A Portrait For the Skin, Focus on the Eyes

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Click here.

Here’s yet another quick portrait photography tip for lots of photographers who have been reading the meters of their cameras but getting the readings wrong. You see, light meters in cameras tend to read a scene and meter for what you tell it to meter for. So with that said, if you’re metering a portrait, the scene will be metered for the entire scene in the evaluative setting. Photographers have otherwise tried spot metering. Spot metering up until recently took a meter reading of the center of the image and then you recomposed based on that. But these days, you have the option to set the spot metering up with the actual focus point itself.

Now, if you’re spot metering, you probably won’t be metering for a person’s eyes necessarily because that can throw off an exposure. Instead, you’re going to focus on the eyes but you’re going to meter for what’s more important–their skin and clothing. To do this to your absolute best ability, I strongly recommend simply metering manually vs using something like aperture priority and overexposing by a stop. If I had exposed for the eyes of the subject in this post, the skin would have been much brighter.

For most camera systems this first requires you to check the metering of the spot that you’re working with–which should be the subject’s skin. Then set the metering manually. After this, simply move the focusing point to the eye, focus, and shoot. But with Sony systems you can focus on the face, take a reading, meter manually, and then activate the eye focus option to focus automatically on the subject’s eyes.

Pretty nifty, huh? Typically, if the light isn’t changing you’ll have the same reading over and over again.