Useful Photography Tip #73: Use Spot Metering When Shooting Portraits

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Retouches of Dave Shim (6 of 6)ISO 320

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Sometimes the best thing to do is to never trust your camera’s metering. When it comes to portraiture, this is why many photographers have traditionally used hand held meters to help them figure out how to get the right exposure. And if you’re going to shoot a portrait (and for example’s sake, we’re going to say that you’re shooting outside), you’ll need to keep in mind that the primary focus and subject of your end result will be on the person (or pet). If your subject is backlit (which can actually create some incredibly beautiful images) your camera will most likely tell you that all that sun coming in needs to be nerfed. Since your subject is backlit, they will come out looking very dark if you’re working with natural light without a flash (this is even the case for a reflector being used.) Though keep in mind that with a flash you can sometimes even overpower the sun.

So the natural workaround to this is to overexpose. We’ve talked about it in older posts before. Generally, what you’ll do is overexpose by a full stop. However, this is providing that your camera is set to evaluative metering–and 99% of the time 99% of photographers set their camera to this setting and never take it off. If you change to spot metering, your camera will meter off of a general spot that you’re focusing on. Providing that you hold the spot and lock it when shooting in manual mode, you’ll be able to quickly get rid of this issue.

Sounds so simple right? Then why don’t more photographers do it?