Metering Modes

Sorry it’s been so long since I last posted to my blog.  My wife and I recently took a road trips to New Orleans and Boston.  Needlessly to write, I was preoccupied. At the end of this blog I’ve shared a short video with some of the highlights from both trips.

Here’s my long ago promised discussion of metering modes.

Today’s digital cameras have several available metering modes.  Below you will find the most popular.  Icons shown are typical on most cameras.

Metering Modes:

Matrix-comboEvaluative/Matrix/ESP/Pattern (Overall)– Determines exposure based on the entire image.  Some cameras have a  bias to the exposure at the point of focus.  I’ve found for most  situations this mode of metering does quite well.

C-weigh-comboCenter-Weighted – Determines exposure based on the subject and background lighting with a bias to the center of the view finder.


ParticalPartial – Determines exposure over a large circular area than with spot metering. This mode is available only on Canon cameras and it appears has replacde the spot metering on the newer models.


Spot – Determines exposure based on the small area in the center of the view finder. Best for strongly back-lighted subjects.


So do all cameras yield the same results? Generally, I think they do when using the Overall metering mode.  Here’s a couple of comparisons under the same lighting conditions and settings.

Tom1Kim 1

A second pair:


As we look at each pair of photos and observe the Histogram in the upper right, we see each is quite similar.  With these combination of cameras, Sony, Canon and Olympus, the results are similar with the small differences likely due to how the photo was framed/composed.

So what happens when you use Center Weighted vs. Overall mode?

Photo 1
Photo 2

As we see in the Center Weighted metering,  Photo 1, the color of the flags are brighter and more true in color than Photo 2 where Overall was used. Obliviously, the camera did a better job with Center Weighted metering, under these lighting conditions.

What metering mode is best when taking a photograph with a bright sky and dark foreground?  In Photo 3, the metering mode chosen was Overall, in Photo 2 Center-Weighted was used.  As can be seen the foreground in Photo 4 is slightly brighter that in Photo 3.

Photo 3


Photo 4

What would happen if Spot metering is used?  In Photo 5 you see the sky is too bright, i.e. over exposed.  The best exposure for this scene was gotten using Center-Weighted.

Photo 5

What if you were to use the Spot metering, vs. Overall metering?  Photo 6 below was taken using Overall metering.

Photo 6

In Photo 7 below Spot metering was used. The metering spot was taken on the bright face of the building. This photo is too dark i.e.under exposed.

Photo 7

Photo 8 below was taken using Spot metering. The metering spot was taken on the dark face of the iron. This photo is also dark i.e.under exposed.

Photo 8

What do we see here?  Once again the Overall mode, Photo 6, had the best exposure.  In addition, when we compare Photos 7 & 8, we see where the spot reading is taken can make a  significant difference in the resulting photo.

What are the lessons learned:

  1. Overall mode works well a good portion of the time.
  2. Where the subject’s exposure is important Center Weighed Metering  may provide a better result.
  3. Spot metering should be only used in back lite situations. Where the Spot metering reading is taken has a significant effect on the photo’s exposure.

My advice to better understand metering modes, is to take many different photos under different lighting conditions using all metering modes.  Compare the photos and see which are best with your camera.  Getting consistently good photos takes practice.


                            Road Trip Video




If you have any Questions please feel free to contact me







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