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A Guide to Exposure Metering Modesby Gary Hendricks


hile you may understand how to utilize the simpler features on your digital camera such as the flash and zoom, or maybe even more complex features such as exposure modes, one feature that often remains a mystery to many casual photographers is the metering mode.

The metering mode selected on a digital camera decides how the camera’s exposure sensor will react when a photo is taken. Put more simply, different metering modes determine how much light is needed and how long the shutter remains open.

Don’t worry if you’re confused - this article will help to explain the difference between the three metering modes available on digital cameras and how to choose between them to take better photos.

1. Center-Weighted Metering Mode

The Center-Weighted metering mode is without a doubt the most imprecise of the three metering modes we will be looking at in this article. Being more suited towards casual photographers who want to take everyday snapshots, this metering mode takes more consideration into the amount of light located in the center of the scene so that objects centered in the photograph are properly exposed.

Although you do not need to avoid this metering mode altogether, using the Center-Weighted metering mode may give you more impressive results with many of your photographs.

2. Matrix / Multi-segment Metering Mode

While the Center-Weighted metering mode uses a simple and sometimes inaccurate method of measuring the light in you photographs, the Matrix or Multi-segment metering mode takes a more detailed approach. By splitting the scene into many segments and then measuring the exposure data based on the position of each segment, the Matrix / Multi-segment metering mode manages to deliver exceptional quality photos in various lighting conditions and levels of contrast.

Although it is not perfect for every situation, this metering mode is an excellent choice for photography in most conditions. However, when you require better exposure for very high contrast scenes, think about taking a look at the next metering mode.

3. Spot Metering Mode

Maybe you’ve tried taking a photo using the standard Center-Weighted or Matrix / Multi-segment metering modes and neither provide satisfying results. Don’t give up yet, because turning to the Spot metering mode may give you that extra helping hand that you need.

This metering mode can provide excellent results for high-contrast scenes, and it achieves them by measuring light in the center of the scene alone – anywhere between 1 and 10 percent depending on your digital camera – and exposing the photo with the subject in mind.

So the next time you are trying to take a high-contrast shot, think about trying out the Spot metering mode – so long as your subject is in the center of the scene then this metering mode should avoid over or underexposure in almost any situation.


As you can see, the Matrix / Multi-segment metering mode is the best choice out of the three to use for most forms of photography. Choosing this mode over the standard Center-weighted metering mode will be sure to give you more impressive results, but when this mode doesn’t quite cut it, then the Spot metering mode is more than likely to offer better quality photographs in high-contrast lighting conditions.

That's all then! Hopefully this article has helped you to better understand the different metering modes available to use on digital cameras, and which modes are better suited towards various kinds of scenes.

About the Author Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site at Read his tips on digital photography and learn to shoot better photos with your digicam.