Spot metering: how to find the right area within a scene

Spot Metering: how to find the right area within a scene

Spot metering mode is great for precise exposure readings, and can be a godsend when you’re shooting in tricky light. But the skill lies in deciding which part of the scene to take the reading from in the first place. Practice makes perfect, so try this exercise and see how you do…

Spot Metering: how to find the right area within a scene

Choose a high-contrast subject

This picture of a lizard against a dark background is a good example, because there’s a big brightness difference. The camera doesn’t know which area needs to be correctly exposed – only you do! There are two solutions…

Set the AF point

The first option is to select the AF point that corresponds to the part of the picture you want to be exposed correctly. Remember that the AF point is where the spot reading will be taken from. Now take the shot again but with the AF point over a different area, like the background. The exposure will be very different! For more on this, check out our camera tips for how to choose the best AF mode.


Sometimes there won’t be an AF point in the right position for the area you want to take a spot reading from. Use the AE-L/AF-L button to lock the exposure (see our step-by-step guide on how to use AE lock to control exposure). Place the AF point over your subject, then reframe to shoot.

Compare with matrix metering

Do either of these attempts at spot metering give better or worse exposure results? Now shoot the same high-contrast scene using matrix metering and see how the exposures differ again.


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