Tricky lighting conditions can throw your digital camera’s metering system way off. Situations where subjects are brightly lit in darker surroundings, such as live music photography or any time there is a performer on stage, can fool evaluative/matrix metering, because it tries to produce an 18 per cent grey exposure from the whole scene.
However, spot metering takes a light reading from a small area, usually at the centre of the viewfinder or the active focus point, disregarding light from other areas in the frame.
There are two ways to get good results from spot metering. The first method of spot metering is great for subjects that are illuminated by varying lighting intensities, such as at a gig.
Simply select either aperture or shutter priority on the top dial, compose with the centre focus point over the subject and track it, always keeping the focus point fixed on the subject in the viewfinder as you shoot.
The second spot metering method provides greater compositional control, but lighting on the subject should remain constant. Switch to manual exposure mode and compose with the centre focus point fixed on the subject.
Manually align the metering bars for the best exposure. Now you can recompose the frame and zoom, retaining great subject exposure regardless of the background brightness.
How to nail exposure with spot metering in tricking conditions
01 Switch to spot metering
Most SLRs feature a dedicated spot metering button, dial or switch on the camera body or LCD panel. It’s indicated by the small dot that’s found next to the various centre-weighted and evaluative/matrix metering symbols.
02 Use manual exposure mode
You’ll get the best results by switching to manual exposure mode and placing the active centre focus point on the most important part of the frame. Line up the metering bars so that you achieve a good spot exposure.
03 Check the LCD panel
Keep an eye your rear LCD to check that you’re getting accurate exposures. Use your SLR’s histogram feature to see if there’s any pixel clipping taking place on the main subject, and readjust your metering if necessary.
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