Autofocus vs manual: how to take control of focus in problem foregrounds

How to take control of autofocus: step 2

Spot metering and AF

Spot metering is really useful for high-contrast lighting or other difficult shooting conditions, but the results can be unpredictable.

On many DSLRs the spot reading is taken from the current AF point, so if you’re using Auto-area AF this means the exposure may change each time the camera swaps autofocus points – another good reason for using single-point autofocus!

Spot metering and AF: set spot mode

Set spot mode
On our Nikon D300s, there’s a metering pattern dial on the back of the camera. Here, it’s set to Matrix mode – the spot mode setting is directly below.


Spot metering and AF: set spot metering point

Spot metering point
Linking the spot area with the focus point works well here because we want Sarah’s face correctly exposed and in focus. We’d get a different exposure, though, if the AF point was over the background, or the bright white areas of her dress. This is why you need to use the spot metering mode with a good deal of care.

PAGE 1: Autofocus vs manual: why not focus manually?
PAGE 2: How to take control of autofocus
PAGE 3: Taking control of AF video tutorial
PAGE 4: Spot metering and AF


How to focus your camera for any subject or scene: free photography cheat sheet
Using Autofocus: 9 situations when AF will fail you
How to use autofocus with moving subjects
DO or Di? Your lens markings explained

  • Bert Baumann

    I’m a little unclear as to these two focus lock methods. How would objects outside of the center appear after recomposing the shot and locking focus in the center? In other words, would the subject still be in-focus as beforehand, when you had it in the center? It seems more likely you would lock on a specific point outside the center first. Should you recompose, it will be for the purpose of metering an area other than where you want the camera to focus, tripod or not.