girl sliding down the inside of a slide, banner

Light metering is the way the camera measures light and creates a well exposed photo that is not too bright or dark. Here are the most popular metering modes. Your camera may have all of them, some of them or different ones!

Here are the four key modes that are likely to be on your camera. The icon images may vary from camera brand to camera brand, so it is always best to check your camera!



Partial metering

Spot metering

This is similar to Spot focusing but reads the light from about 10% of the frame. It is not available on all camera brands.

This setting reads the light from the entire frame but puts the priority on the centre of the frame. It's best for when your subject is in the centre of the frame.

This setting splits the screen into four areas and reads the light from each of them, before taking an average. Best for when the light is similar across the frame.

The camera reads the light from 2-3% of the frame. Canon reads the light from the centre. Other brands can link it to your spot focus which makes life a lot easier!

Teddy bear photographed against a window using Spot metering
Teddy bear photographed against a window using centre weighted metering
Teddy bear photographed against a window using matrix metering


Spot Metering

Centre Weighted

The camera has read the light from each quarter of the photo and exposed for the entire photo accordingly. The sky is not too bright, you can clearly see the tree branches but the teddy bear is quite dark.

The camera has read the light from the centre of the frame and exposed that area only. The bear is now brighter. But the top and bottom of the photo is brighter too. There are less details in the tree canopy.

The camera has read the light from the bear's face and it is now well exposed. But it has made the enire photo brighter so there is less detail in the tree canopy and the sides of the photo are a lot brighter than Matrix or Centre weighted

Banner image of a boy against a white wall with a luscious green plant to the right of him
Baby lying in a bubble bath
Exposure Compensation Button

You may be surprised to know that your camera does not understand jet black and pure whites? It thinks you want the black to a deep grey and the white to be a white-ish grey. But there is a way to overcome this using exposure compensation.

boy climbing through a sensory tunnel lit by green lights

You will find exposure compensation on your camera via a button

featuring this symbol or perhaps a dial like this.

photo of an exposure compensation button on a camera
Photo of an exposure compensation dial on a camera

To help you camera make whites look really white, you want to select a + number. To get blacks looking inky black, you want to select a - number.

Mum on a photography course learning to photograph a young boy running along a path