Generally speaking, Evaluative metering mode provides accurate metering information for the majority of your photography. It does an excellent job of evaluating the scene and then relaying the proper exposure information to you. The only problem with this mode is that, like any metering mode on the camera, it doesn’t know what it is looking at. There will be specific circumstances where you want to get an accurate reading from just a portion of a scene and discount all of the remaining area in the frame. To give you greater control of the metering operation, switch the camera to Spot metering mode. This allows you to take a meter reading from a very small circle in the center of the viewfinder, while ignoring the rest of the viewfinder area.
So when would you need to use this? Think of a person standing in front of a very dark wall. In Evaluative metering mode, the camera would see the entire scene and try to adjust the exposure information so that the dark background is exposed to render a lighter wall in your image. This means the scene would actually be overexposed and your subject would then appear too light. To correct this, you can place the camera in Spot metering mode and take a meter reading right from—and only from—your subject, ignoring the dark wall altogether.
Other situations that would benefit from Spot metering include:
- Snow or beach environments where the overall brightness level of the scene could fool the meter
- Strongly backlit subjects that leave the subject underexposed (Figures 10.1 and 10.2)
- Cases where the overall feel of a photo is too light or too dark
Setting up and shooting in Spot metering mode
- Press the Metering Light button.
- Rotate the Control dial until the Spot meter icon appears, and then press the Metering Light button again to apply the change.
- Point the center focus point at the subject that you wish to use for the reading.
- Press the * button to enable the AE Lock, which holds the exposure value while you recompose and then take the photo.
When using Spot metering mode, remember that the meter believes it is looking at a medium gray value, so you might need to incorporate some exposure compensation of your own to the reading that you are getting from the camera. This will come from experience as you use the meter.
Metering for sunrise or sunset
Capturing a beautiful sunrise or sunset is all about the sky. If there is too much foreground in the viewfinder, the camera’s meter will deliver an exposure setting that is accurate for the darker foreground areas but leaves the sky looking overexposed, undersaturated, and generally just not very interesting. To gain more emphasis on the colorful sky, point your camera at the brightest part of it and take your meter reading there. Use the AE Lock and then recompose. The result will be an exposure setting that underexposes the foreground but provides a darker, more dramatic sky (Figure 10.3).