Nikon D7000, Spot Meter for More Exposure Control

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Generally speaking, Matrix Metering mode provides accurate metering information for the majority of your photography. It does an excellent job of evaluating the scene and then relating 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 viewfinder. To give you greater control of the metering operation, you can 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 Matrix 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 that 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 off of—and only off of—your subject, ignoring the dark wall altogether. Spot Metering will read the location where you have your focus point, placing all of the exposure information right on your point of interest.

Other situations that would benefit from Spot Metering mode include:

  • Snow or beach environments where the overall brightness level of the scene could fool the meter (Figure 11.1)
  • Strongly backlit subjects that leave the subject underexposed
  • Cases where the overall feel of a photo is too light or too dark

Setting up and shooting in Spot Metering mode

  1. Make sure the camera is in one of the professional shooting modes, as indicated by M, A, S, or P on the Mode dial. You cannot change metering in the automatic modes.
  2. Press and hold the Metering button while rotating the Command dial with your thumb. Select Spot Metering by watching the control panel as you turn the Command dial.
  3. Once you have selected Spot Metering, release the meter button.
  4. Now use the Multi-selector to move the focus point on to your subject and take your photo. The meter reading will come directly from the location of the focus point.
Snowy images can be extremely difficult to expose correctly
Figure 11.1 Snowy images can be extremely difficult to expose correctly, so I’ll often use Spot Metering like I did with this image. Knowing that the sky was probably going to be blown out, I took a meter reading off the water. Later I converted this image to black and white, something I frequently do with images featuring snow.

Note that if you are using the Auto-area AF mode, the camera will use the center focus point as the Spot Metering location.

When using Spot Metering mode, remember that the meter believes it is looking at a middle gray value, so you might need to incorporate some exposure compensation of your own to the reading that you are getting from your subject. 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 (Figure 11.2). 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 to meter for the brightest part of the sky and then recompose. The result will be an exposure setting that underexposes the foreground but provides a darker, more dramatic sky (Figure 11.3).

brighter and the colors are less saturated
Figure 11.2 By metering with all the information in the frame, you get bright skies and more detail in the ground. In this image of a rower taken in India, the sunset really made it amazing. You can see that because I exposed for him, the sky is much brighter and the colors are less saturated.
beautiful sunset is more colorful and dramatic
Figure 11.3 By taking the meter reading from the brightest part of the sky, I got a darker, more colorful sunset. You can still see detail in the man and the boat, but the beautiful sunset is more colorful and dramatic.