Metering on a dslr

Metering with a DSLR

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If you have control of the light in photography, you make the correct measurement and exposure. You will become a subject matter expert. If you do not handle these parameters, the image quality will be affected, no matter what techniques or tricks you use.

The current DSLR cameras have a measurement system built into the same device. This system is called metering mode, exposure measurement, or metering. If you learn to handle the metering and know each of these modes, you can easily control the exposure.

When you start in this world of photography, perhaps one of the first setbacks is to take images that are too dark or too light. Knowing in detail the measurement modes, you will find the solution to this problem.

Metering with a DSLR

Before investigating a little more in-depth in this subject, you have to know what the measurement is. This is just how the camera determines the shutter speed and the appropriate apertures, according to the chosen ISO and the amount of light entering the camera.

The exhibition and composition are vital aspects that you should take when it comes to taking a picture. To obtain a proper exposure, it is necessary to have an adequate aperture of the diaphragm, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed.

The brightness of the scene to capture or measure light is another aspect to consider when looking for a good exposure. This aspect becomes crucial, especially when you have high contrast.

In this post, we will show you the aspects that you should be aware of to achieve an adequate measurement and thus take photographs of excellent quality:

Conflicts with the metering

These metering incorporated into the cameras can measure adequately when you have a scene with uniform lighting. But when you have objects with different intensities of light, problems appear to determine the appropriate exposure.

Metering with a dslr

Metering of the light in a photography

There are two ways to measure the light:

1. Through the camera’s exposure meter

It is the most common way; the camera’s photometer continuously calculates the amount of light in the scene reflected towards the sensor. This is to provide you with the necessary information so that you can adjust the exposure of the scene.

2. With a handheld photometer

Professional photographers frequently use these handheld devices. Either to measure the light that affects a specific object and the one that this reflects in the direction of the camera.

Modes of measurement

If you use the measurement modes correctly, you will force the camera to prioritize an accurate measurement within the frame. This means that the camera is told that part of the image will be taken to measure the light and obtain a good exposure.

The most common modes of measurement for cameras are the following:

  • Matrix or evaluative mode
  • Center-weighted measurement
  • Punctual measurement

The important thing is that you know how it is convenient to use any of these specific modes. If you automatically shoot the camera, it is common to have the matrix or evaluation mode selected by default, which cannot be changed.

To make the mode change, you must choose the manual or semi-automatic mode. The position of the button or dial to change the mode varies depending on the camera model. You can usually access it through the extensive menu of device options.

To select the correct mode, you must know a little more about what they are trying to do; next, we show you one by one:

Matrix measurement or evaluative mode

With this mode selected, the camera will show the scene divided into a grid, where it analyzes each segment of the image and collects different light values. With all this data, it automatically calculates an average with which it will define the scene’s most appropriate exposure.

It is the most used mode since it is the default selected in the camera’s automatic mode. Take into account that each camera measures a different number of areas within the frame and different formulas to obtain the average exposure value.

In scenes where the lighting is reasonably homogeneous or to capture images of landscapes, this measurement mode will give you high-quality pictures since there is medium or low contrast.

Center-weighted measurement mode

This mode measures the light prioritizing the central part of the scene. Approximately 75% of the image, indicates that the corners of the image are left out. Some camera models will allow you to define the size of the center diameter. However, most are set by default.

This is one of the most used when shooting portraits because it offers you a reasonable level of precision when you are going to measure the light of the face of the subject of the scene and good exposure.

Punctual measurement mode

The punctual mode measures a certain point of the scene. That small portion of the image, usually the center of it, is equivalent to 5% of the frame’s surface. Specific camera models give you the option to move that point to the area that most interests you to measure the light.

If your camera has this option, try measuring the light just above or near the center of interest you have. So you can see what exposure is appropriate at that time. The punctual mode is the most precise since it offers you more rigorous measurements of small sections in particular.

Keys to making correct metering of the light in photography

To achieve proper metering, you must expose the light tones. That is, measure the amount of light in the clearest area of the scene and adjust the exposure values so that the area comes out as clear as possible.

If the lightest tone in the scene is not overexposed, you will guarantee that all the darkest tones remain quite detailed in the image.

Some steps for a correct measurement of light are as follows:

  • Adjust the camera in manual mode
  • Set the mode to the punctual mode (for being the most accurate there is).
  • Look for the lightest tone in the entire scene you have to photograph.
  • Measure the scene at that point.
  • Configure the exposure parameters according to the aesthetics you need for your photography. Keep the ISO sensitivity at the lowest possible value so as not to lose product quality.
  • Shoot and capture the photo.

Tips to obtain a correct exposure

Some steps that you can take into account to have good exposure in your scene are the following:

  • Set your camera in manual mode.
  • Select the punctual measurement mode (for being the most accurate).
  • Adjust the ISO value so that the camera processes the noise.
  • Graduate the shutter speed based on the type of photo you want to obtain.
  • To adjust the exposure value, you need to remember to measure the lightest tone in the scene.

How to know which measurement mode is correct?

Although we have shown you some steps for correct exposure with the precise mode for its accuracy, you must evaluate that the mode’s selection will depend on the scene.

Some elements are considered as the incidence of light of the colors in the final scene for photography.

The matrix mode will work well in numerous scenes that have uniform illumination. It would not be convenient to use it if the scene has little or too much lighting and scenes with a lot of contrast.

The center-weighted measurement is ideal when the scene to be photographed the subject or object of interest is located at the center of the image. That is why it is the most used in portrait photography.

If you are looking for precision, the punctual mode will grant it to you. With this, you will have control of the exposure of specific areas in the scene. It has excellent utility in backlit situations and high contrast scenes.

Change the measurement mode of the camera

This change will depend on the camera model and the manufacturer. In the Nikon D5500 as a reference, the change is made through the menu settings.

The Nikon D810 and D5 models have a separate button in the upper left quadrant for camera metering.

In the Canon cameras, the change of measurement mode will also depend on the model. But generally, this change is made with a combination of keys, a camera menu, or has a specific measurement button very close to the LCD screen, located on the top of the camera.

Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer in the camera’s user manual.

Final Conclusions

The practice makes the master, knowing how to use your camera’s metering modes; you must put that knowledge into practice, start testing with different scenes, and evaluate how to get a good exposure.

Remember, the selection of the correct mode will depend on the scene you are going to take. If you are looking for precision in your scene, the ideal mode is the prop because it will control the exposure in certain areas.

When you are a lover of photographs, you must have a camera that suits your needs, that is why you should be able to use all the features available.

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