Reflective light metering modes measure the light that REFLECTS off of your subject and into your camera.
Light metering is important because it helps guide a photographer to an amazing exposure!
Modern cameras have built-in meters that will help determine the correct shutter speed and aperture in any light situation. Keep in mind, this can never replace a skilled photographer’s eye!
Reflective VS Incident Light Meters
There are TWO TYPES of light metering!
This article will cover REFLECTIVE LIGHT metering.
The other type is Incident light. The light that is falling onto your subject or scene. You’ve probably seen hand-held meters with that little white bubble dome on top. Those are incident meters. That article is for another day!
Reflective Metering Modes In Your Camera
Today, cameras have built-in light meters MODES that automatically measure the reflective light. In general, most fall into one of the three types. Multi, Center, or Spot…
Multi Segment Metering
Multi (On Sony), Evaluative (On Canon) OR Matrix (On Nikon)
Different names for different manufacturers. They are all generally the same thing. This is the standard metering mode on most cameras. Usually it is the default mode unless you change it.
It works by analyzing the entire frame and splitting it into highlights, mid-tones, and shadow zones.
It compares the data from these “zones” and offers you its best guess on an exposure.
This technology is not perfect. But it keeps improving. Most photographers rely on this multi-segment mode. It’s great and works for most genres and lighting situations.
Sometimes the light can get tricky!
If your subject has a very bright background behind them, it’s not a good idea to use multi-segment metering. Why bother metering the very bright stuff behind the subject? Since most subjects fall near the center of the frame, center-weighted metering could work better for you.
A center-weighted light metering mode is just that! It favors the center of your frame. You’re telling your camera that the center of the frame is the important part.
Photojournalists sometimes prefer center-weighted. They tend to shoot with closed up apertures and wider lenses. Placing their subjects in the middle of the original photo gives them some wiggle room to crop the image later.
What happens when your scene is lit unevenly?
What happens when a portion of your scene is dark, and the other portion bright?
Spot Metering only evaluates the light where you specifically tell it to. Around your focus point. Some cameras have just a few focus points. Some have hundreds of choices for you.
Use the spot meter to tell the camera which part of the frame to concentrate on.
Reflective Light Metering Take-A-Way
Photographers can make use of amazing built-in reflective light meters. Meters come standard with modern cameras.
Be mindful of the light sources and where they are falling on your subject.
Be sure to meter and achieve the image you had in mind.