Recently I strolled into our dining room and noticed the incredible sunset light shining in on the wall around our windows. I grabbed my camera and checked to see if my spot metering option was turned on. Sure enough, I saw that nice little square (or it may look like a +) in the center of the frame, so I pointed that spot on the brightest light on the wall. This was quicker than changing my camera settings to manual, or adjusting the exposure compensation +/-. The result was an interesting shot that showed the true color of the light on the wall, even though the room was dark, and the outside scene was a bit too light.

When I hurried outside to catch the sunset, I was sure to “meter” on the sky where the brightest light was. To do this, I pointed the center of the frame on the sunset, then held down my shutter partway, and (while keeping the shutter held partway down) I reframed the shot for better composition, and pressed the shutter all the way down. This made a nice silhouette, and again, showed the true, vivid colors. Without having to use HDR, I had the same popping, brilliant colors and lighting. Check out my next post to see how I took the jpeg into Camera Raw to add some fill light on the dark areas.

Notice the examples of the fan and the lamplight. It’s all about where you point and meter the light. The lighter image lacks the vivid color because I metered on the fan blade, or lamp metal, where it was darker. The camera adds light because it thinks the subject is too dark. This give you a lighter exposure that lacks color and vibrance. But when I metered on the brightest light in the frame, the camera compensates for what it thinks it too bright, by creating a darker, richer exposure. Of course, you can achieve this with manual settings, but this is a quick, fun trick that saves you having to change the dials. It keeps you snapping frames when your time is limited.

Steps for Spot Metering:
1. Change your camera meter setting to spot metering. Just look up “metering” in your owners manual. (Many point-and-shoot cameras also have “Spot Metering.”
2. Then point the center spot of your frame at the brightest light.
3. Hold the shutter down partway, as you reframe the shot, then press the shutter the rest of the way.

Once you try this, you may want to leave your metering on this setting. Then it only takes about a second to 1-2-3: Meter – Hold – Reframe! The result will be richer, darker colors and lighting, and you won’t miss the moment trying your manual settings. This also works great in the daytime, if you point at the sky, instead of the mountains. Have fun with Spot Metering!