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Accurate metering is critical to getting good results from your camera. And fortunately, metering technology is now so good that your camera should yield correct exposure 80%-90% of the time. To help ensure that your metering results are good though, your camera offers several different metering modes, some of which might be more appropriate for one type of situation than another. Evaluative metering divides your scene into a grid, meters each cell of that grid, and then averages all of those results together to come up with a single overall exposure setting. Partial metering meters the circular area that covers about 6.5% of the middle of the frame.
It's good for backlit situations such as if someone is standing in front of a window. Spot metering meters only a very small circle in the middle of the frame, one that covers approximately 2.8% of the viewfinder. You'll use this for times when you're facing a high dynamic range situation, but you need to be absolutely certain that you have detail in one particular spot. Center-weighted average metering is like Evaluative, the first one that I talked about, but more statistical weight is given to the center of the frame when all of the various meterings are being averaged together.
For most of the scenes you'll ever shoot though, Evaluative will work fine. In fact, you may find that you never change metering from Evaluative. This is another thing that's covered in detail in Foundations of Photography: Exposure. There's no external control for changing metering mode on the Rebel. Instead, you have to go into the menu, go over here to the second shooting menu, down to Metering mode, you can see that it shows you your current Metering mode. Hit the SET button and here are your four options and they're plainly labeled, so you don't have to worry about remembering these somewhat obscured little icons. Evaluative, Partial metering, Spot metering and Center-weight averaging.
Of course, you'll most likely stay on the Evaluative most of the time. Partial metering is great for portraits or for dealing with backlighting situations. Spot metering for times when you really want to be sure that a particular thing is well exposed. And Center-weight average is also possibly going to help you when you're dealing with backlit situations. Honestly, it's a little bit redundant. Partial metering usually does a better job and gives you a nicer way of dealing with backlight and ensuring that you've got good metering in the centre of your frame.
Again, after you've changed meter, this is a lot like White Balance. Be sure that you go back to a metering that's appropriate for the rest of your shooting, which most often is going to be Evaluative.
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