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Why are there different modes?

From: Foundations of Photography: Exposure

Video: Why are there different modes?

Autofocus, auto white balance, a low-light and dynamic range capability that puts film to shame: the modern digital camera is filled with really cutting-edge amazing technology, and one of the most impressive is the camera's light meter. Light metering technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and the metering modes in different cameras are really very often the selling points of certain cameras. What you may have noticed already is that your camera offers different light metering modes. In some cases, it might have up to four different light meters. We're going to look at what those are for.

Why are there different modes?

Autofocus, auto white balance, a low-light and dynamic range capability that puts film to shame: the modern digital camera is filled with really cutting-edge amazing technology, and one of the most impressive is the camera's light meter. Light metering technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and the metering modes in different cameras are really very often the selling points of certain cameras. What you may have noticed already is that your camera offers different light metering modes. In some cases, it might have up to four different light meters. We're going to look at what those are for.

By default, we've been encouraging you to stay in your cameras matrix metering mode, which is sometimes called an evaluative metering mode. The way matrix metering works is when I point my camera at a scene, the frame is divided into a grid and each cell in the grid is metered, and then the camera uses all sorts of snarly, algorithmic processes to kind of average all those out into a good assessment of what the correct exposure should be. Most of the time that works, and most of the time matrix or evaluative metering is all you need to use.

You can put your camera in that mode-- it's probably its default mode--and you can just leave it there. But then there are times like this. So Ben is standing in front of what's going to be a really nice sunset up here, but it means he is very, very backlit. When I point my matrix meter and frame him up, the bright sky in the background is confusing the meter. It's basically throwing the average off. There are so many bright cells in the grid as compared to his face that when I take the shot, I get an image where his face has been plunged into darkness. The camera is in one way doing a good thing. It's exposing to be sure that I don't lose all the detail in the sky.

Unfortunately, in the process of doing, that it's underexposing him, and he is ending up all dark. There is something I can do about that though. I can change my metering mode. If I switch to a center-weight metering, what's going to happen now is when I frame the shot it's going to continue to divide the frame into a grid of cells, and it's going to meter them all and average them, but it's going to give extra statistical weight to a circle of cells in the center. When I take that shot I get this, and this is much better. Now, I've lost the background; it's gone. But look at his face.

I can actually see detail there. Now you might go, "But I wanted the background." You're just not going to get it. One thing is as amazing as modern camera technology is, as we've discussed, what I can't have is full dynamic range in this situation. Yes, with my eye I can see detail on his face, and I can see bright detail on the background. There is no photographic technology yet that's good enough to do that. So I am willing to sacrifice the background here to get detail on his face. Let's look another metering mode. I can switch over to spot metering, which does kind of like center-weight does, except instead of averaging, all it does it meter a very small spot in the center of the frame, and that's it.

It doesn't pay attention to anything else in the frame. So I am going to put the spot right on his nose. Actually, I am going to put it on his eye to be sure that I'm focused on his eye. Take my shot. For the most part this doesn't look that much different than center-weight, because I think in this case the center part that it was averaging is pretty much the exact size of his head in the frame. So I am getting go to exposure either way. What's spot metering can be good for as in a high-dynamic-range scene like this, if there is something in the frame--it may not be in the center-- if there is something in the frame that you absolutely want to insure that you get good detail on, put your spot meter on that, meter off of that, and then take your shot.

You've got to be careful when you're doing that though, because if what I am metering on is way, way, way in the distance, remember I am on autofocus there, and then when I reframe, he might be out of focus. So what I would want to do is meter on that bit and then use my exposure lock button. Most cameras have a button that you can press that will lock those exposure settings. Then I can reframe my shot, focus, I'll still have those other exposure settings, and I can take my shot. So using exposure lock in combination with spot meter is very often essential. As with so many settings on your camera, after you've used a specialized setting like a spot meter, I want to be sure to change it back.

I don't want to keep spot metering as I move back into kind of my more normal shooting. So I am putting it back on matrix mode. Again, most of the time matrix mode is all you're going to need, but anytime you're on a backlight situation, someone standing in front of a window-- anything that's really bright in the background, it doesn't necessarily have to be bright light; it could just be something white, sometimes that will throw off a meter-- then you want to look at some of these additional metering modes.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Exposure
Foundations of Photography: Exposure

64 video lessons · 86077 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 8m 45s
    1. Welcome
      1m 57s
    2. What is exposure?
      4m 8s
    3. A word about camera brands
      2m 40s
  2. 9m 31s
    1. What is a camera?
      2m 52s
    2. The shutter
      3m 53s
    3. The aperture
      1m 33s
    4. Exposure defined
      1m 13s
  3. 13m 50s
    1. Modes
      2m 7s
    2. Pressing the shutter button
      2m 54s
    3. Autofocus
      5m 22s
    4. Light metering
      2m 3s
    5. White balance
      1m 24s
  4. 29m 26s
    1. Shooting sharp images
      1m 58s
    2. Noting shutter speed
      4m 3s
    3. Taking control of shutter speed
      1m 30s
    4. Stop defined
      2m 50s
    5. Shutter priority mode
      4m 34s
    6. Exercise: Shutter speed
      40s
    7. Reciprocity
      3m 13s
    8. Controlling motion
      7m 8s
    9. Shutter speed increments
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Go work with shutter speed
      1m 9s
  5. 26m 2s
    1. Depth of field
      1m 53s
    2. How aperture is measured
      2m 42s
    3. Aperture priority mode
      4m 57s
    4. Lens speed
      53s
    5. Shooting deep depth of field
      3m 53s
    6. Shooting shallow depth of field
      2m 50s
    7. The depth-of-field preview button
      4m 24s
    8. How shallow should you be?
      2m 47s
    9. Exercise: Go work with aperture
      1m 43s
  6. 16m 26s
    1. ISO: The third exposure parameter
      6m 27s
    2. Assessing your camera's high ISO
      5m 32s
    3. Shooting in low light
      3m 32s
    4. Exercise: Shooting in low light
      55s
  7. 14m 30s
    1. White balance controls
      5m 37s
    2. Adjusting white balance manually
      4m 25s
    3. Shooting raw
      4m 28s
  8. 6m 3s
    1. How light meters work
      1m 47s
    2. Why are there different modes?
      4m 16s
  9. 33m 58s
    1. Exposure compensation
      4m 0s
    2. Intentional overexposure
      2m 40s
    3. Intentional underexposure
      1m 42s
    4. Controlling tone
      2m 31s
    5. The histogram
      10m 4s
    6. Real-world histograms
      5m 49s
    7. Tone and color
      2m 16s
    8. Auto exposure bracketing
      3m 57s
    9. Exercise: Go work with exposure compensation
      59s
  10. 12m 56s
    1. Dynamic range
      2m 24s
    2. Exposing for highlights
      4m 15s
    3. Fill flash
      3m 11s
    4. Three solutions to the same problem
      3m 6s
  11. 12m 26s
    1. Manual mode
      2m 6s
    2. Manual mode and light meters
      4m 52s
    3. Manual exposure exercise
      5m 28s
  12. 12m 1s
    1. Custom modes and A-DEP
      1m 39s
    2. Program shift
      3m 52s
    3. Exposure compensation with program shift
      1m 58s
    4. An exercise in reciprocity
      53s
    5. Scene modes and in-camera processing
      3m 39s
  13. 8m 15s
    1. Shooting with post production in mind
      3m 45s
    2. Exposure strategy
      3m 51s
    3. Goodbye
      39s

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