How To Use A Spot Meter

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You do not have to be a master of light to capture a perfect exposure, there are plenty of tools on your camera that can aid you. Especially the metering modes, there are four modes your camera will have (Using the Canon 5D Mk II);

Evaluative metering This is an all-around metering mode suited for portraits and even back-lit subjects. The camera sets the exposure automatically to suit the scene.
Partial metering Effective when the background is much brighter than the subject due to backlighting, etc. Partial metering covers about 9% of the viewfinder area at the center.
Spot metering This is for metering a specific part of the subject or scene. The metering is weighted at the center covering about 3.8% of the viewfinder area.
Center-weighted average metering The metering is weighted at the center and then averaged for the entire scene.

– via Canon.

For HDSLR filmmaking,  we will focus on spot metering. This takes an exposure reading from a specified circle in the center of your viewfinder.

Using The Spot Meter

With spot metering, you can use this tool to see how far you have over or underexposed with background and/or foreground lighting.

To switch to spot metering follow the listed steps.

  1. Press the WB (White Balance) button and adjust the main dial to switch to the spot meter, the symbol is represented by a dot.
  2. Point the camera towards your subject and make sure the subject is covering the entire area that is reading the exposure.
  3. Press the shutter button halfway down.
  4. A bar will appear within the viewfinder/LCD that will indicate the current exposure if the indicator is flashing it means you are off the scale and will not appear until you have adjusted the aperture into its parameters.
  5. Proceed to adjust the aperture until the indicator is in the center of the meter. This will indicate that the subject is correctly exposed.

It is then your duty to correctly expose the background/foreground without losing the exposure you have just amended – This is the part which requires a lot of practice.

About The Author

Lewis McGregor is an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and online content creator from Wales.

  • G. Xiong

    How would you do this on a lower end DSLR like a canon t3i(600D)?

    • Hey, I can’t say that I’ve used one so I’m not familiar with the settings, check out the manual to see what spot-metering options they have, then refer back to the article on how to use them.

    • I was looking on my t4i and I dont think they let you do spot metering in video mode 🙁 so i guess we have to set it in photo mode then when everything is correct we switch to video.

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