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Old Nov 30, 2009, 8:01 AM   #1
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Default Spot Metering use

I was shooting this morning under my usual conditions (e.g. natural light, sun from one window) using my dog as the subject. Usually had my D300 set to matrix metering. Which always got things right. But then I read a recommendation that when shooting pets you should use spot metering. So I said "why not" and tried it. The results were mixed. Sometimes my D300 would get it right while the other half the time it would overexpose the image big time. Why?

I know spot metering works great when you're shooting into the light and you don't want your subject to turn out to be a silhouette figure. And you don't want to use a flash. But why under low light would the camera get confused? Because there isn't extreme contrast between background and subject? Is that the only time spot metering should be used?

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Old Nov 30, 2009, 8:20 AM   #2
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Spot metering can work well in certain instances, and not in others. I generally stick to center weighted.

Can you post one of the shots that didn't turn out well?
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 8:42 AM   #3
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Morning TCav,

Ok here are two shots. Same conditions and same subject. Only difference is the first was shot using spot metering and the second with matrix. Obviously I wasn't trying to be artistic here. Just to test.
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 8:53 AM   #4
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Spot metering can be useful, *if* you're very careful to meter on something that is very neutral (like a mid gray).

Your images don't have any EXIF included (chances are, the editor you used to downsize them stripped it out). So, we can't tell what camera settings were being used.

But, if you meter on a lighter area using spot metering, you'll tend to get an underexposed image, and if you meter on a darker area using spot metering, you'll tend to get an overexposed image. Chances are, your focus point was changing between the brown and white areas causing the problem.
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 9:18 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC View Post
Spot metering can be useful, *if* you're very careful to meter on something that is very neutral (like a mid gray).

But, if you meter on a lighter area using spot metering, you'll tend to get an underexposed image, and if you meter on a darker area using spot metering, you'll tend to get an overexposed image. Chances are, your focus point was changing between the brown and white areas causing the problem.
Thanks JimC. You were right. If I metered on a light area (white part of his coat) the image would be on the darker side of the histogram. Or underexposed. Though not overly so. And under the current lighting conditions (natural light from one window) was preferred. Whereas if I metered on a dark area...the image would be overexposed. Noticeably so. But it seems "center metering" is more consistent than spot in that I didn't have to watch what part of the subject or image was being metered. Maybe it's because "center metering" has a larger "metering circle". Getting it "right" as often as when using matrix.

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Old Nov 30, 2009, 9:37 AM   #6
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I agree with JimC. In the first image, the spot would have been on the dark colored haunch which is properly exposed. But since the rest of the frame is lighter in color, it's all overexposed.

I suspected that this was the problem. If your pet was a consistant color over it's entire body, spot metering would have worked well; your pet isn't, so you shouldn't follow that advice.
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 9:58 AM   #7
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The spot meter always thinks it is "seeing" an 18% gray card.
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 11:16 AM   #8
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You should try incident light metering (with a photometer) if your camera has manual controls. Reflected light metering may be decieving in spite of the very precise actual in camera metering systems. Bracketing can help too.
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Old Nov 30, 2009, 11:16 AM   #9
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The first test photo looks completely overexposed to me. And as I said. I too think and now know JimC was spot on (no pun intended heh). Will now be aware of this when using spot metering in the future on my dog or a subject with similar color composition.

Thanks guys.

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Old Nov 30, 2009, 1:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ordo View Post
You should try incident light metering (with a photometer) if your camera has manual controls. Reflected light metering may be decieving in spite of the very precise actual in camera metering systems. Bracketing can help too.
By "incident light metering" are you referring to using a handheld light meter like the ones from Sekonic? Will have to Google "photometer". And yes my Nikon D300 has manual controls.

Braketing? Sure. If you have the time to setup. Always been meaning to try HDR photography.

So far all the metering modes have done their jobs to my satisfaction. Just needed to understand how to use "spot metering" properly with a subject such as my dog with his two-tone coat. I use mainly matrix. And now center as well. Like the results I got using "center" a bit more than "matrix". At least today. And of course spot.

Thanks for the advice.
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