How to fine tune your exposure with spot metering

Metering is often something that leads to great confusion in newbie photographers (and often in more experienced ones, too). Basically, metering refers to the process where your camera measures the light and uses this measurement to produce an image that’s well balanced in terms of light and dark.

Photographers often talk about ‘exposing for the sky’ or ‘exposing for the ground’ but what does this actually mean? Whenever you take a shot, you’re opening up (or exposing) your camera’s sensor to light. This is what we mean by making an exposure. The way the light enters, how much of it gets in, and how long you give it to get in are determined mainly by two things: the aperture size and the shutter speed. So, if a photographer talks about ‘exposing for the sky’ she means that she will use camera settings that make the sky look the way she wants it, and that this might be at the expense of other areas in the picture being correctly exposed.

Imagine you’re shooting a sunset with someone standing on a beach gazing into the sky. Because the sunset is the thing you’re most interested in getting right, you expose for the sky/sunset. The result of this is that, because the sky is much brighter than the foreground, the person looking at the sunset is under-exposed and comes out as a silhouette, which doesn’t matter in this instance as you’re not bothered about recording any details of the person. This is what is meant by ‘exposing for the sky’.

And of course it doesn’t have to be the sky – you can expose ‘for’ anything….

View or download our full article as a pdf document: Spot Metering