Metering with a Digital Camera

How to meter with your digital SLR

What is an SLR Camera?  SLR= Single Lens Reflex.  A SLR Camera has one lens that is removable.  DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex.

A digital single-lens reflex camera (also called a digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera combining the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film. The reflex design scheme is the primary difference between a DSLR and other digital cameras.- Reference from Wikipedia





The light in the center spot of your framed picture is read and used to set the exposure. The light meter disregards readings from the area surrounding the exact center. A spot meter analyzes the light from only one to two percent of the entire image. A partial meter measures nine to ten percent.

Spot or partial metering can be very helpful when taking portraits or for macro digital photography. You want the primary subject or object correctly exposed, so it immediately draws the attention of viewers. You don’t need balanced light in the area surrounding the subject or object.

Typically, spot metering is most useful to a professional or experienced amateur. They are more likely to take specific kinds of digital photography (portraits, macro, etc.) that require spot metering. Plus, compact digital cameras don’t include this metering mode.


Most digital cameras use this metering mode. It will set the proper exposure for virtually all of the candid and casual pictures that beginner photographers take. The meter reads the central area of the image where you’re primary subject or object will be and also evaluates the light levels of the surrounding space to select an average exposure.

Because this metering mode is “center-weighted,” your subject or object must be somewhere in the center for the meter to read it. Try to avoid shooting in a place where there is an extreme contrast between light and dark. This may confuse the center-weighted metering mode and result in poorly exposed digital photos.


Typically, you’ll only find this metering mode on DSLR cameras that include a number of metering choices. Evaluative metering is the most sophisticated technology. Not only does it take meter readings across your entire picture, but also searches a database of thousands of pictures and finds the one that best matches the kind of picture you’re taking. Your camera then uses the exposure data of that picture to set the exposure for yours. With so many types of digital photos in the database, it’s nearly a 100% certainty that there will be more than one that will match any kind of photo you may ever take.

Any of these automatic-metering modes makes digital photography more convenient and fun. If you want to grow as a photographer, however, don’t always rely on your camera to read and select the correct exposure. Learn how to do it manually and try the alternative metering modes under different lighting conditions, even though your camera doesn’t agree.

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Using Manual Mode to adjust the Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO: The Exposure Triangle

M- Manual Setting on the digital camera.  To set the camera turn the wheel on the top of the camera to M.

Nikon and Canon cameras has different ways to adjust the aperture and shutter speeds, but they work the same.

Canon Display Settings

Canon inside view finder
Display in the viewfinder. Going from left to right, shutter speed, aperture, and exposure scale
canon top
exposure scale
Canon Display window
exposure scale on the back when you push “Q”

Nikon Display Settings

Nikon display
Nikon display and exposure settings.