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Metering Modes for Portraits

For most portrait situations, the Matrix metering mode is ideal. (For more on how metering works, see the “Metering Basics” sidebar.) This mode measures light values from all portions of the viewfinder and then establishes a proper exposure for the scene. The only problem you might encounter when using this metering mode is when you have very light or dark backgrounds in your portrait shots.

In these instances, the meter might be fooled into using the wrong exposure information because it will be trying to lighten or darken the entire scene based on the prominence of dark or light areas (Figure 6.6). You can deal with this in one of two ways: You can use the Exposure Compensation feature, which I cover in Chapter 7, to dial in adjustments for overexposure and underexposure. Or you can change the metering mode to Center-Weighted metering. The Center-Weighted metering mode uses only the center area of the viewfinder (about 9 percent) to get its exposure information. This is the best way to achieve proper exposure for most portraits; metering off skin tones, averaged with hair and clothing, will often give a more accurate exposure. This metering mode is also great to use when the subject is strongly backlit (Figure 6.7).

Figure 6.6

Figure 6.6 The bright background reflected a lot of light, which fooled the meter into choosing a slightly underexposed setting for the photo.

ISO 100 • 1/640 sec. • f/8 • 30mm lens

Figure 6.7

Figure 6.7 When I switched to the Center-Weighted metering mode, my camera was able to ignore much of the background and add a little more time to the exposure.

ISO 100 • 1/320 sec. • f/8 • 30mm lens

Setting your metering mode to Center-Weighted metering

  1. Press the i button to activate the cursor in the information screen.
  2. Use the Multi-selector to move the cursor to the Metering icon, and press the OK button (A).
  3. Select the Center-Weighted icon, and press the OK button to lock in the change (B).

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