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Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

Have you ever been out filming and got footage that you knew was just gonna look awesome? You thought you had the exposure nailed, and you get home, upload all the footage and find it looks amazing. Well, your exposure meter may not be telling you exactly what you think it is.


Controlling the exposure of your scenes with various types of metering.

So DSLRs have light meters built into them that automatically measure the reflected light and determine what the best exposure is for your images. 


There are various metering modes that your camera will use to determine this optimal exposure:

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure


  • 1. Evaluative metering
  • 2. Center-weighted metering
  • 3. Spot metering



There are other variations that different cameras do offer, but we're gonna just cover these main three that most cameras have. But first you'll want to be in manual mode. The light meter is useful when you're doing other modes such as aperture priority, shutter priority, or program mode; however, you almost always want to retain control over all your settings in a video for stylistic reasons.

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure


So you'll need to be in manual mode. So, taking a look inside of the viewfinder, you can see the metering scale displayed by a "0" in the middle with bars going left and right to a "1" and "2" on each side of the "0." Each of these numbers represents a "stop of light," and the metering scale is typically based on one-third increments of these stops of light.

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

So, if you point your camera at a bright area, the bars will go to the "+" side indicating that there is too much light for the current exposure setting. If you point your camera at a very dark area, the bars will go to the "-" side indicating that there is not enough light. So you would then have to change your camera settings in aperture, shutter speed, or ISO accordingly in order to achieve the "0" which is the optimal exposure based on your camera meter.

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

These camera meters work great when scenes are evenly lit, however, it can become problematic and challenging for your meter to determine proper exposure when there is various objects with different light levels and intensities in your image.

So for example, looking at someone with the sun behind them, there will be very large differences in brightness between your subject and the sun; and the picture will look very different based on if you're exposing for the subject or for the background. And this is where the various types of metering come into play.

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

Evaluative metering is the default mode on most DSLRs, and this is also known as matrix metering or multi-metering depending on your camera's manufacturer.

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

But they all work in the same way by dividing the frame up into multiple zones and then analyzing them for light and dark tones. And one of the key factors that your metering system takes into account during evaluative metering is where your focus point is set to. So after looking at all these different zones and figuring out an average among them, your camera looks at where your focus point is set and marks that zone as more important than the rest.

Evaluative metering works well with scenes that are evenly lit. and also you can typically use it as a "go-to" method for getting your shots. If you leave your camera in this mode, you'll find out pretty quickly how your exposures will turn out in a variety of settings.


Center-weighted metering

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

This mode measures the light in the center of your frame with its surroundings and ignores the corners. Compared with evaluative metering, center-weighted metering does not take into account where your focus point is set but rather only evaluates that middle area of your image. And on many higher-end DSLRs, you can actually change the diameter of your center-weighted area. A good use for this mode would be a scene where you want your primary subject to be correctly exposed while the rest of the image can generally be ignored for proper exposure.


Spot metering

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

Which will give you the most precise and accurate exposure control over your image because it will only evaluate the light around the point you choose while ignoring everything else. If you were getting a shot of a person with sun behind them but they occupied a small part of the frame,(frame rate) it's best to use the spot metering mode because when your subjects don't take up much of the space, using evaluative or center-weighted metering would most likely result in a silhouette.


Zebras

Understanding Camera Metering: Best Metering Mode for Video Exposure

Another option that some cameras offer to help with determining exposure are zebras, which are hashed lines that show up in any part of your scene that is overexposed. I find this mode very useful when I'm shooting weddings and don't have time to be switching back and forth between all my metering modes. I'll just click on the zebras, and then I can see which part of the frame is overexposed to make sure that I'm not overexposing skin.

So try out the different types of metering in various settings, and see which ones work best for you in different circumstances. Learn your camera well so you can make sure that you get your exposure right every time because proper exposure is crucial to getting good footage. And that's all I got for metering so if this article was helpful, share it with others and let me know down below if you have any more questions about metering. 

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