Camera Metering Modes Explained: How Camera Exposure Mode Works?

Camera Metering Modes Explained

A perfect photograph is all about getting the right combination of composition and exposure. Understanding exposure is also crucial if you want to capture stunning images. And the most effective way of understanding the exposure of your images is using the exposure metering modes. There are three exposure metering modes commonly used in cameras: matrix metering mode, center-weighted metering mode, and spot metering mode. We have rounded up all three types of metering modes and how you can use them in your photography. 

Matrix Metering Mode

First, we have the matrix metering mode, the most widely used metering mode used by most of the photographers out there. It is also perfect for most of the images we shoot and is the easiest to understand. For this reason, it is the default exposure metering mode in most of the cameras available in the market. This metering mode divides the frame into multiple parts and examines the exposure of each of those parts. Then, it calculates the average exposure value and shows that average value as the overall exposure of the scene. So this metering mode works best for the environment where every part of the composition is evenly lit. 

Apart from that, matrix metering is also the most complicated yet intelligent metering mode of all. And thus, this metering mode also works in a variety of lighting situations. It can even recognize a brightly lit background and provides appropriate exposure to your subject. This mode is also efficient enough to identify your focus point and provides maximum priority to it so that you get a perfect exposure of where you’re focusing.

Center-weighted Mode

The next metering mode we are going to discuss is the center-weighted metering mode. As the name suggests, this focusing mode puts the highest emphasis on the center part of the composition. This mode uses a circle in the center. And, only that portion of the composition is used to measure the overall exposure value. All the other parts of the image are ignored in this case. So clearly, this metering mode is perfect for those situations where the subject is in the middle part of the frame. This mode also requires the environment to be evenly lit. However, this mode is not suitable for those situations where the background of the composition is very brightly lit compared to the subject. In that situation, chances are you will end up capturing underexposed images with this center-weighted mode. In short, if you have an environment that is evenly lit and your subject is placed in the middle of the frame, then the center-weighted mode is the best option for you. 

Spot Metering Mode

Lastly, we are going to discuss spot metering, which is more of a professional-grade exposure mode. This metering mode analyzes the exposure of a very small portion or spot of the whole composition. Now, which spot it is going to take into consideration for exposure analysis depends on the focusing area of the composition. If you move the point of focus of your composition, the spot meter will also move along and calculate the exposure of that spot.

Though this metering mode calculates a very restricted area of the whole frame, it is the most accurate exposure metering of all. This mode is also suitable for product photography and portrait photography. Hence, if you are a professional shooter with a good understanding of exposure meter and shooting a subject that fills only a small area of the frame, then spot metering mode is the best available option for you. Suppose you have just started photography and don’t know much about exposure meters. In that case, you should use the matrix metering mode to give you perfect exposure in almost every situation.


That was all about the exposure metering modes used in almost all the cameras. Though different brands use different names, they work in the same manner. For example, Nikon calls it “Matrix metering mode” while Canon named it “Evaluative metering mode”. Moreover, all these metering modes also work for both manual and automatic settings. So, what exposure metering mode do you use more often? Let us know in the comment section.

Joe Pfeffer

Joe Pfeffer

What started off as just a dream for Joe Pfeffer, turned into his passion and livelihood. He started his career as a wildlife photographer and then transitioned into becoming a cinematographer. With a decade of raw on-the-field experience, Joe Pfeffer has all the technical knowledge about the ins and outs of cameras. Now, he uses his vast experience to educate others about photography.