I have said elsewhere that today’s technology is superb, the built-in metering system in all cameras is very accurate, and of course, one can get away without using a separate spot metering device. Using the camera’s Live View feature and the exposure simulation function, it is easy to compose, focus and expose very accurately for a precise part of the scene.
Let’s take things from the beginning though. Cameras expose very accurately and one look at the exposure bar and histogram will tell you so. That is not what I am referring to in this article though. Just because the camera says your exposure is spot on and the histogram shows the proof of the pudding, does this also mean that you have exposed the scene properly? At this point you need to think again.
Take this image for example. The camera suggested an exposure that was highly accurate for the whole scene – remember that cameras see digital zeros and ones. However, this was 1.5 stops too much and not my intention; I always expose for the light. To me, one side of photography is about the location, another part is about composition, and of course, one more and very important part is about exposing for the light, and I have the appropriate words and nationality to prove it. As many of you may know, these two words of Greek origin say it all: foto grafia. It might seem “all Greek” to you, but I can assure you they mean, “write the light” or “record the light”; it is all about the light.
I used Live View on the back screen of the camera and moved the square auto focus point to the top of the urn as this is where the light was and for which I wanted an accurate exposure. This square works as a large spot metering point and not evaluative/matrix. After taking a meter reading there and a separate one on the dark side of the white wall, I knew that I had to deal with different exposures. I used a 2 stop soft ND grad filter at an angle from the top left of the frame, thus balancing the exposure difference nicely. Then I moved my square auto focus point back onto the light area and exposed, as I wanted to in the first place.
Some might wonder what I am talking about when referring to the square auto focus point. This is the little square box found on the rear screen when in Live View mode. There is detailed information about this inside our “Beginner's Guide to landscape photography” ebook. In addition to the feature described above, it can also be used manually to adjust focus to a certain point in the frame when zoomed in digitally 100%, before even thinking of taking the picture. I believe it is important to understand these functions fully and, if you are still uncertain, I’m sure your camera’s manual will come to the rescue.
So, do I ever use the camera’s evaluative metering? Of course I do, when the occasion calls for it.