Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Here's a theory: Could it be that the advent of photo editing software (no names mentioned) served as a "red herring" to throw photographers off their in-camera creative tracks? Another way of stating this is maybe, just maybe, some photographers learned photo editing software tools without having first learned their camera tools?

Regardless of where you stand on the question, let me take you back to an in-camera tool that can give us some great creative results. I consider myself an artist first--I devoted my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first) to this concept. 

Now, let's zero in on what is called "spot metering." First, let me explain it. The built-in light meter in our cameras will give us what it thinks is the "correct" exposure. Most of us shoot in Matrix Metering mode, Evaluative Metering mode, or something similar. We do this because we want to get the best overall good exposure of the scene we want to photograph. We want everything in our viewfinder to be as well exposed as possible. We don't want an over-exposed or under-exposed photograph. Enter spot metering, a tool that allows us to create extremely creative images and disregards "correct exposure."

Spot metering helps me create an artistic, and more dramatic "look" to my images. As the term implies, when I set my metering mode to "spot," I am in essence telling my built-in meter to give me an exposure reading only on a very small part of the scene, anywhere from 1 percent to 10 percent of the scene, depending on the camera used. 

High contrast scenes are the most conducive for spot metering, especially if a particular part of the scene is the one I want to "stand out." The reason for this is that when my main subject is receiving a lot of light, and the background is subdued in dark shade or shadows, I can spot meter on my subject and make it "pop"--it will really stand out from the rest of the scene. I am, in actuality, being an artist--I am recreating what my eyes see; I am giving what my eyes see a different interpretation. I guess you could say I am translating the scene into my own language--the language of art.

Here are a few examples of what I have created with spot metering.     

The overall scene did not look at all like this. The contrast between the foreground leaves and the ones in the background was not this extreme. I made it appear this way by spot metering, or placing my metering spot on the brightest part of the leaf in the foreground. 
I prefer creating this type of dramatic effect with scenes like this, as opposed to ending up with the often "illustration" look of HDR where the scene has little to no contrast.

For this scene, I spot metered on the yellow tulip in the foreground, then set my exposure compensation dial to a +1/3 to add a little more light to the yellow tulips and the background. What adjustments I make, and to what degree, depends simply on what I want the scene to look like. There is no correct exposure; just the right exposure.

I was teaching one of my students spot metering when we saw this scene at a bar. It was a perfect setting to experiment with spot metering--the foreground was receiving a lot more light than the background. Based on the different levels of lighting between the foreground and background, I knew it would work nicely and that we would get a very dramatic effect. 

This spot-metered rendition has more mystery, intrigue, and is also more artistic than what the naked eyes saw.

So, if you have not experimented with this technique, read your camera manual to learn what you have to do to apply spot metering. Have fun with it. You will be like a child in a candy store-- you will want more, and more, and.....

Contact me if you have any questions or if you would like some 1-on-1 field lessons. I'll pick the spot. :-)                      www.elivega.net