Choosing an Exposure Metering Mode

The metering mode determines the method the camera uses to calculate exposure. In Movie, iAuto, and SCN modes, the camera chooses the metering mode for you. But in P, A, S, and M modes, you can choose from three standard modes and two special-purpose modes.

Take any of these routes to adjust the metering setting:

✓ Live Control or Super Control Panel displays: Figure 6-11 shows both screens with the metering mode option highlighted. (See Chapter 1 if you need help accessing and using the displays.)

✓ Custom Menu E: Select the Exposure/Metering/ISO setting, as shown on the left in Figure 6-12, press OK, and select Metering, as shown on the right in the figure. Press OK again to access the screen where you can select the mode you want to use.

Figure 6-10: You can choose to add an exposure histogram to the mix.

Figure 6-10: You can choose to add an exposure histogram to the mix.

Figure 6-11: You can adjust the metering mode quickly through the Live Control display (left) or Super Control Panel display (right).


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Figure 6-12: Custom Menu E also provides access to the metering options along with other exposure settings.

Whichever method you prefer, you can choose from these settings:

✓ Digital ESP (whole frame) metering: The camera analyzes the entire frame and then selects exposure settings designed to produce a balanced exposure. This setting, commonly referred to as matrix or pattern metering, is the default.

However, whole-frame metering on the E-PL1 is implemented a little differently than on some cameras, and that's the basis of the Digital ESP name. ESP stands for electro-selective pattern. Not helpful? Okay, how about this: In this mode, the camera analyzes patterns of light and dark in the scene and then consults an internal database to try to figure out what type of picture you're trying to take. Then the camera adjusts exposure accordingly. So I think of ESP in the way people use those initials in common conversation: The camera intuits what type of picture you're trying to take without needing you to dial in a specific scene type as you do in SCN mode.

One helpful upshot of the technology comes into play when you're shooting portraits. If Face Detection is enabled, the camera assumes that you care most about the faces of your subjects. So if the camera detects faces in the frame, it calculates exposure solely on them rather than the entire frame. Check out Chapter 2 for more information about Face Detection.

✓ Center-Weighted Averaging metering: In this mode, the camera considers the entire frame but puts extra emphasis — weight — on the center of the frame when calculating exposure.

✓ Spot metering: Choose this mode to base exposure on the center of the frame only. The actual area metered equals about 2 percent of the frame.

✓ Spot metering with Highlight Control: When you shoot a scene that's dominated by white objects or areas, standard metering modes often result in those whites being rendered as light grays because the camera wants to avoid blowing out highlights. This mode is designed to address that issue; it increases exposure slightly over what you get with regular Spot metering to make sure that whites are truly white.

If you shoot in P, S, or A mode and discover that you need an exposure midway between the result produced in Spot metering and Spot with Highlight Control — Spot isn't bright enough and Spot with Highlight Control is too bright — just stick with Spot metering and then use Exposure Compensation, discussed later in this chapter, to refine the exposure.

✓ Spot metering with Shadow Control: The opposite of the Spot metering with Highlight Control mode, this option is meant for photographing scenes dominated by black — a close-up of a black cat, for example. The camera's normal inclination is to brighten the exposure to avoid underexposing the scene, but the result is that blacks appear muddy, dark gray. So this mode ratchets down exposure a notch so that black is really black in the photo.

In most cases, Digital ESP metering does a good job of calculating exposure, but it can get thrown off when a subject is set against a very bright background or vice versa. For example, in Figure 6-11, the bright blue sky caused the camera to choose an exposure that left the foreground statue too dark for my taste. Switching to Center-Weighted Averaging metering brightened things up a little, as shown on the left in Figure 6-13, because the camera gave extra importance to the center of the frame when calculating exposure. But I still thought the exposure a tad too dark, so I switched to Spot metering, after which the camera based exposure only on the statue, as it was in the center of the frame. The result appears on the right in Figure 6-13.

Here are a couple other points to note about the E-PL1 metering modes:

✓ After you select Center-Weighted Averaging or Spot metering, a metering-area indicator appears onscreen, as shown in Figure 6-14. The marking is black on the camera monitor; I painted it red in the figures to make it easier to see.

✓ The monitor shows you how exposure will be affected at different metering modes, as in my example figures, only if you set the Live View Boost option to Off (the default setting). To adjust the setting, head for Custom Menu D.

Center-Weighted Averaging metering area Spot metering area

Center-Weighted Averaging metering area Spot metering area

Figure 6-14: These indicators tell you the area being used by Center-Weighted Averaging and Spot metering.

✓ You can take advantage of Center-Weighted Averaging or Spot metering even if you don't want your subject to appear in the center of the picture. Just frame the scene initially so the subject is under the metering-area circle and then press and hold the shutter button halfway. By default, both autofocus and autoexposure are locked at that time. Keep the shutter button down halfway, reframe to your desired composition, and then press the button the rest of the way to take the picture. You also can set the camera to lock exposure and focus separately; this involves some button configuration and other menu adjustments that I cover in Chapter 10.

✓ When subjects are backlit, the exposure that does the best job on the subject typically overexposes the background. Unfortunately, there's no way around this photographic challenge other than applying exposure modifications in a photo-editing program. You also can try using the Shadow Adjustment feature on the JPEG Edit menu to bring backlit subjects out of the shadows. Chapter 9 shows you how.

✓ For scenes that feature a distinct break between shadow and highlight areas — for example, a dark vineyard that meets a bright sky at the horizon line — you also can use a type of lens filter called a graduated neutral density filter. Think of these filters like sunglasses with lenses that are dark at the top but fade to clear glass at the bottom. They darken the top half of the scene so that you can expose the shadowed foreground without blowing out the sky. (The neutral part of the filter name refers to the fact that the filter doesn't alter image colors, unlike most sunglasses.) You don't have to use the filter with the dark portion at the top and the clear portion at the bottom, however — you can orient it in any direction you like.

✓ If you think the camera consistently over- or underexposes images at a certain metering mode, you can tweak the meter's brain through the Exposure Shift option on Custom Menu J. This step isn't to be taken lightly, however; you're in essence recalibrating the meter. The change isn't reflected on the monitor, so assessing your actual exposures will be difficult. Second, using the Exposure Shift feature also reduces the range of exposures that you can produce at either the high or low end of the brightness spectrum. So stay away from this option or ask a qualified camera service tech to assist you in figuring out whether the change is really needed or whether something else is going on with the camera.

In theory, the best practice is to check the metering mode before each shot and choose the mode that best matches your exposure goals. But in practice it's a pain, not just in terms of having to adjust yet one more capture setting but also in terms of having to remember to adjust one more capture setting. So my advice is that until you're comfortable with all the other controls on your camera, just stick with the default setting (Digital ESP metering). That mode produces good results in most situations, and, after all, you can check your picture right after shooting to see whether you like the exposure or want to make some adjustments before your next shot. This option makes the whole metering mode issue a lot less critical than it is when you shoot with film.

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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