3 Reasons Why Spot Metering is a Bad Idea for Wildlife Photos

If you’re familiar with spot metering, you know that in this mode the camera meters for less than 5% of the frame to determine the exposure. You can use this metering mode when nailing the exposure in-camera is of utmost importance. However, since this mode considers a very small section of the frame, you need to consider a few things. Otherwise, you run the risk of ruining your photo. This is why photographer Janine Krayer is not so fond of using the spot metering mode for her wildlife photography. In today’s video, she shares her top three reasons why:

Not all animals have uniform tones throughout their body. In fact, many have contrasting dark and light patterns. So, when you’re using the spot metering mode, based on where you’re metering off your subject’s body, you run the risk of clipping either the shadows or the highlights. You’ll face a similar challenge when the subject is side-lit.

“Spot metering is too volatile to be a steady companion when it comes to wildlife photography.”

Another downfall with using spot metering mode is that not all cameras allow you to link the spot-meter with the focusing point. So, if your camera model is one of them, you will be forced to meter the subject by placing it at the center of the frame. You might think that having to focus and recompose isn’t a big deal, but remember that in wildlife photography, we usually use continuous focus mode (or AI – servo). This will cause the camera to change the metering values once you recompose. So, most of your shots will end up having the subject in the center.

If you want to get creative and take low or high key images, spot metering alone won’t be enough. For perfect results, you will still need to use the exposure compensation feature. As Krayer demonstrates in the video, you’ll still need to underexpose by more than a stop to crush the background.

The point of this video is not to roast the spot-metering in your camera. It is in fact a great tool, but just not that well suited for wildlife photography. A good idea is to stick with a metering mode of your choice and get used to its characteristics.

What metering mode do you prefer to use and how do you get around these issues? Let us know in the comments.

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