3 Simple Settings To Make Your Photos Alive

Over the recent weeks and months, I have been asked by friends, family and readers to explain how I capture certain photographs.

So, today I want to share 3 simple steps to capture great photographs when your subject is standing in front of a darker background.

All DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflect) cameras have at least three different metering modes. The three modes that I will discuss today are Spot Metering, Centre Weighted Metering and Matrix metering.

To use these different metering modes you need to take your camera out of automatic mode and switch to the semi-automatic mode using either aperture priority or shutter priority. The camera manual will explain how to use the 2 different priorities as it all depends on which camera range you use.

I have in mind a future tutorial explaining how to best use these two different priorities to enhance your photography results.

A point and shoot camera are predominantly only automatic based cameras. I’m not completely up to date with the more expensive point and shoot models. Therefore, you may find on some models they have a setting which allows you to get closer to a DSLR.

If you own a bridge camera then you are able to use it in manual mode. It will all depend on which model you have whether you are able to use these 3 different metering modes.


Let’s try and keep this simple. Using a “metering mode” is allowing the camera to evaluate the setting of the photograph. The camera is deciding how much light will hit the sensor giving you the best exposure for a great result.


Too little exposure means your whole picture is too dark and you won’t be able to see your subject very well.

Too much exposure and your photograph will look bleached.

To use these different modes, I need you to imagine your focusing your camera on a subject and you’re looking through the viewfinder.

Spot Metering


When you point your camera at a subject, you’ll see a small square or circle highlighting the focal point of the picture.

Now, the camera is analysing the light within that small “spot” which is your focal point. The camera evaluates 2.5% of the centre of the frame.

Looking at the picture above, the subject is bright which allows the background to be darker. The background is already dark as it’s a line of fir trees.

Therefore, the subject is brighter and sharper bringing this little fella alive.

Center Weighted Metering


This mode rather than only focusing on 2.5% of the centre of the frame concentrates and evaluates the centre of the frame. So, look at the focal point. Now, imagine a golf ball size circle with the focal point as the centre point.

The camera uses the light within that “golf ball” size circle to evaluate the best exposure needed for a great capture.

Again, the greenfinch is much brighter than the fir trees behind. This time, as the circle is larger and more light to evaluate from the background is darker.

This metering mode is great for bringing out the detail of your subject. In this case, you feel like you can stroke the feathers, and don’t you just love the mirror like the affect of its eye.

Matrix Metering

N2 3584resize

Our final metering mode gives us a full frame evaluation of the environment.

Actually, it splits your full screen into lots of little squares and evaluates all those different areas to give you the best result.

Clever eh?

The matrix mode is normally the default mode on most DLSR’s.

This time, whilst the robin and the tree stump is in clear focus you can still tell that the picture is taken in a garden setting.

I hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial.

In the recent survey, some of you requested more of these kinds of posts.

Does this kind of tutorial help you to take better photographs?

Please let me know.

I also wanted to say a big thank you to those that have taken the time to fill out the google forms survey.

If you haven’t had an opportunity, then please feel free to spend a few minutes to help me.

PGNicholson Photography Survey

Happy Snapping.




  1. Beautiful bird captures, as always! Thank you for explaining the metering, Peter! I didn’t understand the effect and have not pay attention to it. Will practice on these three different metering setting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I gave a quick try on these three metering modes and wonder about the aperture you had for the first shot. I really like the dark background. 🙂


      2. Hi Amy, the aperture was f8. this ensured the depth of field was right for the subject. particularly for the greenfinch I wanted a shot that ensured sharp focus on all the feathers, giving good definition of. If the bird had moved round slightly, been at an angle, then aperture of say 5.6 would have meant that some of the bird would not have been sharp. This is known as depth of field, the smaller the f number the shallower the depth of field. For portraits I use f11 to ensure all of the facIal features are in focus but ensures a nice soft out of focus background. Will do full tutorial on this. Hope this helps.


      3. Good morning, Peter. Thank you so much for taking time to explain the DOF and aperture. The bird images are very sharp, beautifully captured.


Have Your Say!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s