All about Hoofbeats & Footprints

Metering for Bird Photography

Frequently in my photography workshops the topic of Metering comes up. There are situations where you would want to change how your camera measures the light in the scene depending on light conditions.

Both of these images were imported into Lightroom and the same import preset was applied. No additional editing was applied to either of them except for cropping.

The Red Wing Blackbird was sitting on this bush with a brightly lit background. Using Evaluative (Canon) or Matrix (Nikon) metering the camera saw all of that bright light and underexposed the lighting on the bird.

Quickly switching to spot metering the camera then measured the light on the black bird and more detail was revealed.

If the bird had stayed for more then one image I would have had an additional moment to adjust the exposure darker for correct exposure. I frequently use Spot-metering with bird photography. Particularly when they are high in the tree or a lot of ambient light surrounds them. I’m more concerned about exposing properly for my subject than what is happening to the background.

Spot metering allows me to move my focus point to the appropriate composition and the metering to follow. Center weighted or Center Average measures light only in the center of your frame and works if your focus points are located in the center as well. This also works quite well for bird photography as well as frequently we are just trying to get the bird in the frame and having them centered is the fastest way to achieve focus.

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