After doing a little research on metering I think I have it down. Metering is when the camera takes readings on the light levels to create a good exposure. Exposure is the amount of light that is allowed to fall on the film. So, that is why you might hear somebody say a photo was overexposed (too much light) or underexposed (not enough light). Exposure can be very creative depending on what you want to capture, and this all can be done on the manual setting of the camera by using shutter speed, f/stops, and any other features you want to try out...like metering.
On my camera there are 3 different types of metering: 3D Color Matrix II Metering (Multi Metering), Spot Metering, Center-Weighted Metering. This is what my Nikon manual said about each. Multi Metering is recommended for most situations; selected automatically in auto and scene modes. Camera meters a wide area of the frame and sets exposure according to distribution of brightness, color, distance, and composition for natural results. Center-Weighted Metering meters the entire frame but assigns greatest weight to center area. Classic meter for portraits. Lastly, Spot Metering which camera meters a circle 3.5mm in diameter. Circle is centered on current focus point, making it possible to meter off-center subjects. Ensures that the subject will be correctly exposed, even when the background is much brighter or darker.
After reading several different websites about metering, they all pretty much say the same thing. So, for me...I will leave it on Matrix most of the time, but when I am shooting indoors I might go for Spot or Center-Weighted if I want to make sure the person I am shooting is exposed correctly. Or if I am out in the sun in the middle of the day taking a picture, I would go for Center-Weighted, unless the sky was really the brightest thing in the camera, Spot would be my choice then.
I took these pictures SOOC (straight out of camera, no photoshoping them) on Manual setting using my D90 with a 50mm lens. F/4, 1/2 sec shutter speed, ISO of 200 for the Center-Weighted and Spot Metered photos and changed my shutter speed on the Matrix Metered picture to 1/6 secs. I had to change the shutter speed since my fancy little light meter that sorta looks like a ruler at the bottom of the viewfinder was reading not at zero. The official name for my little ruler is the Electronic Analog Exposure Display. If the bar lines up on the "0" I am golden, correct exposure. But, if it moves past the zero to the right (-) side...then my photo will be underexposed. To the left of the zero, my photo will be overexposed.
Which photo do you prefer? I think that I am leaning more towards the Spot Metering on this one. I feel like the Matrix Metering is a little too glowy ( is that even a word?) for me, and Center-Weighted is nice, but lacking something. One thing that I do like about the Matrix Metering was the light on the table runner, I think that glow looks nice. I guess it is just personal preference when it is all said and done. I bet that I could combine the two photos in photoshop and have the best of two metering worlds, which is the first photo that was cropped also. I also wish that I had measured the distance between each candle on my table to make sure they would have equal spacing. Oh well, this was just to see for my own eyes the differences in my metering selections available on the Nikon D90.
I haven't played around too much with the Manual Setting yet, but that is the whole point of this blog. To use the ever so scary Manual Setting. Just want to point out something I read somewhere on the net, that using Manual will help ensure that all your photos look like they were taken at the same time. I guess if you use Auto Settings, the photos might not look like they were shot the same day. I guess only time and practice will show me if this was a correct statement.