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Headsie's picture

Getting your bird exposed properly will go along way to getting good photos. I use the canon eos 7D and it has four exposure settings.

1) 63-zone Evaluative,

2) Center-weighted Average,

3) 9.4% Partial,

4) 2.3% Spot metering. 

I allways use spot metering because this means that the camera will allways expose the centre 2.3% correctly and as long as I keep the bird in the centre it should work. I imagine partial would work ok or even better on larger birds but I dont have any issues when shooting larger birds so I leave it on spot.

If your camera is set to evaluative or centre-weighted you still can get good photos but if there is plenty of light in the background from the sun or reflection from water it will under expose the bird and vice versa if the background is too dark.

Have a look at the metering options on your camera and see if there is the option to partial or spot meter.

When shooting I allways have my camera in AV mode so I can control the apeture setting and I mostly shoot at 5.6 (lowest setting on my 400mm) and the camera decides on the shutter speed. If shutter speeds are faster than 1500 I will look at using a smaller apeture setting but rarely if ever go lower than 8.

I'm not good at explaining things like this but will attemt to answer questions.

Owen1's picture

I use center-weighted average because this is the most accurate exposure system from my experience. With spot metering it's too easy to focus on an area that will throw out the exposure. With center-weighted average it will take into account a larger centre area of the image, not just one spot, which will mean ablity to expose for different features of the middle of the frame (which will usually be the bird).

My 2c worth.

Cheers, Owen.

GeorgeP's picture

Thanks for taking the time to write this, Headsie.

I always shoot on "Manual" and select Centre-weighted Average metering because it gives me the flexibility to rapidly change my settings so I maintain the histogram shoved hard over to the right without blowing highlights. I also enable the highlight alert so that I can determine which, if any, highlights are blown. My technique is to fire off a couple of shots, check the exposure and adjust the settings, if necessary, to achieve the previously-mentioned results. It took me ages to get used to this mode (from Av mode) but I have found it worthwhile. Exposure with the histogram to the right also reduces the amount of noise in the image.

My 2c worth too, and I'd be interested in what others use.

If anyone is interested, the young bloke Akos (Windhover) has an excellent tutorial on this subject posted on his website. Thanks Akos!


[EDIT]  Should have mentioned that I use a Canon 40D and Canon 100-400mm zoom.


Melbourne, VIC

Windhover's picture

I mostly use Av mode in daylight and manual during spotlighting. I favour evaluative metering; it works for me as I have used it for six and a half years so I feel I have it pretty well sorted. I verify exposures via a histogram check. It really doesn't matter what metering one uses as long as the person understands how to expose correctly in a digital sense and how the meter reads a scene. Never used spot metering at all.

Thanks George. FYI, here is a recent test shot I did at ISO3200 with my very ancient 1D2n. See the noise? Still don't see it? There is none! I didn't apply any noise reduction, just reduced the RAW file exposure from about +1 2/3 to zero.


darinnightowl's picture

Thanks everyone for your help in explaining all the ins and outs. Just have to try and take it all in.

See it!  Hear it!

Mid-North Coast NSW

birdie's picture

Strangely enough, I always shoot on TV mode or manual if necessary. Because shutter speeds are my priority ( hence the term shutter priority) as I need to control camera movement and usually subject movement too. I do not have IS or an ability to hand hold without shake, but I can decide to change this if I feel I need a sharper aperture simply because of my understanding of apertures and depth of field etc. I use centre weighted average metering but usually press the asterix on my canon that means partial metering to congtrol any excess light behind and so on.

I have  just got a new 600D and am finding it infinitely better at metering than my old 1000D..... now I just have to hope and pray for a nice L lens to match  wink

Sunshine Coast Queensland

lefti's picture

Many thanks Akos for your tutorials. They are just the thing for taking me to the next level. And thanks to GeorgeP for pointing to them.

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