Nikon Learn & Explore

Using the Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode

Highlight-weighted metering is a new metering mode that is offered in select Nikon DSLR cameras, in which the camera meters the highlights to ensure that they are properly exposed and not blown out or overexposed. Use highlight-weighted metering to meter highlights when your subject is in motion, and to meter subjects lit by spotlights or colored lighting.

Highlight-weighted metering is the go-to choice when you’re photographing a spot lit bride in her wedding dress, a dancer or singer on stage, or whenever you’re faced with uneven lighting and a background that is much darker than the subject.

To select highlight-weighted metering, press the metering button on the far left dial on the camera body, and while holding it down, rotate the main command dial until the highlight weighted metering icon is displayed.

line art showing the metering button on the D810 DSLR's top, as well as the main command dial and top display

(l.) On the top of the D810 DSLR, at the far left are the buttons for metering, white balance, ISO and quality. Press and hold the metering button; and turn the main command dial (middle) which is at the top rear of the camera body until the highlight-weighted metering icon displays on the top LCD (r.). For other cameras, check your User's Manual to see where to set the highlight-weighted metering.

Jerry Ghionis photo of a bride, captured using the Matrix metering mode, the highlights are overexposed as is the overall image

© Jerry Ghionis

Using the Matrix Metering mode for this exposure, you can see that the highlights are overexposed. D850, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4000, Aperture priority, Matrix metering.

Jerry Ghionis photo of a bride, captured using the highlight weighted metering mode

© Jerry Ghionis

In this image the photographer used the Highlight Weighted Metering mode to correctly expose for the highlights. D850, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4000, Aperture Priority, Highlight Weighted Metering mode.

Moving Subjects

Although spot metering targets a selected area, targeting can be difficult when your subject is in motion. Matrix metering balances exposure over the entire frame, including the background, and may consequently leave highlights overexposed, or washed out. You may also have to constantly adjust the exposure compensation when using Matrix metering. In contrast, highlight-weighted metering automatically detects and meters highlights for optimal exposure with less washout.


Solid Colors, Colored Lighting

Highlight-weighted metering takes the color of the light source into account to prevent overexposure, even in highlights with a strong color cast.

Matrix and spot metering tend to "wash out" highlights in subjects that are a solid color or lit by colored lighting, the former because it accepts limited washout if it ensures optimal exposure for the entire frame, the latter because it meters only brightness. Highlight-weighted metering takes the color of highlights into account so that they are always correctly exposed.

Highlight-weighted metering's first priority is to reduce washout, which may make pictures seem overexposed. Use exposure compensation to achieve the desired result.


Challenging Scenes

With a dark subject and bright background, if you use highlight-weighted metering, the exposure will be adjusted for the background, throwing the main subject into shadow. Highlight-weighted metering can be used for silhouettes, but matrix metering is a better choice if you want exposure optimized for the main subject.

When there is a bright light in the frame, the camera may treat the light as a highlight, leaving the main subject underexposed. Compose the shot with the light out of frame or use Matrix metering.

If desired, Active D-Lighting can be used with highlight-weighted metering to brighten shadows and reduce contrast.