Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on November 12, 2020.
OK, so you found the GoPro Spot Meter function, right?
Don’t worry though, I’ll tell you how to replicate the Spot Meter feature from your old GoPro in just a second.
Alright, so that’s great! Let me talk a little bit about how Spot Meter works, when should you use it, and what it actually does.
Spot metering is actually a function that you can find on pretty much any (relatively new) DSLR camera.
It has different names such as Metering Mode, Exposure Metering, or simply Metering. And it’s role is to help photographers and videographers get the perfect exposure when the shot is a bit tricky.
I’d say this is a pretty advanced feature and it may come as a surprise for many to find it on a small camera such as the GoPro. Nevertheless, it comes in very handy in particular situations and it is fairly straightforward to use.
As you may know, GoPro cameras handle pretty much all the settings on their own so you don’t have to worry about anything. You just hit the record button and you are good to go.
And in the vast majority of cases, they will do a great job at it. You will end up with solid-looking footage or crisp photos.
But in some cases, the shots don’t look as good as you would want them to that’s where some more manual tweaking of the settings would’ve been helpful.
Well, that’s why you have the Spot Metering feature. Here’s what it does.
Oh, and did I tell you that we are editing videos for clients such as yourself?
So make sure to check that out if you need help with your videos.
Back to the article now.
What does GoPro Spot Meter do?
Like I was telling you, your GoPro will set the exposure of your shot automatically. It will look at different areas of the picture, it will measure how bright or dark they are and it will do an average which will then use the set the right exposure. There is no manual control over exposure.
However, with the Spot Meter function, you can tell your GoPro camera to forget about all that and focus only on the center of the shot.
So when you are using the Spot Meter, the camera will not look at the whole picture anymore. It will look at the very center of it, and based on how well lit that part of the scene is, that’s how it’s going to set the exposure.
When to use GoPro Spot Meter?
The Spot Meter function actually works well only when your subject will be in the center of the shot all the time.
Because the exposure for the whole scene will be locked based on the brightness of the center of the shot.
So it makes perfect sense to use Spot Metering in any situation in which you have your subject standing still in the center of the shot for the whole time.
And there’s a clear difference between the brightness of the background versus the brightness of your subject.
The perfect example is when you are shooting from the inside of a car, through the windshield.
The interior of the car will be much darker than the outside so the view out the window will look too bright.
That’s because your GoPro will overexpose it due to the dark interior of the car.
The vice-versa can happen too.
If you are standing in a bright place and you are shooting a darker scene, like the entrance of a cave for example (sorry, this is the best example I can come up with), you will not be able to see anything inside the cave.
That’s because the camera will underexpose it due to the brightness outside of the cave.
Other examples in which the GoPro Spot Meter will work great is when you skying or snowboarding and you have the GoPro pointed at your face and there’s a lot of snow in the background, or maybe you have a bright sky behind you.
Normally, your face will be underexposed because everything else around you is so bright, so the shoot will look bad. The Spot Meter is a quick fix to that. Of course, you want to make sure your face is in the center of the shot all the time.
When NOT to use GoPro Spot Meter?
If the camera is going to be moving and your scene is going to be changing, using Spot Meter is not such a good idea anymore.
If you have a well-lit scene that doesn’t have any drastic darker areas or very bright areas, you should be using Spot Metering. You will be better off with letting your GoPro do its thing and calculate the exposure automatically based on the brightness of the entire scene.
If you do use Spot Metering in these situations you are going to get some weird looking exposures. You can give it a try just to see what happens. It will probably give you a better idea of how the exposure and the Spot Metering works.
No Spot Meter on Hero 5 Black and Hero 6 Black
The top of the line GoPro cameras don’t have the GoPro Spot Meter function anymore for a reason.
They have something better – the Exposure Lock.
The Exposure Lock works pretty much the same as the Spot Meter does, with the major difference that you can pick the area of the scene which the camera will auto-expose to.
So you are not limited to exposing just based on what’s in the center of the scene anymore. Exposure Lock replaced the old Spot Meter feature.
How to Use Exposure Lock
So hold down your finger on the back screen until a little box appears. That’s the area of the frame your camera will auto-expose to.
You can move the box around to any area of the frame by dragging it around to just by taping on a different area.
Moreover, you have the option to tell your camera to lock the exposure or auto-expose to that spot based on how bright or dark it will get.
So that’s definitely a major add-on.
The only downside of this new Exposure Lock feature is that you need to have access to the back screen in order to access it. So if you are shooting underwater, you are surfing or whatever, you will not be able to access it.
On top of that, each time you turn off your camera, it will forget that you used the Exposure Lock, so you need to do it all over again.
This can be quite an inconvenience if you mount your camera in the back of the car for example and you are trying to shoot through the windshield for example.
What if you forgot to use spot metering/exposure lock?
My main thing and my passion is video editing, and I always like to come up with creative ways of fixing things in post-production.
If you didn’t use the spot meter or exposure lock for a video you just shot, that would’ve normally required having this feature on, don’t despair.
You can try fixing it when you edit the video.
Now, depending on how bad the exposure is messed up, the quality of the end result will vary a bit. But it will definitely look better than the original.
So what you want to do is to brighten or darken the areas of your shot that are under or overexposed.
Here are the main steps of the process:
- duplicate the clip that you want to fix
- put the duplicated clip on a separate track on top of the original
- use the masking/cookie cutter tool to select the area that you want to brighten or darken
- blur the edges of the selected area
- change the brightness of the clip on top.
That’s pretty much it.
This method can be used for selective color grading as well, or any other type of effects that you may want to apply to your video.
With all that being said, that’s how you can manipulate the exposure on your GoPro.
Use either the Spot Meter or Exposure Lock functions and start shooting better videos right now.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.