What The GoPro Spot Meter Does & How To Use It [2020 Update]

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?

Oh, wait. If you are using a GoPro Hero 5 Black or a Hero 6 Black or anything newer than that then it’s gone.

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.

Sure you can control things such as the field of view and you even can optimize the settings for low light.

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.

gopro spot meter
gopro spot meter


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.

gopro spot meter

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

To access the new Exposure Lock feature you need to have a  GoPro Hero 5 Black or a Hero 6 Black. All the other models still use the Spot Meter.

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.

Video editing software such as Premiere Pro, After Effects or Vegas Pro can do that fairly easy.

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.

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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.

4 thoughts on “What The GoPro Spot Meter Does & How To Use It [2020 Update]

  • Rida

    That really suck, I used spot metering all the times underwater. I have strong light source but when I get close to the subject which is normal for underwater phot/videro-graphy the edges will be out of the light cover and get dark. However with spot-meter I’m saved because still the center still within light area.
    Recently I upgraded feom Hero 3 to 6.
    I will try to lock metering in the center before insert the camera in the case. But I need to make sure the camera is ON all the times. Not sure what will happen if the screen goes to power saving mode.
    Thanks for this valuable information.

    • thetruth

      Stop being a dipsxxt, you know dang well what he ment unless your really that brain dead. Yes he said it correctly exposure lock replaces spot metering. Why do you thing they did not add spot metering on a $400 dollar camera, dumb dum. Because it replaces spot metering. Its the same thing with flexibility. Let guess your going to say no no its not, its a different mode, your type is blind and close minded, so close minded you cant think for yourself and or out of the box. A ROBIN BIRD AND A CARDINAL BIRD ARE BOTH BIRDS, JUST DIFFERENT SPECIES. They both fly, they both talk (for you brain dead people like you, you know that means sing, not speak English) they both lay eggs they both make nest, there both birds. They look different, eat a little different and sing different, they both make there nest different. But they look to do the same thing year after year, fly, eat, survive and breed. Same thing with spot metering and exposure lock. so the whole oh oh ooohhhhh you messed it all up no thats just you being a dumb dum. Even go pro will tell you this and thats why they did not put spot metering on the new cameras. Because its spot metering on steroids with no boundaries, but close minded people like you will never understand things unless you can read it out of a manual, LOL i laugh at your kind. Let me guess next you will say well well look at your spelling and grammar thats you that loser because you know im right. And to the author GOOD JOB dude, us real photographers and videographers like my self that shoot vid and pic and travel the world for a living understand 100% what you mean. Good job once again.

    • Cristian

      Thanks for your comment Chris. I agree these are two different functions, however I think its safe to say that you can use Exposure Lock to replace Spot Meter in many situations.

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