I'll try to keep it short. There's three types of metering, matrix, centre-weighted and shot. Imagine your viewfinder consists of, say, 40 segments, in a honeycomb pattern:
- Matrix metering will measure the required exposure settings for every section of the frame, and get a good average.
- Centre-weighted metering will take the middle and surrounding segments and measure the needed exposure settings from those.
- Spot metering measures just the centre section of the frame.
Now how would you use those metering options. For general scenes, with no big difference between highlights and shadows, matrix will work best. You'll get a good average, resulting in a correct exposure. However, if, say, you're shooting a friend who's backlit by the sun, making his face dark and the background light, you'll need to choose another metering option. Meter his face, and shoot the photo. Instead of losing detail in your friends's face, you'll get a good exposure of what's important, and a blown-out background.
The same goes for bright subjects in a dark situation, like a candle. Use spot metering to meter the candle, and it will be exposed correctly. If you'd use matrix metering, the dark room around the candle would be taken into consideration, resulting in an underexposed room and an overexposed candle.
Why both centre-weighted and spot? Spot can be precise, but might result in very dramatic exposures, so you might have to use centre-weighted metering at times.
Hope that gets you started.
- Bjorn -