What is exposure compensation, and how can you use this to improve your exposure configurations?
Exposure payment allows you to take control of your camera’s exposure factors . With carefully applied compensation, you can brighten up an underexposed photo, darken a good overexposed photo, and create shots full of stunning, beautiful detail.
Naturally , exposure compensation does take some know-how, and that’s what I share in this article:
The simple methods that will get you the perfect publicity every single time you hit the particular shutter button.
Let’s dive right in, starting with the basics:
What is exposure compensation?
Exposure settlement is your camera’s exposure override button ; by dialing in publicity compensation, you take control of your own photo’s exposure from your digital camera (to brighten or darken the image). Note that exposure compensation is generally referred to using thirds of a stop, such as this: -1, -2/3, -1/3, 0, +1/3, +2/3, +1, and so forth.
Right now, under normal circumstances – assuming you have your camera started Program setting , Aperture Priority mode, or Shutter Priority mode – your camera may automatically measure scene brightness (i. e., meter off the scene ) and input its calculated exposure settings.
But here’s the problem:
While your own camera often does a great job, it won’t at all times get the exposure right. I get into the specifics afterwards, but there are certain situations by which your camera’s meter will certainly fail consistently. Fortunately, you can learn to anticipate incorrect direct exposure values, in which case you might switch in positive exposure payment to brighten up the photo (e. g., +2/3) or even negative exposure compensation to darken down the shot (e. g., -2/3).
When you add exposure compensation, your camera adjustments exposure variables (i. electronic.,
When should you make use of exposure compensation?
Every now and again, your camera’s meter will fail you.
Digital camera manufacturers have determined that most scenes will average to be able to a middle gray develop, often referred to as 18% gray . And your digital camera uses this 18% grey as its exposure benchmark; it analyzes the scene, then sets the exposure to flawlessly match that gray value.
Of course , not all scenes do average to be able to middle gray. Some situations are supposed to be brighter compared to middle gray, such as a wintry landscape. Unfortunately, upon experiencing snow, your camera’s meter will assume that the white colored should be gray, and will therefore choose settings that underexpose the image, as in the shot on the left:
Another example is night photography, where genuinely dark moments should appear dark . The camera’s meter won’t recognize this, however , and it will try to brighten up the picture, as you can see below:
Both in of the above examples, you can see the problems inherent in camera meters – but you can also see the power of direct exposure compensation. Since I knew the particular camera would underexpose the snow scene and overexpose the night scene, I dialed in a stop of good and negative exposure settlement, respectively, and I got a perfect final result.
Then when should you use exposure compensation?
As soon as your scene is significantly better or darker than middle gray . Small deviations from middle gray are not a big deal, as you can fix refined exposure issues when post-processing – but at the very least, you need to add exposure compensation in order to very dark and very shiny scenes. Otherwise, your exposures will look shoddy, and you will not always be able to recover the lost detail when editing.
Another reason you may want to use exposure compensation is the fact that you simply don’t such as the “correct” exposure. For instance, you might want to darken a scene to include some mood or predicament, or brighten things up for a light, airy look. Digital photography is a highly subjective artistic endeavor, so if you want to intentionally under- or overexpose your own scene, then by all means, go for it!
How to use exposure settlement: the step-by-step process
You know what exposure settlement is, but how do you utilize it? While the specifics will depend on your own camera model, here’s a standard step-by-step method:
Step 1 : Set your camera to Aperture Concern, Shutter Priority, or Program mode
First things first:
You can’t use exposure compensation if you’re shooting in Auto mode , nor can you use it when shooting in Manual. (In Auto mode, your digital camera selects the exposure plus refuses to give up control; in Manual mode, you do not need exposure compensation because you have complete control over almost all exposure variables. )
So you need to collection your mode dial to Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program. Aperture Concern is the most popular mode from the three – it lets you set the lens aperture and ISO while the digital camera automatically calculates the shutter speed for a good exposure – but Shutter Concern mode, which lets you arranged the shutter speed and ISO (while the digital camera sets the aperture), can also be useful.
I’d recommend you set your camera’s metering mode to Evaluative metering, also known as Matrix metering. This will tell your camera to assess the entire scene as smartly as possible (whereas other
Step 2: Assess the scene and determine any necessary exposure compensation
The hardest a part of setting exposure compensation is determining just how much compensation to utilize.
For quite dark and very light moments, you can safely add a quit or two of direct exposure compensation in the relevant path (remember: you need to underexpose black scenes and overexpose light scenes! ).
But if you’re dealing with a scene featuring plenty of tones, you can do a bit of testing. Dial in some exposure settlement (as discussed in the next step), take a shot, then evaluation the image on the LCD. (On a mirrorless camera by having an
Ask yourself: Does the result look great? Or is it too dark (in need of positive publicity compensation) or too gentle (in need of undesirable exposure compensation)? Based on your own evaluation, you can make changes to the exposure compensation value, then start again.
In fact , when you’re just starting out with exposure compensation, you will need to do a lot of test photos and adjustments. Over time, you will get faster, but in the beginning, it’s all about learning!
Step 3: Find your own camera’s +/- button and dial in the necessary exposure compensation
Many cameras feature a little +/- button, which is designed especially for exposure compensation:
So discover the button and press it. As you do, turn the main dial of your camera right or left, which will reduce or boost the exposure payment value. Each click of the dial will usually change exposure settings by a third of a stop.
Note that pretty much all mirrorless digital cameras and DSLRs feature some form of exposure compensation, so if you can’t find the button, don’t panic. Some cameras will have a second dial, like this, that adjusts the exposure compensation configurations:
Step 4: Shoot plus review
Once you’ve dialed in your exposure compensation, go ahead and take a shot. After that immediately review it on the LCD (and check your histogram, too).
If the image is well exposed, then that’s amazing, and you can continue to take photos of the scene as long as the light doesn’t change.
If the image will be poorly exposed, however , then you’ll need to make changes and try again.
Bear in mind that your camera will retain your exposure compensation value after you have taken a picture. Every chance will be a stop brighter or perhaps a stop darker (for example) until you set the exposure compensation back to zero, so after moving on to a new scene, make sure you reset your own exposure compensation!
Exposure compensation and the direct exposure variables
As I mentioned earlier in this article, direct exposure compensation adjusts different direct exposure settings to create a brighter or darker result.
But which publicity variables does it adjust? Will it change the aperture? The shutter speed? Or the ISO?
It depends for the shooting mode you use.
- In Aperture Priority mode, exposure payment adjusts the shutter speed. You set the aperture and the ISO, while your camera sets a corresponding shutter speed; if you then call in positive exposure settlement, your camera will choose a slower shutter speed, and if you dial in bad exposure compensation, your digital camera will choose a faster shutter speed. In other words, Aperture Priority exposure compensation gives you the ability to change the shutter speed (and the overall exposure value) with no adjusting the aperture or even ISO.
- In Shutter Priority mode, direct exposure compensation changes the size of your own aperture. It is basically the change of Aperture Priority mode: you set a shutter rate and an ISO, as the camera sets a related aperture. If you dial in positive exposure compensation, your camera will choose a bigger aperture, and if you call in negative exposure compensation, your camera will choose a narrower aperture.
- In Program mode, publicity compensation changes the shutter speed – at least on my cameras. You set the ISO, and your camera can set the aperture plus shutter speed. Then, when you dial in positive direct exposure compensation, the shutter speed lengthens (and if you dial in negative exposure payment, the shutter speed is normally reduced). That said, it’s possible that your camera responds in a different way, so check your manual (or experiment) to be sure.
Pro tip: Try bracketing your exposures
The idea is to maximize the chance for getting the proper exposure, plus it can be very helpful, especially when you’re dealing with complex scenes or even an expansive dynamic range .
Using direct exposure compensation, you can manually switch in a stop of positive and negative exposure right after each “standard” shot – or you can enable your camera’s
Note that bracketing doesn’t just act as exposure insurance policy; it’s also helpful if you want to do high dynamic range processing , where you blend tones through several different exposures for an ideal result.
So if you’re shooting landscapes or even other stationary subjects and you have the time, go ahead and bracket.
Exposure compensation: last words
Getting control of the exposure process is an essential part of becoming a great photographer – plus that’s what exposure compensation is all about.
So give it a try. The results can speak for themselves!
Right now over to you:
Do you plan to use exposure compensation? Have you started using it? How do you like it? Talk about your thoughts in the comments beneath!
Find out more from Jim Hamel
If you enjoyed Jim’s advice in this tutorial, have a look at his popular dPS classes: