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Exposure compensation explained….

Hopefully if you’ve been reading my blogs over the past few weeks you’ve gained a basic understanding of how to use the TV and AV modes on your camera as well as the importance of ISO. To finish off I am going to give a brief overview of the exposure compensation function on your camera and how it plays an important part in further improving your photos.

What is camera exposure compensation?

Exposure compensation is a function on your camera that lets you over ride the camera’s automatic exposure to lighten or darken a photo. It can be used in both the TV and AV modes. When you focus on your subject before taking a picture your camera will try to produce an average exposure based on the overall light. If there is a lot of light such as sun or sand in your picture your camera might be fooled into making the shot darker and likewise if there is a lot of dark in your picture your camera may lighten the shot. Your exposure compensation function is there for you to over ride your camera’s setting to avoid under or over exposed results.

How does it work?

You can lighten or darken the exposure in increments up to a number of stops

camera exposure compensation

To overexpose your image, you need to move up a stop or two on the exposure dial to +1 or +2 . To underexpose your image, you need to move down the exposure dial to -1 or -2

So how do I know when to use this?

1. Shooting against a bright or dark background.

If you are photographing a person in front of a very bright background, say a sunny sky, the camera might see all of that bright light and try to make the picture properly exposed, and you will end up with a dark subject.  Dial the exposure compensation up to the positive numbers, and the camera will make the next exposure brighter.  See image below as an example

download (3)

Equally if you’re shooting with a dark background your camera will increase exposure potentially resulting in an over exposed subject. This is when you’d want to turn your exposure compensation dial to the left to compensate for this over exposure.

2. Shooting white objects such as snow

When shooting snow on a bright sunny day, the light reflecting off the snow may cause your camera to read the available light in the scene incorrectly and underexpose your shot. This will result in dull, grey snow in your photos. To prevent this, you can increase the exposure compensation by one or two stops to brighten up the snow. This also applies to shooting bright white subjects, such as white flowers.

3. For creative effect

Play around with your settings and see what artistic results you can achieve by over or under exposing your images

Knowing when you need to use your exposure compensation function takes a lot of practice but with time you will intuitively know if you camera is likely to over or under expose. Every camera behaves differently, so there is no universal setting that will work in every situation. By not settling with too-dark or too-bright photographs though, you will dramatically increase the quality of your pictures.


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