Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday's Photo Tip - Exposure Compensation

Friday's Photo Tip - Exposure Compensation

a car windshield that was broke in an accident

a car windshield that was broke in an accident

All DSLR cameras and most of the point and shoot varieties have the Exposure Compensation feature.

I find this to be one of the handiest and most simple adjustments to make when using the camera.

If your camera has this feature, you will learn to love it too, and you will wonder how you ever did without it.

As we know, photography is all about the light and how we capture it with our cameras.

The light doesn't always cooperate how we would like it too, and sometimes the camera seems to have a mind of it's own too.

Some of these situations can be controlled though with a quick, simple adjustment.

Have you ever noticed the little "+" and "-" signs on your camera and wondered how to correctly use them even after you have read the manual on that section? Sometimes they use EC or EV instead of the + and - signs.

Take a look at the two images above. Notice that the top one is lighter than the bottom one.

The bottom one is the first image I took, and after a quick preview of it, I knew it was too dark.

I wanted to lighten it up, so I set my exposure compensation to +.03 and took another frame.

I was outside, and viewing the photo on the screen is sometimes thrown off by the bright sunlight, but the image still looked a bit too dark, so I adjusted the exposure again, up to +0.7.

I now have three photos of this subject, all with different exposures. This is called "bracketing", and it allows me to choose the one with the best exposure for processing.

Now, if I was taking a shot of a landscape, and I noticed in the preview that the sky seemed a bit blown out, I would use my exposure compensation, and adjust it down this time, to -0.3 and -0.7, and maybe even -1.

Most cameras have these step adjustments in 1/3 increments with a range up to 2 in either direction. Some of the more expensive cameras allow even a greater range.

My manual SLR camera that uses film has these adjustments up to 3, but I never used them, or really understood them. Film was too expensive to experiment with, and getting the exposure right with a light meter was a less expensive way of capturing my photos.

Digital has made it easy to experiment with your camera and learn it's features and capabilities with out a great expense.

Now, all these adjustments could also be made within photoshop while processing the image on the computer, but my belief is to get the photo right in the first place so the post processing is kept to a minimum.

Hope this little tip comes in handy for you - let me know if you try it and what your results are - and of course if you have any questions - let me know them too!


  1. Wow Kathy Thanks, I will experiment with the + and -. I have them on my camera but had no idea what they were for, guess I should read the instructions,lol, great shots and great tutorial!!

  2. Hi
    I would like to honor you with a Lovely Blog Award. Below is the comment I have listed on my site to acknowledge you :-)
    Photography by KML - is well worth checking out, if you are into learning a bit more about photography.

  3. I use the exposure compensation on my DSLR all the time these days. When I first learned photography in the pre-digital days, I was taught to bracket by manually changing the f-stop or shutter speed. Using my current camera's little +/- button is so, so much easier.


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