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13.6 - Exposure Compensation

The exposure compensation feature allows you to shift the exposure setting—plus or minus—brighter or darker.

Why Exposure Compensation

Is Needed

Let's say you're changing the exposure settings using the following exposure modes.

• Aperture-priority exposure mode (A or Av)

• Shutter-priority exposure mode (S or Tv)

The brightness of each exposure stays the same, even though you change the lens opening or the shutter speed.

When you change one, the camera changes the other, to keep the exposure brightness the same.

You have to use exposure compensation to make a photograph lighter (overexposed) or darker (underexposed).

Uses for Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation has three main uses.

Use #1 - Richer Color

Let's say you're photographing red petroglyphs on a canyon wall in Nevada.

You want the photograph to be a little darker, underexposed, to make the colors richer.

Set the exposure compensation to -0.5 or -1.0.

The petroglyphs will be a deeper red.

Use #2 - Not Sure of the Exposure

Let's say you're photographing the sunset in Lugarno.

Sunsets can look good lighter and darker.

So, you photograph the sun at different exposure compensation settings.

This is called bracketing.

If you're not sure of the exposure, bracket.

Most cameras can be set to automatically bracket.

Use #3 - Correct the Exposure for Subjects

That Are Not Average Toned

When you're photographing light or dark toned subjects in the sun, your camera's light meter will use the wrong exposure settings.

For example, you have to overexpose snow in the sun (+1.5).

Go to Light Meters Are Stupid.

How to Use Exposure Compensation

Use the exposure compensation feature on your camera to modify the exposure set by your camera's light meter.

Do the following.

1) Press and hold the +/– button.

2) A number line will appear or will be highlighted in some way.

Darker   Brighter
-2 -1 0 +1 +2

3) On most digital SLR cameras, turn the knob.

On many point-and-shoot cameras, spin a ring or press a rocker switch.

A plus setting makes the photograph brighter.

A minus setting makes it darker.

4) Release the +/– button.

5) Photograph the scene.

6) Return the exposure compensation back to 0.

Go to Check List.

A Few Canon Cameras

With a few Canon cameras, you have to switch the on/off switch on the back of the camera to the slash icon.

Then, do the following.

1) Fill the frame with the part of the scene that you want to photograph.

2) Turn on the light meter (depress the shutter release slightly).

3) Turn the knob on the back of the camera to adjust the exposure compensation.
















Which One?

Which of the above exposures is the best?

Let's say you're a book designer.

Long Path

For the cover of a book about the Long Path, a trail that goes from New York City to the Adirondacks, you may select the +2.0 exposure.

That's because the blue trail blaze on the tree looks the best.

All About the Seasons

If you're choosing a photograph for a children's science book about the seasons, you may choose the +1.0 exposure.

The autumn leaves look the best.

Death in Podunk

For a book cover of a mystery book, Death in Podunk, you may choose the darkest, most underexposed exposure.

It's mysterious.