Who Said Photography
what is exposure compensation
Down Arrow

What is Exposure Compensation? How It Works, When To Use

What is exposure compensation, and why is it important for photography? Understanding exposure compensation is crucial for capturing well-exposed photos, especially in challenging lighting situations. Exposure compensation allows us to manually override the camera’s suggested exposure setting in certain modes. In this post, we explore what exposure compensation is, how it works, and why it’s essential for photographers.

Table of Contents

What is exposure compensation?

Exposure compensation is the act of deliberately altering exposure from the value suggested by the camera. When using program or semi-auto modes, the camera automatically selects the exposure. You then use exposure compensation to correct the exposure value. You have a greater chance of getting the exposure right on the first try when you combine the information from the histogram and using the camera’s exposure compensation.

So let’s dive in and learn more about this essential tool for photographers!

How does exposure compensation work?

Exposure compensation adjusts the metering system of your camera by changing the exposure value (EV) that the camera uses to determine the optimal exposure setting.

Exposure compensation is a way of overriding the settings your camera’s is suggesting for the scene. Here is a step-by-step guide to using exposure compensation:

Step 1: Set your camera to either Program, Aperture Priority (Av or A), or Shutter Priority (S or Tv) mode.

Step 2: Look at the scene you are capturing, then check the histogram. It is too far to the left or right?

Step 3: If the camera has chosen the wrong exposure setting, use the Exposure Compensation feature to override. Depending on the camera, you can usually do this by pressing the Exposure Compensation button, turning the dial, or using the +/- buttons.

Step 4: To darken the image, decrease the exposure value. To brighten the photo, increase the EV.

Step 5: Click the shutter button and check the result. If further adjustments are required, repeat the above steps until you get the desired result.

As an example, let’s say you are taking a photo of a portrait of the setting sun in the background. The camera meter will probably make the image too dark, resulting in a silhouette. To correct this, you can use Exposure Compensation to manually correct the EV.

Tips for when to use exposure compensation

1. When the camera’s automatic exposure settings do not produce the desired result

As a beginner, newbie photographer, you’ll find yourself in tricky situations where your camera’s settings can’t quite get the exposure right. This is where exposure compensation comes in handy! It allows you to override the camera’s selected exposure setting. Giving you back control.

Exposure compensation is useful when the camera’s settings are unable to correctly capture the exposure. When shooting a backlit subject, a dark subject against a bright background of shooting a winter scene can confuse the camera’s metering system.

2. Shooting in difficult lighting conditions, such as backlit scenes or sunsets

There are several situations where exposure compensation can be useful.

  1. Shooting a backlit subject: When your subject is backlit, meaning the light source is from behind the subject. The camera may underexpose the subject, leaving them too dark. By using exposure compensation, you can brighten the photo and capture your subject with better exposure.
  2. Shooting in low light: When shooting in low light, the camera may struggle to capture enough light capturing a darker image than you intended. Use exposure compensation to brighten the photo and get more details.
  3. Shooting against a bright or dark background: If your subject is placed against a bright or dark background, the camera can get confused. For example, the subject is in front of a bright window, your camera may underexpose the subject to avoid overexposing the window. Using exposure compensation, you can override the camera’s metering system.
  4. Shooting a high contrast scene: A scene with a lot of contrast between bright and dark areas. Use exposure compensation to adjust the exposure settings and capture more details in the shadows and highlights.

Overall, exposure compensation can be a helpful tool in a variety of difficult lighting conditions.

what is exposure compensation

3. If you want to achieve a specific look or mood with your photos

Exposure compensation can help to achieving a specific look or mood in your photos. Here are some tips on how to use exposure compensation to achieve your desired effect:

  1. Bright and airy: If you want to create a bright and airy feel for your photos, use a positive exposure compensation to make the photo brighter. This can work well for photos taken on sunny days or in well-lit environments.
  2. Moody and dramatic: For a moody and dramatic look, you can use negative exposure compensation to darken the photo. This works for photos taken in low light, or for scenes with deep shadows or dark skies.
  3. High key: High-key photos are bright, light images with minimal shadows and mostly bright tones. To achieve this look, use a positive exposure compensation to make the photo brighter.
  4. Low key: Low key photos use dark tones and deep shadows, resulting in a moody, dramatic image. To achieve this look, use negative exposure compensation to darken the photo.

Keep in mind that exposure compensation is only one tool in your photography toolkit. Other elements like composition, lighting, and white balance can also impact the appearance and atmosphere of your photos. Experiment with different settings and techniques to find what works best and the look you want to achieve.

4. Shooting with a camera that does not have an exposure compensation

If the camera does not have an exposure compensation feature, switch to manual mode. With manual mode, you adjust the aperture and shutter speed to control the exposure. Take a shot, review on the LCD screen and histogram, adjust the settings and repeat until you get the desired effect.

How to shoot What is exposure compensation

6. Experiment with different settings

Exposure compensation lets us manually adjust for exposure. By using Aperture Priority or Shutter Speed modes, we have more control over the settings while still benefiting from automatic adjustments.

Experimenting with exposure composition will help you understand how your camera works and develop your photographic skills.

How does exposure compensation work with a histogram?

Exposure compensation, along with the histogram, is a great way to ensure you’re getting the right exposure.

  • Step 1: Review the histogram.
  • Step 2: Look at the histogram to determine the exposure. If it’s pushed to the left, it is underexposed, and if it is to the right, it is overexposed.
  • Step 3: Based on the histogram, adjust the exposure compensation.

For example, if you’re shooting in dark conditions and the histogram is bunched to the left, increase the exposure compensation to brighten the photo. If it is to the right, reduce exposure compensation.

By understanding your histogram and using exposure compensation, you can ensure that your images are correctly exposed.

7: Shoot and review your photographs

Shooting and reviewing photographs with exposure compensation is an important skill to have as a photographer. It allows you to quickly and accurately adjust the brightness of a scene. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

  • Step 1: Locate the Exposure Compensation button on your camera. On a Nikon DSLR, it’s usually located next to the shutter release button with a +/- button.
  • Step 2: Make sure your camera setting is in Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program Mode, or other Scene Modes. This will enable the use of the exposure compensation feature.
  • Step 3: Hold down the Exposure Compensation button and turn the dial to either increase or decrease the exposure values depending on the lighting situation. Keep in mind that every time you step up or down on the dial it equals 1/3 of a stop.
  • Step 4: Take a shot and immediately review it on your LCD. Make sure to check the histogram as well to ensure you have the correct exposure.
  • Step 5: If the image is poorly exposed, make adjustments and try again. Keep in mind that your camera will retain your exposure compensation value after you’ve taken a picture.
  • Step 6: Reset your exposure compensation after taking each shot or moving on to a new scene.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to quickly and accurately adjust the brightness of a scene. Additionally, learning to read your camera’s luminance and RGB histograms will come in handy to guide your exposure settings.

Conclusion on what is exposure compensation

Above all else, if you get nothing from this post, understand exposure compensation is adjusting the meter in the camera not shutter speed or aperture setting. Therefore, it does not work when in manual mode. It only works when the camera is set to the auto or semi-auto modes.

In conclusion, exposure compensation is a useful tool, especially in tricky lighting conditions. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, understanding and taking advantage of exposure compensation can help you get the most out of your camera.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, exposure compensation changes the brightness of the image by adjusting the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor, allowing for brighter or darker photos to be captured without having to adjust settings in post-processing.

Benefits of using exposure compensation:

  • Gives more control over the Auto and shutter speed and aperture setting on the camera.
  • Helps avoid under or overexposure, reducing the need for editing.
  • Allows for metering based on lighter or darker shades of grey.
  • Saves time post-processing adjusting for incorrect exposure.

Exposure compensation allows the camera operator to adjust the brightness or darkness of a photo by telling the camera to let in more or less light than its automatic metering system has suggested. Allowing the photographers to achieve a specific look or mood, and avoiding and over-or-underexposure photos.

Our Latest Blogs