41: Exposure Compensation

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The Right Light

This week we’ll be taking a look at one of the buttons on the top or back of your camera that you may not already be familiar with. This button controls a function of your camera known as “exposure compensation,” and it looks like this:

 
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Before we explain the concept of exposure compensation, however, let’s lay a bit of groundwork:

Imagine that you’re shooting in Aperture Priority mode (as a reminder, this mode allows you to choose the aperture setting while your camera pairs it with the correct shutter speed). How does your camera know what shutter speed to provide? By assessing the light, of course!

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Your camera is always analyzing how much light is available for any given shot so it can provide you with the proper exposure.

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Your camera often gets it right. However, there will be circumstances in which your image comes out lighter or darker than you would have liked. This is where exposure compensation comes to the rescue! By pressing the button and rotating your camera’s dial, you’ll be able to adjust your camera’s “opinion” of how light or dark an image should be to match your preference, which in-turn adjusts the settings it chooses.

Exposure compensation becomes particularly important in situations when the light on your subject is vastly different from the light on your background. Your camera will default to assessing the light by taking an average between the two lighting extremes, resulting in a subject that’s too dark. It’s your input, via an exposure compensation adjustment, that causes your camera to choose a different setting to balance out the one you’ve already set.

To lighten your images, you’ll want to adjust your camera’s exposure compensation by pressing the button and turning the dial so the analog meter moves to the right. In contrast, you can darken the images you produce by pressing the exposure compensation button and turning the dial to the left:

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This week, you’ll have the opportunity to play with exposure by adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation setting. The best way to get the hang of it is to put your camera in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority Mode, then experiment by taking the same image repeatedly, choosing different exposure compensation settings for each one.


Creative Prompts

Ready to give it a try? Consider the following ideas:

  • Put your subject in front of a window with the bright light of the window behind him or her. Adjust your exposure compensation until your subject comes out properly exposed according to your standards.

  • Look for opportunities to create silhouettes by placing your subject against a bright background, then lowering the exposure compensation setting.

  • Consider what your personal preferences are. Some like their images a bit on the brighter side, some a bit on the darker side. There are no right answers, so have fun experimenting this week!

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Share your images!

As always, we look forward to seeing your images in the Facebook group! If you have never posted a picture, it's fine to start any time. The Facebook group is a positive, no-judgement zone. We also hope that reach out for advice or help if you need it!