The exposure compensation It is something that not everyone knows and much less uses.

Although I am a kind of evangelizer of the “manual mode”, there are situations in which for speed or convenience we must use semi-automatic modes and this is where the exposure compensation.

Surely you have seen it as -2EV to + 2EV with the possibility of jumps of 1 / 3EVm etc. Did you already know what it meant?

To activate it, you just have to press and hold the buttons of the images and move the camera wheel to modify the values.


At first it usually goes unnoticed but when we have an exposure problem with dark or very light photos, we run to Google to find a solution.


When to use exposure compensation?

In case you are interested in shooting in some semi-automatic mode like Aperture priority (the camera takes care of choosing the appropriate shutter speed), the camera may, due to the demands of the scene, not be able to make a correct measurement and overexpose or underexpose the image. The easiest way to correct this is through the exposure compensation or switch to operating the camera in manual mode.

With the exposure compensation you will be able to correct an erroneous measurement of the camera’s photometer, achieving the correct or desired exposure.

Depending on the semiautomatic mode you have selected, some settings or others will be modified to achieve a good exposure.

In the case of Trigger priority, the camera will change the aperture and keep the shutter speed you have chosen.

You can use exposure compensation in the semi-automatic Program, Aperture Priority and Shooting Priority modes.

Curiosity about exposure compensation

A curious situation where you should use compensation is in snow or when photographing pure black objects.

why photo of gray snow

Snow tends to appear gray and dark objects or animals appear lighter than they really are. In the snow you will have to soverexpose +1 or +2 steps depending on the scene to achieve pure white and for black objects, underexpose -1 or -2, -3 steps.

This occurs because the camera photometers are calibrated at 18% gray, although some opinions favor 12% ANSI.

Fix an underexposed or dark photo

If your image appears dark you will have to move the bar exposure compensation towards +1. Observe the new result and assess whether it is necessary to take another shot at +2, + 3, + 4, etc., for this, trust the histogram. You can take a look at the article how to interpret a histogram.

my photos come out dark

Fix an overexposed or too light photo

In the case of overexposure you will have to do the opposite movement. Move the dial to the minus area, this way you will be darkening the image with each step you go down.

There are cameras that allow you to select the thirds to be more precise in correcting the offset.

Histogram and exposure

As you know, a histogram represents a range of tones, from pure black on the left, to pure white on the far right. If the histogram is centered it is because you have managed to capture a greater tonal range.

Whether or not to pay attention to the histogram will depend on the result you are looking for. In a backlight you will not be able to trust a centered histogram.

histogram and exposure
Example of a backlight histogram
backlight exposure

Bracketing and exposure compensation

Currently most SLR cameras allow bracketing or bracketing technique.

This technique consists in that the camera will automatically take 3 shots of different exposures of the same scene. It is important not to vary the position of the camera.

For example, if you want to get an HDR photograph, use the bracketing to get 3 shots with 3 different exposures.

bracketing technique

One shot at +2 exposure, another at 0, and a last shot at -2. These 3 photographs can be merged in your editing program to get an HDR image or a high dynamic range.

take 3 photos at the same time

If your camera does not have this function, you can achieve the same effect manually. You would only have to use the exposure compensation as we have seen previously. Take one shot with the exposure at 0 and two more by manually changing it to +2 and -2 or +1, -1, etc. In this way you can also get a greater number of takes to merge and achieve different effects.

In conclusion

Although it is advisable to know the exposure compensation for the different situations in which you use semi-automatic modes, once you get used to operating the camera in manual mode, you will perform this compensation manually, quickly and controlling the light at all times to your liking. .

Keep learning

If you feel like it learn something else today, I recommend the following articles:

Rule of Thirds

Landscape Photography Tips

Depth of field

What instant camera to buy


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *