It’s in every camera manual and in thousands of photography tutorials online; so why mention it? Because so many photographers don’t know how much it will improve their photography.
In your camera’s green Auto (or Idiot…) Mode, the camera does everything for you. This is great, but it also means that you don’t have much control. Your photos might be too dark or too bright but your camera doesn’t give you the option to over-rule its thoughtless calculation. But with the other modes, you can take back control and make pictures that are closer to your artistic vision.What is Exposure Compensation?
Exposure compensation allows you to make your pictures brighter or darker.
Your Exposure is the combination of Aperture (size of the hole), Shutter Speed (how long the hole is open for) and ISO sensitivity (how much the camera amplifies the signal to brighten the picture) that determines how bright your picture is.
Photographers used to set the exposure manually by choosing a film with a marked sensitivity such as ISO400, then the aperture and the shutter speed to get the ‘right’ exposure for the brightness of the part of the scene they were photographing. You can still do this with many cameras in Manual Mode (M) but happily with digital cameras you can now change ISO sensitivity without changing films. Because you manually control the three things that determine exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity), the exposure compensation won’t adjust the brightness.
But when the camera calculates the exposure for you, you can use the Exposure Compensation button and dial to adjust it, making it brighter (+) or darker (-). In Program Mode (P), Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av) and Shutter Speed Priority Mode (S or Tv), the camera still chooses the aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity, but you now have the option to compensate for its calculation/guess, which makes the picture brighter or darker. This is Exposure Compensation.
For more info on the exposure modes, we recommend this article;
Digital Camera World: Exposure Modes
I hope you’re already doing this. I’m writing this for you in case you’ve forgotten how powerful it is, or haven’t even heard about it yet.
You know that photography gives you new experiences. One of mine was staying with a Mennonite family deep in the jungles of Belize. They don’t use electricity; so I learned the value of man-made light.
We forget how amazing it is that when the sun goes down, our lights come on to replace it. It’s so normal that we don’t notice the transition. But as photographers and videographers, we should.
You know by now that the Golden Hours of sunrise and sunset give great light. It’s obvious; you can see how incredible it can look.
But at dawn or dusk, with the sun below the horizon, the light can be too dim for our eyes to properly see the colour – try looking at a red rose in moonlight to see the effect.
When the blue natural light at dawn or dusk is the same brightness as our yellow incandescent lights, it is the Blue Hour – though really the best light only lasts about ten minutes.
Blue and yellow are on opposite sides of the colour wheel; they are complementary colours; so the photos look amazing, even straight from the camera. With a little editing, they are world-class.
And this can work whatever camera you use. Waiting for the best light in photography is more important than having a better camera. Spend the money you saved on a tripod to help keep the camera steady. Even with the Apple iPod; lots of noise but perfect for Instagram.
Look out for photos taken during the Blue Hour. Especially in travel photography, in postcards, and in luxury Real Estate, you’ll see how image makers, instead of fighting against natural light with more artificial lights, just wait until there’s a balance and capture beautiful effects.