Learning about Exposure Compensation | Photography 101

February 24, 2015

Exposure in photography refers to the amount of light allowed into your photos.  If it is used correctly, exposure compensation has the ability to give you brighter and whiter pictures! 

Today is likely our last Photography 101 lesson because we have pretty much covered the basics of adjustments on your camera.  Some of you have mentioned that you're interested in learning about editing, staging, and what techniques go into taking good pictures so we'll begin covering those topics soon.  

Our final lesson is about exposure compensation.  This is useful after the adjustments have been made with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  It is really one of my favorite adjustments, but can be easily overused.  


Exposure refers to the amount of light (or lack of light) in the photograph.  It begins with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  The exposure can be further altered in a picture using the exposure compensation button on your camera which has a plus and minus sign.  The exposure compensation numbers also include either a plus sign (for more exposure) or a minus sign (for less exposure).


Exposure is important to add light and brightness to a photo in lower light conditions.  It can also work in the opposite way and add darkness and detail to photos in conditions that are too bright.  Increasing the exposure can make whites more white, but you can also loose detail to your pictures.  This is a great way to fill in the flatness that may be in your photo making it appear more interesting and dynamic.


To show you what happens when changing the exposure, I shot pictures of different values.  The first pictures are shot with a negative exposure creating darker photos.  They are considered underexposed.  The detail of the spoons and lace is there, but the picture is too dark to really notice it.


The largest picture is shot with an exposure of 0, meaning that the photo's exposure has not been altered.  It comes straight from the camera according to the settings of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  It is not a bad picture, but it is darker because of the lack of lighting in the room and the plate appears to have a light gray tone to it rather than white.

The last two pictures are shot with positive exposures creating brighter, whiter pictures.  Using too high of an exposure here will produce an overexposed picture.  You'll notice that the picture shot with an exposure compensation of +2 almost appears to glow and the detail of the lace is not really visible.


While these photos were taken using whole number exposures, there are also decimals in between that will provide slight adjustments to the exposure.  For example, an exposure compensation number of +0.3 may be all that you need to increase the amount of light in a picture without over exposing it.

It is a setting that you really just have to play around with.  Snap a few pictures and then see what you think.  Make adjustments according to what you're seeing.  Just be sure to keep an eye out that you aren't adding so much light into the photo that you are loosing the details.  

My hope is that these lessons in Photography 101 have given you some tips and insight into how to improve your picture taking skills.  I am not an expert in photography, but I know that they have helped me because I've been forced to do some experimenting and research in order to teach the information to you!  

If you have been following along and practicing, what have you found is your favorite adjustment to make for better photos?

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