Using Exposure Tools: Exposure Compensation

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

If you agree that light is one of the key elements that differentiate a good photograph from a snapshot, then it’s necessary to learn and understand proper exposure. The ability to tweak exposure, even with today’s sophisticated mirrorless cameras, can make or break your image quality and content. I’m always surprised at the number of people who don’t care about correct exposure, using the already worn-out phrase, “I’ll just fix it later in Photoshop.”


When exposure is concerned there’s only a partial truth to this statement. Adobe Photoshop has become a favorite crutch for sloppy camera work but you still need to be careful in the arena of proper exposure. A digital image that’s too over or underexposed cannot be completely saved with image manipulating software. Please re-read the last sentence. You should make minor adjustments to the automatic exposure settings as we shoot, including using the different metering patterns available in the camera and might still have to pull out the hand-held meter from time to time.

To me, the exposure compensation control is one of the most important parts of a mirrorless camera. No amount of automation will produce a “perfect” exposure under all possible lighting situations and what some people might like others might not. Since you are the final arbiter of what’s “correct” the Exposure Compensation feature lets you increase or decrease the automatic exposure by one-half or one-third stops. Usually this involves pressing a button and rolling a control wheel so refer to your User’s Guide for directions for your specific camera. Tip: If you can set the amount of compensation by one-half or one-third, use the one-third stop option because it provides you with more options and allows a more nuanced difference in exposure. cover


Joe is co-author with MPT Contributor Barry Staver of the now out-of-print Better Available Light Digital Photography.” Used copies can be found on Amazon at bargain prices.