To quickly adjust the exposure in modes like Aperture Priority or Program AE, all you have to do is hold down the Av+/- button and turn the dial located behind the shutter button.
My name is Caleb, and I’ve been doing photography for more than four years. As a sports photographer, getting the correct exposure while dealing with fast-moving subjects is one of the most important parts of my work.
In this article, I’ll explain how exposure compensation works and why you might want to use it.
If you’re interested in getting better exposure without having to switch to manual mode, keep on reading.
What Makes Up Exposure?
Before we get into exposure compensation, we should go over what exposure refers to in the first place.
To put it simply, exposure is how light or dark your image is. An image that is too dark is considered underexposed, while an overexposed image is one that is bright to the point of looking washed out.
Exposure is determined by multiple settings that come together to form the exposure triangle. These settings are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
Each of these settings has an impact on the overall exposure. To get a final result that looks good, a photographer has to balance each part of the exposure triangle.
You can carry this balancing act out manually or with the help of semi-automatic modes that hand some control over to the camera. While these can sometimes work, they can also get things wrong and give you a picture that’s under or overexposed.
When that happens, exposure compensation exists to place some exposure control back into the hands of the photographer.
What Is Exposure Compensation?
Exposure compensation is a feature that lets you raise or lower the exposure while using Canon’s “creative zone” modes.
Manual is excluded from this feature as the user already has complete control in that mode, meaning you can use exposure compensation in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program AE.
These modes all give a degree of control to the camera. In Aperture Priority, for example, the photographer selects the aperture while the camera decides everything else.
However, the choices made by the camera don’t always look good or line up with the photographer’s creative vision. For example, the camera might decide to make a photo too bright to compensate for a dark background.
That is where exposure compensation comes in handy. Using this feature, the photographer can increase or decrease the exposure across a scale with intervals.
This effectively hands some control back to the photographer, even in modes where the camera is set to make more of the decisions.
How to Adjust Exposure with Exposure Compensation
Using exposure compensation is extremely simple. First, make sure that your camera mode is set to Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), or Program AE (P).
Then, hold down the Av +/- button and turn the dial located behind the shutter button. When you do this, the onscreen indicator will move, and a number will tell you how much you are compensating.
After you release the button, the setting will lock-in, and you won’t have to touch it again unless you want to change it.
How much compensation you need depends on the exact situation and the specific vision that you’re going for. It’s worth experimenting with and taking a few test shots before deciding on a final setting to use.
Still curious? Here are some popular questions that photographers have asked about the exposure triangle.
How Do You Get The Correct Exposure?
The correct exposure is achieved through balancing each part of the exposure triangle: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. All of these settings impact each other, and one being too high or low can ruin a picture.
How Do You Get Perfect Exposure Every Time?
It’s just about impossible to get perfect exposure every time. Exposure depends on a variety of factors, including camera settings as well as the environment. There’s no one formula that will work all the time, regardless of the situation.
What Is The Difference Between Exposure And ISO?
ISO refers to a specific setting controlling light sensitivity, while exposure is a big-picture look at how light or dark the image is. Multiple factors determine exposure, and ISO is just one of them.
Letting your camera make some of the decisions for you is convenient but doesn’t always have the best results.
Exposure compensation is a quick and easy-to-use feature that lets you, the photographer, take back some of that control and correct any bad decisions made by the camera.
If you’ve ever used Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority and noticed that the result is just too bright or dark, why not try exposure compensation next time?
Do you ever use this feature? Which of the creative zone modes do you prefer to shoot in? Let us know your answers in the comments.