What Is Exposure Compensation and How Does It Work?

A fundamental function that you can find on pretty much any camera is exposure compensation, and depending on how you shoot, it can be a crucial aspect of your workflow. This excellent video will introduce you to exposure compensation, explaining what it is and how you can use it in your own work.

Coming to you from David Bergman with Adorama TV, this helpful video will show you what exposure compensation is and how it can help you. Essentially, exposure compensation is a way of telling your camera to take its calculated exposure and then adjust the actual exposure in one direction or the other based on your preference. This can be useful in a variety of situations. Camera meters are imperfect, and there are many situations where you can expect a consistent error, such as when you are shooting in snowy conditions, where your camera will often make white snow appear gray and dirty. I tend to use an exposure compensation of -2/3 stops when using auto ISO in manual mode, as this helps to protect my highlights. There are lots of scenarios where you might want to use it; check out the video above for everything you need to know. 

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I call exposure compensation lazy man's manual photography which works so well in mirrorless cameras that have a live histogram in the viewfinder . Makes getting the exposure right before hitting the shutter button just so easy; so generally I only need to take the one photo of my nature type subjects . When in doubt is when bracketing saves the worries . Yep; gotta love this modern digital photography with the amazing cameras available today.. Sadly; so many seem to make it harder than it already is or needs to be .

I would certainly suggest those new to more serious photography to learn and use exposure compensation after understanding how to read the histogram .
For what it's worth ; I still use average metering mostly but than I did learn with fully manual film cameras; often with no built in light metre that I would never go back to .


Matthias Dengler's picture

I still don't get, why no professional mentions aperture priority for shooting.
Not even in this video, where it would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Maybe because they think you likely already using aperture most of time as most photographers do .
Exposure compensation can also be used with shutter priority and some full program modes also .
Perfect opportunity? --- I would use AP/AV plus exposure compensation 90% percent of the time ; so I guess any static subject is usually where AP is used .
The mode used for each subject comes down to the photographer's experience with a camera in the hand . Today; I feel we spend too much time looking and reading instead of having to camera in the hand .
Naturally; if your subjects are fast moving like runners/ race cars then shutter priority would be used more .
It's about choosing between depth of field or stopping the action .

I am thinking you are fairly new to this photography stuff . So here's a couple points that might help you, and others
Generally the gear used and pixels available are not that important.
Practise now what you watch or read .
Less gear = less confusion = easier learning = better photos
No matter how much gear you have; don't expect to get every photo you might see onto the sensor .
Think before you click ---- We learn more from mistakes than just getting lucky once from hundreds of photos (in other words ; turn off the burst modes

Practise Practise Practise on the unimportant easy subjects so then the important and harder subjects will become photos to be proud of

Everything we photograph ; not matter how boring, should be considered part of the never ending learnt curve of photography .
Have a look at "photos by ian browne" FB page where I try to practise what I preach --- and no ; not here or there to sell anything .

Matthias Dengler's picture

Man, I have no idea where your response comes from, but it's my full-time job and I shoot all sorts of photographs for 13 years. Don't tell me this stuff. Most of those youtubers / influencers tell beginners to shoot only manual. That results in taking completely weird exposures, either blown out in the highlights or shadows.
THAT was my critique; that those youtube video people mostly show "all manual" instead of using aperture priority. Also portraits can be shot perfectly using aperture priority and exposure compensation. Only in 5% of the case, i switch to manual.

Sorry, I read your words wrongly and stand corrected . And yes, I agree there is fair too much said about "must use fully manual" . Manual is something we need to know for when we really need it . That's about 1% of my happy snapping !
I'm sure some true newbies will take away an idea or two from my thoughts .

you have made some really nice photos ! :)