I always encourage my students to get to grips with Manual Exposure Mode on their cameras.
However, I do stress that a photographer should never be a slave to the task of determining their own exposure settings when there are perfectly good automatic alternatives available.
There are many occasions when the AV (Aperture Priority) or TV (Shutter Priority) Modes are more suitable for the prevailing conditions and subjects.
Using Manual Exposure Mode
When using Manual Exposure Mode, the photographer sets the correct exposure by using the exposure meter scale. In most DSLR cameras this scale is to be seen along the bottom of the viewfinder when the camera is help to the eye. There’s usually a plus (+) at one end of the scale, minus (-) at the other end. The central position – often marked with a ‘0’ – indicates where the correct exposure. A sliding pointer or a series of illuminated graduations indicate the level of over or under exposure.
When everything is centred on the ‘0’, the picture will be correctly exposed – in theory.
By using this scale, it is a very simple matter to enforce over or under exposure simply by leaving the exposure indicator either on the plus or the minus side of the central (correct exposure) ‘0’ position on the scale. This, in effect, is a manual method of Exposure Compensation.
Using Auto Exposure Mode
When using automatic exposure modes such as AV, it is easy to use the camera’s dedicated Exposure Compensation button (usually marked with a +/- sign) when you want to over or under expose a particular subject.
But why would you ever want to over or under expose a photograph?
Most commonly it is necessary to force over exposure of a shot when the subject contains large areas of white reflected light – white sand, snow, white walls etc.
See the photograph above.
All these situations have the tendency to fool your camera’s exposure meter into under exposure. In effect, the metering system is looking at all that white brightness and saying “Hey! Cut down, it’s too bright”.
This under exposure results in sad, grey whites instead of bright, sparkling whites… dull under-exposed pictures.
When to use Exposure Compensation
The photographers who come on my Photography Holidays in Menorca know all about bright whites – there’s a lot of it about in sunny Menorca.
In fact we visit one particular village where almost all the houses are painted white – this can be a great challenge and presents us with an excellent opportunity to practice Exposure Compensation techniques.
An understanding of when you need to use Exposure Compensation comes, like all other techniques in photography, more easily with practice. With digital photography all you really need do is check the image immediately after you have captured it and adjust accordingly. But the more you use the technique the more often you’ll get things right first time.
Exposure Compensation is just one of the countless camera techniques covered during our Photography Holidays in Menorca – it’s the perfect training ground for any photographer wanting to improve his or her photography.
The May Photography Holiday is FULLY BOOKED, but there are still places available for the holiday in September. It’s fun and you will learn loads.
— Philip Dunn (@philipdunn) January 29, 2013