One of the first “tricks” I found out about in digital photography was using exposure compensation to fool the camera’s metering system in to making the type of exposure I wanted. Yep, exposure compensation, i.e. increasing or decreasing the exposure from what the camera think is the correct exposure is an exceptionally useful feature that will improve you photographs no end.
Exposure compensation is only available when using one of the semi- manual modes, i.e. shutter (TV) priority or aperture (AV) priority modes. You cannot use exposure compensation in fully automatic or manual modes.
The exposure compensation button no my camera is quite small and in an awkward place. Okay, it is possible to add some exposure compensation with my camera held up to my eye whilst composing the shot, but I do find it rather fiddly, a bit cumbersome and it slows down the creative process. Even though I have small hands I do have fat fingers, which doesn’t really help.
Rather than using exposure compensation I decided the best way is to shoot in full manual mode and then adjust either the shutter speed or the aperture (the one which is least important in my shot) until the exposure needle in the camera’s view finder shows the intentional over or under exposure as necessary.
For example, if I want to take a photo using a wide aperture of f2.8, I set the camera in manual mode and dial in my aperture I then take a meter reading and adjust the shutter speed until the exposure needle is in the centre of the scale, hence setting the exposure the camera thinks is the correct one. If I want to intentionally over expose the photo (hence add a little bit of positive exposure compensation) I simply dial in a slower shutter speed and force the needle to the right. If I want to intentionally under expose the photo (hence add a little bit of negative exposure compensation) I simply dial in a faster shutter speed and force the needle to the left. If I want to take a photo using a specific shutter speed I would follow the same procedure above obviously changing the aperture to force the over or under exposure. How easy is that?
I find the best thing about intentionally over or under exposing using the camera in manual settings is the aperture and shutter speed dials are large, they are easily accessible, it takes a fraction of a second to change the setting of each one and I can do it without taking the camera away from my eye, even with my fat fingers!
Shooting in full manual mode all the time has rendered my exposure compensation button useless and has really improved the speed and efficiency of my photography. So, if you shoot in aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode and rely on the exposure compensation button to intentionally over expose or under expose your photos I strongly urge you to give shooting in full manual mode a try.
Shooting in full manual mode may seem daunting but it really isn’t that difficult once you get used to it, which won’t take long at all. Once you start using your camera in full manual mode you’ll never go back to one of the semi-manual modes again.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.