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Exposure Compensation

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Exposure Compensation

Have you ever shot an outdoor scene and had it come out a little too light or a little too dark? Yup, it happens to all of us at one time or another. For whatever reason, the camera misreads the scene and your exposure is all wrong.

So, what do you do when you look at the LCD panel and the photo you just shot is too light / dark? Well, a lot of people try shooting the scene again—only to get the exact same problem. Nope, that isn’t the way to fix it.

Of course, there’s the crowd that just ignores the problem and “fixes” it in their imaging software. Sure, that works sometimes, but not always. Plus, if the pixels you capture don’t have enough information, no amount of digital manipulation is going to save that photo.

So, what’s the solution? Hire a pro!

Just kidding :-)

Almost every digital camera on the planet has an Exposure Compensation control of some sort. It’s normally a little button with “+/-” on it and it’s normally used in conjunction with a dial or some sort.

Normally, you just press and hold that little button and turn a dial. You should see a graph of some sort with a “+” on one side and a “” on the other. The camera may also just show you numbers as you turn the dial – like +.5, +1, +1.5 etc. (these are “stops”—we’ll discuss them in another issue).

At any rate, turn towards the “+” to lighten the exposure, towards the “” to darken.

OK, let’s say you just shot a photo and it looks a bit too dark. You remember you read this great little article on exposure compensation in Computer Tips & Techniques and you’re ready to fix this problem.

First, how dark is the photo? Try dialing up the exposure a couple notches and re-shooting the photo (like to +1). Does the new image look the way it should? If it does, you’re all set. If not, use the exposure compensation dial to adjust it and re-shoot.

It’s really that easy.

One important note—Digital camera LCD screens are often a poor guide to correct exposure. Sometimes it looks too light / dark on the screen, but the image is actually OK. So, if you’re unsure about an image, keep the original and all your exposure compensation variants. One should (hopefully) be good.

You may also want to see if your camera supports Histograms—a graphical representation of the light levels of an image.

~ Steve

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