Exposure Compensation – The Mood Changer

“Dial in an exposure compensation of -1”

If that statement doesn’t make much sense to you, then I think it is time to hit the books. 

If it does make sense and still if you find yourself never using the exposure compensation feature, then it is time to change how you shoot.

I am not talking about obvious situations like a black subject against the sky or a white subject against the forest which is dark. These are ‘text-book’ cases and are the easiest ones to tackle. Problems are slightly more difficult to tackle when you don’t know that there is a problem. 

Problems are slightly more difficult to tackle when you don’t know that there is a problem. You see exposure compensation for a lot of images is more of a ‘mood changer’.  It gives the images that extra punch.

Ever felt like reducing the brightness in your RAW processing software? Chances are you could’ve done a better job in the field at such times. Check the following images, Each of the images has an exposure compensation dialled in and it has helped bring out the mood in the scene much better. Assume each of these is clicked in Evaluative/Matrix-Metering.

Image 1 : Exposure Compensation Value = -1 (The Darker background would fool the camera to assume that it needs more light and might end up overexposing the bird). An underexposure here brings out the details much better and the high-contrast situation demands that.

Bar Headed Landing

Image 2 : Exposure Compensation = +2/3 (The background is  brighter than the bird itself, thus asking for an exposure compensation on the positive side).


 Image 3 : Comparison between two frames. The original which was underexposed and the same image brightened up to show how it would have been without the exposure compensation. There is no correct value/image in this case. Whatever suits you best. I like the darker one as it gives a more brooding sense and that is what I wanted to convey

Exposure compensation coupled with metering is the most important combination and you need to practice and get your hands set with it.

So go on, try out that Exposure compensation dial in you camera

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  1. Shri Joshi July 12, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    Is it beneficial to do Exposure Compensation while you take a RAW photograph or we can modify it in post processing equally well?

    Shri Joshi
    Pune 9890005522

    • rahul.sachdev@gmail.com July 13, 2016 at 9:34 am #

      Shri Sir,
      Exposure Compensation by definition happens before one clicks the image.
      With RAW files, we do get the luxury of playing around a little bit with the exposure value but there is a limit to how much.

      The key is to pre-visualize the shot and make it in the field.
      Do check the following blog Rim-Lit
      You would end up needing an exposure compensation upwards of around 2 stops which as a rule of thumb is too much for the software to handle later.

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