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Exposure Compensation

Lesson 14 from: The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

14. Exposure Compensation

Lesson Info

Exposure Compensation

Let's talk about exposure compensation. I think white balance is a huge key feature. Figure out where your white balance is and get good at accessing it because that's important. That will just solve so many problems for people. The other really key feature, if you're not gonna shoot in manual mode, get out of auto mode and then really familiarize yourself with exposure compensation. Here's the deal, let's say you're out taking a picture. This is the Brooklyn Bridge. You take this photo. It's gonna be based on what your meter says. Exposure compensation, just so you know, it doesn't work in manual mode and it doesn't work in auto mode. In auto mode, it doesn't work 'cause you're restricted, it's auto mode. In manual mode, it doesn't work because you're just driving and you can make the exposure whatever you want. What exposure compensation does is it allows you to tell the camera that you want the exposure brighter or darker. In manual mode, you just change the settings and just do it ...

yourself, right? It's not relevant to manual mode. It's for all the other modes. Let's say you take this picture of the Brooklyn Bridge and then you're like (exhales), 'I wish it was a little bit brighter,' 'but I don't wanna mess with manual mode' 'for whatever reason.' How would you make the photo brighter? If you didn't know about exposure compensation, you wouldn't. You'd be like (sighs), 'that's as good as it gets.' But it doesn't have to be. With exposure compensation, you can tell the camera that you want one stop brighter, for example. If you go into exposure compensation and you change it, then you take another photo, you're gonna get a brighter exposure. What if I want it brighter still? I can go into my exposure compensation and I can say I don't want just one stop brighter, I want two stops brighter. Now I don't get to tell it how it gets there. I don't get to say, ah, I want you to get there by adjusting your ISO or your aperture. You just tell it and it's gonna do it. You can't be picky. You can't be picky about how it gets there but it will try to get there. You can also of course go down as well. If the camera thinks that that middle shot is what's good, but you want something darker, you can tell it to make it one stop darker or two stops darker or anywhere in between. Some cameras will even let you go five stops in either direction. My cameras only let me do two but I've seen people who bring their cameras to class and whatever and they show me and they can do plus five or plus three. I'm like (shrieks), I got screwed (laughs). But two is pretty good. That's common, two is common. Here's how that works. Here's how you do that. When you go into your exposure compensation settings, you're gonna get access to either what looks like your light meter. I call this the linear style 'cause it's just gonna be literally your light meter or you might see just numbers, plus and minus. It'll be set to zero by default. It'll either just be the light meter set to zero or this numerical style set to zero. All you do is use your little wheel. You gotta find it on your camera, one of your little wheels or arrows possibly and move the little ticker where you want it to be. If you have this style, you would just take the little indicator at the bottom. If you want the brighter picture, you would just bump that over to the right. If you want a lot more brightness, you'll go farther to the right. Each little tick is gonna be a third of a stop, in most cases (clears throat). So numerical style or the linear style. That icon, that plus and minus icon, that's what you're looking for on your camera. That is the icon that represents exposure compensation. It might be there on a DSLR, on the back like that or on a point-and-shoot, it might be on the back like that or you may have to dig through your menu. It's gonna depend. Again, you're just looking at that meter. You might see it on your LCD screen. You might look on the top of your camera or maybe it'll show you right through your lens itself. It's basically your light meter and you're just telling the camera, I want you to take a picture where the light meter looks like this. You're just telling it and it'll give you what you want in most cases. It's really useful in situations like this that are back-lit. This was my friend's kid, with the huge window behind her. Those are situations where the camera's gonna meter or measure the light and it's gonna think, oh, there's so much light and it'll result in a darker picture. This allows you to brighten the whole picture without adding flash (chuckles). That means that whatever's in the background may get blown out as we've mentioned a couple of times. That's a personal preference if you like that or not. I personally love it. I put her here in front of the window on purpose because I wanted a glowing background. Really, if you could see what was out the window, it was like the neighbor's car and a trash can at the curb and a mailbox. I don't want that in the photo, right? (scoffs) So I knew I didn't have to worry about it because there was such a difference between that brightness outside and the brightness on her being inside that if I get the brightness correct for her, then the background would be off the charts. That was great, I think it works to my advantage in that case. Here's what it looks like in the camera. If I'm pointing the camera at a scene and here again, it's back-lit with the window behind on the left. The camera's like, oh, there's so much light here so this looks like a good exposure to me. Maybe you take the picture and you get that. And you're like, 'oh no, that's awful.' Then you might go into your exposure compensation. You tell the camera you wanna bump the exposure up two stops brighter. Then you take another picture and you might get something like this. Does that make sense? It's pretty awesome. I just think that is so hugely empowering because without exposure compensation, unless you wanna shoot in manual mode, you have no way to really influence the exposure or like the overall brightness or darkness of it. So I think it's really important. As I mentioned, it's not gonna work in auto mode. It's not gonna work in manual mode for different reasons. You wanna be someplace in the middle like program mode or one of the priority modes. Will it work in the scenes down here? That will depend maybe. That's one of those things you have to check your manual. It might let you adjust maybe let's say in portrait mode. It might let you use exposure compensation but it might not work in macro mode. You'll have to see. It has the same process as white balance. You would take a picture and then you're like, 'oh, that's too dark or that's too bright.' Go into your exposure compensation. Tell it what you want. Take another photo. The nice thing is you can see it right away. Some cameras will even preview for you when you hold up the camera and you're telling it I wanna brighten it. As you're moving the indicator over, you might actually see it get brighter on your LCD screen. Then you get a little preview and you can know ahead of time if it's gonna work or not. That's how it works on my phone when I'm shooting.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - Shooting In Natural Light HD
New Camera Setup

Ratings and Reviews

Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.

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