The easiest way to use any digital camera is on the AUTO setting. Let’s face it, the camera makes all the technical decisions for you – you just need to press the shutter at the right time.
But no matter how smart they make cameras, there will be times when the main subject in your pictures is either too dark or too light. Fumbling with shutter speeds and f-stops is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there is a fast way to lighten or darken the next shot you take.
Exposure Compensation Control
The exposure compensation control is on almost every digital camera made. It will be a button with a +/- symbol on it. (see photo 1)
It may be on top of the camera (like this Nikon DSLR) or on the back of the camera.
Hold the button down and then rotate the thumb wheel (or press UP or DOWN on the adjustment wheel – see your camera manual for exact details). This will allow you to add or subtract exposure to what the camera “thinks” is correct.
Here’s two examples:
On the left is what the camera wanted to expose. Because the scene was predominantly dark green foliage, it brightened the overall scene but made the sunny foreground too bright. On the right I compensated by -1 stop, forcing the camera to darken the scene to better expose the highlight area.
The opposite happened with this next example. On the left, the bright sky told the camera there was a lot of light so the camera darkened the photo, making the statues too dark. Here I compensated by +1. This made the statues much lighter. The sky is blown out to white, but that wasn’t what I wanted to be properly exposed in the photo.
WARNING – Make sure you set the Exposure Compensation back to zero when you are done or else you will be wondering why all your photos are suddenly too bright or too dark.