Exposition. Exposure compensation.

Exposure is the amount of light needed to create a photograph. Nothing complicated.

Exposition. Exposure compensation

Exposition. Exposure compensation

The exposure is dosed by fixed assets:

  1. Shutter speed
  2. Aperture
  3. ISO sensitivity value
  4. Flash (or other lighting fixtures)

Basically, in digital photography it is customary to say that exposure depends only on excerpts, aperture, and ISO, but in fact everyone who says so omits the flash.

Exposure is measured in units of exposure EV (Exposure Value).

Image exposure unchanged + -0

Image exposure unchanged + -0

Important: if you fix the ISO value and flash power (as, for example, on old film cameras), it will remain possible to change only the shutter speed of the camera and the aperture of the lens. In this case, shutter speed and aperture are called expocouple. They are a couple, because when one changes, the other adapts to the second. This adjustment is just carried out by the camera.

The most important: changing one of the parameters of the main four, you need to change one of the other three to save the current exposure. So, changing the shutter speed, you will need to either change the aperture value or the ISO value to save the current exposure value.

The exposure is shifted 1.33 steps to the left, since the picture has a lot of dark areas

The exposure is shifted 1.33 steps to the left, since the picture has a lot of dark areas

The exposure meter is responsible for correct exposure in the camera. The light meter is a special sensor in the camera that measures the amount of light “absorbed” by the lens and calculates the “correct” parameters excerpts, aperture, and ISO, and sometimes flash output to create the “correct” exposure.

Correct exposure usually means filling the image with light and dark in a balanced way, usually the meter tries to make the “correct” histogram. In general, how an exposure meter does this is very difficult to explain on the fingers.

The exposure is shifted 1.33 steps to the left, although, according to the idea, it was necessary to shift to the right.

The exposure is shifted 1.33 steps to the left, although, according to the idea, it was necessary to shift to the right. This is the specifics of the camera itself.

Auto Exposure Metering

In automatic modes, in virtually all modes except P, A, S, M, the camera completely determines the parameters excerpts, aperture and ISO. If the flash is on, the flash output is also calculated. Depending on the shooting mode, the priorities of one or another parameter in the exposure are calculated.

no exposure compensation

no exposure compensation

Exposure compensation

Usually the camera (camera) has the ability to shift the overall exposure of the picture to the left or right along the histogram (either add the amount of light, or reduce the amount of light). A special button is responsible for this, which is very easy to find, it has the designation “+ -“. For example, on Nikon cameras, the “+ -” correction can only be used in creative modes P, A, S, M, in all other modes, the correction will not be available.

Exposure compensation

Exposure compensation. You can clearly see what has changed. -1, 0, +1

Exposure Compensation with the Flash Off and the Auto ISO Off:

1. In A (Aperture Priority) mode - when using “+ -”, the camera will vary the shutter speed to compensate for the exposure

2. In S mode (priority excerpts) - when "+ -" is used, the camera will change the aperture to compensate for the exposure

3. In M mode (manual mode) - the camera will not respond to “+ -” correction if the AUTO ISO function is off. If AUTO ISO is on, the camera will change the ISO value.

4. In P mode (program mode) - the camera can change both shutter speed and aperture

If the flash is on, then the compensation occurs with a change in the flash output and other parameters. Especially when the flash is on (in TTL auto flash output mode), the “+ -” compensation is strongly felt in manual mode M.

The camera’s exposure meter does a good job with some tasks.

The camera’s exposure meter does a good job with some tasks. And the amendment does not need to be used

Flash Compensation

Another complication when dealing with “+ -” is the separate flash level compensation function. This function has the same icon as “+ -“, but also adds a lightning bolt. This function directly affects flash level compensation. Changes in the same way, by a certain amount of EV It is very difficult to calculate flash level and exposure compensation at the same time. For example, if normal exposure compensation is turned on “+ -” at + 0.3EV and “Lightning + -” at + 0.7EV, then the overall exposure will have an offset of + 1EV.

Shooting in difficult fog conditions requires exposure compensation

Shooting in difficult fog conditions requires exposure compensation

Even worse, the flash output when using external flashes changes in two places - on the camera and on the flash itself. The camera can have a flash output correction of + 1E.V., And on the very external flash there may be a power correction of -0.7EV in the end, the photo will receive + 0.3EV general exposure corrections from the standard that the camera's automation will offer.

And if you wind all three values ​​of exposure compensation: flashes in the camera menu, external flash and total exposure, the damn leg will break down to calculate the final result.

Strong exposure compensation to the left (in the direction of the shadows) to give the picture the desired effect

Strong exposure compensation to the left (towards the shadows) to give the image the desired silhouette effect.

Why exposure compensation is needed

Correction is needed to create the necessary exposure for the photographer. The camera is always trying to do something in between, which is not at all suitable for creating the desired effect on the photo. Therefore, the photographer makes an amendment and gets either a slightly lighter shot, or a little dark.

Isn't it more convenient to use manual mode instead of exposure compensation?

No, it is not more convenient when active shooting is in progress, it is best to work in the semiautomatic device P, A, S and make corrections, rather than taking pictures at random. As my experience shows, the fully manual mode is only good for unhurried scenes, photo experiments, studio shooting. If you shoot in a semi-automatic P, A, S, then usually the camera makes a more or less normal exposure, which is easy to hold out by shooting in RAW.

Why is exposure compensation necessary in manual mode M?

  1. When the flash is on, modern cameras still measure the exposure and, using the flash power, try to make the “correct picture”, taking into account the correction from the measured norm. The correction only works if the scene is underexposed according to the camera.
  2. With auto ISO turned on, modern cameras also still take exposure metering and try to take the “correct shot” by adjusting the ISO, taking into account the correction from the measured rate.
  3. In the viewfinder, it is convenient to watch exposure deviations with the indicated correction from the norm that the camera shows.
  4. When switching to another mode, for example P, A, S the correction “+ -” starts working, sometimes it is very convenient.
Strong exposure adjustment left

Strong exposure adjustment to the left in order to save the skin texture from overexposure, frequent reception when shooting people

When should exposure compensation be used?

In fact, it is the photographer who decides when and why he needs to perform exposure compensation. There are general recommendations:

  • Increase compensation when shooting white on white
  • Zoom out when shooting black on black (black cat on a black background)
  • The usual exposure compensation when the camera's metering "lies".

But, each modern digital-SLR camera has its own metering, which measures according to its own criteria. You need to get used to your own camera, to know exactly in which scenes the camera will “overexpose” or “under-light”. Here's an actual example: my simple camera Nikon D80 It has a poor property of shifting the exposure to light tones, thereby making the scene overexposed.

Personal experience

I often use exposure compensation. Basically, no more than + -2 ev. All modern CZKs have this function, and it is very convenient and practical. I don’t give advice on setting the exposure, as everyone must decide how to emphasize the atmosphere in the photo with the help of the exposure.

Sometimes with a flash, the camera normally works on exposure

Sometimes with a flash, the camera normally works on exposure

Nothing is clear and complicated

If you don’t know how, it’s better to adjust the exposure, try using bracketing escorts. Even easier, shoot in RAW and adjust the exposure with a RAW converter such as Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, and native camera software. From RAW, you can indulge in an exposure compensation of + -2 EV with virtually no loss of quality

Exposure-corrected flashlight light

Exposure-corrected flashlight light


Exposure compensation helps you achieve the desired effect in photography and simply correct the automatic exposure metering in the camera. Exposure compensation is a creative element that always needs to be individually adjusted with each shot. If you have questions about exposure compensation, ask in the comments, as the topic is quite complex. I advise you to familiarize yourself with a related topic - metering methods.

Help to the project. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

Add a comment:



Comments: 149, on the topic: Exposition. Exposure compensation.

  • Andrei

    Everything is correct. But with manual lenses + flash = full light is obtained. How many did not twist the exposure and iso ...

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Typically, manual lenses have a high aperture, and all cameras with a built-in flash support synchronization up to 1 \ 200 (very few cameras can synchronize up to 1 \ 500). When you turn on the built-in flash or an external flash on amateur cameras, the shutter speed will automatically increase to 1 \ 200 (or 1 \ 250, 1 \ 320, 1 \ 500, or Hi values) and the camera will receive a much higher dose of light than necessary. A value of 1 \ 200s will turn on even if in manual mode you set a slower shutter speed, for example 1 \ 4000s. You can overcome this ailment with the help of an external flash and a camera, which together support fast sync mode.
      Also, illumination may be affected by incorrectly set flash output. Usually, with manual lenses on a number of cameras, you need to manually set the power.
      Another reason may simply be the automation of the camera itself, which just crashes.

      • Konstantin

        This is not an ailment and it is pointless to fight this phenomenon. Synchronization at such shutter speeds is determined by the design features of the camera shutters. Most modern cameras use curtain shutters, the action of which is based on the fact that a slit formed by two shutter curtains slips in front of a photosensitive element, for example, a matrix. The exposure time is determined by the slit width. When some shutter speeds are reached (1/200 - 1/250 sec.), The gap between the shutters becomes smaller than the size of the sensitive element. And since the flash duration is much shorter, about 1/2000 sec., When using faster shutter speeds, only part of the frame will be exposed to the flash light. It is easy to see if you try to take a picture with a flash with a film camera such as "Zenith", "FED", "Kiev", "Sharp" with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. and shorter.
        Thus, the automatic switching of the shutter speed in the camera to 1/200 sec. (Sync speed) when the flash is turned on is an elementary “foolproof”, ¬– automation does not allow the user to accidentally or unknowingly spoil the frame.

        • Arkady Shapoval

          Perhaps this is not an ailment, but due to the proliferation of cameras with fast synchronization, this is less functionality, which, on the contrary, can do much harm. For example, amateurs very often turn to me asking why they have the whole frame overexposed to the AV mode during the day with the built-in flash, here for some reason the automation very poorly suggests that it rests on the shutter speed threshold. Therefore, a fool can always ruin a picture.

  • Aleks de Kairoy

    I don’t know, I don’t agree, I just cover the aperture with the manual, the shutter speed is shorter, the ISO is at a minimum and the highlights are practically excluded. The same with dark photos. I open the aperture depending on the desired sharpness, the shutter speed is longer and up to 1600 maximum (depending on desired result). I basically always shoot on manual glasses.
    Arkady, thanks for the article.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      There, a man spoke about a flash with a manual, for example, on Nikon there will be real problems with light and an integrated flash on a day, and on Canon, metering with a manual often lies on a number of cameras, including when working with a flash, where the calculation is complicated.

  • anonym

    Quite right, Arkady! Not only cameras from different manufacturers, but also cameras from different models of the same manufacturer differ in individual exposure metering settings. For Nikons, this is generally a design feature that can be traced back to the F-601 model. Either there is a steady tendency towards overexposure, then with the advent of a new model range, on the contrary, it is “underdeveloped”. This is especially sensitive in digital devices, when the real latitude (now the dynamic range) is noticeably less than the manufacturer's declared one. Therefore, many photographers, having tested shooting in different conditions with a newly purchased device, set a certain exposure adjustment as if by default, for example, +0,7, and consider it as zero. So it was with my cameras. The D-50 kept casting shadows, so the +0,3 correction was basic. The situation changed radically with the D-90: on it I made an amendment of -0,3. In general, it really gets on your nerves: you expect precise work from a high-tech device, but it constantly lies even in simple conditions (note in the margin: I dislike the Kenons, but I will be fair - in them exposure metering is much better and more accurate than Nikonov).

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Thank you for sharing your experience. In older Nikon models, you can set the default exposure compensation, and it will not appear on the + - scale, this will stop annoying and completely forget about such a disadvantage.

      • Olga

        Arkady, is it possible to perform such a permanent correction on Nikon D5100? (I am using Helios-81H with Dandelion). Or when changing lenses (18-105) will you need to “mess around” again?

        • Arkady Shapoval

          On 5100 it is impossible.

          • Olga

            And what option would you recommend to a completely beginner?

            • Arkady Shapoval

              Use the usual + - amendment, it's easy

  • alenfeeling

    “The situation has changed radically since the D-90: I am making an amendment of -0,3 on it.”
    Does this apply to all d90 cameras?

    • Alexander

      I would say that everyone, but with the caveat, with the same firmware version, otherwise I noticed that after replacing the firmware on the D200 camera, the exposure meter began to work more accurately, I think this applies to all other models

  • Ivan

    I put the base amendment at -80 -0,7.
    Crazy for a story. Diznavsya about deyaki nuances, about yak not knowing.

  • Egor

    Very helpful article. Nowhere else has it been possible to find such decrypted information. In the instructions, on other portals, you read and get even more confused and do not understand why it is needed at all? Only with experience did I figure out what it was and how to use it. From personal experience: before I used only manual lenses and absolutely did not see the difference in exposure compensation in photographs at least at -2.0, at least at +2.0 ev. Then I concluded that it simply does not exist in the “M” mode with fixed ISO. Now I use my native glasses with autofocus much more often, and I quietly left my native mode “M” to “A” and realized that it is much more convenient to take pictures this way, if you shoot a lot and everything in a row - you do not need to monitor the exposure meter, you do not need spin the wheels after every frame. I just set the desired aperture for the intended photo, saw in the viewfinder what the shutter speed would be, relaxed (if high), or, on the contrary, strained so that my hands would not shake, took a picture and got (in 99% of cases) the desired result. If the result is still not satisfactory, then you can slightly adjust the exposure, which again will only affect the shutter speed, thus not changing the previous photo, but drawing details in the shadows or highlights. But almost always at any time of the day I am satisfied with the result of exposure without corrections, I rarely used a correction, and then more often for the sake of interest and experiment. Good pictures to everyone!
    Thanks again for the article!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      And thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Victor

    I have 50d why ... photo of the bride is one light another dark face. I do not change the state and everything else. I focus on the face.

  • Sasha

    Thanks for the good articles, I read it in one breath, everything is clear as never before, I am very glad that I found this resource !!! now I recommend it to all my friends “photographers”)

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Not at all, if questions arise, ask, I will try to answer them, or upgrade the article.

  • Lera pavlov

    Thanks for the answer, I thought so.


    As you know, the most accurate method for determining exposure is to measure the FALLING LIGHT. All exposure meters mounted in cameras, from the most primitive to top digital cameras, measure REFLECTED LIGHT, distorted albedo of the subject. Therefore, where and when it is possible, it is best to set the ISO and turn off the automation, measure the incident light with a SEPARATE exposure meter or flash meter and manually set the shutter speed and aperture.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Thanks for the thought.

    • Konstantin

      And, nevertheless, even with this “wrong” metering method, very decent photos are usually obtained!
      When determining the exposure by measuring the intensity of the incident light, we can conclude that, for example, all landscapes on a sunny day should be taken with the same exposure. And a bright, bright beach, and the edge of a dark forest. But it is precisely the reflected, distorted light that gets into the lens and is captured by the matrix, the intensity of which is measured by the camera's automation.
      Perhaps there are such scenes, when shooting which it is “more correct” to measure the intensity of the incident light, but in practice, the “wrong” method is quite enough, which gives excellent results without wasting time and effort.

      • Arkady Shapoval

        I agree with you, I took a lot of pictures when focusing on automatic exposure metering. You just need to get used to automation and be able to use it, correct it if necessary, for the sake of this, all technical innovations are made.

      • Maksim

        + 100!

    • anonym

      Do ... run with a flash meter if you are shooting a bride, children, etc. etc. In the studio, yes, but not in regular shooting. Do not fool people if you write here.


    “… All landscapes on a sunny day should be shot at the same exposure.” Imagine that I do just that. At ISO = 400 (KODAK UltraMax 400) I expose on my Zenit-3M or Kiev-19 on a sunny day a shutter speed of 1/500 s and aperture 8. In other conditions, the exposure, of course, is different (Sverdlovsk-6 exposure meter). Then I scan to HP G3010 and edit in LightBox, GIMP, Picasa. And I also get “great results without wasting time and effort”.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Editing is already an extra cost. By the way, there is a solar rule ISO 100, F16, 1 \ 100 (it seems so)

    • parent

      During sequential shooting, the focus of the lens changes continuously, and hence the intensity of the light flux. The mirror and TTL are the main helpers and savior in this, how can I refuse them?

    • Maksim

      With all due respect to your deep understanding of the essence of the process, I would like to clarify that the article and comments are purely about the CPC. And Zenit-3M or Kiev-19 is a completely different "song" ...

      • BB

        + it is better to overexpose the film a little in order to get a denser negative (and preserve the details in the shadows), but with the matrix it is the opposite - it is better to underexpose a little so that the details remain in the highlights.

    • igor-ruble@mail.ru

      "... all landscapes on a sunny day should be shot at the same exposure" - and don't fool people with this statement. Even at the same time, with a difference of 5 seconds, when photographing a model, a person will turn the other side - a different exposure will already be needed. And if you shoot from different angles, then in general everything will change dramatically - it all depends on the background. And these rules of a "sunny day", the so-called "sunny" - complete shit. There are no rules for the correct exposure of images, it all depends on the specific shooting conditions. And the automation, the built-in camera, copes with this. Good or average - it depends more on the price of the camera.

      • KalekseyG

        Are you generally adequate?
        “... all the landscapes on a sunny day are needed
        shoot at the same exposure ”- what models and objects? LANDSCAPES !!!!!!!!!
        What side did the river turn? Or hid mountains in the shade from the sun?

        • Oleg

          Here are some examples:

          “Thunder struck through the sky, terrible clouds rushed by, a hurricane of medium strength swept by” (c) A. Makarevich

          The sun walked across the sky
          And for the cloud ran.
          I looked out of the window,
          It became a mess in the dark.
          A magpie - Beloboki
          We rode through the fields
          Shouted to the cranes:
          “Woe! Woe! Crocodile
          The sun in the sky swallowed! "
          It was darkness. (c) K. Chukovsky

        • Oleg

          From the old:
          Pompeii on a sunny day on August 24, 79 ...


    Editing, if superfluous, is extremely rare. In the "solar rule", as my experience shows, it is better to replace 16 with 8.

    • Igor

      The newbie himself, having learned about the “solar rule” and having experimented with it on a cloudy autumn day (camera d7000 kit 18-55, bought in October last year), also came to this conclusion. But the key word here is “cloudy autumn day”. And in the solar rule, we are talking about a bright sunny day without clouds (and it seems that somewhere even it was about more southern latitudes). I do not argue, maybe you are right about “8”, but I still think (taking into account personal experience) that 16 is more correct on a sunny summer day.

    • Serge P.

      Excuse me, Valentin, why bother with 400 in the summer? It is either for indoor shooting (not a studio), or in the fall and winter, when cloudy days prevail.
      Well, and then, someone likes the darker, while someone likes the lighter pictures, in addition, the photo-breadth of the film makes it possible to make a mistake in one step.

  • Maksim

    Good afternoon, Arkady, my question, or rather, the request will probably seem ridiculous to you, but I'm a beginner and probably excusable for me))) I use my Nikon d5100 camera for a week, yesterday my friends came to my wife to shoot them in a room without flash, mainly in A mode and I experimented with different settings, but I don’t remember what I was exhibiting, so some of the photos turned out to be very beautiful, the colors saturated on the photo are matte, even the pinkish contours are clear as photographed in clubs; you also know GEOMETRIYA on the Internet often e found, so the question is how to reproduce these settings and still have a son in kindergarten soon matinee autumn they will be there in bright costumes, mushrooms leaves it.d. as you advise to configure the camera for such conditions. Thank you

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I advise you to look at EXIF ​​taken photos, there are all the settings.

  • Borja

    All clear. Thanks to the Author for everything. But here's a simple question. Shooting in Raw to “correct” the exposure during processing, literally 2 sec. Or, in hardware, is the result different? I tried it, but to be honest I didn't see any difference. Thanks.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      The correction can be + -5 units, when shooting and processing in RAW, the quality will suffer very, very much.

      • anonym

        So, he looked bad. I will pay more attention to this. Thank you.

  • Bui-com

    You write that:
    3. In M mode (manual mode) - the camera will not respond to the “+ -” correction if the AUTO ISO function is turned off. If the AUTO ISO function is enabled, the camera will change the ISO value.
    I have on D 5100 while holding “+ - the aperture is being adjusted !, as I did not try to set the ISO, but unfortunately nothing changes: ((
    PS: I programmed the ISO and norms on the Fn button :)!
    Arkady, tell me on which cameras this is regulated by your method described above!
    Thank you!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      This applies to all Nikon cameras. Correction to the D5100 can be performed using the INFO button, but it will have no effect without auto ISO, or there will be no flash.

    • BB

      I'll correct Arcadia a little: the button is not 'Info', but 'I' - the correction can be made on the 'main settings screen'. You can also switch to P, A, or S mode, make exposure compensation, and return to M mode.
      All due to the fact that the camera has no ext. control dial (front), therefore the +/- button is used to access the iris control in M ​​mode

  • Bui-com

    Oh yes!
    The article is very instructive!
    Thank you for your work!

  • Bui-com

    Nothing happens on info!
    By clicking on i (it enters the menu where you can edit the white balance, flash, etc.) I adjust the exposure to +5, too, nothing changes!
    Autoiso stands without flash in M ​​mode!
    The latest firmware!
    Who also does not work, please unsubscribe!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      In mode M and exposure compensation should not occur with exposure exposure / aperture, manual mode exists for that, to set everything manually.

  • Anton

    There was a d90 which pleased everyone. Problems with the exposure of the frame never happened !!!! Everything was always smooth and without overexposure and even with a flash. I bought 700 and something I didn’t like. Metering happens all the time in different ways. By doing the same frame you can get a failure in the shadows, or you can overexposure throughout the frame. I regret that I sold 90. I liked Pts.

  • Nikita

    Thank you Arkady for the article. I am a “beginner” amateur and for me on your site there is a lot of new, informative.

  • Miroslav

    I have been reading the site for the second week! Perfectly stated, everything is exactly as I would have written it myself, if I knew of course! And I haven't met it better yet. But more than that, I want to say. that you Arkady also attract people with smart thoughts, i.e. everyone must read Thoughts on the topic after the article ...
    I thank Arkady for the work and content.

  • Alexander

    Indeed, thanks for the article! Everything is laid out on the shelves!

  • Maria

    Hello Arkady!
    Could you please tell me how to adjust the exposure value in M ​​mode on the Canon D600. Pictures come out too dark. I set the ISO manually, which cannot be done in any way with the exposure. (I hope that my question doesn’t seem too stupid for you and you give me a hint. Thank you in advance)
    PS Thank you so much for the good articles, they help me a lot to get comfortable with the new camera! And with photography in general. Many thanks!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      In manual mode, you need to set the shutter speed and aperture value, this is done using the camera settings.

  • hashish

    Dear Arkady. Really like your site. Especially your attention to the questions asked! I’m just a beginner photographer (so far it’s not good, not in terms of quality, but in terms of ideas), but I hope so. Just now acquired a flash 910yu. So now generally confused, there are even more questions. However, I am not talking about that. I have nikon 3200. If you want, I will send you for the test. I need him in the coming week unnecessarily.

  • Oleg

    Hello. I just want to buy a fotik, while the choice fell on the Nikon D5100. My friend has such a camera. Stunning photos, with an ordinary lens included in the set 18-55mm. I can imagine what pictures can be obtained with a superb lens. In your photographs, I see inscriptions in the lower right corner. Is there such a function in the photo camera, or did you do it in Photoshop? Tell me more pliz.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      This is called EXIF ​​data. The camera cannot do this, it is done using additional software.

  • Oleg

    I understood everything, thanks. Good luck with your site. Super.

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