EV Compensation Explained - Digital Photography School

EV Compensation Explained

EvbuttonToday Yanik Chauvin from Image-Y shares how he uses EV Compensation.

I’ve been using the EV (Exposure Value) button on my camera more than any of the other buttons so I thought I would share with you why and when I use it. Remember that I shoot with a Nikon so shutter speed and aperture are controlled with the front and back wheels not buttons ;). But before I get into that, let me briefly explain to you WHAT the EV button is and what it does.

To put it simply, the EV button allows your to quickly underexpose (darken) or overexpose (brighten) your image. How it works is pretty simple. When you’re taking a photo, the camera’s job is to adjust itself by changing the shutter speed and/or apperture to properly expose your shot so that it’s not too bright or too dark. Some cameras do this better than others but that’s another story. ;) When you play with the EV button, what you’re doing is telling the camera to either brighten or darken the photo from the optimal exposure it perceives.

You can use the EV button in P (programed auto), S or Tv (shutter priority) or A (aperture priority) modes.

In P mode, the camera will adjust the EV by changing the shutter speed and/or the apperture. In S/Tv mode, since you set the shutter speed manually, it will adjust the aperture to compensate. In A mode, the camera will change the shutter speed since you manually control the apperture.

NB: You cannot use the EV button to under or overexpose your photo in M (manual) mode since you control both the shutter speed and aperture manually.

Let’s look at an example together. The 1st shot is without EV compensation, in other words how the camera sees proper exposure. I shot in Aperture Priority so my aperture stays the same so I’ll only note (for curiosity’s sake) the shutter speed changes that the camera selected. This shot is at 1/640 sec.

Exposure1

Using the EV button I selected +1 EV and got this shot at 1/320 sec.

Exposure2

At +2 EV the shutter speed was at 1/160 sec.

Exposure3

I then underexposed my shot by -1 EV and this is the result. The shutter speed went to 1/1250 sec.

Exposure4

At -2 EV the shutter speed was at 1/2500 sec.

Exposure5

So, as you can see, the camera adjusted the shutter speed to let in more or less light to fulfill my request.

When to Use EV Compensation

You’re probably thinking to yourself: “Great! Now I understand how to use the EV compensation button. Super! OK… when do I need to use this? You say you use it all the time? You don’t think the camera is smart enough for you?” Alright then. Let’s talk about when to use it. I can’t go through all the situations but let me explain a few most common ones.

Your camera has a tendency to over/underexpose:

I had this issue with my Nikon D200. The camera seemed to overexpose by roughly 0.3 EV most of the time. So what I did to fix the problem was to set my EV at -0.3 and the problem was solved for general optimal exposures. Simple as that.

You need more shutter speed:

I often shoot birds and those suckers can move pretty fast sometimes and to freeze their movement I need as high a shutter speed as I can. And if their also far away and I’m at my full 400mm on my Nikkor 80-400mm VR I need speed to reduce or eliminate blur from camera shake. The first thing I do is go into A mode and set my aperture wide open (smallest number) to get the most light. Then I bring my EV down by roughly 0.7. I would rather have a crisp darker shot that I can easily recalibrate in post processing than having a properly exposed blurry shot. :)

Your subject is brighter/darker than your background:

When I shot the flower above my subject took most of the frame so the exposure was spot on. But sometimes your subject will be smaller, like a bird in a tree. Let’s say you’re shooting a bright yellow bird perched in a dark green tree and the bird only takes up 1/10th or less of the frame because you’re too cheap to buy that Canon 800mm IS, The Sigma 800mm or that Nikkor 600mm ;), what your camera does is get a general metering of the frame and adjusts the EV accordingly (we could talk about camera metering controls but that’s another article altogether!). What will happen is the your dark green tree will be properly exposed since it takes up most of the frame which means your little bird will be overexposed and therefore lose all it’s detail. You’ll have a little white spot where the bird is. Not exactly what we want. So with the flip of a button you then underexpose your shot by -1 EV and see if you get the details back. If it’s still not enough bring it down lower until your bird is properly exposed. It’s quick and easy. And of course you can apply this to a dark subject on a bright background to get details back by bringing up your EV.

Top photo is normally exposed. Bottom photo is exposed at -1.3 EV

Exposure6

Bright sky:

So you’re shooting this lovely landscape with a beautiful blue sky and poofy white clouds and you forgot your graduated ND filter. Shoot! Ah, but you do have your tripod so you set it up, frame your shot and take the 1st shot at normal exposure. Most of the time (depending on your composition) the land will be properly exposed and the blue sky turns white (overexposed). Darn! What to do? Underexpose your shot (by using the EV button of course) until your sky is nice and blue. Having used a tripod, my composition is the same so I can easily stitch the land and the sky together in Photoshop™ to make the perfectly exposed photo. Or use the HDR technique. Yes you can also do this by setting up your camera to bracket your exposure but that’s way too long to do in the menus compared to just pressing a button and turning a dial. :)

So there you go! The mysteries of the EV compensation button are no more. :)

If you use the EV button in other situations, please post them here to share them with us.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • BigAshD

    …. your camera has probably kicked you into the flash version of EV, also known as flash compensation.

  • jason

    You’ve missed something quite fundamental from your list, I think – the main reason for biasing the exposure is when the image you want isn’t mid-toned.

    If you just think about what you’re asking the camera to meter, remember that it’s trying to render that as equivalent to a middle grey, and compensate accordingly – you don’t have to remember so many special cases.

  • SNM

    I have a Pentax K20D and it has a button specifically for the auto-bracketing. Merely push the button, set your number of exposures (3 or 5), then set the steps. It’s all done without having to access menus. Then one click of the shutter button and the camera takes 3 or 5 successive photos.

  • Federico Sendel

    There is something I don’t understand about Exposure Compensation. Perhaps this is silly but i don’t exactly see the need for it. Ass Darren says, “In A mode, the camera will change the shutter speed since you manually control the apperture.” or “In S/Tv mode, since you set the shutter speed manually, it will adjust the aperture to compensate”

    So, if Exposure Compensation is essentially altering the aperture or the shutter speed, why not just do this yourself? If the scene is too bright, alter the exposure by playing around with shutter speed or aperture. Am I missing something?

  • Sami

    Federico

    I was thinking the same thing, I’m struggling to get my head around this too. Although I have been told Ev is very valuable for scenarios such as shooting a bride in a white dress / groom in black tux. Again why not just adjust the Aperture or Shutter Speed? I’m sure there is an explanation!

  • Federico Sendel

    I know! Anybody have any ideas about this?

  • Jason Gade

    Federico and Sami:

    I’m no expert, but my understanding is this: your camera has a light meter and whether you are looking at it in manual or whether you are using one of the semi-automatic modes, the optimal point is the center of the meter. EV comp moves that middle to another point, like an offset.

    So in a semi-automatic mode the camera sets the optimal exposure point higher or lower and will adjust the aperture or shutter to that point instead of to the original optimal point.

    I don’t know if in a manual mode if EV comp causes the meter to report differently or not.

  • Federico Sendel

    Thanks Jason, but I’m not quite sure that’s what EV compensation does. I don’t think it moves the optimal point, but it just messes with aperture or shutter speed to provide more or less light. Am I right?

  • Anil

    @Federico:
    Well you cannot change your shutter speed when in Aperture priority mode, camera automatically sets this. In the A mode you can change the shutter speed by adjusting the EV compensation.

  • different jason

    Federico: changing the shutter speed (in shutter priority mode) or the aperture (in aperture priority mode) doesn’t change the exposure at all. Each change you make, the camera makes the opposite change in the other control to compensate.

    The best way to understand it is just to get your camera out, point it at differently lit things and look at what the camera’s telling you.

    Shoot some pictures in full manual – adjust both the shutter speed and aperture until the light meter is showing in the middle.

    Remember what the automatic exposure modes (and the light meter in manual mode) are doing for you. If you take a picture without compensation the average brightness of your picture will be middle grey, whether you’re taking a picture of a snowy field or a black night sky.

    Just play and it’ll become clear :-)

  • Federico Sendel

    Ok different jason, thanks. That was quite helpful. I guess then changing shutter speed or aperture will only change the exposure if I’m in full Manual mode, right?. And then I guess that when using full Manual you can’t use exposure compensation.

  • different jason

    federico: exactly right on both counts, yes.

    If you’re on full manual mode and look at the light meter, and it says one stop overexposed – that’s exactly the same exposure value as if you were on aperture/shutter priority with +1 compensation.

    If you’re feeling ambitious, I’d recommend having a look at http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm – even if you don’t absorb it well enough first time to practice the technique it describes, it should help you towards thinking in the right way.

  • Federico Sendel

    I’ll check it out. Thanks a lot! This is a doubt I’ve had for a long time and I finally get it.

  • Gisele

    I absolutely LOVE this site and I cannot get enough of it…. Soooo helpful !!

  • akc

    Thanks !
    This was really helpful. Though i did know the EV and the use this article was very helpful in bringing out the ease of use it can get while using P, Av, Tv modes; which i have otherwise been missing using the Manual mode.
    Also, sharing the situations where using EV adjustment is helpful made a lot of sense.
    Thanks once again!

  • Faith

    Appreciate the article. If I’m understanding it correctly, it is indeed a workaround to avoid manual aperture/shutter adjustments — aka, a crutch.

    It would seem to me that this is another example of relying on a shortcut instead of learning the fundamentals of photography. Even on a digital camera, a solid understanding of aperture/depth of field and shutter speed is worth more than getting dependent on a button in manual mode. The reality is that if you’re gonna be a serious photographer, you’ve got to be comfortable in manual mode — believe me, you won’t regret it. And shooting manual is as fast or faster than figuring out whether the automatic settings work, once you get the hang of it.

  • jason rosenberg

    Thanks so much for the EV primer. It was clear and with enough examples.
    I’m looking forward to learning more from your website and just signed up.
    jason rosenberg

  • http://www.redphotophotography.com Gary Miller

    Thanks for the useful information. I have read/heard many other people talk about the exposure compensation button, but I like the fact that you give very practical, concrete examples of when and how to use it. It is the application part that so many people forget to explain.

  • arslan

    Thanks for such an informative writing. Infact i thought my simple Pentax Optio S7 has been damaged since for quite few months all the pictures shot were too bright. Even resetting and reinstalling firmware didnot help to resolve the issue. All other possible options of changing AF, sensitivity etc didnot work. Finally, underexposing EV resolved my problem, and i dont need to buy a new camera.

    Thanks buddy once again

  • Gwen

    thanks so much for this information. i learned a whole lot from this. now i can tweak my camera without fear of creating an “ugly” photo. :-)

  • Jamesev

    You say EV does nothing much in M mode. Agreed it won’t change the exposure as it does in S or A mode but it does adjust the balance point indicator on the camera display that indicates what the camera meter is suggesting is the correct exposure.

  • Tony Moore

    Wow. Thanks for that I understand much better now exactly what EV is. I have just bought a new Sony Camera and their guides are definitely not for idiots like me!!

  • Mandy

    I just got my Canon 60D a week ago and I am stil trying to understand all of the dials and what works with what, so while looking at some pet photos in iPhoto that I just took, I noticed every single time there was this thing called “EV” that was aways at “0.” I Googled it and this article came up, which is helpful. I noticed you mentioned using EV to adjust a blue sky back into a photo, but I read somewhere else that a UV filter will do that. I’m a complete newbie but aspiring to wrap my head around things and go professional some day, so I wanted to ask you: Is the EV adjustment for a blue sky doing something different than what the UV filter would do? Which would be more practical?

  • Ali Zahoor

    if it works that way then how to keep the motion freesing or depth of feild same for all the frames, :/
    i am starter so i have this comfusion in my mind :(

  • http://www.dipanjan-mitra.com Dipanjan Mitra

    Hi,
    I heard from a friend that Nikon has the option of controlling the EV in Manual Mode. He was told by a service center guy. Is that right? Does Nikon have the option? I use a Canon and i know I cannot use EV in manual mode. Waiting for your response eagerly,

    Thanks,
    Dipanjan.

  • http://www.dipanjan-mitra.com Dipanjan Mitra

    Hi,
    Here is the link to the manual of D7000 from the Nikon site where its mentioned Exposure Compensation (P,S,A and M Modes only). Is this a different kind of compensation? I am a bit confused. Please help…

    http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/kie88335f7869dfuejdl=-cww2/D7000_EN.pdf ( page 107) top right corner.

    Thanks,
    Dipanjan.

  • Don Wood

    I’ve always felt that setting the EV is a guessing game. I let my D600 setup the Preset white balance. I take one shot at a white or gray object and if the camera says its good, my exposures seem to be fine.

  • Fag

    I could tell this site was written by an Aussie Bogan (“Too cheap to buy, poofy white clouds”) not quite comminicable language ¡¡¡¡

  • John

    cheers that’s helped me a great deal.

  • http://aisjournal.com/ Aminul Islam Sajib

    Agreed. “Too cheap to buy” is downright unacceptable and rude.

  • ShihTzuMama

    I actually thought the information was helpful and the language was friendly and light-hearted. I much prefer reading an article with a little personality and humor over something purely factual, serious and boring.

    I recently read a blog where the author mentioned using a higher exposure compensation in a brighter setting such as a photograph of a snowy landscape. She explained that the camera tends to try to underexpose this type of photo to compensate for the brightness, so sometimes, the snow will appear gray. By increasing the exposure compensation, the snow will retain its white color. She further explained that in darker photos, sometimes it makes sense to turn down the exposure compensation (even though the photo will appear even darker) because the camera will attempt to overexpose the photograph, which would cause the photographer to lose detail. All of this seems counter-intuitive to me – your article makes more sense but I am sure both are correct. I guess the trick is just getting to know our own cameras!

    Thank you for this information! As an amateur, self-taught hobbyist, any help I can find is valuable!

  • Petros

    Nice article with very good examples.
    thanx!

  • rellimnitsuj

    I shoot a Fujifilm X100 and XT1 professionally; mostly doing editorial / headshots with off-camera flash for my digital agency (www.pixelhousedigital.com). I find the EV selector on these cameras invaluable because rather than going full manual, I can simply shoot in aperture priority to control my DOF, underexpose by a stop using the EV selector, and fire a speedlight through a softbox (usually at 1/64th) to light the model from one side. The resulting images have gorgeous depth and contrast, and the process is almost effortless.

  • http://www.timguyking.com/ Tim Guy King

    “Too cheap to buy” – He is being sarcastic. Everyone knows how expensive these lenses are. Adjust your personal EV compensation and lighten up.

Some older comments

  • Don Wood

    September 23, 2013 09:58 am

    I've always felt that setting the EV is a guessing game. I let my D600 setup the Preset white balance. I take one shot at a white or gray object and if the camera says its good, my exposures seem to be fine.

  • Dipanjan Mitra

    August 28, 2013 06:38 pm

    Hi,
    Here is the link to the manual of D7000 from the Nikon site where its mentioned Exposure Compensation (P,S,A and M Modes only). Is this a different kind of compensation? I am a bit confused. Please help...

    http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/kie88335f7869dfuejdl=-cww2/D7000_EN.pdf ( page 107) top right corner.

    Thanks,
    Dipanjan.

  • Dipanjan Mitra

    August 28, 2013 06:16 pm

    Hi,
    I heard from a friend that Nikon has the option of controlling the EV in Manual Mode. He was told by a service center guy. Is that right? Does Nikon have the option? I use a Canon and i know I cannot use EV in manual mode. Waiting for your response eagerly,

    Thanks,
    Dipanjan.

  • Ali Zahoor

    June 18, 2013 08:35 am

    if it works that way then how to keep the motion freesing or depth of feild same for all the frames, :/
    i am starter so i have this comfusion in my mind :(

  • Mandy

    June 17, 2013 03:56 am

    I just got my Canon 60D a week ago and I am stil trying to understand all of the dials and what works with what, so while looking at some pet photos in iPhoto that I just took, I noticed every single time there was this thing called "EV" that was aways at "0." I Googled it and this article came up, which is helpful. I noticed you mentioned using EV to adjust a blue sky back into a photo, but I read somewhere else that a UV filter will do that. I'm a complete newbie but aspiring to wrap my head around things and go professional some day, so I wanted to ask you: Is the EV adjustment for a blue sky doing something different than what the UV filter would do? Which would be more practical?

  • Tony Moore

    June 15, 2013 01:19 am

    Wow. Thanks for that I understand much better now exactly what EV is. I have just bought a new Sony Camera and their guides are definitely not for idiots like me!!

  • Jamesev

    May 13, 2013 01:56 am

    You say EV does nothing much in M mode. Agreed it won't change the exposure as it does in S or A mode but it does adjust the balance point indicator on the camera display that indicates what the camera meter is suggesting is the correct exposure.

  • Gwen

    October 19, 2012 11:32 am

    thanks so much for this information. i learned a whole lot from this. now i can tweak my camera without fear of creating an "ugly" photo. :-)

  • arslan

    August 10, 2011 03:26 am

    Thanks for such an informative writing. Infact i thought my simple Pentax Optio S7 has been damaged since for quite few months all the pictures shot were too bright. Even resetting and reinstalling firmware didnot help to resolve the issue. All other possible options of changing AF, sensitivity etc didnot work. Finally, underexposing EV resolved my problem, and i dont need to buy a new camera.

    Thanks buddy once again

  • Gary Miller

    March 21, 2011 07:24 am

    Thanks for the useful information. I have read/heard many other people talk about the exposure compensation button, but I like the fact that you give very practical, concrete examples of when and how to use it. It is the application part that so many people forget to explain.

  • jason rosenberg

    October 8, 2010 01:06 pm

    Thanks so much for the EV primer. It was clear and with enough examples.
    I'm looking forward to learning more from your website and just signed up.
    jason rosenberg

  • Faith

    October 6, 2010 04:33 am

    Appreciate the article. If I'm understanding it correctly, it is indeed a workaround to avoid manual aperture/shutter adjustments -- aka, a crutch.

    It would seem to me that this is another example of relying on a shortcut instead of learning the fundamentals of photography. Even on a digital camera, a solid understanding of aperture/depth of field and shutter speed is worth more than getting dependent on a button in manual mode. The reality is that if you're gonna be a serious photographer, you've got to be comfortable in manual mode -- believe me, you won't regret it. And shooting manual is as fast or faster than figuring out whether the automatic settings work, once you get the hang of it.

  • akc

    October 4, 2010 04:04 am

    Thanks !
    This was really helpful. Though i did know the EV and the use this article was very helpful in bringing out the ease of use it can get while using P, Av, Tv modes; which i have otherwise been missing using the Manual mode.
    Also, sharing the situations where using EV adjustment is helpful made a lot of sense.
    Thanks once again!

  • Gisele

    June 17, 2010 12:03 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this site and I cannot get enough of it.... Soooo helpful !!

  • Federico Sendel

    May 29, 2010 06:06 am

    I'll check it out. Thanks a lot! This is a doubt I've had for a long time and I finally get it.

  • different jason

    May 29, 2010 12:45 am

    federico: exactly right on both counts, yes.

    If you're on full manual mode and look at the light meter, and it says one stop overexposed - that's exactly the same exposure value as if you were on aperture/shutter priority with +1 compensation.

    If you're feeling ambitious, I'd recommend having a look at http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm - even if you don't absorb it well enough first time to practice the technique it describes, it should help you towards thinking in the right way.

  • Federico Sendel

    May 28, 2010 11:25 pm

    Ok different jason, thanks. That was quite helpful. I guess then changing shutter speed or aperture will only change the exposure if I'm in full Manual mode, right?. And then I guess that when using full Manual you can't use exposure compensation.

  • different jason

    May 28, 2010 04:18 pm

    Federico: changing the shutter speed (in shutter priority mode) or the aperture (in aperture priority mode) doesn't change the exposure at all. Each change you make, the camera makes the opposite change in the other control to compensate.

    The best way to understand it is just to get your camera out, point it at differently lit things and look at what the camera's telling you.

    Shoot some pictures in full manual - adjust both the shutter speed and aperture until the light meter is showing in the middle.

    Remember what the automatic exposure modes (and the light meter in manual mode) are doing for you. If you take a picture without compensation the average brightness of your picture will be middle grey, whether you're taking a picture of a snowy field or a black night sky.

    Just play and it'll become clear :-)

  • Anil

    May 28, 2010 06:27 am

    @Federico:
    Well you cannot change your shutter speed when in Aperture priority mode, camera automatically sets this. In the A mode you can change the shutter speed by adjusting the EV compensation.

  • Federico Sendel

    May 28, 2010 01:16 am

    Thanks Jason, but I'm not quite sure that's what EV compensation does. I don't think it moves the optimal point, but it just messes with aperture or shutter speed to provide more or less light. Am I right?

  • Jason Gade

    May 27, 2010 04:38 pm

    Federico and Sami:

    I'm no expert, but my understanding is this: your camera has a light meter and whether you are looking at it in manual or whether you are using one of the semi-automatic modes, the optimal point is the center of the meter. EV comp moves that middle to another point, like an offset.

    So in a semi-automatic mode the camera sets the optimal exposure point higher or lower and will adjust the aperture or shutter to that point instead of to the original optimal point.

    I don't know if in a manual mode if EV comp causes the meter to report differently or not.

  • Federico Sendel

    May 26, 2010 03:15 pm

    I know! Anybody have any ideas about this?

  • Sami

    May 25, 2010 09:52 pm

    Federico

    I was thinking the same thing, I'm struggling to get my head around this too. Although I have been told Ev is very valuable for scenarios such as shooting a bride in a white dress / groom in black tux. Again why not just adjust the Aperture or Shutter Speed? I'm sure there is an explanation!

  • Federico Sendel

    May 25, 2010 07:48 am

    There is something I don't understand about Exposure Compensation. Perhaps this is silly but i don't exactly see the need for it. Ass Darren says, "In A mode, the camera will change the shutter speed since you manually control the apperture." or "In S/Tv mode, since you set the shutter speed manually, it will adjust the aperture to compensate"

    So, if Exposure Compensation is essentially altering the aperture or the shutter speed, why not just do this yourself? If the scene is too bright, alter the exposure by playing around with shutter speed or aperture. Am I missing something?

  • SNM

    May 12, 2010 06:54 am

    I have a Pentax K20D and it has a button specifically for the auto-bracketing. Merely push the button, set your number of exposures (3 or 5), then set the steps. It's all done without having to access menus. Then one click of the shutter button and the camera takes 3 or 5 successive photos.

  • jason

    February 25, 2010 05:36 pm

    You've missed something quite fundamental from your list, I think - the main reason for biasing the exposure is when the image you want isn't mid-toned.

    If you just think about what you're asking the camera to meter, remember that it's trying to render that as equivalent to a middle grey, and compensate accordingly - you don't have to remember so many special cases.

  • BigAshD

    November 28, 2009 11:10 am

    .... your camera has probably kicked you into the flash version of EV, also known as flash compensation.

  • Amr El-Gohary

    November 27, 2009 09:51 pm

    Actually, there is one case where exposure value compensation worked with me in Manual (M) mode..
    that was when i use a flash while shooting..
    any explanations ?!!

  • Barry

    November 20, 2009 09:02 am

    Not THAT is a tip. I've never used the EV, but now I can see a lot of applications for it. Thanks

  • simon

    November 2, 2009 03:18 pm

    ev explained brilliantly. thank you ! even put a grin on my face, unlike most of the stuffy explainations on the web ! lets see if i can put this new found understanding in practice.

  • Stano

    October 21, 2009 08:51 pm

    Thank you!!! An excellent and succinct overview to the use of EV compensation. The photo comparisons and heading of various times to use EV was a great lookover.

  • Suz

    August 15, 2009 03:28 pm

    I LOVED this article! Thanks so much for explaining what the ev compensation is. I've always been interested in photography and since I was disabled in a car accident - my camera has become my lifeline. Taking pictures is just about the only thing I can do for "entertainment" soooo....long story short, I just got a new camera (not near as fancy as yours, lol) but it has many nice features that I had NO CLUE what they were and in the users manual it just says things like you can adjust your ev compensation by doing xyz.....but it didn't say why you'd want to or what ev compensation was. Thanks so much for writing an EASY to understand article that explains things in such a way that even the most inexperienced photographer can understand :-)

  • Mike

    February 22, 2009 05:39 am

    Does anyone know how to get the effect at the top? I know it could be done it post, but I'm talking about in camera. Thanks

  • Spike Smith

    January 4, 2009 01:21 pm

    I appreciate your good writeup on EV and those included pictures helpmake a point rather well.

  • Allen

    September 12, 2008 11:35 pm

    These are good pointers. I'll have to practice this technique. The comments about being sure to put the camera back to normal mode are good pointers. I was using the bracketing on my D80 for some HDR shots and forgot to reset it for a while so only 1 in 3 shots were properly exposed. I can probably salvage most if I needed to but they were vacation shots that I was really just practicing with. now the time I left the ISO setting at 1600 for a day of shooting, that upset me as I got a lot of nicely composed noisy shots.

  • bruce

    July 28, 2008 11:38 pm

    Great explanation of EV,as all camera meters arn't foolproof. Or you could try bracketing your shots. Thanks

  • Rob

    July 28, 2008 04:36 pm

    Great post! I baffled by this when i tried to experiment w/ HDR. Thanks so much

  • Maninder Singh

    July 26, 2008 09:20 am

    How is setting the EV different from changing the ISO ?

  • Chris

    July 26, 2008 04:21 am

    This compensation is not electronical ? And in this case does not affects the pixels of your image, loosing quality ? I always had the feeling that my picture look more grainy after using the EV button ... Am I wrong ?

  • Gary

    July 26, 2008 03:01 am

    Great article! I dont remember where I read this, but a photographer suggested shooting with WB at cloudy and EV-3. I have been using this setting for some time on all my shots and my photos are very satuated and everything looks great. I usually have to only slightly tweek my shots in Photoshop. Thank you

  • Gerry V

    July 26, 2008 01:23 am

    I use the NikonD80 and after reading other replies over exposure seems to be a common problem. I also have to adjust the EV setting between -.3 and -1.0 to get the best picture balance. Hopefully camera manufactures will use these comments to help improve future camera designs.

  • George Osborne

    July 25, 2008 05:46 pm

    Excellent article, one feature that I often use with my D80 is the hightlight feature. Using the hightlights will show if any of your image is clipped and you can adjust your speed, exposure,ISO or ev compensation to correct the shot . If you have overexposed in any mode you have lost that detail and no amount of photoshop will bring it back.

  • Billy Halsey

    July 25, 2008 01:48 pm

    @DaveW -- Just to clear up: My Canon 40D does auto-ISO just fine, from 200 to 1600 ISO. (For anything from 100 ISO to 3200 ISO, you have to set it manually.)

  • dana

    July 24, 2008 11:28 am

    thanks for the tutorial. One additional point: i turn on the blinkies, so i can know exactly what's getting blown out and then work back from there.

  • Victor

    July 23, 2008 08:43 pm

    @Ash

    Oh, I totally agree with you... Actually, I thought the "overexposing" or "underexposing" was done by means of in-camera post-production, that's why I said it was useless when shooting in RAW, as you could do it better with your computer.

    But, reading a tutorial from another blog, I realized that, in fact, when you use EV compensantion, the camera will change shutter speed or aperture to adjust the exposure.

    Sorry about the confusion...

    Victor

  • Ash

    July 23, 2008 07:43 pm

    A quick response to Victor's comment: I don't agree that EV comp is not useful when you shoot RAW. Much as you can change the EV, as well as address clipping to some extent (particularly in CameraRAW 4 with fill and recovery tools), you are actually working with missing data if it is clipped at either end. The better the distribution of light that hits the sensor, the better result you can get by tweaking in software. I always try to get the best exposure I can in-camera, as this is obviously the best starting point for any other tweaks.

    It is a similar point to people who don't believe that ND Grads are needed with digital (as you can blend exposures in Photoshop) - put two images side by side, one of which is taken by someone who knows how to use ND Grads, and you can tell the difference a mile off, because you get a much better histogram, and no missing data (those white lines that appear when you make changes in Photoshop). The same applies with EV.

    Ash

  • Ash

    July 23, 2008 08:31 am

    I shot some action stuff recently - kite surfing. The conditions were changing too fast for M mode, so I shot Av. Using exposure compensation was great to get good skies, good beaches, and my subjects. This really applies for snow, as that seems to baffle all built-in meters!

    Wedding dresses - they're another one, although with slower subjects, I find bracketing to be a better option (even in M mode).

    Great article. Thanks.

  • Tom

    July 23, 2008 06:46 am

    That was terrific. Had my Canon S5 IS since Christmas, and didn't know about (or comprehend the value of) EV Compensation. One of the best written articles, because it was so easy to follow what you were talking about. Thanks a million.

  • Cookz

    July 23, 2008 06:43 am

    Great article, thanks for offering the examples and explanations!

  • bahamat

    July 23, 2008 01:46 am

    This is the type of article I really enjoy on DPS.

  • Aaron M

    July 23, 2008 01:37 am

    One thing that wasn't mentioned is how useful the HISTOGRAM is for determing if you need to use EV Compensation. I almost *always* look at the histogram after I take a photo to see if the majority of it is in the middle. If things tend to be on the low side then I tend to bump the exposure up. If things are on the high end, or if there's clipping (something at the very very left or right) I tend to adjust the exposure appropriately as well. The histogram is an EXTREMELY USEFUL tool to determine how to adjust your exposure. Some things can be done in software (Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, etc) later, however, you risk saturating or adding grainyness to your picture. It's best to get the exposure right the first time. For more info on how to use the histogram, see the post: http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/understanding-histograms/#more-475

  • b3b

    July 23, 2008 12:24 am

    Thanks for the info! I have been using EV compensation at the ice rink --taking pictures of my son's hockey team.

  • tyeung

    July 23, 2008 12:02 am

    Just a note about underexposing. Exposing to the right utilizes more of a digital sensors capabilities, so by underexposing one is losing detail that could be had farther to the right on the histogram. However, of course getting the shot slightly darker is better than a blurred one.

  • Victor

    July 22, 2008 11:13 pm

    Yeah, good explanation and all, I just think you should have enphasized that EV compensation is worth it just when you're not shooting in RAW mode.

    If you're in RAW, you can do the same later, and you'll still have the original photo if you want to make a exposure blend or something like that.

    If you're shooting on manual mode, you're probably not worried about loosing some time trying to find the perfect ISO/APERTURE/SHUTTER-SPEED configuration, so I'd say it's not worth it using EV compensation as it seems for me we're loosing quality - in the sense you could have a better shot just adjusting ISO/APERTURE/SHUTTER-SPEED.

    But, anyway, I agree that for the quick/jpg/S-A-or-P-mode shoot, it's worth it using EV compensation.

  • Markus Jais

    July 22, 2008 10:46 pm

    @Sanders:
    when using flash you often only want to use a little fill flash. If you set your aperture value and let the camera choose the shutter speed and the flash power, you might end up with too much flash light on your subject.
    To reduce the flash itensitiy, so that flash is barely visible but still lightens up the shadows (or causes a "catch light" in the eye of the subject, for example a bird), it's good to set the flash exposure compensation to -2 (or 1 1/3) and you will get an image where flash is almost not visible but still improves the image.
    This is a good technique when shooting people, flowers or animals against the sun.

    Also when using flash as the main light source, you can compensate for over or under exposure with that control similar to using the EV button when using not flash.

  • sanders

    July 22, 2008 08:15 pm

    Thanks very much for you explanation.
    I have a question tough. I Always wanted to know what the difference is between the EV button and the 'flash' button wich i can also use to over and under expose.
    Could you explain the difference between those two functionallities? That's a bit unclear to me.

  • Lilia

    July 22, 2008 06:11 pm

    thanks so much for that very easy to read article. I was always shying away from reading about ev and exposures (even though they are probably the most basic reads) the numbers always did my head in, but this brought everything together and made total sense to me, I've always wondered how to capture the sky with a quicker shutter speed, in av mode without a filter - quick and easy!

  • Photochick

    July 22, 2008 03:31 pm

    Thank you for the very useful information - I can't wait to get started on practicing EV compensation. Even though I still don't fully understand manual mode, I'm getting closer & closer with articles like this - and of course practice!

    Thanks again & God Bless

    Love Amanda

  • frombrandon

    July 22, 2008 12:43 pm

    Thanks this explanation. I've just got my first dSLR and have been learning how to take advantage of this and KNOW what I am doing.

    Thanks for this!

  • Pete Langlois

    July 22, 2008 12:14 pm

    If I'm shooting in A or S I typically run -.7 EV on my D50.

    Otherwise I just set the -.7 to -1 manually in M mode.

    http://www.petelanglois.net/Macro

  • Klaidas

    July 22, 2008 09:22 am

    It would also be interesting to read about what that pesky exposure value is. Surely, we can google it easily, but it's an article on EV compensation, so why not explain what's that EV itself? :)

  • Jordan

    July 22, 2008 08:24 am

    To a certain extent, a lower exposure will result in higher saturation in colours. Even if a shot is slightly overexposed the colours start to look washed out. I'll often shoot EV -0.3 during daylight to gain that extra bit of colour.

  • HC

    July 22, 2008 06:46 am

    One of the biggest roles for EV compensation for those of us in northern climates is photos of snow... really bright backgrounds (which includes snow, and would include beaches in warmer climes) fool most camera meters into underexposing... resulting in grey snow. Turning the EV up a little corrects the problem.

  • Matt

    July 22, 2008 06:42 am

    EV compensation and flash compensation are different. EV compensation will compensate with your shutter speed and aperture. Flash compensation will brighten/darken the flash. You can usually set them independently.

  • Robert

    July 22, 2008 05:39 am

    One nice advantage of shooting in RAW (if available) is you can do all the EV adjustments after the fact in your camera's software. You can try any exposure level to see which looks best without changing your original photo. You also don't end up with ruined photos this way from forgetting to change EV back after playing it.

    Bo: Flash compensation is similar. With flash compensation, you're deciding to adjust the amount of flash so that more or less is used compared to what the camera thinks is appropriate.

  • Marc

    July 22, 2008 05:35 am

    Great explanation on the EV Compensation feature. I used to manually do that on my K1000 years ago by pushing and pulling the shot a bit. Is this the same as Auto Exposure Bracketing feature?

  • Dan Rode

    July 22, 2008 04:33 am

    Great advice, thanks! One note though, when in (Nikon) manual mode, EV compensation has the same effect as A, P or S/Tv modes. EV compensation is an adjustment to the camera's meter. We use the meter in manual mode to determine the correct exposure, so a "correct" exposure using EV comp will be either less or more exposed depending on the setting. Most folks who shoot manual will adjust the shutter or aperture to change the exposure. Even so, I use -.7 EV in manual mode because my camera's light meter is off by that much. I then adjust for the scene from that baseline.

  • DaveW

    July 22, 2008 03:45 am

    When you say that you can't use EV compensation in manual, that isn't quite right, and the facility can be very useful in this situation (but only on Nikons). If you are in manual mode, with a desired aperture and shutter speed set (on a recent Nikon - auto-ISO isn't available on Canon), and you have auto-ISO activated, then the ISO speed will change to give you the best exposure, even though shutter and aperture are fixed. If you use EV compensation, then the appropriate ISO chosen by the camera will be changed to reflect the EV requested.

  • AC

    July 22, 2008 03:09 am

    I tend to do this for most of my sky snaps especially on bright days to bring out the blues.

    Good article and I like the way photo comparisons were made.

  • Bo Boswell

    July 22, 2008 02:41 am

    Great explanation. I've been meaning to do some tests with this, and it seems much easier than having to switch to Manual and recreate the base exposure settings before making adjustments. I may start using this a bit more when I'm in Av.

    Curious, is exposure compensation the same as flash compensation?

  • Robert

    July 22, 2008 02:21 am

    I use the EV Compensation with my D300. I find that most of the images taken with the D300 tend to be slightly under exposed, so I keep my EV set at +.3 or +.7 to help offset this expsure issue.

    The only suggestion I would make is if you are doing a shoot specific EV Compensation, please get into the habit of resetting the EVE Compensation when you are done with the shoot. I had a friend who shot a whole wedding at +1.7 because he forgot to change the EV back after another shoot. Needless to say you could hear the screams a mile away when he went to upload the images!

  • Scott

    July 22, 2008 02:16 am

    don't forget to set it back to normal after your done with the changed EV...forgot that a few times and had some good shots that were way too dark

  • Irene

    July 22, 2008 02:01 am

    Thanks! I needed this article and you did a great job explaining EV. This was the one area that was really very much a mystery to me.

  • Yogesh

    July 22, 2008 01:26 am

    Good pointers, I mainly use it stop the sky from overexposing.

  • Stew

    July 22, 2008 01:25 am

    Thanks for this explanation, it was very helpful to me. My question is - what is the advantage of doing this over just using manual mode and adjusting the exposure time there?

    Thanks

  • Wayfaring Wanderer

    July 22, 2008 01:23 am

    I am guessing that this is a very under utilized function for some people with DSLR's......glad you're bringing it out in the open!

  • Kelly Anne Martin

    July 22, 2008 12:50 am

    I actually used this feature this weekend while shooting a show - I underexposed by almost a full stop the entire time, the better to catch the action. It helps that my Canon has a tendency to overexpose anyway, but even so, it's much easier to go back and fix exposure in post. If you miss the shot and it's blurry, there's no fix for that.

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