Monday, March 25, 2013


You might say, "What in the world is that?" Have you ever tried taking photos in the snow, or of a subject that is very bright and they turn out too dark? More than likely, the problem was with your built-in light meter. I spend a lot of time in my classes talking about exposure meter problems and such. But, for this blog, let me just say that the exposure compensation button is a quick-fix solution. 

I call this little button "a life saver." If your photos come out too dark, you can use the exposure compensation button to lighten up the photo. If your photos come out too light/bright, you can use this same button to darken them. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it's true. And, you can often find it in your basic point-&-shoot cameras and
sometimes on cell or "smart" phones. Read your camera/phone manual--you might surprise yourself.

You can find the exposure compensation button either on your camera body or in your menu settings. It allows you to adjust your exposure, or how much light your film or sensor
receives.On the camera bodies, the button or icon will look like this +/-  The exposure compensation scale looks something like this:  +..............0...............The zero is the 
starting point. If the photo is too dark, you simply move/toggle from the zero to the + direction (more light) to lighten the photo. If the photo is too light, you simply move/toggle to the - direction (less light) to darken the photo. Then, with your chosen setting, you just re-take the photo. If it's better, but still too dark, go back and move the setting one or two more "clicks" or steps and re-take it. Your manuals will give you more details as to how many increments your camera setting will give you. There is no magic to this. Simply keep moving the setting left or right until you get what you most like. Some cameras have the + on the right side of the scale, but it will work the same way, just the opposite direction. Another term for this, which you might have heard, is "bracketing."  

Here is an example. I saw this "Townie" (that's what they call them in Crested Butte, Colorado) half buried in the snow. With this much snow in the scene, I knew I was going to get a darkened photo, unless I adjusted my exposure to the + side. For this particular image, I compensated + .67 or 2/3. In other words, I gave the original setting almost 70% more light! If I didn't have the bicycle and part of the brown wooden building in the photograph, I probably would have had to make a  + 1 or 1 1/3 adjustment.

So, while winter is still with us, go "play" in the snow and try this "life-saving" technique and have fun with it. How much compensation you decide to make is strictly a personal choice.  

If you're like many of my former students who have learned this quick fix solution, you're going to say OMG!!
"Townie Deep In Snow"