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This series has covered the basics of the exposure triangle – shutter speed, aperture and ISO – and how they interact with one another. But the reality is that while your camera will achieve the ‘correct’ exposure more often than not, there will be times when it won’t.

Certain conditions can trick the meter into thinking a particular scene is much lighter or darker than it really is. Or you simply might not like the exposure the camera has chosen.

If you’re working in aperture or shutter-priority mode and you’re not getting the exposure you want, all is not lost. This is where exposure compensation comes into play.

Take control of your exposure

On your camera there will be a + / – button or dial. This is exposure compensation.

Exactly what it changes will depend on the mode you are shooting in: if you’re in aperture-priority it changes the shutter speed and if you’re in shutter-priority it changes the aperture.

So here’s what you do:

  • If your image is underexposed, increase the exposure compensation into the + range.

  • If your image is over-exposed, dial down the compensation into the – range.

Each press or click will increase / decrease the exposure by a third of a stop. The beauty is that you don’t need to change any other aperture or shutter-speed settings. Just review your image in playback and react accordingly.

It is an incredibly useful and often under-used tool that gives you that little more control over the look of your photographs without going fully manual. Just remember to reset it back to zero once you have finished!

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