Plus or Minus for a Better ExposureAfter taking a digital photo, check it on the LCD monitor in Playback mode. If the exposure (brightness) is not quite right, plan to re-shoot with different settings.
The most intuitive override is exposure compensation. Simply set a + level to make a brighter image. If you want to make a darker image, set a - (minus) level.
This feature is usually accessed with a [+/-] button or from the electronic menu. Available with nearly all digital cameras, exposure compensation works perfectly in Program (P) mode and in the semi-automatic Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes. However, exposure compensation may NOT operate in AUTO mode or the subject-specific Program modes: the Landscape, Portrait, Sports, etc.
We do not often take photos of black - or other very dark-toned - subjects. But when we do, the camera may make an image that's too bright; blacks may be gray instead of rich dark black. In that case, use a - (minus) exposure compensation when re-shooting, for a darker photo.
Practice Using Exposure CompensationAs a test, try taking some wide angle photos of a light-toned subject. For example, find a scene that includes a lot of bright snow, water or sky. You'll probably find that your images are underexposed: too dark.
Set a +1 exposure compensation level. Take the same photos again. The new images will be brighter, hopefully close to perfect. That makes sense because the + exposure compensation level causes the camera to make a photo with more exposure.
Tip: Take care not to make images that are excessively bright. It's important to maintain some detail in the brightest areas: texture in snow, for example. If you find that a +1 level produces images that are excessively bright, try again. This time, set less compensation: +0.5 or +0.7, for example.
The Bottom LineWhile you can fix some exposure errors with Photoshop or other software, it's best to get image brightness just right, in-camera. That will save time later and reduce the risk of damaging pixels. Naturally, you can also use exposure compensation as a creative tool: to make an image thatís not necessarily technically perfect but is more pleasing to the eye.
Article by Peter K. Burian. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.