Exposure compensation gives you creative control of your exposure, enabling you to better use light to produce a look or mood. For example, I rely on my camera’s meter to give me the best overall exposure for a given scene. Once I have my base exposure, I then decide on the effect I am trying to capture and override my camera’s meter through the use of exposure compensation to achieve it. Dialing the exposure compensation toward the minus settings darkens the image for dramatic effect and avoids blown-out areas within the frame, whereas dialing toward the plus brightens the scene. Using the histogram (Chapter 2) in your camera enables you to see the overall effect on the exposure value so that you can make any last-minute adjustments in camera.
Window light is a wonderful source of light. In Figure 4.17 I asked Donald to stand at an angle to the window, controlling the direction the light traveled across his face. Using shadow and light in this way gave Donald’s face shape and form that front light would have eliminated. By dialing in minus 1-1/2 exposure compensation, I increased the shadows, which in turn accentuated the character in Donald’s face. Donald, a seasoned model, was able to hold very still, which gave me the ability to keep my ISO low to avoid noise and still shoot handheld at 1/30 sec with my lens wide open. With a very shallow depth of field, it was essential that Donald’s eye remain in sharp focus. Using my 200mm lens, I composed a tight head and shoulders portrait of Donald.
Figure 4.17 Using window light and having Donald turn at an angle to the window enhanced the character of his wonderful face.
ISO 100 • 1/30 sec. • f/2.8 • 200mm
Donald’s face lent itself to the dramatic lighting, whereas the same effect would not flatter a lovely woman. Knowing light and what works best with different subjects enabled me to capture two distinctly different looks. In Figure 4.18 I used the window light again. But this time the window was a wall of glass that increased the size of the light source and created a much softer, brighter, airy feeling to the portrait of my friend Leila. In this case I dialed in plus 1/2 exposure compensation to add to the bright feel. Wanting to show Leila in her home environment, I used a 90mm focal length to include more of her surroundings.
Figure 4.18 Using a larger source of light adds to the bright airy feeling.
ISO 100 • 1/20 sec. • f/2.8 • 90mm
Knowing how my meter will react to a given light situation, I dialed in plus 1 exposure compensation on this kittiwake against a white sky to achieve a high-key look (Figure 4.19). Had I gone with the reading my camera gave me, I would have ended up with an image that was darker and moodier with less detail on the bird. Using my camera’s Highlight Warning, I could see that the sky was blown out without detail. In this case I chose to accept the blown-out sky to create the effect I was after.
Figure 4.19 Dialing in plus exposure compensation brightened the sky and gave this Royal Tern image a high-key effect.
ISO 200 • 1/1000 sec. • f/5.6 • 380mm
Photographing Roseate Spoonbills in Tampa Bay with front light against the darker mangrove trees caused my Highlight Warnings to blink, warning me of overexposure with no detail on the bird. I dialed in minus 1 exposure compensation to capture the detail in the spoonbill, which in turn darkened the background to nearly black, causing the spoonbill to stand out dramatically (Figure 4.20).
Figure 4.20 Dialing in minus 1 exposure compensation gave me a proper exposure of the Roseate Spoonbill.
ISO 100 • 1/20 sec. • f/2.8 • 90mm