James Paterson explains how exposure compensation can help in tricky lighting conditions
Discover how your Nikon’s Exposure Compensation feature can make all the difference in tricky lighting conditions
Found on all D-SLRs, exposure compensation lets you dial in more or less light as needed
Your Nikon’s metering system plays a vital role in picture-taking. It works out how much light should enter the camera to make a correct exposure. Be warned, though: it’s very clever, but it’s not completely foolproof. The problem with metering is that it takes an average reading (either of the entire frame or part of it, depending on which metering mode you’re in), and this reading is assumed to be a midtone, halfway between white and black.
More often than not this assumption comes out right, but the metering system can struggle when a frame is dominated by areas of extreme brightness or darkness. For example, imagine a person standing in the snow wearing a white coat. The frame will be dominated by whites, but your metering system doesn’t know that it’s snow, all it detects is overly bright tones. So it does what it’s designed to do, which is allow less light than into the camera in order to average out the scene. The result could be an underexposed face. On the other hand, imagine a person standing under a spotlight in a dark room. This time the metering may be tricked by the large expanse of black into assuming the subject is darker than it really is, and overexpose the face.
It’s all about portions of the frame. Your camera can’t always work out what the most important portion is – but you can. The question is, if the camera gets it wrong, what can you do about it? The solution is exposure compensation. Found on all D-SLRs, this feature lets you dial in more or less light as needed. Here’s how…