Every DSLR camera owner has his or her preferred camera settings. Many photographers swear by the Manual setting, while others love to use Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority. They each have their advantages depending on what your personal creative vision is.

I know I just threw a lot of terms at your real quick so lets back up and define each of these camera settings before we go on.

  • Shutter Priority is where you set the speed of your shutter and the camera decides the size of the lens aperture. This is great setting if your goal is to freeze the action.
  • Aperture Priority is where you set the size of your Aperture and the camera decides the shutter speed. This is wonderful setting to use if you’re concerned about your range of focus.
  • Manual is what you choose when you want to control all the action yourself.
  • Auto  – there is no reason to put your camera on Auto, simply don’t go there. If you’re not comfortable with your camera settings yet, choose either Aperture or Shutter Priority to get started.

I prefer to set my camera to Aperture Priority so I can control my depth of field / plane of focus. I choose a fairly low ISO and then I let the camera do the rest of the work (I like to let my camera do the work for me, that’s why I paid the big bucks, right?) Just because I prefer Aperture Priority doesn’t mean I don’t like to adjust my exposure quickly based on the current lighting situation. This is where I rely on the Exposure Compensation wheel or button to fine tune my settings quickly. Sometimes I want to achieve a High Key effect and I move my Exposure Compensation wheel plus 1-3 stops. This also works great when I’m photographing a back lit subject and I want to bring detail out in the shadows. By simply moving the Exposure Compensation wheel plus 1-2 stops, rather than adjusting all the settings, I can bring out important details I don’t want to get lost in the shadows.

Sometimes I’m confronted with a situation that is too bright, like at a beach or a snowy scene, and I want to quickly adjust the exposure so the image isn’t bright and over exposed. By adjusting the Exposure Compensation wheel down (-) I can often bring detail into the highlights and darken the shadows. Below you will see an example of how adjusting the exposure compensation wheel can quickly take an ok image and turn it into something special. The only difference between the two images is that the image on the right is under exposed minus 1.7 stops using only the Exposure Compensation wheel.

The image eon the left is taken with the Exposure Compensations wheel set at '0'. The image on the left the wheel was set at '-1.7' stops.

The image eon the left is taken with the Exposure Compensations wheel set at ‘0’. The image on the left the wheel was set at ‘-1.7’ stops.

The final image:

There is peace even in the storm

There is peace even in the storm

If you’re using a DSLR with the Exposure Compensation wheel or button I recommend you give it a try. Especially if you’re an outdoor photographer who is up against fast changing light. You can make quick adjustments to exposure without sacrificing your shutter speed or aperture settings. Who knows what you can create by letting the camera do some of the work and freeing your mental energy to creating fun and inspiring photos.

Besides, who ever said that you had to have perfectly exposed photos to create great images?

~ Shelly

What experience have you had using the Exposure Compensation wheel / button? 

Do you prefer Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manuel settings? Can you explain why?

More examples of the results of the Exposure Compensation wheel:


Chima-piano-legography-toy-photography By Shelly Corbett