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Exposure compensation

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Dial or buttons on a camera that allow the user to override the automatic exposure mode. Most cameras have +/-2 stops control that is enough to compensate in situations where the camera’s system would normally be fooled. On digital compacts it's invaluable in adjusting exposure. It can also be used to modify contrast when a film is to be pushed or pulled.

Related Terms

This is how the camera adjusts the shutter speed and aperture to ensure the right amount of light reaches the film or CCD. Early cameras only had a manual mode (M) where the user had to select the aperture and shutter speed manually to ensure the correct exposure. Over the years cameras have become more sophisticated and now offer several automated modes including Program (P) - a fully automatic exposure mode that sets the aperture and shutter speed; Aperture priority mode (AP) where the user selects the aperture and the camera sets the necessary shutter speed; and shutter priority (SP, or Tv on some cameras) where the user selects the shutter speed and the camera sets the necessary aperture. Auto bracketing (AB) takes a pre-selected number of photographs, one at the suggested exposure and one to either side, so you can be sure of one accurate result. There are also several subject-based program modes that we haven't listed here that tailor the camera for particular subjects such as sports (action), landscapes, portraits, or flowers (close-ups). Some digital cameras have black & white and sepia modes. Buying advice A full auto program mode is ideal for point-and-shoot photography, but it's also useful to have some control over the exposure. The beauty with digital is that you can see whether the camera has got the shot right by previewing the image on the LCD. If not, you try again. If there is no manual control you can often preset the exposure using an auto-exposure lock or exposure compensation. The subject based program modes are often a waste of time and don't really bring much to the package. Special effects modes on digital cameras are also throw-away because all these can be created using the computer later.
An automatic exposure mode that sets the camera's aperture and shutter speed often referred to on camera dials and panels as P. What sets it apart from Auto mode, is that all the other functions, including exposure compensation, can still be adjusted.
A technique used to gain speed with a film. You manually override its ISO speed, using the film speed dial or exposure compensation dial, to make the film more sensitive. To film would then be given longer in the developer.
Reciprocity law states that as you increase the intensity of light reaching the film you also need to decrease the speed it reaches the film by the equivalent amount. Most films work quite happily between exposures of 1/2sec and 1/1000sec, but go beyond these extremes with a very low intensity of light and a long exposure or a very high intensity of light and a correspondingly short exposure and the law fails an exposure increase may be required when the shutter speed is beyond these limits. At these extremes the law fails. Compensation is required to adjust for this, but there is no strict rule to correct the error. Most film and paper manufacturers provide technical details on request with a rough guide to exposure adjustments. As a rough guide for an exposure of one second you would increase the speed to two seconds, or open the aperture by one stop. A speed of 10sec would need to be increased to about 50sec or open the aperture up two stops. With black & white film you only have to worry about this exposure correction, but with colour film does not only suffer from exposure problems but also colour casts. A colour film is made up of three individual colour layers, each layer suffers from reciprocity failure at different levels. On an uncorrected film the shadows may have a magenta colour cast but the highlights may suffer from a cyan cast. To correct the cast not only would a longer exposure be needed but also the inclusion of a colour correction filter of a low value, care would have to be taken in choosing the correct filter otherwise an over corrected result may appear.