A number of you had questions about exposure compensation and whether or not you can use it in manual mode.
This is a little confusing, so let’s break it down.
First, a very brief recap of the exposure compensation function.
When you allow the camera to have some control over the exposure settings (by using the priority modes, or program auto) the default behavior of the camera is to always set the setting(s) it controls to bring the exposure indicator to 0.
When you as the photographer do not want the exposure at 0, you have to tell the camera, which you do through the exposure compensation function.
When you set the exposure compensation to something like +1, what the camera then does is set the setting(s) it controls to bring the exposure indicator to +1 (or whatever exposure compensation value you have set)
The exposure compensation function is inherently tied to the camera having some control over the exposure settings.
When in aperture priority, the camera will set the shutter speed for you, either to bring exposure to 0, or to whatever value you’ve set your exposure compensation to.
In shutter priority, the camera will set the shutter speed in the same fashion.
When it comes to manual mode, you as the photographer have full control over the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed settings.
As a result, the default behavior is that the exposure compensation function DOES NOT work in manual mode.
Think about it for a minute. If you have full control over the camera, what is the camera going to change when you set the exposure compensation function?
It shouldn’t change anything because you’re in full control!
By default, exposure compensation in manual mode is just you as the photographer changing the settings you desire to bring the exposure to where you desire.
If you want it to be overexposed by one stop, you adjust your ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed to do that.
However, there is a newer function that allows for the use of the exposure compensation function in manual mode.
That function is Auto ISO.
When shooting in manual mode, if your camera has an auto ISO function, you can enable that, which then gives the camera control over one of the exposure settings.
Now that the camera has a specific setting that it controls, the exposure compensation function is relevant again.
Because, even though you’re in manual mode, you’ve given control of the ISO to the camera.
And, as we’ve already learned, when the camera controls an exposure setting, the default behavior is to set the setting it controls to bring the exposure indicator to 0.
Meaning if you’re in manual mode with Auto ISO enabled, when you change the Aperture and/or the Shutter Speed, the camera will automatically adjust the ISO to bring the exposure back to 0.
And if you as the photographer do not want the exposure at 0, and want to under or over expose the image, you have to communicate that to the camera.
Which brings us back to the exposure compensation function, which you would use to tell the camera to set the ISO to bring the exposure indicator to whatever value you desire.
The key to knowing when you can use the exposure compensation function is remembering this:
If the camera has control over one or more of the exposure settings (ISO, Aperture, or Shutter Speed), then you use exposure compensation to adjust the overall exposure of the image.
If the camera has no control over any of the exposure settings, then you do not use the exposure compensation function, you just set the ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed yourself.
If you have any questions about exposure compensation, or anything else photography related, hit reply and let me know…
…and then get out there and take some damn photos! 🙂