Using Exposure Compensation in Wildlife Photography

You can’t expect to always be working in manual mode when shooting wildlife. Actions are unpredictable and spare you no time to fiddle around with your camera settings. This is the best reason to work with the semi-automatic modes viz. shutter priority and aperture priority. They work great most of the time but you may need to override them in certain lighting conditions. How do you do that? The answer is simply by using a feature in your camera called exposure compensation. Wildlife photographer Paul Miguel explains how you can use exposure compensation to your benefit:

The camera’s built-in meter gets tricked when the background is either too bright or too dark. This is when you’ll be better off using exposure compensation.

When the background is bright, the camera thinks that there’s plenty of light. It then tries to reduce the exposure which in turn underexposes the subject. In such conditions, you need to set the exposure compensation towards the positive value. This instructs the camera to increase the exposure in the image, thereby exposing the subject correctly.

Conversely when the subject is against a dark background, the camera thinks that the light is insufficient. So, the camera increases the exposure in the image causing the subject to be overexposed. In such cases, set the exposure compensation towards the negative value. This instructs the camera to decrease the exposure in the image thereby exposing the subject correctly.

The amount by which you need to over or underexpose an image depends on the difference in luminosity between the subject and the background. If you’re not too sure, start around +/- 1 stop and adjust from there.

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