Advanced Camera Settings

Setting up your digital camera

Digital cameras may have a vast amount of features, which are great and gives you loads of options, but can be confusing if you don’t know what they do. So let’s take you through the basic settings, to get you started.

Each individual manufacture and camera model may have extra Mode settings to help in capture your desired image, but there are five modes which are standard throughout all models and camera makes: Full Automatic, Program AE (Auto Exposure), Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE and Manual exposure. If we exclude Full Automatic, these modes are also known as ‘The Creative Zone’.Mode Dial Wheel and LED Menu

Most cameras have a Mode Dial wheel, but with a few camera models you may need to enter the menu on your LED screen, to select your desired Mode.

Full Automatic:

The first function, as you might guess, is Full Automatic. Although this function will achieve good results, you will allow the camera to make every decision regarding how the picture will be taken and it’s not possible to use any function, custom or otherwise, to change the image (you are allowed to turn off the “beep”).If you’re using your camera for basic snapshots, Full Auto may be all you need, but results will be an average look at the scene you’re photographing. You’ll also be missing about 95% of your camera’s capabilities!

One downside to Full Auto is that the flash may pop up and fire if the camera thinks there is not enough light for a good exposure. One potential benefit of Full Auto is that the auto focus (AF Mode) is set to Al Focus, enabling the camera to switch back and forth between One Shot mode (for stationary subjects) and Al Servo mode (to track moving subjects) based on whether it sees your subject as moving or standing still.

Full Automatic Mode/Camera Setting

AF Mode (Auto Focus Mode):

  • One-Shot AF: Suited for still subjects. When you press the shutter halfway, the camera will focus once and lock the focus, till you press the shutter button full-way, capturing the image. When achieving focus most cameras will make a beeping sound. You can refocus by taking your finger of the shutter button and then pressing the button halfway again.
  • Al Servo AF: This mode is for moving subjects, when the focusing distance keeps changing. While you hold down the shutter button halfway, the subject will be focused continuously till you press the shutter button full-way, capturing your image.
  • AL Focus AF: This mode automatic switches the AF mode from One-Shot AF to Al Servo AF, first locking on to your subject, and if your subject starts moving, the camera will detect the movement and change the AF mode automatically to AL Servo AF.

The basics of exposure:

If you are new to photography, you need to understand exposure. Every exposure you take is made up of a combination of an aperture, and shutter speed that determines how much light reaches the sensor. The aperture is the iris in the lens, much like the pupil of the eye, which can widen to allow more light through or contract to restrict the amount of light that enters the lens. Use a wide aperture and more light is able to pass through during a set time span than if you had selected a small aperture. The shutter is a barrier In front of the sensor that moves out of the light’s path when you press the shutter release, allowing light to reach the sensor and expose an image. The duration of the exposure is determined by the shutter speed. There is an obvious relationship between the aperture and the shutter speed in determining the correct exposure and this is selected by the exposure mode. While full-automatic mode provides point-and-shoot simplicity, the beauty and enjoyment of photography is to take control over how your final picture looks. The first step is to select one of the exposure modes that allows for far more creative photography. Before you know it, you’ll be creating imaginative images rather than just shooting snaps.

LED Camera Settings and Modes

  1. ISO film speed
  2. Aperture (F-Stop)
  3. Shutter Speed
  4. Camera Exposure Mode (P for Program AE mode)
  5. Image Quality (L for large Jpegs)
  6. AF Mode (Auto-focus Mode)
  7. Metering AE-L (Autoexposure Lock)
  8. Exposure Display
  9. White Balance (AWB Auto White Balance)

Understanding shutter speeds:

Exposure settings are made by changing either the aperture or the shutter speed. The increments at which you change these settings are normally referred to as “stops’. When you change a setting by a ‘stop’, you are either doubling or halving the exposure. So. for instance, changing from 1/500sec to 1/250sec doubles the duration of the exposure. As well as full stops, you can also vary exposure in 1/2 or 1/3 stops depending on the camera model you use. The diagram below shows shutter speeds from 1/8000sec to a slow speed of 30sec (Stutter speeds vary on different makes and models of cameras).

Camera Shutter Speed Scale

Understanding aperture settings

The illustration below shows the iris at one-stop increments, explains each step from left to right halves the amount of light passing through the lens. The maximum aperture setting refers to the iris wide open (in this instance f/2.8) and the minimum aperture is the iris at its smallest setting (f/22 in this case). An explanation of where the f/number derives from would require an extensive scientific explanation, but the key to you understanding apertures is to learn how f/numbers correlate with the size of the aperture.

Camera Aperture Scale

Program AE mode:

Program AE mode, indicated by a P on the camera mode dial. P Mode is an automatic digital camera exposure mode that gives you more control than full automatic mode. The camera selects the shutter speed and aperture automatically, but allows you to switch between those combinations once the exposure has been evaluated. The changes can be made when half-pressing the shutter button. This is known as Program Shift.

Program Shift:

Program Shift is useful because it lets a camera users creativity come into play in a simple and reliable way. It makes the selection of various aperture and shutter speed combinations easier for you when taking pictures, while still ensuring accurate exposure. For instance, a scene can be photographed with an f-number of f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/500 seconds. It can also be shot with an f-number of f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/125 seconds.

The first settings combination allows for a shallow depth of field and makes it easier to photograph moving subjects. On the other hand, the latter settings ensure that more of the scene is in focus. But both images will be exposed similarly.

Check your manual for camera-specific instructions for using this very powerful, often overlooked, tool for photographers who want more control than offered by full automatic mode.

Program AE Mode-Program shift

  1. Set the shooting mode to program (P).
  2. Partially depress the shutter button to activate the viewfinder display.
  3. Then rotate the electronic input dial. There is no need to keep the shutter button depressed – program shift will remain active for as long at the viewfinder display remains on).

In Program AE mode you will also be able to change the White Balance from Auto White Balance to any of the presets or to a custom White Balance (always a good idea). Even Colour Temperature, a way to dial in a colour temperature of choice, is available to you. If your subjects are too light or dark, you may dial in some Exposure Compensation. This Is often necessary when photographing a dark subject against a light background or vice versa.

  • The RAW file format is available when using Program AE.
  • All Picture Styles are available (if your camera supports them).

Depth of field

Depth of field (DOF) refers to the zone of sharpness in your image. Your DOF is deep if most of your scene is in focus; it is shallow if a small area is in focus. The human eye is drawn to the part of an image that is sharp and in focus. As a photographer, you can creatively use DOF to direct the viewer’s eyes to the important elements in your photograph. There are three ways you can control DOF:

  1. Distance to your subject. An image taken in close proximity to your subject produces a shallow DOF. An image taken at a considerable distance from your subject will have a deeper DOF.
  2. Aperture selected. Aperture can be confusing because a large f-stop number (f/22) represents a small lens opening and a small f-stop number (f/2.8) represents a large lens opening. It’s easier to think of it like this: A large aperture (f/2.8 or f/4) provides a shallow DOF; for example, your subject is in focus but the distant mountain range is blurred. A small aperture (f/16 or f/22) provides a deep DOF; for example, both the subject and the distant mountain range are in focus. Using a small aperture is a good way to ensure the environment surrounding your subject is in focus.
  3. Lens focal length. Short focal length Lenses (for example, 17-35mm) have a large field of view. Long focal length lenses (for example, 70-200mm) have a narrow field of view.

Depth-of-field, Lens Aperture

Lens Aperture

Measured in f-stops, a lens aperture is a mechanical iris inside of the lens that opens and closes to varying degrees to control the amount of light hitting the digital camera’s sensor. Think of the aperture of your camera lens as the pupil in your eye. In a dark room, your pupils enlarge and open up to let in more light – in bright light, your pupils constrict to let in less light. The aperture f-stops on your lens control light in the same manner. If it starts to get confusing, just remember, a larger aperture (for example, f/1.4, f/2, f2.8, or f/4) lets in more light and gives you a shallow DOF. Use a larger aperture to isolate your subject and blur the background. A smaller aperture (for example, f/16 or f/22) lets in less light and gives you deeper DOF. Use a smaller aperture to render your entire scene in focus.

A lens with a larger maximum aperture (for example, f/2.8) is considered a “fast” lens because more light passes through the lens, allowing a faster shutter speed. A lens with a smaller maximum aperture (for example, f/5.6) is “slow” because less light passes through the lens, and requires a slower shutter speed. A fast lens is optimum when shooting in low-light situations, and for creating a shallow DOF Due to the high-quality optics, these lenses are heavier and more expensive.
Made of optical glass or plastic, a lens attempts to duplicate the human eye by seeing an image, focusing, and transmitting its colours, sharpness, and brightness through the camera to the digital sensor. Many types of lenses are available for your DSLR, and understanding how they work helps you gain creative control over your image. Choosing the right lens is a tradeoff between cost, size, weight, lens speed, and image quality.

DOF Depth-of-Field Crayons

White Balance:

You should set the White Balance to match the lighting conditions you’re shooting in. If you’re working in mixed light and are a little unsure, then Auto (AWB) is the best compromise. Of course, if you’re shooting Raw, you can always change the White Balance when opening the image on your computer. Something to bear in mind is that setting the wrong WB preset can be used to purposely shift the colour balance. For instance, setting Cloudy in daylight adds warmth to the tones, while selecting Tungsten will result in a very cool, blue cast – so be creative.

Camera White Balance (WB)

What is RAW and JPEG:

RAW file is basically where an image preserves most of the information from a camera, such as sharpness and contrast etc…without processing and compressing which allows you to correct several flaws when you capture an image without loosing information, because when you make adjustments to a RAW file, you’re not actually doing anything to the original data. What you’re doing is creating a set of instructions for how the JPEG or TIFF (another file format) version should be saved, whereas information is constantly lost in correcting a JPEG file.

The Power of Raw files

All cameras technically shoot RAW. The difference when you shoot in JPEG format is that the camera does it’s own processing to convert the RAW information into a JPEG. However, your camera is nowhere near as smart as your brain, nor is it as powerful as your computer. When you shoot RAW, you’re able to do that processing yourself. You can make the decisions on how the image should look, and produce way better results.

JPEG records 256 levels of brightness, and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels! This is described with the term “bit”. JPEG captures in 8bit, and RAW is either 12bit or 14bit. This gives you a huge advantage in adjustments exposure, blacks, fill light, recovery, contrast, brightness etc…

JPEG is more common and “user-friendly”, even for computer amateurs. So if you are not an “expert” who understands photography quite well, it will be recommend you shoot in JPEG format, and maybe at a later stage you may be converted to shoot RAW files. 

Image quality: We would always recommend you shoot Raw if you know how it works. It allows you to play with settings, particularly White Balance, later. If your camera has a facility to shoot Raw + JPEG, use it with JPEG set to Small/Basic. Then when you’re reviewing images, you can go through the small JPEGs quickly, choose your favourites and work on the appropriate Raw files. If you’re confident in your ability, and don’t expect to need to make tweaks to the exposure or White Balance in post-production, opt for the best quality JPEG for optimum results and to save room on your memory card.

Shutter-priority AE mode:

Shutter (Speed) Priority AE Mode, Tv (Time Value)

Shutter (Speed) Priority AE, indicated by a: Tv (Time value) allows you to choose the shutter speed best suited in capture moving subjects, which allows you to be very creative, while the camera chooses the correct reciprocal f-stop (Aperture). This mode is a valuable tool when photographing sports, moving nature or making images come alive with blurring affects, and Ideal for Panning your subject.

Which end of the shutter speed range you shoot at will determine if you can freeze a moving subject or if it will blur. Towards the fastest end (1/8000sec) you can freeze motion on just about anything including a speeding car, or even a bullet! As you move to slower shutter speeds moving objects will start to blur, and past a certain point you will also need to use a tripod because you can’t hand hold the camera steady for longer exposures. That is called “camera shake”, and it just means you can’t keep your hands steady enough during the exposure.

Shutter-priority exposure 2


  1. Freezing Motion is achieved by capturing a subject at fast shutter speed and having adequate lighting (Towards the fastest end 1/8000sec).
  2. Turning the water in the waterfall into a blur motion effect, is achieved by long exposure/slow shutter speed, with the camera placed on a tripod to keep it steady (1sec or longer depending on light and blur effect desired)
  3. Panning Motion is achieved with slow shutter speed, and moving your lens with your subject (Panning). It may take a bit of time to master (Start of at around 1/8sec and work up or down in shutter speeds, to get desired effect)
  • The RAW file format is available when using Shutter-priority AE.
  • All Picture Styles are available (if your camera supports them).

Aperture-priority AE mode:

Aperture-priority AE mode (A or Av)

Select aperture-priority AE mode (A or Av), which lets you choose the aperture, while automatically setting the appropriate shutter speed. It is a great setting for most types of portraiture photography or photographing a subject you would like to emphasize, and using a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus. To start off. use f/5.6, especially in portrait photography, as this gives enough depth-of-field to keep the entire face (eyes, nose and ears) in focus or if your Lens is able to open up wider, with a higher aperture (f/-number): f/4, f/3.5, f/2.8 or f/1.4 allows you subject an even smaller depth-of-field. By selecting aperture-priority, you’ll be using ambient light only. While flash has its uses, controlling daylight will give you more natural results and help you learn to manipulate available light.

  • The RAW file format is available when using Select-priority AE.
  • All Picture Styles are available (if your camera supports them).


Another variable in your digital camera setup’s delicate ecosystem is the ISO setting, a throwback to the film era. It’s a combination of films speed, or its sensitivity to light, and the value of image grain (also know as noise). The lower the ISO the finer the grain, which means better resolution and sharpness, and vice versa the higher ISO the bigger the grain or noise in the image. Film with an ISO setting of 50 is less light sensitive than film with an ISO setting of 800, but shooting with an ISO 50 film is slow, and the 800 film is fast. ISO settings can range from the very slow 25 to the ultra fast 2500 or higher.

ISO Film Speed and Grain

To mirror the effects of using film of different speeds, digital cameras include an ISO setting; changing this setting affects the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to mirror that of film. For example, if you change the ISO setting from 50 to 800, you are, in effect, configuring your chip to be as sensitive to light as 800 speed film. Changing the ISO setting on your digital camera can have a tremendous impact on the final outcome of a photographic shoot. For example, all other things being equal, you can shoot in much lower light without a tripod to steady your camera if you use a setting of 800 rather than a setting of 50. You can also use a smaller aperture, allowing for greater depth of field. Faster shutter speeds are also possible. Unfortunately, changing one part of your cameras ecosystem naturally throws some other part out of balance, resulting in a trade-off. Specifically, shooting with a faster ISO results in a loss in colour saturation and more noise, the digital equivalent to the grain sometimes found in traditional film based images. Grain isn’t always a bad thing; in fact, you might like the way it looks. Just know that if you’re seeking a shot with rich colours that’s not noisy or if your image is going to be significantly enlarged, then you want to use as low an ISO setting as possible.

Camera ISO Scale

ISO rating & the reciprocal rule:

In terms of quality, the lower the ISO the better, so start by setting ISO 100 or 200. Handholding your camera allows you more freedom to move and shoot candids, but watch out for camera shake. The simplest way to do this is to use the reciprocal rule. All this means is you shouldn’t let your shutter speed drop below the reciprocal of the lens you’re using. For example, if you’re using the lens at 100mm then ensure the shutter speed is above 1/100sec to reduce the risk of shake. If you’re using the lens at 200mm then make sure the shutter speed is above 1/200sec, etc…The longer a zoom lens is the more sensitive it is to shaking. Increasing the ISO rating is an easy way to achieve a faster shutter speed to avoid shake. Try not to go above ISO 800 as otherwise you’ll notice increased noise in the image. ‘The Photographers golden rule’ since the birth of handheld photography: Images taken with standard camera lenses (excluding super zoom/telephoto lens) above 1/125sec is ideal for handheld photography, but anything below 1/125sec should be taken on a tripod, so in low light, whenever possible, it is recommend you use a tripod. It allows you to use a lower ISO rating as shutter speeds aren’t such a concern.

Manual Mode:

Manual Camera Mode (RAW)

Manual-enabled modes give the photographer control over the various parameters of an exposure. Once you’ve selected Manual mode, you’ll need to decide what is most important to the success of the picture: the depth of field (how much appears sharp) or the duration of the exposure (how movement is rendered). Doing this allows you to work out which setting to adjust first.
Having to dial in both the aperture and shutter speed settings can indeed slow you down. Manual mode isn’t designed for grab shots in situations where the light is changing, as you’ll need to keep making adjustments to compensate.

The camera does this for you in the automatic and semi-automatic exposure modes, tweaking the aperture, shutter speed or both in order to maintain a consistent exposure.

However, the fact that the aperture and shutter speed settings stay locked in with Manual mode is its chief advantage. This is particularly true when it comes to active subjects: as long as the lighting conditions are constant, you can set an aperture, shutter speed and ISO combination for the subject and be sure that they’ll remain perfectly exposed, even if the background changes.


Autofocus Portrait Photography

When focusing on a subject or especially if you are taking portraits, it’s important that the subject’s eyes are in focus as, more often than not, they’re the focal point. Your camera most likely has multi-point AF, which allows you to choose between leaving all the AF points active or to select individual AF points. You could leave all the AF points active to ensure you don’t miss a great shot, but you run the risk blurring your subject or with portraits, missing the eyes and focusing on the nose as it’s the nearest object to the camera. A better option is to select a single AF point and use this to focus on the subject. The central AF sensor is usually the most sensitive, so you can use this to lock the AF by placing the point on the subject or if taking a portrait on the persons eyes, then pressing the shutter button halfway down. Once the AF is locked, recompose and fire. It sounds tricky, but with practice it becomes second nature. Another option is to select the AF point that sits over the subject – this means you don’t have to recompose, allowing you to work quicker. If you intend to rattle off a sequence of shots with a very similar composition, this is the best option. If you do intend to lock focus, make sure your camera is set to single-shot AF as otherwise you won’t be able to lock on your subject.

Auto Exposure Lock (AE-L)

Use this function to ‘lock’ your exposure independently from the focusing system to help avoid exposure error.

Auto Exposure Lock (AE-L)

Practically every DSLR and CSC has an AE-L button, which is normally found on the top right of the camera’s rear, or near the LCD monitor. AE-L is an abbreviation for Autoexposure Lock. It is designed to secure the current exposure setting so that it doesn’t change when you recompose your image, even if the incoming light levels change. AE-L can be used in any exposure mode, although it is pointless if you are shooting in manual. When you press the shutter button down halfway, you engage the autofocus and the metering system to take a reading. This is ideal most of the time, but what about when you want to focus and meter from different subjects or parts of the scene? This is where AE-Lock comes in. It allows you to take an exposure reading independently of where you’re focusing, which is ideal if your subject is very dark or light, or positioned in a bright or dim area of the scene. AE-Lock is most commonly used with the spot or centre-weighted metering pattern to secure the reading taken from a specific area of the frame. This is particularly useful in tricky lighting conditions that can fool your metering system, such as backlit objects or subjects with very dark or light backgrounds. For instance, if you are shooting a scene containing a bright light source, your camera’s multi-zone metering mode could be fooled into reading the scene as brighter than it actually is and will underexpose as a result. To achieve the correct exposure, you want to take a meter reading that excludes the light region. This is possible by taking a spot/partial meter reading from the subject itself or an area of the scene that is a mid-tone and saving the result with the AE-Lock button, before recomposing the shot and taking the picture. Using the same principle, AE-Lock is useful when shooting subjects that are positioned off-centre or when you want to photograph a series of images using exactly the same exposure settings. An instance of this might be if you want to stitch together several shots to create a panorama; it is important that the shooting parameters employed for each frame are consistent – using the AE-Lock facility ensures constant exposures for each shot. The AE-Lock button is an essential exposure aid when shooting subjects with very dark or light backgrounds that can easily fool your camera’s multi-zone metering into over or underexposure. In this instance, the very dark backdrop fooled the camera into thinking the scene was darker than it actually was. As a result, it has set a shutter speed longer than was required and so the subject is overexposed. In order to achieve the correct exposure, a spot-meter reading was taken from a wall to the side of the stairs. This reading was then locked using the AE-Lock button. The picture was recomposed and the image taken. The result is perfectly exposed.


Your camera’s multi-zone metering should be capable of exposing image subjects perfectly in most situations. Take a test shot, check the screen and use the exposure compensation facility to add/subtract a little exposure if you feel the shot is too dark or light. Where your camera’s multi-zone meter may falter is if your subject has very light or dark tones, or is strongly backlit. In these situations, use exposure compensation or select the spot meter and use the AE-L (Autoexposure Lock) button to take a reading from a mid-tone in the scene, or from an 18% grey card that you place near the subject.

Understand your camera’s

Before you can influence the exposure, you need to understand how your camera’s metering works. Here are some essentials that you need to know to pick the best metering mode for different shooting conditions.

Digital cameras boast complex exposure systems and offer a choice of metering patterns, each working out the exposure in a way to suit various lighting conditions. A camera’s exposure system works on the assumption that the area of the scene that is being metered is a mid-tone, or 18% grey to be exact; the average if all dark, lights and mid-tones were combined. It’s a tried-and-tested method and the basis of all metering patterns. It’s important to be aware of this when you’re taking pictures as it helps you to know when you may have problems with exposure. While this system is fine in the majority of shooting situations, it can lead to incorrect exposures when the scene or subject is considerably lighter or darker in tone than 18% grey. For example, very dark subjects or scenes can fool the metering system into thinking that the general scene is much darker than it really is and. as a result, overexposes the image. Similarly, very light subjects or scenes can fool the camera into underexposing images making them appear darker than they are – as the light meter takes a reading designed to render them as a mid-tone. It’s in these trickier lighting situations where the popular multi-zone pattern, which provides the correct exposure for around 90% of shots, struggles as it tries to meter the entire scene. It’s in cases like this where using the other patterns such as partial and spot are useful as they offer more control. As a camera is trying to render an image grey, it’s your job to ensure you compensate to keep the tones true to life. To do this you have to overexpose the camera’s reading to give a lighter result than the camera wants, or underexpose to give a darker result. With a portrait in a dark scene, for instance, the camera will overexpose the image, bleaching the face, therefore you will need to reduce the exposure. With a light scene, it’s giving less exposure than you need, darkening the subject, so you have to add exposure to make it record correctly. If you’re still unsure, don’t worry – when you start shooting light or dark scenes and then try to override the camera’s readings, you’ll soon get to grips with it. By following our expert advice you should also increase the chances of keeping any exposure errors to a minimum.

Multi-zone metering:

In theory, you could take every picture using multi-zone metering and never have a bad exposure – well almost… The multi-zone pattern is the newest and most sophisticated type of metering pattern and the one most photographers stick to for the majority of their shots. While every manufacturer has their own type of multi-zone meter, each with varying numbers and shapes of zones, all work in much the same way. The entire image area is divided into a number of zones and, when activated, individual meter readings are taken from each one of them. The camera’s microprocessor then evaluates all these individual readings and uses complex algorithms to calculate the final exposure. To improve accuracy, many cameras also boast a library of tens of thousands of images taken in various lighting conditions, which are compared in a micro-second with the new scene to produce the exposure value. This system has proven highly reliable and gets the exposure correct more than 90% of the time. Its weak spots, however, are unusually light or very dark scenes or subjects. Multi-zone meters can also have trouble with very high-contrast scenes, in particular backlit subjects. This is why there are other metering patterns available, as well as a choice of exposure overrides, to help you ensure the perfect exposure.

Multi-zone pattern icon

(We have displayed four popular camera make icons, but most camera makes across the world have similar icons to one of these)

Centre-weighted average:

Despite the arrival of newer patterns, this veteran still has its place on DSLRs and CSCs. This is the oldest metering pattern and was the number-one choice until the multi-zone pattern was introduced. As its name suggests, it takes an average reading from the entire frame, with a slight emphasis given to the central area. While less sophisticated compared to the more recent patterns, its past popularity means it is still featured in most digital cameras, as many experienced photographers feel more comfortable using this pattern, It is a good option when used in combination with the AE-Lock exposure override (which is covered in more detail later), but if given the choice, we’d recommend that you stick to multi-zone metering.

Centre-weighted icon

Spot and partial metering:

This is a great pattern when you want to take a reading from a specific area of the frame – but it must be used with care. While multi-zone metering takes measurements from the entire image area, spot and partial metering concentrates on the central area of the frame (you can see the measuring circle at the centre of the viewfinder screen). This allows you to precisely control where the exposure reading for the scene is taken from, as only the area of the frame within the measuring circle will be used to determine what’s the ‘correct’ exposure.

Spot and partial metering is a great way to ensure that you get the proper exposure when you’re shooting in difficult lighting conditions. Spot and partial are very similar in how they work. The main difference is spot offers a very precise measuring circle (usually around 3% of the image area), while partial usually measures the central 9% of the frame. The more precise spot meter is found on most cameras, while partial is less common, and a handful of cameras boast both. You must take great care when using spot or partial metering: always take a reading from a mid-tone, like grass or concrete, and not a light or dark subject, otherwise you will get an inaccurate reading.

Spot:partial icon

Exposure compensation

Master the easiest and most commonly used override for increasing and decreasing your exposure.

Camera Exposure compensation

Once you are aware of how metering systems work, and had some experience with using your camera, the times when the exposure system is likely to make mistakes becomes easier to recognise. The simplest way to override your camera’s metered exposure is to use exposure compensation, allowing you to dial in a set exposure increment to increase (+) or decrease (-) the exposure. For instance, a subject that is significantly lighter than a mid-tone, like a white wedding dress, is likely to be underexposed by your camera, so you need to select positive (+) compensation. If the subject is much darker than a mid-tone – for example if wearing very dark clothing – then it is likely to be rendered overexposed, so negative (-) compensation is needed. Applying exposure compensation is quite straightforward and with experience you’ll be able to judge how much is needed. All DSLRs have a dedicated exposure compensation button to make it a quick process in automatic or semi-automatic exposure modes. The compensation you set is often shown as + or – EV (Exposure Value) – for example if you add a half-stop of exposure it will display as +1/2EV.

Camera Exposure compensation Scale

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