Advanced Techniques

Exposure value

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

To override a digital cameras automatic exposure settings, change the exposure value.

A cameras metering system can be fooled when taking pictures where large areas of a scene are very bright, very dark or contain strong contrast. To help prevent a photo from under or over exposure, adjust exposure values (EV).

Exposure values, represented by numbers with a plus or minus in front of them, override settings automatically selected by a cameras exposure mode. When the main subject is darker than the background, increase exposure value. If the subject is much lighter than the background, decrease exposure value.

Over exposed trees

For overexposed subjects (too light), decrease EV.

Under exposed trees

For underexposed subjects (too dark), increase EV.

Suggested exposure value settings

  • Bright sunlight coming over the back of you when taking a photo: -0.3 or -0.7 EV compensation
  • For shots with strong light coming behind the subject (back lit): +0.7 or +1.0 EV
  • Scene with bright sun: 0 to -2 EV
  • Snow, beach or highly reflected water: -2/3 to -2 EV
  • Close-up of white or yellow flower: -1/3 to -1 EV
  • Dimly lit night sky: 0 to +2 EV
  • Land or seascape taken just prior to dusk: 0 EV to +2/3
  • Very dark or black objects: + 2/3 to +1 1/3


  • Thank you George. I will take a look at the article and make any necessary adjustment to the above article. Here is an additional reply from out Technical Editor Bernard Dery:

    “I’d say there’s no clear-cut line here (as with snow). It depends on what you want to achieve, which part of the image you want to preserve. On the beach, I honestly never had any problems with exposure, with my three cameras. With white flowers, I tend to overexpose a bit if what interests me is the colour, or underexpose if what interests me are the textures. As for snow, what interests me is generally the textures, which makes me underexpose.”

  • George, you make some very interesting points but I’ve personally found the approximate exposure values work for me. Perhaps it’s because in difficult lighting, I may use exposure lock in addition to adjusting Exposure Compensation. I’d be interested to hear any further thoughts on this.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but i think the Exposure suggestions are reversed, in at least the cases for “Snow, beach or highly reflected water” and “Very dark or black objects”. What really happens in these cases, is that the camera is fooled by the discrepancy between the reflectance of snow/water/dark object and the reflectance of a gray card used for the camera’s calibration. In other words, a camera’s measurement of exposure from snow will be less than the optimal exposure because more light is reflected and the camera will tend to let less light enter; the image will need manual OVER-exposure to compensate. Shooting dark/black objects will call for manual UNDER-exposure respectively.