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DSLR Tips Workshop: How to brighten exposures

Modern DSLRs get the exposure right almost every time in automatic, but sometimes your photos come out darker than you’d like them. Maybe the camera’s been mistaken or perhaps you’d simply prefer it to come out brighter than normal. Either way, it’s easy to fix and in this workshop I’ll show you how.

Above left is a photo taken inside a church with very bright light shining through the windows which has fooled the camera’s automatic settings into underexposing. In the shot above right, I’ve used ‘exposure compensation’ to deliberately over-expose the photo, giving a better overall effect. In my video tutorial below, I’ll explain how to achieve this, and at the bottom of the page you’ll find a reminder of the steps you’ll need to take.


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Checklist: How to make your photos brighter

1: Switch your camera to Program mode by turning the mode dial to ‘P’.

2: Press the exposure compensation button. This is normally labelled with a plus and minus symbol – check your manual for details.

3: Set the compensation to a positive value to deliberately overexpose the shot – a setting of +1 will be twice as bright as normal and a good starting point. Some DSLRs require that the compensation button be held as you make this adjustment.

4: If the result isn’t bright enough, choose a bigger number, like +1.5 or even +2. If the result is too bright, choose a smaller number like +0.5 or +0.3. It’s all about experimenting.

5: After taking your photo, set the compensation back to zero or all your photos will be brighter than normal. Finally if desired, set the mode dial back to Auto.

Watch out!

Don’t assume the screen on the back of your DSLR is always giving an accurate representation of your photo. Depending on the screen’s brightness settings and the surrounding light, you may find your photos look darker or lighter than they actually are. Reading the histogram can reveal if your photo is properly exposed – see forthcoming workshop – but to play safe, simply take two photos. One with exposure compensation and one without just to make sure.

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