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DSLR Tips Workshop: How to darken exposures

Every DSLR has an auto exposure mode and on the whole they do a great job – but sometimes your photos may come out brighter than you’d like them to. Maybe the camera’s been mistaken or perhaps you’d simply prefer it to come out darker than normal. Either way, it’s easy to fix and in this workshop I’ll show you how.


In the sunset photo above left, the camera’s automatic settings have produced an image that’s a bit too bright and washed-out. By using your camera’s ‘exposure compensation’ settings though, you can deliberately underexpose the shot and make it darker, such as the photo above right. 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.


Checklist: How to make your photos darker

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 negative value to deliberately underexpose the shot – a setting of -1 will be twice as dark as normal and is a good starting point. Some DSLRs require that the compensation button be held as you make this adjustment.

4: If the result is not dark enough, choose a bigger number, like -1.5 or even -2. If the result is too dark, 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 darker than normal. Finally if desired, set the mode dial back to Auto.

Expert tip

If you’d also like to include a person in front of the sunrise or sunset, just popup your built-in flash to illuminate them. If the person is too dark, either increase your flash compensation setting (see your manual) or move a little closer to them. Alternatively, use an external flashgun for more power.

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