Use This EXPOSURE Trick & Forget About Manual Mode (VIDEO)

If you’re having trouble nailing exposure and ask a few friends for help, you’re likely to be told, “it’s time you mastered Manual mode.” While that’s certainly an option, there’s another (and often easier) way to consistently achieve perfectly exposed photos.

Justin Laurens is a portrait pro and retouching expert who specializes in quick and simple tutorials for solving common problems. A “correct” exposure” is a subjective matter, and today’s episode explains how using a camera’s EV-Compensation dial while shooting in Aperture Priority will quickly deliver the tonal values you desire.

This technique works with both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, along with many high-end compacts offering exposure-compensation capability. Laurens admits that experimenting with Manual mode is a great way to get your hands dirty and learn the fundamentals of how your camera works.

On the other hand, when it comes to making photos, Laurens put it bluntly: “I’m telling you to NOT use Manual mode, because there’s a better and easier way.” His recommended approach is to shoot in Aperture Priority mode, selecting an f/stop based upon the depth of field you want, and let the camera do most of the rest.

A couple other things to consider: First, he recommends using a large flexible focusing zone and positioning it directly over your subject. This provides a much more targeted area from which your camera determines the appropriate shutter speed for the aperture you select—with a greatly reduced margin of error.

Now the real meat of this lesson begins, as Laruen’s describes how exposure compensation works, and how to use it in tandem with the settings recommended above. As you’ll see, it’s a virtually foolproof method if precise exposure is your goal.

After watching this video head over to Laurens’ YouTube channel, where you’ll find a wealth of shooting and editing tips.

And check out the tutorial we posted from another pro recently, explaining how to use back-button focus for consistently sharp images.

Mike Shwarts's picture

He defeated the purpose of not using manual at the end of the video. There is a clue he would do this in the photo at the beginning of article accompanying the video. Notice on the right of the photo where the exposure compensation dial is circled and has an arrow pointing to it. That is the clue that in the video he would tell you don't use manual then tell you to "essentially" use manual. Contradicting himself.

If you are in aperture priority, and we assume you manually selected ISO, then you are not using manual. But the moment you start fiddling around with exposure compensation, you are (in effect) using manual. At that point you have set aperture, ISO and now you are changing shutter speed with the EV dial. That is manually setting exposure even if your mode dial is set to A. Same if your mode dial is set to S (Tv on Canon). You just set all three sides of the exposure triangle. Same as manual, but you used a different dial to do the same thing.

One can argue that A or S mode may give you a "correct" exposure quickly in some situations. It might even make exposure settings quicker by getting you in the "ballpark," but then you you have to fine tune with the EV dial. And when the subject changes, but the light falling the subject does not, manual works best. Related to the last sentence, his focus tip that uses the face to meter for exposure only works if all the face reflect light like a gray card. Going from a light-colored face to a dark face changes exposure if you meter off the face, but the light falling on the faces does not change.