Day 58: Flash Exposure Compensation

We all know about ETTL, yes? Automatic flash.

We click the shutter, and the flash fires once to test and the second time to put out enough flash to light the image. It happens so fast that you can’t even see the first flash fire, but it’s there.

The other option is to put your flash on manual and control yourself how much flash power comes out of the flash.

OR there is a happy medium that gives you a bit more control and also lets you “set it and forget it.”

With Flash Exposure Compensation, you can set your flash to ETTL, but tell your flash to output more or less than it normally would.

You see, your camera doesn’t know what you’re taking a photo of. So it’s always going to aim for 18% gray. If you take a photo of a white wall, it doesn’t think “Hey this is a white wall, let’s make this wall white!” it thinks “OK, I don’t know what this is but let’s stick to 18% gray and under expose this bright thing, whatever it is.”

So let’s say you’re taking a photo of a jaguar at night, and your camera/flash don’t know that. They’re going to say “Gosh this is dark, let’s light it up!” but you, as a creative, might say “Actually this is supposed to be a darker image, so, whatever you were GOING to do, give me a stop under, kthx.”

Or let’s say you’re taking a photo of a bride on a beach. Your gear sees white on beige with tons of light and thinks “Let’s dim the lights a bit.” But you, as a creative, say “Actually, this is supposed to be a brighter image so whatever you were GOING to do, give me a half stop over.”

That is Exposure Compensation. It’s a super easy concept and a good tool to have in your back pocket.

To change these settings, I push the center button on my flash and the setting lights up right under where it says ETTL in the upper left. I turn the dial up or down and click the center button again. That’s it.


Since we just decorated for Christmas, this reindeer is going to be my subject. This is on regular ETTL, no exposure compensation set.

This is what happens when I set ETTL to expose for one stop under what it would normally do.

On the flip side, this is at a full stop OVER what it would usually do.

And two stops.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris