The Digital Photo Guy

No Such Thing as “Correct” Exposure

by on Jul.31, 2011, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Desired versus Correct Exposure

Something I hammer in my field workshops is the difference between a “correct” exposure and “desired” exposure. Most new dSLR users assume the exposure is correct when the ELI (exposure level indicator) shows the tick mark at zero (see below.)

To the left is the ELI on the Quick Screen of a Canon 60D. Every dSLR has a similar ELI on the top LCD, bottom of the viewfinder or, often, the back LCD. Sometimes, it’s in all four locations. As you might imagine, this is a key tool in setting desired exposure. A tick mark below the scale (unseen in this image) is used to indicate more or less light.

dSLR users often mistake the zero point as the “correct” exposure level when it’s really just the point where the exposure algorithm reports the light and dark areas are balanced. That would be like saying the center of the speedometer is the “correct” speed. Try telling that to the cop who pulls you over for doing 60mph in a 25mph zone.

 Think of the Auto Exposure Meter as a starting point. Here are three images from Julian, CA, an old gold mining town now reknowned for its apple pies. I was in Aperture Mode because that’s my usual exposure mode. I knew I wanted the dark center of the sunflower exposed for details but I also wanted to preserve some cloud details in the background.


For my first test shot, I added +1 EC (exposure compensation.) The result was a bit too bright and I didn’t have much detail in the clouds. I dialed back EC to +1/3 to keep details in the dark center of the sunflower and recover some details in the clouds. Because I was shooting Raw, I knew could recover cloud details in Lightroom if necessary. In the end, I decided the clouds weren’t as important as the bee. If I had blindly accepted the metered exposure, the bee might have been lost in the dark center.

Point Loma Lighthouse Open House

Rick Phillips sent me a link to an article he wrote for In a nutshell, on Thursday, August 25, 2011, Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, San Diego, will open the Point Loma Lighthouse for its annual Founder’s Day celebration. This is indeed a rare opportunity to make photos from the top of the lighthouse. Read Rick’s articles for details.

I’ll post a Meetup on the Photography Webinars and Photoshoots site for those who would like to join me there.

Canon 40D for Sale

My Canon 40D body is up for sale. This is just the body, no lens. I have the box, manual, CDs and all accessories that originally came with it. I’ll post photos later this week in the Tips & News section under Excess Equipment for Sale.

The asking price is $675 and includes a Canon BG-E2 Battery Grip for extended battery life. This combination is perfect for fast sports photography where you are quickly changing between landscape and portrait modes. Because of the weight, shipping is $25. My preferred method of payment is PayPal.

:, , ,

4 Comments for this entry

  • Gloria Hendren

    That flower to the right was so beautiful and the exposure was just right for that setting.

    Thanks for sharing that image.

    Gloria Hendren

    • Lee

      Thanks for reading Gloria,
      I should have included the histogram of that photo because it’s mostly stacked on the right side. Too often, people worry about a “perfect” histogram and lose sight of what they’re trying to show. The ability to recover data from highlights is one of the primary advantages of shooting Raw. Perhaps that would be a good subject for a future Monday Morning Tip.


  • Jill Johnson

    Hi Lee, that sure is a good price for your 40D…….Someone will get a really good deal. :o)

    • Lee

      Ya know, Jill, one can never have too many cameras. Are you sure you don’t want to add this to your collection? 😉

      Your robin chicks photos were great. It’s so much fun to watch them grow from little fuzzy balls into real birds. And, unlike kids, you don’t have to pay for college!


Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!