Flash exposure compensation


Short and sweet: Flash exposure compensation – your control to balance flash light with ambient light.

A flash exposure compensation increases or decreases the amount of light emitted by the flash compared to the amount determined by the camera. The adjustment is made as with ”normal“ exposure compensation with numerical values of e.g. +/- 1.0, whereby each change by a whole step doubles or halves the amount of light.

two shots with fill flash, left automatic flash exposure, right with flash exposure compensation -1.0

The left of the two photos of Freddy is as in the introducing article The flash – what can it do to your photos?  fully automatic fill flash, the shadows in the face have almost disappeared. To the right, another shot with flash exposure compensation -1.0, the shadows are more pronounced, more natural this way.

Taken with automatic multi-metering, without fill flash
with automatic fill flash, no flash exposure compensation
with fill flash and -1.0 flash exposure compensation

A second example shows all three variants in comparison, taken on a lost places tour. 

  • The broken concrete beams are in shadow in the foreground; darker than I would like them to be. 
  • The fill flash does what it is supposed to do in the second photo, and with the camera auto it thoroughly brightens the beams, however in contrast to the darker background the brightening is unnatural. 
  • Another shot with flash exposure compensation, again -1.0 brings the desired result. 

My experience is that when brightening shadows, a negative flash exposure compensation of e.g. -1.0 is usually advantageous. This way you preserve some of the shadows and the photo looks more lifelike.

Slow flash sync, exposure is based on the dark background
Slow flash sync and flash exposure compensation -1.0

The same trick applied to the example photo for long flash sync: Here a flash exposure compensation of -1.0 reduces the very harsh contrast between the main subject and the background.

Finally, two more tips on flash exposure compensation:

  • If a direct flash is the main light source, best rely on automatic first and compensate only if you don't like the result. The general rule for exposure metering – bright colours need a positive correction, dark ones a negative – does not apply to modern flash exposures.
  • With indirect flash, a positive flash exposure compensation is often necessary for sufficient exposure.

Comments or questions? Type in & send!

Our privacy policy applies.