10 common exposure problems every photographer faces (and how to fix them)

10 common exposure problems every photographer faces (and how to fix them)

Are you struggling to get well-lit shots? You don’t need any fancy equipment or complex lighting techniques. This guide to the 10 most common exposure problems all photographers face will show you how to avoid them and start taking better pictures today.

10 common exposure problems every photographer faces (and how to fix them)

At some point most photographers take a picture that doesn’t come out exactly as they expected, it’s either too dark or much lighter than they want it to be.

This might be because of a mistake with the metering, they’ve made an exposure error or because the camera settings are wrong. In this article we explain 10 of the most common exposure problems and how to avoid them.

Exposure Problem 1. White subject made grey

Exposure Problem 1. White subject made grey

Camera metering systems generally expect the brightness of a scene to average out as a midtone.

There may be very bright and dark sections, but the average brightness is somewhere in between.

So if you fill the frame with a very light subject, a winter landscape or a light, sandy beach, for example, the camera will reduce the exposure to render it a midtone. Hence a white subject is often made grey.

The solution is simple, just use the exposure compensation control to increase the exposure above the value suggested by the camera.

With snow you may need to increase it by over 1EV, perhaps even 2EV.

The key is to keep an eye on the histogram view and increase the exposure until the trace reaches the far right of the scale, indicating that there are some whites in the image.

Don’t increase the exposure too far and introduce a large peak at the right end of the histogram as this means that lots of the highlights are burned out.


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Exposure Problem 2. Black subject made grey

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: get a grey card reading

This is again caused by the camera’s metering system being confused and expecting the black object to be a midtone.

As before, the solution is to use the exposure compensation control to reduce the exposure and turn the subject black.

Another way to avoid such problems is to put a photographic grey card in the scene and in the same light as the main subject.

Then, set the camera to manual exposure mode and set the metering mode to spot.

Now make sure that the grey card fills the spotmetering area and set the exposure as the camera’s meter suggests.

Next, take the grey card out of the scene and compose the image leaving the exposure settings as they were. The black subject should now be captured as black.


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  • Michael Rector

    I have a question, with my grey card set, it also has a black and white card. how do you use these to correct exposure? does the above apply to these two black and white cards too, and if so, how does the camera do this without specifying what cards you are exposing to?

  • tom from jersey

    After all these years I still forget that the LCD image on the back of camera is NOT your exposure. I have my camera set up to have the image & histogram displayed simultaneously. Of course the LCD is perfect for composition