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

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

Exposure Problem 3. Camera in the wrong exposure mode

How to control depth of field in Aperture Priority mode: step 2

This is a classic error that is most likely to happen if your camera has a mode dial without a lock.

A slight knock, or even just the action of removing the camera from a bag can be enough to knock the dial out of position.

Suddenly, instead of shooting in aperture priority mode in which you set the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed, you are in manual mode and whichever shutter speed was last selected is being used.

The same problem can arise if you normally shoot in aperture or shutter priority (for example), but occasionally switch to manual to deal with tricky lighting conditions.

If you forget to switch back to the semi-automatic mode and don’t check the camera settings you can shoot away with the wrong exposure set.

The only solution to this problem is to get into the habit of checking the exposure mode before you start shooting – or tape down that pesky mode dial.


Digital camera modes explained: choose the best shooting mode for your subject
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What is white balance: common problems and how to solve them


Exposure Problem 4. Underexposed back-lit subject

Backlighting Portraits: evaluative metering

When a subject is lit from behind or is much darker than it’s surroundings a camera can easily be fooled into underexposing the most important part of the image in an attempt to balance the exposure across the frame.

The simplest way to get the exposure right with a backlit subject is to switch to either centre-weighted- or spot-metering.

Centre-weighted metering puts greater emphasis on exposing the centre of the frame correctly, while spotmetering only takes the brightness of the object under the spotmetering area into account when selecting the exposure settings.

Helpfully, many cameras have a custom function (check your camera’s manual for details) that allows the spotmetering area to be linked to the active AF point, so even if your subject is off centre, it will be correctly exposed.


What your camera captures at every lens’ focal length: free photography cheat sheet
Break the rules: become a pro at using backlight to add drama to any photo
Silhouette photography: tips for shooting into the sun

  • 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