Pin Me

When to Underexpose Your Photos

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/30/2009

You've constantly had "bracket your camera exposure settings to ensure correct images" drilled into you from every resource for a while now, but there are times when you just might want to deliberately underexpose your digital images. Find out how and why here.

  • slide 1 of 7

    Underexpose your camera exposure settings?

    What? We know, all the advice you get says to be careful with your photographic camera exposure settings. You’re even often advised to bracket; that is to shoot a bit over or a bit under the "suggested" exposure settings to be sure to get correct exposure on digital cameras, capturing just the right exposure combination to get the shot. You should know how to get correct exposure on a digital camera. But yes, there are times when you might or even should, deliberately underexpose your photographs. Why? How? And when? Find out here now, then try using underexposure of your camera exposure settings out for yourself.

  • slide 2 of 7

    Creating Silhouettes with Camera Exposure Settings

    In the article "How to Photograph Silhouettes: Seven Key Tips and Tricks" the practical techniques for producing silhouette digital images using underexposed camera exposure settings is discussed in more detail. These can be especially striking images and will complement any digital photographer’s portfolio. This technique is comprised of deliberating under-exposing the subject in the foreground by exposing for the lighter, brighter background. This helps to throw the exposure of the foreground subject well under proper exposure to reveal details giving the foreground subject an all-black outline only, fully-shadowed appearance.

  • slide 3 of 7

    Reducing a Cluttered Background

    There are times when deliberate under-exposure camera exposure settings can help in reducing the impact of an overly-busy or cluttered background in a digital image. You can use photo-editing software to bring out desired highlights in your subject or foreground. Setting the camera exposure for flash lighting of a foreground subject will also often throw the background into under-exposure reducing its impact on the overall digital image.

  • slide 4 of 7

    Creating Special Effects

    Creating special effects such as double or multiple exposures, creating "ghost" images and mirror-image digital photographs can be easily accomplished using under-exposure producing camera exposure settings If you’re planning on over-laying two or more images for a number of digitally-created special effects, then you may need to deliberately under-expose your shots to darken or reduce color saturation. This allows you to super-impose or overlay other images while still maintaining an overall balance in the final or finished digital image.

  • slide 5 of 7

    Photographing Wallpapers

    If you’d like to create some of your customized wallpapers for a website background or computer screen, then consider using deliberate under-exposure camera exposure settings as an effective tool for reducing or minimizing color intensity and saturation. This makes it much easier and simpler to overlay or super-impose additional graphics or images onto the background with less imagery and color saturation conflicts. Using under-exposure as a tool, you can easily "fade" or "wash out" images of faces, people, animals and scenes to create high-impact multi-dimensional digital images and backgrounds.

  • slide 6 of 7

    Shooting Fast Action Camera Exposure Settings


    "What was that?"

    "Was it a bird?"

    "Was it a plane?"

    "Maybe it was even you-know-who?"

    It doesn’t matter. Whatever fast-moving object you’d like to capture as a digital image, if you expose it at a fast shutter speed to help "stop" or "freeze" the action and use a small lens aperture or f-stop, then under-exposure producing camera exposure settings will frequently result. Should you worry? Not really, since this likely will get you something in the digital image you can use. Try opting for photo editing software later to help highlight or "clean-up" areas of your final digital image to improve it if necessary.

  • slide 7 of 7

    Overexposure-Producing Camera Exposure Settings

    In the accompanying article to this series, "When to Overexpose Your Photos" we’ll examine the use of over-exposure producing camera exposure settings as a creative photographic tool.

Additional Info
Additional Info