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When to Overexpose Camera Exposure Settings

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

You've been drilled with many techniques to get correct camera exposure settings. Now forget all that and learn when to overexpose your digital images.

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    Overexpose your camera exposure settings?

    Despite all the sage advice to bracket, meter and allow for some latitude in your camera exposure settings. You can and should consider deliberate over-exposure of your digital photos under certain shooting conditions. Certainly, you have more than a passing familiarity with ways to ensure correct camera exposure settings when shooting digital images normally. So what conditions might precipitate deliberate over-exposure? We’ll consider that very aspect here in this article so you can try out the techniques for yourself.

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    How to Get Correct Camera Exposure Settings on Digital Cameras

    To get correct exposure settings on your digital camera, you can opt to use several accurate methods including the use of the auto exposure mode

    Correct camera exposure settings then, are not necessarily a problem for most digital photographers. Over-exposure, however, can be either accidental or deliberate. Either way, results can be distinctively different from those produced via correct camera exposure settings.

    - Using an in camera exposure meter

    - Using typical exposures for certain commonly-encountered conditions

    - Setting your camera manually based on personal knowledge and experience

    - Use of a hand-held light meter or exposure meter

    - Camera settings based on your digital camera operating manual

    - Bracketing of exposure settings

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    Reducing a Cluttered Background Using Over-Exposure

    There are situations in which deliberate over-exposure camera exposure settings can be useful in reducing an overly-distracting or cluttered background in your digital images. The use of photo editing software to increase color saturation, improve contrast or differentiate areas of interest within the digital image photographic composition should allay fears of washing out everything when deliberately over-exposing digital images. If your subject is in shade or shadow with strong lighting behind. Metering on or deliberately over-exposing the darker subject will throw the background into a white-out or over-exposed state. Opening up the camera aperture an additional stop or two will accentuate this effect even further. There are a few simple ways to deliberately over-expose digital camera exposure settings.

    The simplest and most direct of these are:

    - Opening up the camera lens aperture by one, two or more stops

    - Metering or exposing for the darkest area of your subject

    - Using flash or flood lighting in a bright light digital photography scenario

    - Use a slow shutter speed in combination with a wide lens aperture

    - Metering off of your hand, the inside of your coat or off of a nearby dark object

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    Creating Special Effects Using Over-Exposure Camera Exposure Settings

    Have you ever been to Antarctica during a heavy snowstorm? How about for a casual stroll on the sun? Me neither. But for creating special effects such as double or multiple exposures, fog-like scenarios, blizzard, snow, white-out backgrounds or other digital image special effects, can be easily accomplished using over-exposure producing camera exposure settings. Exposing for the darker foreground subject automatically throws a lighter toned background into an over-exposed state. Very light, washed-out or deliberately over-exposed backgrounds make adding extra images or special effects a snap to conjure up and complete.

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    Creating Photographic Wallpapers Using Over-exposure Camera Exposure Settings

    When it’s time to conjure up some of your customized backgrounds, scenes or wallpapers for a website or screensaver, using deliberate over-exposure camera exposure settings as a creative tool for reducing or eliminating extraneous elements in your digital images which can be done while doing the original shooting sequences. This can make overlays or additional super-imposed graphics or images far easier to produce. Using over-exposure as a digital photography creative tool, you can easily produce high-impact multi-dimensional digital images and backgrounds as easy as falling off a drunken moose’s butter-slick backside during an earthquake. And you can’t get much easier than that, now can you?

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    Underexposure-Producing Camera Exposure Settings

    In the accompanying article to this series, "When to Underexpose Your Photos" we look at the use of under-exposure producing camera exposure settings as a creative photographic tool as well. See you then.