Quick Tip: Practical Methods for Overexposure

Keeping up with the theme of overexposure this week, I thought I’d write a little add-on article to my post titled “Should You Expose For Shadows Or Highlights?” And if you’re having a hard time getting started on photos for the “Blown Away Project“, these tips should help you get more comfortable with taking overexposed photos. So here’s how you do it with various types of cameras and settings.


Most compact cameras will have to be tricked into overexposing, unless the camera has exposure compensation. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t want to use it, just focus your camera on a dark area before taking a shot of the brighter area. This makes the camera meter it’s exposure for those dark areas. Just make sure you keep holding that focus button down as you move into the shot. Also try to focus on something that is the same distance away as your subject, because you’ll have locked the focus as well as the exposure.

If you have a non-compact camera, you can also use your exposure lock to do the same metering method while freeing up your focus lock.


This category includes things like shutter priority, aperture priority, and even program mode or fully auto mode. If your camera has these types of controls, it probably also has an exposure compensation control. Use your exposure compensation by turning it up to the positive side by a stop or two. This will make the camera expose higher than normal and give you blown out photos.


If you like to shoot fully manual, you probably also know how to read your light scale or exposure meter in the viewfinder. Of course, to overexpose you want to use settings that make your meter fall to the positive side (usually to the right of zero). If you want to make life a little easier, you can also use the exposure compensation control to shift your scale and make the bar fall on zero when you’ve got the shot properly overexposed.

So those are the basics of overexposing a photo, now get out there and try it out. It’s an interesting activity when you don’t expect your previews to look the way you saw it through the viewfinder. You can’t tell what you got until you check it out on the LCD because a blown out photo sometimes looks much different than the real life scene.

This entry was posted in Lighting, Quick-Tip on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

One thought on “Quick Tip: Practical Methods for Overexposure

  1. Andrew Ferguson

    Another simple way to get overexposure is to use a non-TTL flash. The camera will meter for ambient light only and you can use the synced flash to blow out whatever you want :P

    If I get time tonight or tomorrow, this is something I want to experiment with for your Blown Away project. My folks are in town, so free time is at a premium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>