Camera: What Is EV?


EV stands for exposure value, which refers to the amount of light that is in a given exposure. EV is a term that was first coined during the development of exposure and equivalent camera settings in Germany during the 1950s. EV relates directly to the combination of camera shutter speed and relative aperture, which determine the amount of exposure provided in a photograph.

Why EV is Important

  • It is rare to find a digital camera that does not offer some sort of EV compensation setting. The important thing to know about exposure is that while a digital camera will try to determine the appropriate settings for a particular scene, the method of choosing the appropriate brightness or dimness is not always foolproof. Snowy scenes, for example, are often too dark, while beach scenes are often too bright. Digital camera manufacturers understand that mistakes happen, and that many photographers wish to set their own exposure, and so EV is almost always offered.

When to Use EV

  • Digital cameras are pre-calibrated to expose images correctly based upon a healthy mix of light and dark areas. The midpoint brightness is chosen and used as a guide in setting the correct exposure. But for those scenes that are primarily dark or primarily bright, the incorrect exposure may often be used.
    For scenes like these, and other situations where the default exposure may not be the desired one, EV can be manually adjusted.

How to Use EV

  • Take advantage of exposure value adjustments or compensation whenever you would like to lighten or darken a photo. If you have ever shot an "as is" scene of snow, water or sand, then you will know that the lack of contrasting shades create a dim or washed out photograph. But even typical photos of children, animals or landscape can often be adversely affected by exposure issues. To use EV, you'll need to locate the appropriate settings on your digital camera. These are usually clearly identified as being "exposure adjustments" or "exposure compensation." Choose positive exposure increase (+) to add brightness, and choose negative exposure decrease (-) to decrease the overall exposure.

Understanding EV Bracketing

  • Exposure values and bracketing go hand in hand. When adjusting exposure you may not be sure how far to go, or even which direction to try. It's suggested that you test out various exposures on a stationery setting. Be sure to compare the various exposures you have tried, until you find the one that suits the photograph best. Remember that an exposure value of zero (0) is the default, normal exposure setting that all digital cameras feature.

Where to Find EV Settings

  • Most digital cameras provide the controls for EV adjustment in an easy to find spot. Many DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex) provide manual controls that can be operated from the top, side or back of the camera. Smaller and more compact point and shoot digital cameras may offer exposure value adjustment or compensation options in a menu or sub-menu. If you're not sure where to find the EV settings for your particular digital camera, check the user manual.

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