How to Set Exposure Compensation in Manual Mode Photography

Finally found the answer to a problem that has vexed me for some time now with my Canon camera bodies. Manual mode is my favorite choice for shooting bird photography, but the problem of quickly setting exposure compensation (EC) has always forced me to use Shutter Priority (Tv) mode instead. The reason for that is when you are in manual mode the front wheel adjusts the shutter speed and the back wheel adjusts the aperture. In Tv mode the front wheel adjusts the shutter, the back wheel adjusts EC and the camera selects the best aperture for that shutter speed, which is fine except you have no control over the aperture. In my case most of the time with my long lens the camera is going to select F8 or F9, both of which are going to be acceptable. However with a very fast lens where I might have more choices it would be nice to control both shutter speed and aperture in manual mode.

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight

Now of course you can go to the menu to adjust the EC and if your camera has it, the Q button on the back will bring up all your settings, one of which is the EC that you can set with your touch screen or change with the back wheel on older bodies. I have never found this to be an acceptable solution for bird photography, especially in the case when the bird is flying past mountains where part of the time the sky is the background and part of the time trees are the background. When the bird is flying in and out of bright backgrounds you have to be able to quickly adjust your EC without losing focus on the bird.

Thanks to Janine Krayer of Pangolin Wildlife Photography pointing this out in her Canon Camera Hacks video, I have been able to program my 90D to overcome this problem. In the Custom Functions Other #3 menu you will find the button assignments menu, one of which of course is the set button. The set button comes set to off in the default camera settings which does you no good at all. Setting the button to adjust EC creates the ability to quickly adjust the EC using the front wheel. Flash exposure compensation (FEC) is also one of the options for this button which would also come in very handy when using your Speed Light.  I went ahead and set it to regular EC, but would probably change it to FEC during a flash photo shoot.

The * button is also performs a function just asking to be reprogrammed. Normally the * button locks in an exposure value, which if bumped accidentally when using it’s next door neighbor for back button focus, will completely jack up your next exposure. Janine suggests setting it to off, but on the 90D it can also be set to manage EC, which is what I set it to. Now I have two buttons for EC, but in the case of flash photography I would have one for EC and one for FEC if I choose to program the camera that way.

Of course this is only the exact solution for Canon cameras, but I imagine other vendors have the same issue and have also devised a way around the problem as well. Check your manuals for instructions on how to do this!

What the Heck Happened to Steve

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

It’s been more than a month since my last post and more than a few people have been starting to ask if I’m still alive. I’m happy to report that rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated and that I am indeed alive and kicking 🙂 This month however has not been without it’s challenges!

 

On March 14th I finished my shift at my full time job looking forward to a week of vacation in which I had visions of photographing mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and maybe even a bear or two! By midnight after the swing shift it was becoming apparent that my plans were changing rapidly. Soon a 911 call, a new lesson in pain and an ambulance ride were in the works and my vacation plans were kaput. A couple of hours later I was in surgery for repair of a life threatening incarcerated hernia followed by a second surgery the next night which was necessary to correct some pesky internal bleeding. Now a full month later I am finally feeling like life could return to normal at some point!

Whiling away the hours discussing cameras and photography with my photo bud Kevin have revealed that I need to direct some much needed attention to unexplored camera functions that I have never managed the time to look into.  Especially in Waterton Canyon I have noticed the requirement to rapidly and extensively change camera settings for different subjects.

One moment I might be photographing a beautiful landscape along the river while the next moment might find me scrambling to capture a bighorn sheep preparing to leap into the clear blue water. This can be difficult and often the action occurs before the settings are changed and the moment is lost.

Enter Custom Modes 1 and 2, something I’ve never bothered to mess with in 18 years of digital photography. So I’ve decided to have one function for wildlife and the other for landscape photography. For wildlife I’ve selected Auto ISO with a cap of 1600 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. An exposure compensation factor of +1/3 of a stop seemed like a pretty reliable selection along with high speed drive mode, back button focus and AI Servo for a focus mode. Then you just go to menu settings and find the custom camera modes, select and then register settings. The menu will ask you if you want C1, C2…. or more if you have a camera with additional modes. Wildlife is now C1 on my Canon.

For C2 and landscape photography I selected aperture priority set to f6.3, ISO 100, slow drive mode and again exposure compensation of +1/3.

Now I can easily and quickly switch between wildlife and landscape modes with one quick turn of the main dial. No more missing the money shot! As for the video settings I don’t really care, I don’t make money on video and the camera seems to just do what I want as if by magic.

Now all I need is for somebody to come up with a cure for this blasted CoVid-19 so the stay at home order can be lifted!

If you would like an escape from the monotony of staying at home you might enjoy a visit to my YouTube channel for some nice footage of deer, elk and bighorn sheep! Please subscribe if you like the videos and want to be notified next time I publish!