Do you use exposure compensation or AE lock?


No longer a newbie, moving up!
May 28, 2009
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Cincinnati, OH
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I've never used the AE lock button, but my understanding is that I would use it when I wanted to meter on a different subject than I was shooting. (take meter reading, enable AE lock, recompose, shoot). Correct?

My question is, isn't is just easier to use exposure compensation for this? When would I want or need to use AE lock as opposed to dialing in the appropriate exposure compensation? It just seems easier to me to preview a photo on the LCD and then just hit the exposure comp dial if I need another shot, instead of dealing with metering and AE lock for another shot.
I only tend to use AE lock if i want to spot meter of the sky for a silhouette. As far as i know there is no way of doing that with exposure comp.
I just set my camera to manual... meter what I want metered, set my exposure and recompose.

Its rare I will use exposure compensation
Old saying,and I am updating it for the digital age: "There is more than one way to remove the furry external skeletal covering of a feline."

The AE lock method is kind of like the old school method of what is known as "substitution light metering", where one takes a meter reading of a substitute object in similar light and uses that light meter setting, such as when you try and ascertain the exposure of something too far away and too small to cary much weight in the metering pattern. AE lock is similar: use center-weighted metering or spot metering, and aim the camera at the "right spot", lock the metering value in with the AE Lock button, re-compose and shoot. This allows you to also swing the meter to a brighter,or a darker area, the make a faster, briefer exposure, or a longer, more-generous exposure--all without the need to fiddle around with the +/- control.

Exposure compensation is very handy for sequential shooting, and other types of situations, where the light meter tends to be fooled by background brightness issues. Photographing a fair-skinned blonde woman posing in front of a huge wall of dark foliage for example...setting the Exposure Compensation to Minus 1 and 2/3 f/stops (the +/- control at Minus 1.7) will ensure that the background's darkness does not "slow down" the exposure and grossly overexpose the fair-skinned blonde woman in the foreground of your shots.

Exposure compensation (the +/- control) is also useful for shooting in strongly backlighted conditions, where there's at least a somewhat consistent pattern to your shooting.

Both the AE Lock button and the Exposure Compensation button have their uses, hence both are included. For one-time use, the AE Lock button is faster,and allows you to make a "brighter" shot and a "darker" shot just by swinging the camera down or up a bit and pressing a button.
As Derrel stated, there are uses for each. I tend to use AE lock when I'm changing scenes a lot. For example if I'm walking around shooting things, it's easier for me to take a shot, look at the LCD and see what is over/under exposed, what I want the frame exposed for then spot meter that area, AE lock, recompose and shoot. That method works very well and very fast for me. Good when I'm shooting something that might not be there long, or I don't have much time to get.

I use exposure comp when I'm doing other things where I want multiple shots from the same angle or same composition. Again, for example, if I've set up a tripod for and want to get a specifically composed shot or maybe having a person try several different poses. Rather than moving the camera to spot meter somewhere else every time and trying to then recompose the shot exactly as I had it before, I would simply use the exposure comp. For me, this also eliminates the problem of each shot being slightly differently exposed/composed when you use the AE lock and recompose method. Soooo, those are just examples of when the two different features work best for me. You may have different results.
on my D500, If I have my external flash, pressing the AE lock will trigger the flash. Am I doing something wrong?
I do a lot. I just think it a way to add artistic flare to the image.
on my D500, If I have my external flash, pressing the AE lock will trigger the flash. Am I doing something wrong?
You'll be triggering FEL (Flash Exposure Lock) as you have set the camera to use flash to take the actual image. The flash you see is actually a "pre-flash" used for metering the flash power in TTL mode. You can then dial in FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation)

I'm pretty sure the details willl be in the manual.
I just set my camera to manual... meter what I want metered, set my exposure and recompose.

+1 for me too. My camera stays in manual.

That's great...... when you have complete control of the situation. When shooting subjects like quick moving birds, they change the composition for you, and your reaction time must be far quicker than "meter, reset exposure, and recompose".
Your exposure shouldn't change unless they're flying from shade to sunlight. Just expose for the scene and leave it there, right?
Your exposure shouldn't change unless they're flying from shade to sunlight. Just expose for the scene and leave it there, right?

Well, yes and no. As the bird's wings flap, shadows will appear and disappear. This may or may not affect your exposure. It depends on your distance from the subject, and also its surroundings.
I tend to use exposure compensation (within aperture-priority mode) most of the time... not for any well-thought-out reason, really, but simply because it tends to work out fine for most of the landscapes and wildflowers that I shoot. I'll generally take a shot, examine my exposure, and determine if it's necessary to re-shoot with any exposure compensation. After a while, I've come to expect that, for instance, white wildflowers will require a +1EV to expose properly if they fill much of the frame... or that a white waterfall against a relatively dark forest background will tend to over-expose a bit if an EV compensation of between -0.3EV to -1EV isn't applied.

Admittedly, this is not the fastest way to shoot... and it's arguably not the most efficient way to go about metering a diverse range of scenes. Nonetheless, since I am rarely shooting in situations where seconds count, this method has done me well. In other types of photography though, I could definitely see my method being far too slow to keep up.

Although I use manual mode occasionally, I usually just do so only under exceptional circumstances. For instance, if I want to add fill flash to a scene that requires a relatively long exposure (anywhere from 1/4 sec to 10 or 15 seconds), I'll oftentimes meter my exposure in aperture-priority mode, then then switch to manual mode and dial in my shutter speed and aperture to match. That way, I can fire my flash and add fill light while still keeping the appropriate settings to achieve a correct exposure of the entire scene. If I didn't switch to manual (instead staying in aperture-priority), my camera would default to 1/60sec with the flash popped... far too fast to expose a somewhat dark scene with great depth at f/16 - f/22.

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