Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Exposure Compensation for Cat Photos

Are you a cat photography enthusiast who sometimes struggles with terms and jargon you don’t understand? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! I encountered a camera adjustment I was not familiar with recently and I want to share because it’s a bit of an eye-opener and it can make a difference to your cat (or dog!) photos when you use it on your mirrorless or DSLR camera.

As a bonus I am including my FREE photography glossary as a download (see the bottom of the post)! The free eBook includes a lot of photography terms for beginners.

I am going to try this one out a lot over the coming weeks and I think you will too so let’s look at Exposure Compensation and see how it works in practice.

Exposure Compensation Examples

Here are two samples of the difference the change can make ‘in the camera’ and save you endless fussing and tinkering with your cat’s photo in a photo editor. Toulouse (tabby), and his best friend Wyatt are my models to show very simply how using plus or minus makes a difference. The impact on a photo can be a lot more dramatic but this shows you what that simple dial or button can do.

Meet Exposure Compensation

What is Exposure Compensation a.k.a. Exposure Control? It is a sneaky and simple way of slightly adjusting the exposure from the settings the camera decides are good for your shot. It works while you use the Modes (see quote) and lets you change the exposure just a little bit. Why would you do this? Because our camera’s aren’t perfect and can misjudge the light so you can step in and make a small change.

To use exposure priority, your camera must be in a setting that uses the camera meter. This can be Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program Mode, or other Scene Modes. The only time it will not work is when you have your setting in Manual or Automatic Mode – Photocourse

I admit that I am not big on ‘manual‘ mode as it does not work well for my kind of cat photography, although some photographers swear its the best.

I take photographs of cats in repose, cats moving or fierce cats often within five minutes of each other. So, I prefer to use Aperture Priority (Nikon A) and Shutter Priority (S/Tv). Still, sometimes the light isn’t quite right and it needs the small tweak this tool can provide.

Look for the plus/minus symbol

TIP If you are familiar with your camera’s histogram a small adjustment to your exposure can help you remove the dreaded ‘blinkies’ which point out areas you have over exposed. Anything that helps you avoid that is a good thing – right?

Where do I find Exposure Compensation

It is different on each camera so check your manual or a tutorial video online. It can be a button, a dial or part of your menu but there will be a symbol similar to this, a plus and minus.

  • Plus – Use this to draw out details in the shadows scroll towards the +. Details in a cat face become more visible for example.
  • Minus – Use this to underexpose your image and draw out details in the highlights of your photo.

FREE Download of Dash Kitten’s FUN Photo Glossary

Figure of a woman with a Silver Tabby


Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can create impressive cat photographs and fun movies with the camera they carry.

She is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

8 thoughts on “Exposure Compensation for Cat Photos”

  1. I did not know you could do this. Sure enough … my camera has this button (in pristine, new condition, unlike the illustrations on the other buttons, which are rubbed off).

  2. I did not know that! Thanks! I wonder if its on my Canon P&S camera as it does have a P mode. Though I find that my cell phone takes much clearer images…it has lower f-stops than the ‘real’ camera…and apparently is can compensate for lower light conditions. Will check that out too. (I have an iPhone13.)

  3. Another great set of tips. You’ll make good photographers of all of us with your great instruction, Marjorie. 🙂


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