What Is Ev In Photography?


Stepping into the field of photography, you’ll encounter numerous elements that harmonize to deliver a stand-out photo, and one of these essential elements is “EV” or “Exposure Value”. When it comes to successfully capturing a scene, whether it’s a tranquil golden sunset or a bustling city marketplace, getting a handle on exposure is crucial. This is where the concept of EV comes into play.

EV plays a significant role in managing how dark or bright your image is. This control not only allows you to accurately represent a scene as per the lighting conditions but also leaves room for artistic exploration. Understanding the concept of EV can propel your photography skills, helping you increase the freshness of your work and provide a solid foundation for more advanced concepts in photography.

In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of the EV concept. Starting from its basic concept and the effect of changing the EV on your photos, to a practical guide on when and how to adjust the EV. We will also shed light on the aesthetic impacts it can have on your work, coupled with real-world examples of renowned photographers who have mastered the use of EV. Lastly, we shall offer some final thoughts and advice on utilizing EV to enrich your photography skills.

So, whether your camera is seemingly always tied to your hip or perhaps still in its box, let’s start turning those EV adjustments into second nature and put you in the driver’s seat of your photography journey. Luckily, this isn’t rocket science, but visual science. Buckle in as we decode the enigma of EV!

Basic Concept of EV

In the awe-striking saga of capturing vibrant realities through your lens, the role of EV, or Exposure Value, is paramount. No need to shudder at the perceived complexity of this term. It’s actually a straightforward and utterly fascinating concept for those passionate about photography.

The term EV is a number that represents a combination of two crucial settings – aperture (the lens’s opening size) and shutter speed (the duration your camera exposes the sensor to light). Any alterations in these settings impact your photo’s brightness, thus affecting the EV.

Imagine photographing a serene forest dappled in sunlight. If you’d like to highlight the stunning patterns that sunlight creates as it cascades through the lattice of leaves, you might increase your EV. Essentially, you’d be allowing more light to enter the camera, creating a brighter image that accentuates the sunlight.

In contrast, consider photographing a bleached, desolate desert landscape at high noon. The glaring sun overhead might wash out any contrasts in your image. Reducing your EV could remedy this, letting in less light and thereby displaying the stark shadows that lend character to such a scene.

In summary, manipulating EV creates an exposition between the aperture and shutter speed, which collectively influences your image’s exposure, or brightness. The joy of using EV hinges on its versatility, offering you an endless palette of exposure combinations to give your photos an avant-garde or timeless feel. Though it might initially feel akin to walking on a tightrope, understanding EV brings you one step closer to capturing spectacular images, creating a harmony between creativity and technically accurate exposures. After all, photography is an aesthetic playground where an understanding of such technicalities can catalyse your creative explorations. But remember, no matter what, the creaking of the shutter at the end of the day should still elicit a grin.

How to Adjust EV and When

Crisping up our understanding from the previous section, we’re now aware that EV, or exposure value, is a numeric representation of the duo of dynamic shutter speed and aperture. But there’s an all-important twist to the tale: manipulating the EV allows us to have full control over our image’s exposure. Don’t worry, your journey to becoming a photography whizz is closer than you think.

You may be asking, “How does one tinker with the presumably intimidating EV setting?” Well, dear sceptic, in essence, it’s far easier than decoding the IKEA instruction manual. In Auto mode, your camera is like a friendly gremlin (not the scary variety), adjusting your EV for you. But we all know, with great power comes great… imagery! Hence, moving into Manual mode allows you to wield your newfound EV adjustment skills.

When in Manual mode, your friend is the command dial: rotate it, and you’ll see the EV changing, usually ranging from -3 to +3. When you increase the EV, you’re essentially telling your camera, “Hey, I need this shot to be brighter,” and when you decrease, it’s like whispering, “Let’s go for a more dimly lit, noir-esque vibe.”

Now, while the power is intoxicating, with it comes the responsibility of knowing when to adjust the EV. Imagine you’re in a snowy encounter, behaving as if you’re Snow White with a DSLR. The snow’s brightness may often fool your camera’s light meter into underexposing the image. An increase in EV has your back, brightening up the image to maintain the winter wonderland charm.

Similarly, dark-toned scenes like a moonlit beach or a dimly lit bistro may lead to overexposed images as your camera yearns to bring light into the darkness. Here, decrease the EV to keep the mood intact.

Armed with your knowledge of adjusting EV and knowing when to do it, you’ve gained a powerful tool – but beware, with great EV comes great responsibility to create stunning images. It’s time to brave the wild and adjust that EV like a pro!

Impact of EV on Photography

You might now be wondering: “Why does this exposure value, or EV, matter in photography?” Spoiler alert: it matters. A lot. Misunderstanding EV is like dancing on a slippery floor – you’re bound to fall flat on your face, or in this case, end up with an aesthetically displeasing picture. Our goal is to keep you upright and proudly presenting picture-perfect shots.

The primary impact of EV on photography relates to photo brightness and contrast. When you tweak the EV settings, it’s essentially like adjusting the amount of light entering your camera. A positive EV leads to a brighter, high-key image – handy for those pesky shadowed faces in harsh sunlight. On the contrary, a negative EV will deliver a darker, low-key image, suitable for a moody or atmospheric shot.

But beware! The tale of EV is not merely about light and dark. Setting the wrong EV could also lead to overexposed or underexposed photos. Imagine a photo of a snow-laden landscape looking dreary because of underexposure, or a potential gorgeous sunset washed out due to overexposure – a scenario enough to make any budding photographer shudder.

Many seasoned photographers cleverly use EV to create a distinct mood or visual impact. For instance, renowned street photographer Joel Meyerowitz often uses negative EV to create powerful contrasts and shadows in his urban scenes. Similarly, landscape photographer Michael Kenna’s monochrome images frequently exhibit positive EV, lending them a crisp, ethereal quality.

However, keep in mind that manipulating EV isn’t a cure-all for your photography ailments. It’s an artistic tool, like the brush of a painter. Its effective use depends not solely on the mechanics – you need an understanding of light, color, and the message you aim to convey through your photos.

In the end, your photos will often reflect your understanding of EV, so invest time in mastering it. If handled well, it could elevate your photos from ‘decent’ to ‘hang that over my fireplace’ spectacular.


Having delved into the substantial landscape of Exposure Value in the preceding sections, we arrive at the close of this insightful discussion on EV. We’ve journeyed through the ABCs of EV, clarified how to tweak it in various scenarios, and we’ve also drawn attention to the significant impact it has on the overall tone and mood of a photograph.

Image brightness, a crucial component of any picture, is well within a photographer’s control through the use of EV. Having the ability to manipulate an image’s exposure opens up a wide variety of styles and effects that one can experiment with. Playing with the EV settings can not only rectify an overexposed sunny day shot or a poorly lit room photo but also lend a unique personality to your shots. The potential brightness levels manipulated through EV can range from the sublime intensity of chiaroscuro effects, a la Rembrandt, to the ethereal quality of an overexposed impressionist painting. In essence, getting the hang of EV control can significantly elevate your photography game.

Every photographer has a different approach to capturing an image; some prefer the vivaciousness of a high exposure, while others opt for a more mellow, understated look. Understanding your unique artistic style and the technical capabilities of your camera go hand-in-hand in producing photos that truly reflect your vision.

Let’s borrow the words from the famous photographer, Ansel Adams, who once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” It’s clear, then, that EV is a critical component in the making of a photograph. There is a world of possibilities waiting for you within your camera’s settings.

We encourage you to confidently seize the opportunity to explore these settings, armed with the knowledge you’ve gained about Exposure Value. Learning to master EV truly paves the way for more artistic liberty and versatility in your exploration of photography. Happy shooting!

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of TheCreativv.com with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.