Negative exposure in photography.

Sometimes, underexposing your photos can make them better. Learn to create stunning, high-contrast images using negative exposure photography.

What is negative exposure?

Negative exposure photography is when the subject is well-lit, but the background is completely underexposed to the point where it looks almost black. It can create an incredible contrast between the subject and the background, making your images pop.

How to set up your shot.

The key to setting up a negative exposure shot is using your camera’s exposure compensation. For most DSLR cameras, you can see your exposure compensation as a line with a triangle underneath.

The triangle represents your compensation. If it’s in the middle of the line, your compensation is balanced. If you move it to one side or the other, your shot will be positively or negatively compensated — which affects the overall exposure of the photo.

For negative exposure photography, you want the triangle to be on the left side of the line, or negatively compensated. The amount of negative compensation depends on the scene.

Ideally, negative exposure shots work best when:

Make adjustments with photo editing software.

While it can be a challenge to find the exact camera settings for negative exposure photography, you can achieve the same effect by making adjustments with photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom.

Most photo editors have a simple slider to adjust exposure. You can lighten or darken your pictures quickly to get the perfect, underexposed image you’re looking for.

Want to learn more photography tips and tricks?

Explore what more you can do with Lightroom to enhance your stunning negative exposure photos.