Flash Exposure Compensation Options on a Canon EOS 60D - dummies

Flash Exposure Compensation Options on a Canon EOS 60D

By Julie Adair King, Robert Correll

When you shoot with the built-in flash, your Canon EOS 60D attempts to adjust the flash output as needed to produce a good exposure in the current lighting conditions. On some occasions, you may find that you want a little more or less light than the camera thinks is appropriate.

You can adjust the flash output by using the feature called Flash Exposure Compensation. Flash exposure compensation affects the output level of the flash unit, whereas exposure compensation affects the brightness of the background in your flash photos. As with exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation is stated in terms of EV (exposure value) numbers. A setting of 0.0 indicates no flash adjustment; you can increase the flash power to +2.0 or decrease it to -2.0.

These tomatoes were photographed during bright daylight, but a tent awning shaded them. The first image shows you a flash-free shot. Clearly, a little more light was needed, but at normal flash power, the flash was too strong, blowing out the highlights in some areas, as shown in the middle image. Reducing the flash power to EV -1.3 resulted in a softer flash that straddled the line perfectly between no flash and too much flash.


As for boosting the flash output, well, you may find it necessary on some occasions, but don’t expect the built-in flash to work miracles even at a flash exposure compensation of +2.0. Any built-in flash has a limited range, and you simply can’t expect the flash light to reach faraway objects. In other words, don’t even try taking flash pictures of a darkened recital hall from your seat in the balcony because all you’ll wind up doing is annoying everyone.

Whichever direction you want to go with flash power, you have two ways to do so:

  • Quick Control screen: This path is by far the easiest way to travel. After displaying the Shooting Settings screen, press the Quick Control button to shift to the Quick Control display. Then use the multicontroller to highlight the Flash Exposure Compensation value. Rotate the Main dial to raise or lower the amount of flash adjustment. Or, if you need more help, press Set. You can use the Main dial or the multicontroller to adjust the flash power on this screen; press Set when you finish.


  • Shooting Menu 1: The menu route to flash power is a little more tedious. Display Shooting Menu 1, select Flash Control, and press Set. Highlight Built-in Flash Func. Setting and press Set to display the right screen. Now highlight the third line, Flash Exp. Comp. and press Set again. The little flash power meter becomes activated, and you can then use the Quick Control dial or the multicontroller to adjust the setting (just like exposure compensation). Press Set when you finish. In other words, learn the Quick Control method and save yourself a bunch of button presses!


You also have the option of customizing the Set button so that it displays the flash-power screen.

When flash compensation is in effect, the value appears in the Shooting Settings screen. You see the same plus/minus flash symbol in the viewfinder and Live View display although in both cases without the actual Flash Exposure Compensation value. If you change the Flash Exposure Compensation value to 0 (zero), the flash-power icon disappears from all the displays.


As with exposure compensation, any flash-power adjustment you make remains in force until you reset the control, even if you turn off the camera. So be sure to check the setting before using your flash. Additionally, the Auto Lighting Optimizer feature can interfere with the effect produced by flash exposure compensation, so you might want to disable it.