As a complete noob to photography, I'm struggling to understand what the 'Backlight Compensation' button is for on my Canon AV-1 and under what circumstances I should/would use this setting? I can only find technical explanations, but am having a hard time translating this into real world, simplified, example and how a photo will be impacted with or without using the setting.

I'm also wondering if this feature works when the camera shutter mode is set to A (Automatic) since the AV-1 is aperture priority. Since this camera automates the shutter speed based on the selected ISO & Aperture, it's not immediately clear to me if the backlight compensation button only works when using another a different shutter mode such as Bulb or Flash 60.

The Backlight Compensation button, when pressed, will automatically reduce the shutter speed by 1 1/2 steps to increase exposure

  • The changeable lens cameras I know have an exposure compensation control as well where you can shift the exposure in 1/3 or 1/2 stop intervals. It works in all modes. In manual mode it just shifts the displayed proper exposure point. You would reduce the exposure from nominal when your subject is much brighter and small in the frame, so it would get blown out. Dec 31, 2022 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


Basically, it's a +1.5 stop exposure compensation button.

Exposure compensation is kind of a misnomer, since it only indirectly affects exposure when the light meter reading is used to set one of the exposure parameters. Those parameters are ISO/film speed (can't change the actual sensitivity of the film), Av (aperture value), and Tv (time value, or shutter "speed"). What +1.5 stop exposure compensation actually does is alter the light meter's calibration so it thinks your film needs more light to be properly exposed.

When should you use it?

  • When the background behind your subject is much brighter than your subject and you want to see details, rather than a silhouette, of your subject (e.g. a model with the sun behind her).
  • When the overall scene is brighter than the medium brightness your light meter thinks everything should be (e.g. a snowy white landscape or bright sand on a beach).
  • Any other situation where you want the subject or the overall scene to be exposed brighter than an average scene.

When you shoot something with a bright light behind (for instance, someone in front of a sunset), the automatic exposure will normally set the exposure for the whole picture, and the subject will be too dark. In such cases backlight compensation will increase the exposure so that the subject if hopefully correctly exposed (but this will of course over-expose the rest of the picture). In other words this is a way to skew the automatic exposure.

It is likely not used with non-auto modes.

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