In photography, exposure value (EV) is a number that represents a combination of a camera's shutter speed and f-number, such that all combinations that yield the same exposure have the same EV (for any fixed scene luminance). Exposure value is also used to indicate an interval on the photographic exposure scale, with a difference of 1 EV corresponding to a standard power-of-2 exposure step, commonly referred to as a stop.
The EV concept was developed in an attempt to simplify choosing among combinations of equivalent camera settings, by the German shutter manufacturer Friedrich Deckel in the 1950s (Gebele 1958; Ray 2000, 318). Exposure value was indicated in the ASA and ANSI standards by the quantity symbol ; this symbol continues to be used in ISO standards, but the acronym EV is more common elsewhere.
Although all camera settings with the same EV nominally give the same exposure, they do not necessarily give the same picture. The f-number (relative aperture) determines the depth of field, and the shutter speed (exposure time) determines the amount of motion blur, as illustrated by the two images at the right (and at long exposure times, as a second-order effect, the light-sensitive medium may exhibit reciprocity failure, which is a change of light sensitivity dependent on the irradiance at the film).
EV 0 corresponds to an exposure time of 1 s and a relative aperture of f/1.0. If the EV is known, it can be used to select combinations of exposure time and f-number, as shown in Table 1.
Each increment of 1 in exposure value corresponds to a change of one “step” (or, more commonly, one “stop”) in exposure, i.e., half as much exposure, either by halving the exposure time or halving the aperture area, or a combination of such changes. Greater exposure values are appropriate for photography in more brightly lit situations, or for higher ISO speeds.
Camera settings vs. photometric exposure
The illuminance E is controlled by the f-number but also depends on the scene luminance L. To avoid confusion, some authors (Ray 2000, 310) have used camera exposure to refer to combinations of camera settings. The 1964 ASA standard for automatic exposure controls for cameras, ASA PH2.15-1964, took the same approach, and also used the more descriptive term camera exposure settings.
Common practice among photographers is nonetheless to use “exposure” to refer to camera settings as well as to photometric exposure.
EV as an indicator of camera settings
Used as an indicator of camera settings, EV corresponds to actual combinations of shutter speed and aperture setting. When the actual EV matches that recommended by the light level and the ISO speed, these settings should result in the “correct” exposure.
Table 1. Exposure times, in seconds or minutes (m), for various exposure values and f-numbers EV f-number 1.0 1.4 2.0 2.8 4.0 5.6 8.0 11 16 22 32 45 64 −6 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m 1024 m 2048 m 4096 m −5 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m 1024 m 2048 m −4 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m 1024 m −3 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m 512 m −2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 256 m −1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 128 m 0 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 64 m 1 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 32 m 2 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 16 m 3 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 8 m 4 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 4 m 5 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 2 m 6 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 60 7 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 30 8 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 15 9 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8 10 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4 11 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 12 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 13 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 14 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 15 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 16 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 17 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 18 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 19 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 20 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 21 1/8000 1/4000 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 EV 1.0 1.4 2.0 2.8 4.0 5.6 8.0 11 16 22 32 45 64 f-number
Tabulated exposure values
An exposure meter may not always be available, and using a meter to determine exposure for some scenes with unusual lighting distribution may be difficult. However, natural light, as well as many scenes with artificial lighting, is predictable, so that exposure often can be determined with reasonable accuracy from tabulated values.
- Table 2. Exposure values (ISO 100) for various lighting conditions
Lighting Condition EV100 Daylight Light sand or snow in full or slightly hazy sunlight (distinct shadows)a 16 Typical scene in full or slightly hazy sunlight (distinct shadows)a, b 15 Typical scene in hazy sunlight (soft shadows) 14 Typical scene, cloudy bright (no shadows) 13 Typical scene, heavy overcast 12 Areas in open shade, clear sunlight 12 Outdoor, Natural light Rainbows Clear sky background 15 Cloudy sky background 14 Sunsets and skylines Just before sunset 12–14 At sunset 12 Just after sunset 9–11 The Moon,c altitude > 40° Full 15 Gibbous 14 Quarter 13 Crescent 12 Moonlight, Moon altitude > 40° Full −3 to −2 Gibbous −4 Quarter −6 Aurora borealis and australis Bright −4 to −3 Medium −6 to −5 Milky Way galactic center −11 to −9 Outdoor, Artificial Light Neon and other bright signs 9–10 Night sports 9 Fires and burning buildings 9 Bright street scenes 8 Night street scenes and window displays 7–8 Night vehicle traffic 5 Fairs and amusement parks 7 Christmas tree lights 4–5 Floodlit buildings, monuments, and fountains 3–5 Distant views of lighted buildings 2 Indoor, Artificial Light Galleries 8–11 Sports events, stage shows, and the like 8–9 Circuses, floodlit 8 Ice shows, floodlit 9 Offices and work areas 7–8 Home interiors 5–7 Christmas tree lights 4–5
- Values for direct sunlight apply between approximately two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset, and assume front lighting. As a rough general rule, decrease EV by 1 for side lighting, and decrease EV by 2 for back lighting
- This is approximately the value given by the sunny 16 rule.
- These values are appropriate for pictures of the Moon taken at night with a long lens or telescope, and will render the Moon as a medium tone. They will not, in general, be suitable for landscape pictures that include the Moon. In a landscape photograph, the Moon typically is near the horizon, where its luminance changes considerably with altitude. Moreover, a landscape photograph usually must take account of the sky and foreground as well as the Moon. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to give a single correct exposure value for such a situation.
Exposure values in Table 2 are reasonable general guidelines, but they should be used with caution. For simplicity, they are rounded to the nearest integer, and they omit numerous considerations described in the ANSI exposure guides from which they are derived. Moreover, they take no account of color shifts or reciprocity failure. Proper use of tabulated exposure values is explained in detail in the ANSI exposure guide, ANSI PH2.7-1986.
The exposure values in Table 2 are for ISO 100 speed ("EV100"). For a different ISO speed , increase the exposure values (decrease the exposures) by the number of exposure steps by which that speed is greater than ISO 100, formally
For example, ISO 400 speed is two steps greater than ISO 100:
To photograph outdoor night sports with an ISO 400–speed imaging medium, search Table 2 for "Night sports" (which has an EV of 9 for ISO 100), and add 2 to get EV400 = 11.
For lower ISO speed, decrease the exposure values (increase the exposures) by the number of exposure steps by which the speed is less than ISO 100. For example, ISO 50 speed is one step less than ISO 100:
To photograph a rainbow against a cloudy sky with an ISO 50–speed imaging medium, search Table 2 for "Rainbows-Cloudy sky background" (which has an EV of 14), and subtract 1 to get EV50 = 13.
The equation for correcting for ISO speed is sometimes shown with a minus sign, and an online calculator implements that version at dpreview.com. In that case, the value being calculated is an EV100 or light value (LV), a representation of light meter reading or light level appropriate to the camera EV setting at the given speed:
For example, setting the camera for EV 11 and using ISO 400 films allows shooting night sports at a light level of EV100 = 9, in agreement with the example done the other way around above.
Setting EV on a camera
On most cameras, there is no direct way to transfer an EV to camera settings; however, a few cameras, such as some Voigtländer and Braun models or the Kodak Pony II shown in the photo, allowed direct setting of exposure value.
Some medium-format cameras from Rollei (Rolleiflex, Rolleicord models) and Hasselblad allowed EV to be set on the lenses. The set EV could be locked, coupling shutter and aperture settings, such that adjusting either the shutter speed or aperture made a corresponding adjustment in the other to maintain a constant exposure (Ray 2000, 318). On some lenses the locking was optional, so that the photographer could choose the preferred method of working depending on the situation. Use of EV on some meters and cameras is discussed briefly by Adams (1981, 39). He notes that, in some cases, the EV indication from the meter may need to be adjusted for film speed.
Exposure compensation in EV
Many current cameras allow for exposure compensation, and usually state it in terms of EV (Ray 2000, 316). In this context, EV refers to the difference between the indicated and set exposures. For example, an exposure compensation of +1 EV (or +1 step) means to increase exposure, by using either a longer exposure time or a smaller -number.
The sense of exposure compensation is opposite that of the EV scale itself. An increase in exposure corresponds to a decrease in EV, so an exposure compensation of +1 EV results in a smaller EV; conversely, an exposure compensation of −1 EV results in a greater EV. For example, if a meter reading of a lighter-than-normal subject indicates EV 16, and an exposure compensation of +1 EV is applied to render the subject appropriately, the final camera settings will correspond to EV 15.
Meter indication in EV
Some light meters (e.g., Pentax spot meters) indicate directly in EV at ISO 100. Some other meters, especially digital models, can indicate EV for the selected ISO speed. In most cases, this difference is irrelevant; with the Pentax meters, camera settings usually are determined using the exposure calculator, and most digital meters directly display shutter speeds and -numbers.
Recently, articles on many web sites have used light value (LV) to denote EV at ISO 100. However, this term does not derive from a standards body, and has had several conflicting definitions.
Relationship of EV to lighting conditions
The recommended f-number and exposure time for given lighting conditions and ISO speed are given by the exposure equation prescribed by ISO 2720:1974:
- N is the relative aperture (f-number)
- t is the exposure time (“shutter speed”) in seconds
- L is the average scene luminance
- S is the ISO arithmetic speed
- K is the reflected-light meter calibration constant
Applied to the right-hand side of the exposure equation, exposure value is
If the common value of K = 12.5 is used, an EV of zero (e.g., an aperture of f/1 and a shutter time of 1 sec) for ISO = 100 corresponds to a luminance of 0.01 cd/ft2 or 0.13 cd/m2. At EV = 15 (the "sunny sixteen" amount of light) the luminance is 380 cd/ft2 or 4096 cd/m2.
Camera settings also can be determined from incident-light measurements, for which the exposure equation is
- E is the illuminance
- C is the incident-light meter calibration constant
In terms of exposure value, the right-hand side becomes
When applied to the left-hand side of the exposure equation, EV denotes actual combinations of camera settings; when applied to the right-hand side, EV denotes combinations of camera settings required to give the nominally “correct” exposure. The formal relationship of EV to luminance or illuminance has limitations. Although it usually works well for typical outdoor scenes in daylight, it is less applicable to scenes with highly atypical luminance distributions, such as city skylines at night. In such situations, the EV that will result in the best picture often is better determined by subjective evaluation of photographs than by formal consideration of luminance or illuminance.
For a given luminance and film speed, a greater EV results in less exposure, and for fixed exposure (i.e., fixed camera settings), a greater EV corresponds to greater luminance or illuminance.
Illuminance is measured using a flat sensor; if the common value of C = 250 is used, an EV of zero (e.g., an aperture of f/1 and a shutter time of 1 sec) for ISO = 100 corresponds to an illuminance of 0.23 fc or 2.5 lux. At EV = 15 (the "sunny sixteen" amount of light) the illuminance is 7600 fc or 82,000 lux. For general photography, incident-light measurements are usually taken with a hemispherical sensor; the readings cannot be meaningfully related to illuminance.
EV and APEX
The Additive system of Photographic EXposure (APEX) proposed in the 1960 ASA standard for monochrome film speed, ASA PH2.5-1960, extended the concept of exposure value to all quantities in the exposure equation by taking base-2 logarithms, reducing application of the equation to simple addition and subtraction. In terms of exposure value, the left-hand side of the exposure equation became
where Av (aperture value) and Tv (time value) were defined as:
Av and Tv represent the numbers of stops from f/1 and 1 second, respectively.
Use of APEX required logarithmic markings on aperture and shutter controls, however, and these never were incorporated in consumer cameras. With the inclusion of built-in exposure meters in most cameras shortly after APEX was proposed, the need to use the exposure equation was eliminated, and APEX saw little actual use.
Though it remains of little interest to the end user, APEX has seen a partial resurrection in the Exif standard, which calls for storing exposure data using APEX values. See Use of APEX values in Exif for additional discussion.
EV as a measure of luminance and illuminance
For a given ISO speed and meter calibration constant, there is a direct relationship between exposure value and luminance (or illuminance). Strictly, EV is not a measure of luminance or illuminance; rather, an EV corresponds to a luminance (or illuminance) for which a camera with a given ISO speed would use the indicated EV to obtain the nominally correct exposure. Nonetheless, it is common practice among photographic equipment manufacturers to express luminance in EV for ISO 100 speed, as when specifying metering range (Ray 2000, 318) or autofocus sensitivity. And the practice is long established; Ray (2002, 592) cites Ulffers (1968) as an early example. Properly, the meter calibration constant as well as the ISO speed should be stated, but this seldom is done.
Values for the reflected-light calibration constant K vary slightly among manufacturers; a common choice is 12.5 (Canon, Nikon, and Sekonic). Using K = 12.5, the relationship between EV at ISO 100 and luminance L is then
Values of luminance at various values of EV based on this relationship are shown in Table 3. Using this relationship, a reflected-light exposure meter that indicates in EV can be used to determine luminance.
The situation with incident-light meters is more complicated than that for reflected-light meters, because the calibration constant C depends on the sensor type. Two sensor types are common: flat (cosine-responding) and hemispherical (cardioid-responding). Illuminance is measured with a flat sensor; a typical value for C is 250 with illuminance in lux. Using C = 250, the relationship between EV at ISO 100 and illuminance E is then
Values of illuminance at various values of EV based on this relationship are shown in Table 3. Using this relationship, an incident-light exposure meter that indicates in EV can be used to determine illuminance.
Although illuminance measurements may indicate appropriate exposure for a flat subject, they are less useful for a typical scene in which many elements are not flat and are at various orientations to the camera. For determining practical photographic exposure, a hemispherical sensor has proven more effective. With a hemispherical sensor, typical values for C are between 320 (Minolta) and 340 (Sekonic) with illuminance in lux. If illuminance is interpreted loosely, measurements with a hemispherical sensor indicate “scene illuminance”.
- Table 3. Exposure value vs. luminance (ISO 100, K = 12.5) and illuminance (ISO 100, C = 250)
EV100 Luminance Illuminance cd/m2 fL lx fc −4 0.008 0.0023 0.156 0.015 −3 0.016 0.0046 0.313 0.029 −2 0.031 0.0091 0.625 0.058 −1 0.063 0.018 1.25 0.116 0 0.125 0.036 2.5 0.232 1 0.25 0.073 5 0.465 2 0.5 0.146 10 0.929 3 1 0.292 20 1.86 4 2 0.584 40 3.72 5 4 1.17 80 7.43 6 8 2.33 160 14.9 7 16 4.67 320 29.7 8 32 9.34 640 59.5 9 64 18.7 1280 119 10 128 37.4 2560 238 11 256 74.7 5120 476 12 512 149 10,240 951 13 1024 299 20,480 1903 14 2048 598 40,960 3805 15 4096 1195 81,920 7611 16 8192 2391 163,840 15,221
- In optics, the term "stop" properly refers to the aperture itself, while the term "step" refers to a division of the exposure scale. Some authors, e.g., Davis (1999, 13), prefer the term "stop" because they refer to steps (e.g., on a step tablet) that are other than powers of 2. ISO standards generally use "step", while photographers normally use "stop".
- In a mathematical expression involving physical quantities, it is common practice to require that the argument to a transcendental function (such as the logarithm) be dimensionless. The definition of EV ignores the units in the denominator and uses only the numerical value of the exposure time in seconds; EV is not the expression of a physical law, but simply a number for encoding combinations of camera settings.
- Exposure values in Table 2 are taken from ANSI exposure guides PH2.7-1973 and PH2.7-1986; where the two guides differ, ranges of values have been given or extended. The ANSI guides were derived from studies by Loyd Ancile Jones and H.R. Condit, described in Jones and Condit (1941), Jones and Condit (1948), and Jones and Condit (1949).
- Exposure at dpreview.com
- Symbols for the quantities in the exposure equation have varied over time; the symbols used in this article reflect current practice for many authors, such as Ray (2000).
- Specifications for Sekonic light meters are available on the Sekonic web site under "Products".
- The metering range for an incident-light meter specified in EV at ISO 100 usually applies to a hemispherical sensor, so strictly speaking, it does not directly relate to illuminance.
- Adams, Ansel. 1981. The Negative. Boston: New York Graphic Society. ISBN 0-8212-1131-5
- ANSI PH2.7-1973. American National Standard Photographic Exposure Guide. New York: American National Standards Institute. Superseded by ANSI PH2.7-1986
- ANSI PH2.7-1986. American National Standard for Photography — Photographic Exposure Guide. New York: American National Standards Institute.
- ASA PH2.5-1960. American Standard Method for Determining Speed of photographic Negative Materials (Monochrome, Continuous Tone). New York: United States of America Standards Institute.
- ASA PH2.15-1964 (R1976). American Standard: Automatic Exposure Controls for Cameras. New York: United States of America Standards Institute.
- "Canon Professional Network – Shooting modes". Retrieved 23 July 2013.
- Davis, Phil. 1999. Beyond the Zone System, 4th ed. Boston: Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-80343-4
- Gebele, Kurt. 1958. Photographic Shutter. US Patent 2,829,574, filed 2 November 1953, and issued 8 April 1958.
- Jones, Loyd A., and H. R. Condit. 1941. The Brightness Scale of Exterior Scenes and the Computation of Correct Photographic Exposure. Journal of the Optical Society of America 31:11, Nov. 1941, 651–678.
- Jones, Loyd A., and H. R. Condit. 1948. Sunlight and skylight as determinants of Photographic exposure. I. Luminous density as determined by solar altitude and atmospheric conditions. Journal of the Optical Society of America 38:2, Feb. 1948, 123–178.
- Jones, Loyd A., and H. R. Condit. 1949. Sunlight and skylight as determinants of Photographic exposure. II. Scene structure, directional index, photographic efficiency of daylight, safety factors, and evaluation of camera exposure. Journal of the Optical Society of America 39:2, Feb. 1949, 94–135.
- Ray, Sidney F. 2000. Camera Exposure Determination. In The Manual of Photography: Photographic and Digital Imaging, 9th ed. Ed. Ralph E. Jacobson, Sidney F. Ray, Geoffrey G. Atteridge, and Norman R. Axford. Oxford: Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-51574-9
- Ray, Sidney F. 2002. Applied Photographic Optics. 3rd ed. Oxford: Focal Press. ISBN 0-240-51540-4
- Ulffers, D. 1968. Sensitivity Specifications of Exposure Meters. British Journal of Photography 115, 47.
- Eastman Kodak Company. Existing-Light Photography, 3rd ed. Rochester, NY: Silver Pixel Press, 1996. ISBN 0-87985-744-7
- Doug Kerr’s The Additive System for Photographic Exposure (PDF)
- Fred Parker’s table of exposure values for various lighting situations