Exposing for Fog

One topic that came up repeatedly during the Maine coast workshop was how to properly expose for fog. The key is to remember that your camera will want to make the scene middle grey, i.e., too dark for fog. Fog is actually lighter than middle value by about a stop. You can adjust for that reality by using your auto compensation button on your camera while shooting, or you can boost the exposure a bit in post production.

To create the final image of the dory on the floating dock, I shot with my camera set on matrix metering with no auto exposure compensation.  Then, using Lightroom I went back and lightened the fog on the boats in the background using the split neutral density tool. I didn’t lighten the entire image as I wanted the wood on the floating dock to remain dark in contrast to the light dory. At the same time I decreased the clarity a bit – as fog is by nature soft and mysterioso. The nice thing about the split neutral density slider in LR is that you can adjust both the exposure level and the clarity during the same edit.

Unedited fog, too dark

edited in LR post production


When shooting the image of traps on the dock I took a different approach. I shot with the auto compensation in my camera set at +1 stop. This kept the entire image from going too dark. I knew if I shot at 0 using matrix or evaluative metering the entire scene would be too dreary.  You can see the difference in the two images, shot with and without the auto compensation. Whether you are shooting fog, snow, or sand, you need to keep in mind the fact that your camera strives to make the whole world middle grey. It will move white toward black, black towards white, republican towards democrat…well, maybe not that…not even a nikon D4 can do that, but perhaps now I digress to far…..

Bass Harbor dock shot with no exposure compensation

Exposed at + 1 stop


Norm in the medium fog – poor guy


Norm in the +.7 fog – much happier!


Unidentified photographer lost in the fog…



Happy shooting!

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