Exposure compensation enables you to make an image lighter or darker than the exposure your camera is giving you. It is just like the sunshine on the iPhone.
If your image is feeling too light you turn it down, if it's feeling too dark you turn it up. It's pretty much as simple as that!
To change your exposure compensation you need to find a button with a +/- on it and then turn your dial up and down to change it. Some of you will see it change in your view finder, others on your display...or both!
On the scale you'll see minus values and plus values. These are measured in "stops" - which is an easy-to-understand term for an exposure value. They're divided up into third, quarter or half stops, so try to adjust very delicately with these partial stops because the effect can be quite large!
Indoors I usually find that I shoot at + 1/2 or higher and on a sunny day outside I will try to darken my images slightly by shooting at -1/2.
For today's exercise, see if you can play with a dark background and a light background to get a sense of what happens when you compensate for your scene.
In the above image, from top left to bottom right, here are the exposure compensation values: -2, -1, -1/3, 0, +1/3, +1.
If I want to have a really light and bright image I will go up higher than I might usually go. And, in the same way if I want a dark and moody image I will go down lower than I would usually go.
When I am thinking about my exposure compensation I am considering two things:
Have a go at changing your exposure compensation to take into account your background. Take several images on different settings like I have done above and see what works for you in different situations. See what you like!
So as a recap:
Keep practising and soon all this will come together!