Beginner’s guide to understanding ‘The Exposure Triangle’

January 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Modern digital cameras are incredibly sophisticated, and they make it incredibly easy to take photos that look good.

But if you want to start taking great photos, you’ll need to learn how shoot manually. And that means learning more about the mechanics of the camera and learning about how to get the exposure just right – without any ‘auto-shoot’ help!

So let’s take a look at the three elements of ‘The Exposure Triangle’, and find out how each one affects your photographs.

Aperture

So the aperture sets the diameter of the lens opening. It allows you to control the amount of light which comes through the lens and reaches the sensor.

The smaller the aperture opening, the more focused the light will be. And this will give the photo you take a greater depth of field (meaning that most of the image will be rendered in sharp focus).

On the other hand, if the aperture is larger, then the light will be less focussed, and you’ll have less depth of field (i.e. only close objects will be in focus).

ISO

In traditional film photography, ISO related to how sensitive a film was to light. This sensitivity was measured in numbers; the lower the number, the lower the sensitivity - and a low sensitivity produced photographs with a finer grain.

In digital photography it’s a little bit different because there aren’t any films involved. The ISO now refers to the sensitivity of the ‘image sensor’, but the results are still the same: low light sensitivity still gives a finer grain.

So, generally speaking, if you’re shooting in bright light conditions you’ll need a low ISO. If it’s dark, then you’ll need to use a higher ISO.

Shutter speed

The shutter of your camera controls the amount of light that’s allowed to pass through the aperture.

If the shutter speed is fast, it’ll allow you to capture motion in your photographs much more sharply. But if the speed is slower, moving objects in the photo will be blurred in the direction of the motion.

 

A slow shutter speed is a great photographic technique for communicating a sense of motion, whereas a fast speed will allow you to ‘freeze action’ and reduce blur.


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