Exposure Triangle – Photography Tips (beginners)

The three pillars of photography was mentioned in one of my very early posts which covered the different shooting modes of the camera. If you have explored the camera beyond the automatic mode, you must have definitely heard of the terms aperture, shutter speed and ISO . They are nothing but the elements whose values when rightly balanced , helps achieve a correctly exposed photograph.

When a photograph is too bright, we say it is overexposed and if it is too dark it is said to be underexposed. If we rightly balance the three elements mentioned above ,we can get a great result. Manual mode of the camera can be used to set all the three elements as desired.

APERTURE :

  • Aperture is a tiny hole in the lens formed by small set of blades that lets or allows the light into the sensor of the camera.Bigger or wider the hole, more light is let in and smaller the hole, less light is let in . So f /2 (wide aperture) will let in more light than f/16 (small aperture). Every f-stop change will either increase or decrease light by double.
  • For portraits, wider apertures like f/1.4, f/2.0 etc will work perfectly. They uses a shallow depth of field as well ,helps the subject to be in focus and blurs the background ,also called bokeh.
  • For landscape shots, where you want the entire picture in frame to be in focus, shift the f-stops to small apertures like f/8, f/16, f/22 etc which have deep depth of field.
  • Most lens are sharpest at f/5.6 or f/8 but photographers are ready to compromise some sharpness for subject isolation and bokeh.

SHUTTER SPEED :

  • Shutter speed is how fast the camera’s shutter closes and opens, to let and allow light into the sensor of the camera .It is measured in fractions of seconds when under a second.
  • Slower the shutter speed, say for example 1/30 s , more light is let into the camera which results in brighter images. However blurring is a possibility at slow speeds . It is recommended to use a tripod for shutter speed lower than 1/60 s
  • Faster shutter speeds like 1/1000 s allows less light . Faster shutter speed can be used to capture sports events, fast moving objects or even avoid camera shakes.It is used to obtain sharp images, but can also result in dark images due to less light.

ISO :

  • ISO is the measure of camera’s sensitivity to light and this value helps one to work with less light. It can be used to brighten your photos when you can not use a longer shutter speed or a wider aperture.
  • The lower the value, it is less sensitive to light and higher the value it is more sensitive to light .
  • It is best to keep ISO to a low value like 100 and then increase as needed. Higher ISO values can make the picture noisy and look grainy whereas the lower ISO values results in a smooth and fine image.

The illustration above gives a better clarity.As the f-stop values of the aperture changes to lower f -values from f/5.6, f/4, f/2.8 etc moving left , notice that the brightness increases and so does the shallow depth of field . In other words, the subject is in focus with increased blurring of the background (bokeh) . For higher f-stops values f/16, f/22 etc , it is the other way round brightness is reduced , but the whole picture is in focus and with greater depth of field. Similarly for shutter speed, as the speed decreases to say 1/8 s etc, the image is bright, but gets blurry. This can be used to capture a waterfall with a misty and dreamy effect. For faster shutter speeds, as the speed increases say to 1/1000 s the image gets darker, but image is sharp .This is especially used to capture subjects in motion like a bird flying , dance or sports event etc.For ISO , the higher the value more brighter the image. The downside is it can get grainy . Lower ISO values result in fine images .

Where to set the exposure values? Set to the manual mode “M” from the mode dial of the camera. You will see the LCD display screen similar to the one below from where the values can be set.

Exposure Values – Manual Mode – showing the settings of Shutter speed (1/25) , Aperture (F4.5) and ISO 400.Tab through and change them using the main dial in front of the camera.

The picture of the exposure triangle gives a good overall idea on how to manipulate the three values to get a properly exposed photo. If you were for example, capturing a close-up shot of a flower with exposure values f-2, 1/1000 s and ISO 100 , experiment next by changing the f-stop to f-4 , but reduce the shutter speed to 1/500 and ISO 100 . Since higher f-values results in less brighter images , it makes sense to decrease the shutter speed to 1/500 s else you would get an image that is too bright or an overly exposed image .Keep practicing using trial and error by setting your camera in manual mode .It won’t be very long you are intuitively turning dials like a professional . Happy clicking !

Disclaimer: I am not a photography tutor or professional .This is only an effort to share the lessons and tips I learnt , refresh the concepts I learnt and compile my experiences using the digital camera .

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Leah J Smith
    March 7, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Wonderful!

  • Reply
    Neetha
    March 7, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    very useful information !!

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 7, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      I’m so glad it is useful to you! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply
    Jyo
    March 8, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Interesting….and an awesome info too…(I have to read it again)

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 8, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you Jyo , I try to keep in mind of this information especially the illustration as I experiment with my clicks.

  • Reply
    Diane
    March 8, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Great information as usual! Thanks!

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 8, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      It’s my pleasure sharing .Thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Megala
    March 9, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Great post with useful information! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 11, 2019 at 12:41 am

      Thank you Megala, appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Sandhya Nadkarni
    March 10, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Informative post Nisha. I need to improve my food photography skills so this is a good reminder for me too 🙂

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 11, 2019 at 12:40 am

      Thank you Sandhya, glad to hear it is helpful!

  • Reply
    thoughtfulmusician13
    March 11, 2019 at 7:19 am

    Thank you! This really helped me to understand more! I’ll keep them in mind when taking photos in the future!

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 11, 2019 at 11:48 pm

      You are very welcome and so happy to hear that it is useful to you! Thank you for stopping by.

  • Reply
    Richa
    March 11, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Wow, this is so informative! Thank you for sharing!❤️❤️

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 11, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks a lot Richa for the wonderful comment ! Glad to hear it is useful to you.

      • Reply
        Richa
        March 15, 2019 at 2:25 pm

        There is a still a lot to learn when it come to photography.. I’m usually the “auto” kinds! Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of info! 😉

  • Reply
    Caz / InvisiblyMe
    March 11, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    If I didn’t know you and you didn’t include that disclaimer, I’d have said you were a pro! This sort of stuff goes over my head, then again, I don’t have a camera. My mum used to enjoy photography and I think secretly she’d like a good camera again, especially now with technology the way it is (rather than what she used to have, with lenses and the works, but with rolls of film). I’ll send her the link to this as I know she’ll enjoy learning a bit more about it so thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      March 11, 2019 at 11:56 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words Caz, I’m still learning with every click even now , it has been about 5 years I attended a photography workshop for a month where I learnt some basics but still a long way to go and explore ! I’m sure your mum would love reading about it as most photography enthusiasts are ..Yes it is true there have been great advancements in technology from the time of rolls of films indeed .Thanks for sharing and passing on, appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Naveen
    May 20, 2019 at 8:16 am

    I love clicking pictures but I can’t take good ones but your blog helps me a lot.

    • Reply
      InspiresNish
      May 20, 2019 at 11:58 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! So glad to hear that my posts help with your learning photography. Good luck .

  • Reply
    Naveen
    June 17, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Welcome, and thank you so much for your kind reply.

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