Tag Archives: beginning photography

Building Your Photography Skills: The Exposure Triangle

There are three major concepts that you’ll need to develop or build upon; technical skills, artistic skills, and personality. Today, we’ll discuss the technical skills you’ll need as a photographer.

There isn’t very much to the technical skills needed of a photographer, it simply revolves around what settings you choose on your camera when you’re about to create a photograph or a series of photographs. That includes: being familiar with your layout of your camera and changing settings for the correct exposure, focusing a sharp photograph, getting the right color of the screen… etc. These are the things you need to understand in order to make your images sharp and properly exposed.

Understanding The Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle is made up of three components, hence the name. These three components are; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Learning to control these three camera settings is vital to producing high quality photographs.

photography exposure triangle

Diagram from Photography Life

Aperture

The aperture is simply how big or small the opening of your lens is going to be. It works similar to the pupil of your own eyes. The aperture will open and close to adjust the amount of light you want or need to come through the lens and hitting the sensor when you’re taking your shot. If your scene is dark you’ll need to open the aperture up so more light comes through the lens. When your scene is bright you’ll need to make the aperture smaller in order to reduce the light pass through to the sensor of your camera.

The aperture controls two things; first the amount of light. The aperture also affects the DOF (depth of field) this is the amount of your photograph that is in sharp focus. We’ll discuss DOF in depth later in another posts.

 

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is just like it sounds, it’s the speed that the shutter will remain open in order to let the image be recorded. Typically the shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. For example, 1/200th,  1/100th or 1/8th  of a second and so on. However, there will be times when you may want to allow your shutter to be open for seconds or even minutes at a time…this is called long exposure. Extremely low light photography, shooting light trails, making object blur (motion photography), or capturing photos of the stars are just a few examples of where this might need a long exposure.

ISO

The third component of the exposure triangle is often the most frustrating to new photographers primarily because it’s easy to visualize like the other two components. With aperture, you can imagine an opening of the lens and with shutter speed, you can visualize it moving faster or slower. ISO on the other hand is a measure of sensitivity of your sensor is to the light.

When you increase the ISO setting on your camera what essentially you’re doing is you’re telling the sensor of your camera that it needs to be more sensitive to light. That means that for the same size opening (aperture), and the same amount of exposure time (shutter speed), you capture more light, and thus achieve a brighter image.

One of the down sides to a higher ISO is that with the higher sensitivity to light you also have a chance of generating what is called digital noise (unwanted grain or speckles of color) in your photographs. Camera manufacturers have greatly improved on this and many new cameras are capable of shooting at very high ISOs with minimal noise, however it is still worth mentioning.

It’s easy to talk about each of these three components of the exposure triangle individually, but when you’re out on location taking your photographs, it’s not good enough to only know or think about just one of them. The key is to learn how each one affects the other two and how to balance out all three at the same time in order to create the exact photograph you envisioned.

One thing that I found helpful while out shooting are these reference cards, they came in especially handy when I couldn’t get a WIFI signal in whatever location I was photographing.

There are also a few other key technical settings you’ll need to know and understand before heading out to go shooting. In the next article we will discuss White Balance and why it is so important.

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