Tag Archives: learning 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


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.


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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Fly by the Seat of Your Pants to Get Out of a Creative Rut

This article it a total contradiction to every other post I have written about going out on nature and landscape photography shoots. I am a true believer in planning photography shoot, okay a true believer in over planning my photography shoots. Today, I am happy to put my foot in my mouth, and say I was wrong. I recently visited The Outer Banks of North Carolina, a place that I have never had the opportunity to visit let alone to photograph. The trip wasn’t meant for shooting anything in particular it was actually a meant for a retreat from life. I guess the saying is true, photographers never really do take vacations.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a mid day landscape photograph of the Black and White Striped Lighthouse on a red base on the Island of Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.Lately I have felt like I am in a rut in life, business, creative…everything. I’ve felt as if I only wake to serve others and deal with issues caused by others. Over the past year, year and a half small little things that have occurred in my life that escalated into huge issues that have no solution and honestly no prospect of closure any time soon. In December, I was completely walloped and overcome by them. I had a funny feeling that things were going to go bad but it seemed like no matter what I said or what I did, beforehand mattered to the person I was trying to protect and it was all completely disregarded by them. Now, I’m putting out brush fires that keep popping up everywhere and frantically trying to stay strong to keep up with everything because I am their caregiver. In hindsight, I see now that I was failing at keeping things together.

When all this started happening I slowly began drifting away from exploring different areas, learning about photography and shooting for both practice and to sell. When I did have an opportunity to get out to shoot, I struggled to find something to photograph. I struggled with the plan and on the shoot location. I eventually, could not “see” the beauty that was in front of me and for the past six months I have not created a single photograph out of love of the art. I finally started to realize that things were taking a toll on me and how I see the world; I was depressed and fell into a rut, not just creatively but spiritually too. I felt broken by all of this mess going on around me.

I know I am being vague about the issues but it is too personal and pertains to a close family member of mine, and in all honesty the nature of the issues and major incident that happened are irrelevant to the story anyway. I would just like to give you a glimpse of my mindset going into my trip to the Outer Banks. I’m sure that at some point in your life there has been an overwhelming incident that you can relate the emotional drain to.

My boyfriend had actually brought the idea of us going away up to me and I loved the idea but I wasn’t sure if I could get away from everything. My boyfriend goes there every year for a “guys” fishing trip and raves about the beauty of the place all the time; he has the most beautiful smile on his face when he returns. And of course he always talks about his nemesis fish called Red Drum; for some reason this fish is plentiful down there but he hasn’t caught one. He has caught everything else but this illusive fish…trust me I witnessed it firsthand on our trip. While we were there we fished at the Cape Hatteras Point. I watched two men, twenty minutes apart, on either side of us catch a 40 and 44 inch Red Drums; it was one of those moments where you just have giggle in disbelief. Maybe on our next trip down there he’ll get one :).

Kissed by the Sea is a stunning long exposure landscape photograph of the sun rising over the sea and beach. This photograph was created on the shore of Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. The long exposure allowed the rough waves of the ocean to soften slightly while turning the seafoam into a rolling mist across the sandy beach and around the ruins of the dune crossing steps that once stood on the shore. The main section of the dune crossing steps was washed out a few years back during a strong hurricane that hit the coastline of the Carolinas. Most of the Outer Banks were damaged by that storm. Main colors of this photograph are vivid yellow, blues and white. Title: Kissed by the Sea: Traditional Color Photographer: Melissa Fague Genre: Landscape Photography Item ID#: LAND-0130Anyway, back to the story. Even though I loved the idea of going away with him, my heart wasn’t fully into the trip until we had actually arrived in the Outer Banks. I did no preparation and research of the locations available to photograph. In all honesty, I think I only checked the weather once and that was just to pack my bag. My mindset was so bad I actually considered not taking my camera with me at all, my boyfriend on the other hand knew better. He knew of the place and knew that I would love to photograph them; he insisted that my camera and gear went.

We arrived in the Outer Banks about 10 o’clock Thursday night, and it was like a light switch in my brain; I knew the moment we hit the island that I was going to enjoy being there. The smell of the salt air, the ocean mist on my skin was so relaxing. Our hotel backed up to the beach, at high tide about 30 feet away from the beach, so we dropped our bags in the hotel room and bolted over the sand dunes. The wind was chilled and we missed the moon rise but the sky was full of stars and the sound of the rolling waves were rhythmically crashing ashore. I felt at peace standing there with my toes in the sand. I instantly saw items along the shore that I liked and wanted to try and photograph the proceeding morning at sunrise.

Every spot we went on our three day trip I saw both natural and mad-made beauty. There was still signs of damage to property from several of the past hurricanes. There were remnants of man-made items along the beaches, there were still boarded up places and signs of total beach wash out all over the place but there was still an abundance of beautiful to the location.

Misty Shipwreck on the Beach is a beautiful, dream like landscape photograph of an old timber with steel rods protruding out of the sand. The ruins were uncovered after heavy storm water washed away about 14 inches of sand off of the beach at Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina. The remains resemble the Keel of an old wooden ship.

The rich history of the islands and the beauty intrigued me, so much so that my creative juices were flowing again. I was full of energy; I wanted to see everywhere I possible could and photograph everything along the way. We even found a piece of a shipwreck that the ocean uncovered on the beach during one of the storms. Almost 14 inch of beach had washed away during the storms uncovering this weathered, aged timber with different sized steel bars protruding out everywhere. We believe it’s a Keel of an old wooded ship. I saw Pelicans for the first time; I rode a ferry for the first time too. I think we drove every inch of beach on Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and it was great!

I have learned some very valuable lesson from this trip that I will never forget. As for the lessons pertaining to photography, as photographers we are emotionally connected to our creations.  When our mindset is off, our creations will no longer come from the passion we hold for the art of photography but the ritual or routine we have with our tools. I have also learned that not everything in photography has to be planned out in order to create beautiful nature and landscape photograph. Having an itinerary of where you are going and what you are shooting is great but sometimes flying by the seat of your pants and seeing the world with virgin eyes can be just as rewarding…especially if your adventure includes some on special.


About the Author and Photographer:


Melissa Fague is an emerging nature and landscape photographer from Bear, Delaware USA. In just a few short years her work has been published over two dozen times and she has won multiple national and international awards for her beautiful photographs. Her most recent accomplishment is her first published photograph in an international publication with a worldwide distribution, “Landscape Photography Magazine”. Melissa is passionate about the art of photography and nature. Exploring areas and creating photographs is her form of stress relief and art therapy, but she also loves to share her visions so that others can enjoy. Her goal is to one day be ranked among the most famous nature photographers in the world. All of Melissa’s nature and landscape photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.

Join our VIP List for exclusive offers, notification for upcoming events and more. To read Melissa’s full story on how she became a nature and landscape photographer please visit: In the Beginning.