Tag Archives: photography techniques

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.


This blog article contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through these links I will receive a small commission for my recommendation from the store you made the purchase through.

Photographing Fireworks this Independence Day Weekend

Firework dissplay reflecting off of the glass of a buildings windows; photograph by Landscape and Nature photographer Melissa FagueThe 4th of July weekend has arrived and its time to celebrate and watch the firework displays. That also means cool pics! Everyone can create them, all you need are fireworks, a camera, and a little bit of planning and preparation.

The Place

Find out where your local firework displays are going to happen and arrive early to scope out the area. There is going to be a lot of people, children and possibly pets moving around or seated near you; so you want to make sure that the other spectators and your gear will be safe during the event. I personally pick a location where I can create broad landscape views, close-ups (with my telephoto lens)  and offers the potential for foreground elements like spectators; so I usually go to the back of the crowd. Secondly, pick a spot upwind from the firework display launch site, once the show begins there will be a lot of smoke in the scene. If you set up downwind from the firework display you’ll be battling smoke of the scene and soot on your lens the whole time.  Fireworks 2, landscape photograph of building and firework bursts captured by landscape and nature photographer Melissa FgaueThe Gear

Capturing fireworks can be accomplished by almost every camera, the trick is to have the camera as steady as possible. Shooting fireworks is hard to do hand held, so I recommend a tripod or a solid stationary prop. I also recommend using a cable release or remote trigger, the less you touch the camera the better your photographs will be. Hand held shooting is possible but your ISO setting will need to be high as well as your shutter speed; you’ll be running the risk of noise in your image.

Image Variety

Capturing fireworks is cool but honestly, there is just so many firework bursts against a black sky that can be seen before it becomes boring in photography. So when I am out photographing fireworks displays I like to have a little variety of views with my images. Scouting locations early offers versatility to your photos for a nice photo series of the events at different perspectives.  This past year I went the Riverfront in Wilmington Delaware, it is a really tight location in the city with a large crowd and buildings. So I chose to incorporate the buildings and the people into my photographs; doing this also helps show scale, size of the firework bursts, for the viewers of the photographs.

Close-up of Firework bursts, captured by landscape and nature photographer Melissa FagueAnticipate

When you are shooting the firework display early your settings will be easy to control and will more than likely remain the same through most of the show. But be mindful of the brightness of the fireworks, the colors will burn differently, especially blue colored fireworks. White and green colored fireworks will be the brightest and require less exposure time; blues may require you to exposure a little longer than any other color because it is the darkest hue. If you look at the image above you’ll see a variety of colors; you’ll see that the blue doesn’t appear nearly as bright as all the other colors. As the mortars climb through the air you should be able to judge which color it will be in order to calculate your exposure time for the burst.

Manual Focus and Vibration Controls

Autofocus is great except when you are shooting moving subjects at night. When you are photographing moving subjects at night the autofocus tends to get confused on the focal point of the scene; this increases your risk of blurry photographs. Its recommended to turn your autofocus off and set your focus to infinity.

Vibration control is not needed if you are shooting with your camera on a tripod or steady surface. I recommend turning the setting off; if it is left on you may get a slight blur from the function’s motor in the lens.

Finally, have fun and enjoy the event for yourself.

Quick Tip Rundown For Photographing Fireworks

  • Pick a location early
  • Be Upwind or to the side of the launch site so the smoke and soot doesn’t disrupt you or your shots
  • Use a tripod or stable surface
  • Use a cable release or wireless remote to trigger the shutter.
  • Turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction (check your manual).
  • Shoot the highest quality file you can, NEF (RAW) is ideal.
  • Set the camera to a low ISO, such as 100 or 200.
  • Turn off the autofocus, manually focus your lens at infinity.
  • A good starting point for aperture is f/11.
  • Set the camera to Bulb (B), this will allow you to keep the shutter open as long as you want. Play around with the duration that shutter is open but exposing for the entire fireworks burst is usually best.
  • Have fun!

Moon over Pagoda with Fireworks by landscape and nature photographer Melissa Fague

Share with me! I would really like to see your results from your firework displays this year. To share your experiences, pingback to this article by copying and pasting this link to your post:  FIREWORKS 2016

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend!


About the Author and Photographer:

MeMelissa 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. 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. All of Melissa’s nature and landscape photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.

Join our VIP List for exclusive offer, 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.

Photography Lighting: Direction of Light

Lighting is one of two key components to photography, the second is having a camera to capture the picture. Without light nothing would ever be able to be photographed, pretty simple concept isn’t it? However, light and lighting in your photography is and always will be the biggest challenge you will ever face. My first impression of lighting for photography was of that one mathematical problem that has 46 different steps to solve. I briefly touched base on Observing the Quality of Light the other day, today I would like to discuss the directions of light.

Light rays move in a straight line , illuminating only what they strike. What makes this so tricky is light bounces off of things and forms another straight line, and another, and another. Light can also be filtered by things and absorbed by others. In order to be a successful photographer you must be able to access the direction from which the light is coming in order to plan how your photograph to appear. The direction of light can flatten your subject, give definition to the subjects details, wash out the details, or creatively add mood.

Portait photo by landscape and nature photographer Melissa Fague
Steph 2012  Standard 45 degree example Created by Melissa Fague

The rule of thumb for well lit indoor and outdoor photographs is to shoot with the light or the sun falling over the photographers shoulder at a 45 degree angle.  This angle allows the light to illuminate your subject with minimal shadows cast in the contours, this is an especially good rule to follow for shooting standard portraits.

Over head light, such as mid-day sun coming directly down on your subject. This works fairly well for landscapes but it will cause deep shadows. If shooting a portrait the heavy shadowed area will appear around the eyes, a main focal point that people naturally gravitate to when viewing a portrait. I don’t recommend relying solely on natural light mid-day if you want a portrait of your family member. If you want to go all natural use a white reflector to counter act the effects of the mid day sun or overhead light by reflecting light back up onto your subject in the shadowed areas.

Sidelight is very dramatic. If only one light is used it will illuminate one side of your subject while allowing the other side to fall into shadows. Using a fill light on the opposite side of the main light will counter act this. By adjusting the intensity, distance, and filters of the fill light you will be able to offer a range of detail in the shadows.

Portait photo by landscape and nature photographer Melissa Fague

Jeff Low Key,  1 side light example Created by: Melissa Fague

Front lighting is when the light and the camera are directly in front of the subject. This often flattens the details of the subject because the shadows which create dimensions are washed out.

Up lighting, I found very few applications for up lighting. It’s a techniques that resembles the old 1920s horror movie posters when you use it in portraiture. It is however, a very beautiful way to light landscapes and architecture when photographing them at twilight or night.

Glowing Rose is a nature photograph of a white rose from the Brandywine Rose garden in Wilmington, Delaware. The rose was back lit with a remote flash to create the glow of the petals. Title: Glowing Rose 2 Photographer: Melissa Fague Genre: Nature Photography Brilliant Yellow is a very simple nature photograph that emphasizes the bold yellow hue of an autumn leaf. This image was created by use of lighting the leaf from behind in order to create the bright glow of yellow.  Title: Brilliant Yellow  Photographer: Melissa Fague Genre: Nature Photography
Glowing Rose and Brilliant Yellow created by Melissa Fague – Nature photography

Back lighting is very interesting and it’s fun to do. You can create silhouettes with back lighting or depending on the material of your subject, back lighting can make the objects appear to glow like the images above.

Light illuminates our subject but as photographers we have the ability to capture special moments, create mood or drama, and emphasize our artistic vision with it. My advise is to take a light and practice a little with each of these directions to see how the shadows are created. I hope you enjoyed this article, the next article will be on the characteristic of light.


Photography 101: 8 Ways to Know You Are Ready

Published on Aug 7, 2014

by: The Slanted Lens

How do you know when you are ready to start making money in photography and video? Many amateur photographers think there is a destination with a large sign that reads “You have arrived,” but that isn’t how it works. The formula to start making money with your camera is very simple: you need confidence. In today’s lesson, I share eight simple steps to help you gain confidence and get started.

So how do you know when you are ready? The bottom line is that you are ready now. Go out there and do it and as always, keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.

Landscape Photography Tip: Arrive Early / Stay Late

Driftwood and Sandbars is a landscape photograph that was captured on the shore of the Delaware River at low tide one evening. The image was created to showcase the ripples of the sandbars of the river bed with a piece of washed up driftwood resting on it. The standing water between the ripples of sandbars captures the pinks and blues of the sky as the sun sets in the south. Colors of the image are blues, pinks, browns, and yellowish orange. Title: Driftwood and Sandbars Photographer: Melissa Fague Genre: Landscape PhotographyArrive Early and Stay Late

Mother nature has a way of presenting her beauty when she feels like it. When shooting your nature and landscape photographs, arrive on the scene early and leave the scene late. Getting to the location of your landscape and nature shoot early allows you time to find the best possible location, position, and set up time. Both arriving and leaving the scene of the nature and landscape photo shoots allows you time to view the scene in lighting that others would dismiss, giving you the opportunity to photograph the “unseen” world. This is one of the compositional elements that gives landscape photography it WOW factor.


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.