- Exposure: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- Master Photo Exposure
When you learn a new language, you must first learn the foundation of that language: grammar.
(Success Tip:Take better photos with this simple deck of cards)
If you're new to photography and you think of it as a new language, you're probably wondering what the grammar part is this equation. Basically, when you train to become a photographer, there are a few basic things you can't go on without knowing. Settings and composition, as well as basic editing skills are must-knows for anyone looking to get into photography, on any level. But the foundation to learning the technical aspect of photography is exposure. No photograph can be considered a good one without a correct exposure and mastering that is the first step to becoming a real photographer.
A good exposure is the result of fine tuning three key elements that make up the exposure triangle or trinity. The three elements are aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
You can find detailed information about each of them on our website, but I'm going to give a basic explanation before I go on. The aperture is a circular blade mechanism located inside your lens that dictates the amount of light entering the lens. The shutter speed is a time interval in which the shutter stays open to allow light to go onto the sensor.
The ISO, or ISO speed is a value that determines the sensor or the film's sensitivity to light.
Together, these three elements determine if a photograph is properly exposed or not. Balancing them is not optional and if one of them isn't set correctly, it will affect the overall result. Of course, this goes for working in Manual mode, when you gain full control over your camera. That alone is a sign of maturity and confidence, and every beginner who wants to become serious about photography has to achieve that skill level.
To help you better understand this triangle of exposure influencing factors, let's compare exposure to something else. By using a metaphor, I hope to make everything more clear for you guys.
I like to cook, so I'm going to use cooking elements to illustrate how the combination between ISO, aperture and shutter speed works.
Let's say you have a piece of meat you want to cook in a frying pan. In this case, the flame is our source of light, let's say the sun. Our piece of meat is the digital sensor from our camera. The frying pan is the aperture. Now, a well-cooked piece of meat is a well exposed photograph. I know it sounds a little strange, but bear with me.
Think of the shutter speed as the amount of time you cook that meat. If you leave it in the frying pan for too long, it will burn. By the same principle, if you leave your shutter open longer than necessary, your photo will be over exposed. Different types of meat cook faster or slower. Chicken is done a lot faster than beef. Think of the type of meat as the ISO sensitivity. A high ISO sensitivity will allow light to be exposed faster. Just like chicken breast will cook faster than a steak.
The frying pan is what stands between the flame and the meat, just like the aperture controls the light before it reaches the sensor. A thicker frying pan will act as a small aperture and it will take a longer time for your meat to cook. By this example, a closed aperture will demand a longer exposure to obtain a well exposed photo.
Let's recap. Cooking time is shutter speed, frying pan is aperture, and different types of meat represent different ISO sensitivities. Making all of them work will get you a great meal, or in our case, a correctly exposed photo.
Balancing these three elements isn't something you're going to learn overnight. It takes practice, and since each of us learn at a different pace, only you can determine how long it will be before you venture into the world of manual control.
You don't have to do it all at once. You can start by controlling only one of these factors, maybe shutter speed or aperture, and letting the camera do the rest. Then, challenge yourself to manage two of them and finally gain full control over your camera and use it at its full potential.