The Basics of Photography: Exposure, Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed.

December 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

When taking a photograph it is important to know the three important components that affect how light or dark your picture is processed.  How light or dark your picture is characterized as exposure in the field of photography. The three components that affect your exposure are shutter speed, ISO, and Aperture. White balance affects your photos exposure as well but I will discuss that in another blog. It is important to have your camera on manual most of the time. This is the “M,” on your DSLR camera dial. Having your camera on “M,” allows you to adjust your ISO, Shutter speed, and Aperture manually. This gives you more freedom to be creative with your photos than the automatic mode.  The Aperture priority and shutter speed priority are other modes on your camera dial that will be discussed in another blog.

How do you know if your photo is underexposed or over exposed?

DSLR cameras commonly have an exposure meter. If the dot is in the center it is a “perfect exposure.” I don’t necessarily believe it is important to have the dot on the center of the exposure meter every time. Most importantly just look at your photo on the live view after you take it! If it is too bright it is underexposed. Too dark under exposed. Adjust your ISO, Shutter speed, and aperture to get a more balanced exposure if it is too bright or dark.

Aperture: An analogy of aperture would be your pupils in your eye. Have you noticed that when it is dark your pupil gets much larger? Well your cameras aperture gets much larger for the same reasons your pupil gets larger in the dark. The reason why your pupil gets larger is to collect more light into your eye so you can see in the dark adequately and not bump your head! Well the camera aperture (pupil) gets larger it collects more light. More light is collected in your sensor.

Shutter Speed:  The faster the shutter speed the faster your camera takes a picture.  High shutter speeds (example: 1/4000 of a second) are good for wildlife photography, sports, and other fast moving objects (if you want to capture the object at a precise moment). Slow shutter speeds are good for moving objects as well. Objects with a slow shutter speed are recorded for a longer period of time than a fast shutter speed. Slow shutter speeds can give an interesting effect on moving objects. For example taking a picture of a waterfall or ocean with a slow shutter speed (example: 1/10 of a second) will give the water a blurred effect. An analogy of shutter speed would be the door (shutter) in your house (sensor) on a hot windy day. The longer the door (shutter) is open the more light, heat, and wind goes into your house (sensor).  But if your door (shutter) is open for a less amount of time less light, wind and heat will go in your house (sensor).

When the camera has a high shutter speed it also collects less light in the sensor. When the camera doesn't collect enough light it becomes underexposed. This can be a problem with high shutter speeds at night. With high shutter speeds at night your photo’s most likely will be underexposed (too dark).

ISO

The ISO range on DSLR cameras goes from below 100 to slightly above 25,000. The higher the ISO the more light the camera collects. Predictably when your camera has a lower ISO it is collecting less light into your sensor. An analogy of ISO would be sparrows collecting food for their baby chicks. The more sparrows (ISO). The more food (Light). High ISO is undesirable because it adds noise to your picture. High noise reduces the quality of photo’s by making your picture very grain and unclear. There are noise removal options in Photoshop and other software programs.

After discussing ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed. I hope you have a good understanding of how to get a good exposure and a unique picture. Now it’s time to use what I taught you. Go Camera Crazy. Take some pictures!


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