The Basics "The Exposure Triangle"

February 24, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! How was your week? Mine was pretty good. Thanks for asking. LOL Hey today I want to talk about something very basic in photography. The Exposure Triangle. I am giving a presentation on this subject with my local photography club and thought I would write a Blog about it. I can't believe I haven't written one on the subject before now. We have a lot of new members and new photographers in our club so I was tasked to give this presentation. So what is "The Exposure Triangle"?

The Exposure Triangle has been about since the beginning of photography.  These three settings are aperture , shutter speed and ISO. All three of these settings work together to give you the perfect exposure. Whether you're in full manual operation of your camera or one of the automatic modes of your camera. When your in auto the camera does all of the calculations and make the decision on what the settings should be. The camera gets it right most of the time but understanding the exposure triangle is the key to shooting in manual and controlling your camera when the auto doesn't work. I have been shooting SLR "Single Lens Reflex" cameras for over 45 years and the first few decades it was always in manual operation and under standing the triangle is the only way to get great photo's when shooting in manual. If you have a perfectly exposed image and you change one of the three settings you will have to make an adjustment on one of the other ones or both.  They all work together to get the perfect exposure. What is perfect exposure? It is the brightness of the photo when you look at the scene without the camera. How it looks naturally. You can have a photo over exposed ( too bright) or under exposed (too dark) Your light meter or your eye can tell you if its right or not. Modern camera's have made this very easy with the WYSIWYG. (What You See Is What You Get) Technology of today. In my day you may have to wait a day or two to see what the photo looked like or until you got it into the darkroom yourself.  But now you can see instantaneously what your adjustments are. You can see what the Shutter Speed , Aperture, and ISO does to your photo's. So let's talk about the big three.

ISO, ISO is how SENSITIVE your sensor or film is. In my day it was called ASA for film. The higher the number the more sensitive it is to the EYESEYES light. The higher the number the more sensitive and more grainy the film or your sensor on the camera can be. Grain or noise is more intense in the higher ISO's. With modern technology this is not as much as a problem as it use to be. Going above 500 ISO used to be a problem but now you can go as High as 16000 with newer cameras and not notice at all. You just have to remember that the Higher the number the more SENSITIVE the sensor is. Any change in this setting you will have to change one or both of the other settings.

LeafLeaf Aperture, I think that this is (for ME!) the most important of the three. Aperture controls the DEPTH OF FIELD of the image by controlling the size of the hole in your lens (the Aperture ring).  The depth of field is how much of the scene is in focus. The larger the depth of field the larger the area that is in focus. This control will let you blur out the background on a portrait or let the whole scene be in focus for a landscape shot. The larger the F-Stop number on your lens the more DEPTH OF FIELD you will have and the smaller the F-Stop number the smaller the DEPTH OF FIELD will be. For example a portrait shot at F-2.8 will have Fall Colors HouseFall Colors House a small DEPTH OF FIELD and the landscape shot at F-16 will have a large DEPTH OF FIELD.  This is one of the ways we show our artistic side when choosing what Aperture we use but when we change the Aperture we must change one or both of the the other settings.

Shutter Speed, Shutter Speed controls the DURATION TIME that the shutter is open and controls the amount of light that is captured during the recording of the image. The longer the shutter is open the more light that is let in. Using the control of this setting is great for capturing or showing motion in a photo. Longer shutter speeds are used to show the flow of a water fall giving it that silky smooth look. Fast shutter speeds are used for wildlife to freeze the action of the bird in flight or a humming birds wings. The measurement comes in increments like 1/1000th sec. or 1/60th of a second up to 30 seconds. The smaller the increment of the shutter will let in less light and the longer increment of shutter will let in more light. A shot at 1/1000th sec.  will freeze the action but a shot at 1 second will blur the action.  Longer exposures will require a Tripod to keep the subject of still objects in focus and not have blur from the movement of your hands. A general rule is _MSP2682_MSP2682
that anything under 1/60th sec. Blue Water SplashBlue Water Splash Shutter speed should be on a tripod but with modern cameras and camera's with stabilization this is no longer the case and you can go lower than the 1/60th sec.  This is also very handy for Night Time Photography with shutter speeds around 20 seconds to start with. But remember if you make a change to this setting one or both of the others will have to be changed.

Learning how these three settings and mastering  how they work will make you a better photographer and let you control what is coming out of your camera. If you shoot in manual mastering these three is a must. If you shoot in one of the auto modes when your camera gets it wrong you will be able to quickly adjust and overcome the mistake your camera made and get the proper exposure. The exposure triangle is used by every photographer on the planet and is very easy if you take the time to learn it. Until Next Time ! Get out and Shoot!


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