The Basics: Exposure Triangle

//The Basics: Exposure Triangle

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Now that we have talked about shutter speed, aperture and ISO it’s time to bring it all together. These three items make up the exposure of every image.

There are a ton of different ways to mix up the three and get the correct exposure so where do you start? For us, it is always ISO. You want your images to have the best quality they can, right? A low ISO number is how you achieve this. So for most cameras you can set the ISO at 100 and forget it…..for now. As Jymmy says, “Put it in the bank.”

Next, you ask yourself, “What is more important, action or depth?” If the answer is action, you will set your shutter speed next. If the answer is depth you will set your aperture. Simple as that.

For instance, if you were taking a photo of a river and wanted to get a little movement in the water you would adjust your shutter speed. You may set it to 1/4 of a second or 2 seconds depending on how fast the water is moving and what look you are trying to achieve. Make your best guess as to what shutter speed you think will work and dial it in. The cool thing about digital photography is that it is very forgiving and you get instant feedback. Now that you selected a shutter speed you simply line up your meter by adjusting the aperture. That’s it? Yes and no…..keep reading.

Now you want a little more movement in the water or only a small part of the image is in focus and the rest is blurry. These are things you might say to yourself after seeing the initial image. What should you do? Make small adjustments. Give yourself a slightly longer exposure to get more movement or close down your aperture to get some more depth of field. Remember that every adjustment you make will move your perfectly lined up meter so you will need to adjust something else to bring it back. HERE IS A SECRET NERD TIP: Every time you move a dial one click you will need to move the other the opposite way one click to keep the same exposure. It’s all about balance. For example, if you move your shutter speed dial to the left three clicks to make a longer exposure you will need to move either your aperture or ISO dial three clicks to the right to keep the exposure the same, make sense?

Now, what if you answered that depth was more important? You simply set your aperture before you set your shutter speed. If you want a really shallow depth of field then you may select something like f/2.8 or if you are shooting a vast landscape you may opt to select f/22. From there you line up your meter by adjusting the shutter speed. Get your feedback immediately and make small adjustments to fine tune your image.

That is super easy right??? So what if you have the perfect shutter speed and the perfect aperture but you still don’t have enough light? That is when you go back to the bank and pull out some ISO. Bump up the ISO until your meter lines up and there you have it. Manual exposure is not so difficult now is it?

One thing to note is that the camera will not always get things right. What we mean by this is that your meter may be lined up right in the middle but the image may be too bright or too dark. The camera tries to do a good job and it normally does but it isn’t as smart as you are. Our next article will talk about the use of your histogram. Jack always says, “Your histogram will never lie.”

Let us know if you have any questions or just send us a note to say hello.

See you soon!!!

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