Understanding the Exposure Triangle

Can you imagine a time not so long ago when everyone didn’t have a digital camera with them all the time? It’s true! Before smartphones and modern digital cameras, people had to remember to bring their cameras if they wanted to take pictures.

In addition, these old cameras used film, and each roll of film could only take a few dozen pictures. And the worst part? After taking a picture, you had to wait hours or even days to get them developed by a professional before seeing how they turned out!

With the impact of digital technology, the field of photography has changed significantly. If you have a smartphone, you have a high-quality camera with you all the time. You can take countless photos and immediately see how they look.

However, despite these changes, some aspects of photography remain the same. To capture a great photo, you need to understand the basics of exposure, which is the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor and determines the brightness and detail in your photo.

Photographers often refer to the exposure triangle when discussing exposure. No, it’s not related to the Bermuda Triangle or the Pythagorean Theorem. It simply explains how three factors work together to achieve a proper exposure.

The three components of the exposure triangle are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture refers to the size of the lens opening, which controls the amount of light entering the lens. The larger the opening, the more light comes in.

Shutter speed determines how long the shutter remains open, affecting the amount of light that hits the camera’s sensor. A longer shutter speed allows more light to reach the sensor.

ISO, which stands for International Standards Organization, is a standardized scale for measuring the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Higher ISO values indicate greater sensitivity to light.

Imagining a camera as your brain and the lens as your eyes, aperture is like your eyelids (the wider they open, the more light enters), shutter speed is like blinking (faster blinking lets less light in), and ISO is like a pair of sunglasses (darker sunglasses make you less sensitive to light).

You can achieve proper exposure with various combinations of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Changing one of these values usually requires adjusting the other settings as well.

Why would you change a specific setting? Each setting has its own artistic effects on your photo. For example, a fast shutter speed can freeze motion, capturing clear images of a moving athlete. On the other hand, a slow shutter speed can create motion blur, like the flowing water in a waterfall.

Similarly, changing the aperture has an impact on the depth of field in your photo. A wide aperture will create a blurred background, which is ideal for portraits. On the other hand, a smaller aperture will keep the background in focus, which is desirable for landscape photography.

If you aspire to become a skilled photographer, it is crucial to learn the fundamentals of exposure. Thankfully, most smartphones and digital cameras come with automatic settings that calculate the necessary values, resulting in excellent exposure without much effort. Isn’t technology amazing?

Give It a Try

Are you prepared to snap some pictures? Enlist the help of a friend or family member and engage in the following enjoyable activities:

  • Do you enjoy going through old photo albums? It can be incredibly fun to take a nostalgic journey by perusing pictures from the past. Sit down with friends or family members and reminisce about events from bygone days through the captured memories. If you have accounts on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, you can also browse through old photos there. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!
  • Do you own a film or digital camera that allows you to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and ISO? If not, borrow one from a friend or family member. Take some time to familiarize yourself with changing each of these settings. Select a subject or scene to photograph and compare the outcomes based on the adjustments you make. Have fun learning the basics of photography!
  • Do you possess a smartphone or digital camera for taking pictures? If so, consider documenting your life for the next year. You can utilize a smartphone app or transfer digital photos to a computer. Capture one photo each day that somehow encapsulates that particular day for you. When you look back after a week, a month, and finally a year, you will be amazed at the multitude of experiences and memories you have captured!

Additional Resources

  • https://photographylife.com/what-is-exposure
  • https://www.photographytalk.com/beginner-photography-tips/7424-the-exposure-triangle-explained-in-plain-english
  • https://fstoppers.com/education/exposure-triangle-understanding-how-aperture-shutter-speed-and-iso-work-together-72878

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