Getting a new DSLR can be an overwhelming experience for a new photographer. All the knobs and buttons seem to do a thousand different things (and they do), but photography’s dirty secret is that, at its core, knowledge of the exposure triangle is what will make your new DSLR sing. If you know how the exposure triangle works, you basically know the basics of beginner photography, and you can build your skills with the manual functions of your camera on that solid foundation. Basically, you need to learn some facts about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and how they affect each other.
Having an exposure triangle chart can be very useful for studying!
Manual Control Over Aperture, Shutter Speed AND ISO
The biggest benefit of owning an advanced DSLR is that it allows manual control over most elements of the photographic process in terms of what happens in the camera. But having control is very beneficial if you know what elements you need to control and what they do. Let’s take a look at the three important things that make up the exposure triangle – ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.
ISO – In film cameras, ISO refers to how sensitive the film is to light. In a DSLR, the same concept applies, but refers to the arrangement of the camera sensor (digital sensor), not film. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to light. If you’re shooting something in bright midday sun, you’ll probably want to use the lowest setting available (perhaps ISO 100 or 200). Conversely, a higher ISO setting is a must if you are shooting a scene with poor lighting. Keep in mind that higher ISO settings often result in digital noise problems (unwanted grain and grain in your image). Typically, high-end DSLRs are better at dealing with noise issues at higher ISO settings. A larger camera sensor is able to handle low light better.
shutter speed – This one is self-explanatory. Shutter speed refers to the time the camera’s shutter is open when you take the shot. This affects how much light enters the sensor. A shorter shutter speed (faster shutter speed) will result in less light hitting the camera sensor and will have a “frozen” motion effect. A longer shutter speed will allow more light to hit the camera sensor, and any movement in the scene will appear to be blurred in the direction of movement (“motion blur”), which can often be the desired effect depending on what you are trying. reach. Each shutter speed setting doubles (or halves) the speed compared to the next setting. Don’t forget to check out our beginner’s guide to shutter speed priority mode on your camera.
Aperture – This refers to the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to hit the sensor. A wider aperture lets in more light, and a narrower one lets in less. Aperture sizes are measured as f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/16, f/22, etc. .(usually referred to as “f stop”). The smaller the number, the larger the aperture, and each “stop” from there effectively halves the size of the aperture (and thus the amount of light entering the camera). Aperture also allows you to control the depth of field. See also our beginner’s guide to aperture priority mode on your camera.
Aperture also depends on the camera lens – prime lenses usually have a larger aperture than zoom lenses.
How Does It Work In Practice?
The three elements of the exposure triangle interact together. For example, reducing the shutter speed by a stop (increased light) and narrowing the aperture by a stop (decreased light) will result in an identical exposure. However, this can result in motion blur (due to a decreased shutter speed) or a deeper depth of field (due to a narrower aperture).
ISO, shutter speed and aperture are collectively called the exposure triangle because they affect the exposure value. It’s probably one of the most important technical concepts you can know in photography, and it’s well worth sitting down to learn (and standing up to practice) if you want to know how to use that shiny new DSLR (or any camera, for that matter) to its potential. Simply put, learn how to handle ISO, shutter speed, and aperture as best you can, and your photography will improve tremendously over time.