Digital Photography Basics: Understanding Exposure

July 28, 2016

Digital Photography Basics: Understanding Exposure

Exposure can be a tough concept for some beginning photographers to grasp. In fact, given today’s advanced camera technology and the ability of most cameras to capture images that are correctly exposed on their own, even some people who have been shooting for awhile still don’t have a good understanding of exposure.

So I know what some of you might be thinking. The camera does it for me. My camera can figure out correct exposure. In fact, it does a pretty good job most of the time. So why should I bother to learn about exposure?

Here’s why. Because the “correct" exposure isn’t necessarily the right exposure.

Let me explain.

Exposure is the amount of light reaching your camera’s image sensor when you snap a photo. When we talk about “correct" exposure, we are talking about balancing the effects of three factors:

  • The aperture size, or the size of the lens opening.
  • The shutter speed, or the amount of time light from the lens is allowed to enter the camera.
  • The ISO, or the light sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor.

The Exposure Triangle is a graphical description of this relationship.

Digital Photography Basics- Understanding Exposure

The thing to keep in mind when considering this relationship is that there is more than one combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO that will correctly expose any photo. And each of these combinations will produce a “correctly" exposed photo, but each will also produce a different looking photo.

So, when if comes to correct exposure, you have some choices. And each of them will have real consequences on the look of the image that you create.

For example, the two images below are properly exposed. But they look very different.

Digital Photography Basics- Understanding Exposure

So if you want to get better as a photographer, it’s important to understand exposure and to get involved in the process.

If you're having a hard time understanding exposure concepts, I think the two videos below will help.

The first is by Mark Wallace from Adorama. In it, he talks about the principles behind the exposure triangle and how the three elements interact.

The second video, from Tony Northrup, expands on this by showing exposure concepts in action.




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Our Blog

Creative Exposure Part Six: Lens Speed
Creative Exposure Part Six: Lens Speed

June 22, 2017

For the last several posts, we have been talking about exposure and how we can use it to creatively change the look of our photos. And in our previous post, we looked at using the aperture settings to change the depth of field of an image.

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part Five: How Aperture Affects Your Images
Creative Exposure Part Five: How Aperture Affects Your Images

June 12, 2017

n the last few weeks we have been talking about exposure and the settings that control it.

In this post, we’ll look at the aperture setting, another of the exposure controls, and see how you can use it to enhance your photos, direct focus onto your subject and give your images a sense of dimension.

Continue Reading

Creative Exposure Part Four: Managing Motion with Shutter Speed
Creative Exposure Part Four: Managing Motion with Shutter Speed

June 02, 2017

In our last post, we talked about shutter speed and how it affects the way motion is portrayed in an image.

Continue Reading