Blog Photography 101 : Understanding Exposure

Aug 15 2015

Want to take breath taking photographs for your blog? Its important to understand the basics first :) Dive deep into learning everything you need to know about Exposure in this post - Aperture, shutter speed and ISO!

At the beginning, I aimlessly shot with my camera at beautiful scenery and colorful backdrops, without actually knowing what photography is or how it works. Of course, the results were not as good as I had hoped. So, I took a step back and started focussing on the basics and figured out how the core of photography works; and slowly the quality of my photos started improving. I strongly believe that understanding the fundamentals creates a strong foundation for developing any skill. If the basics are thorough, it is a lot easier to pick up new concepts, methods and trends along the way.

So far, I have written a handful of posts about photography in the context of blogging. Today, I want to get down to the most important and fundamental concept to photography – Exposure. This concept is useful in just about any context – blogging, casual photography, iPhone photography – you name it. Learning this is like learning the alphabet;ย once you master it, you can start creating words, then sentences and soon, with some other skills, you can be the shakespeare of photography ๐Ÿ˜‰ย 

What is Exposure:

Exposure is essentially the amount of light entering your camera. We usually refer to exposure in terms of how dark or light a photo is. Although it seems pretty straightforward to take a photo with the correct exposure, in reality it can be quite tricky to achieve.

Exposure Triangle:

There are three main ingredients that come to play when we talk about exposure – Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Each of these determine the amount of light entering the lens and its interaction with the camera.

When you choose the auto mode on your camera, the camera automatically sets the values for these three elements. Hence, you have almost zero control on your photograph. However if you use manual mode, you have full freedom to set these values yourself and hence you get complete control of how you want your photo.ย  I can assure you, there is going to be a phenomenal difference in your photos once you start using the manual mode. Actual photography happens in the manual mode, so switch today and don’t ever look back!

Want to take breath taking photographs for your blog? Its important to understand the basics first :) Dive deep into learning everything you need to know about Exposure in this post - Aperture, shutter speed and ISO!

Here’s a simple analogy to help you understand the exposure triangle: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO and their relationship with each other. Think of your camera as a window. The window has blinds that open and close to let light enter the window.ย 

P.S:ย To demonstrate the differences effectively, I haven’t edited any of the photos below.ย 

Aperture:

Now, aperture is like the size of the window. The larger the window is, more light can enter through it and smaller the window, lesser the light that can enter. Similarly, higher the aperture, greater the light entering the camera and therefore brighter the image. Aperture is essentially the opening of the lens and is measured in a unit called f-stop. f-stop values or f-numbers look like this: f1.8 , f2.2, f4.8, f5.6 etc. The greater the f-stop value, lesser the aperture. So an f-stop of 1.8 denotes greater aperture (hence more light) than an f-stop of say 5.6!

In the comparison below, the shutter speed is fixed at 1/200″ and ISO at 400ย to see the effects of aperture on a photo. As you can see, the photo on the left with a low aperture f4.5 is way darker than the one on the right with aperture f2.2.ย 

Want to take breath taking photographs for your blog? Its important to understand the basics first :) Dive deep into learning everything you need to know about Exposure in this post - Aperture, shutter speed and ISO!

A note on Depth of field:

Have you noticed those dreamy photos with a blurry background and a sharply focussed subject in the foreground? This effect can be achieved by varying the โ€œdepth of fieldโ€: the distance between the nearest and the farthest objects that a sharply focussed in a photograph. Smaller f-stop leads to smaller depth of field, or more blurry background. You can see in the above photo that the background petals are more blurry in the photo with f2.2 when compared to the one with f-stop: 4.5.

Shutter Speed:

Back to our window analogy, shutter speed is like the amount of time the blinds of the window are open. So longer the blinds areย open, more light enters and vice-versa. Shutter speed is measured in seconds. So, higher the shutter speed, greater the light entering the camera, brighter the photo. Shutter speed values generally look like 1”, 1/20”, 1/100”, 1/400” etc. In fractions, greater the denominator, lesser the shutter speed. So a shutter speed of 1/100” means more light than a shutter speed of 1/400”.

In the comparison below, the aperture is fixed at f2.5 and ISO at 400 to vary the shutter speed.ย The photo on the left, with 1/400″ shutter speed, is way darker than the one on the right with shutter speed 1/200″.

Want to take breath taking photographs for your blog? Its important to understand the basics first :) Dive deep into learning everything you need to know about Exposure in this post - Aperture, shutter speed and ISO!

ISO:

Now imagine you are sitting behind the window with a pair of sunglasses on. You will be more sensitive to the light coming from the window when you wear a lighter shade of sunglasses, and less sensitive when you were dark sunglasses. ISO sets the shade of sunglasses that the camera lens is wearing. Lower the ISO number, lower the sensitivity to light and darker your photo. One thing to keep in mind is that, even though higher ISO offers more sensitivity to light, it comes at the cost of a grainer photo.

In the photo below, the shutter speed is fixed at 1/200″ and aperture at f2.5 to observe the effects of ISO. The photo on the right with ISO 400 is way brighter than the one on the left with ISO 100.

Want to take breath taking photographs for your blog? Its important to understand the basics first :) Dive deep into learning everything you need to know about Exposure in this post - Aperture, shutter speed and ISO!

Putting it all together:

Achieving the perfect exposure is a bit tricky and takes practice and time. The Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO together decide the exposure of a photo and its all about juggling the three to get the perfect amount of light. A change in one of these will always impact the other two – so it is important to keep this in mind while altering their values.

For example consider this case:ย  If you want to decrease the depth of field to achieve a blurry background, you need to decrease the f-stop. When the f-stop decreases, the aperture increases and your photo may become too bright. To decrease the amount of light and balance this out, you can decrease the shutter speed or decrease the ISO.

Just playing around with the settings and observing the effects on the photos is the best way to figureย things out. It can be intimidating at first, but I assure you – everything will get easier with time and practice!ย 

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to Photography?

If you are interested in learning more about the course, enter your email address to join the waitlist and be notified when it launches! :)
  • emily couture

    Such wonderful and great tips! ๐Ÿ™‚

    emily xx

    emilycouture95.blogspot.co.uk

    • Thank you emily – glad it helps! xo

  • Thank you I loved the window analogy. It made complete sense to a newbie like me!

    https://www.majeang.wordpress.com

    • Hi majean! So glad to hear that – yup the window analogy makes it super easy to understand! xx

  • thanks for this <3

    hannie,
    huemorist.blogspot.com.

  • Great post! So informative, needs sharing!

    • Thank you so much for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • some really great tips, i’m trying to get more into photography so this was really helpful!

    Rachel // Style Soup

    • Hi Rachel! ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s awesome – would you like to see any specific posts about photography in the future? xx

  • Thank you so, so much for this post! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, as I’ve been trying to learn about my DSLR more and more. x

    nueyork.blogspot.com

    • Hey taylor – I am so glad that this was helpful! I know DSLR can be intimidating at first – but I am so sure – you will crack it soon. Let me know if there is anything else you are interested in learning about! xx

  • I also still am learning to use my canon and only liked the auto functions a few days before starting to try and learn manual settings so this helps a lot!

  • Ace tips! And really, really well explained. I’ve read about the exposure triangle before but it always confused me, and this didn’t at all! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Fii | little miss fii

    • hey fii ๐Ÿ™‚ thats so good to hear – thank you so much <3 xo

  • Irene

    love how some settings are changing the entire picture!love your post!
    Irene
    http://www.thedailylace.com

  • these tips are so helpful! thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • So glad anna ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • I have just found your blog and I think I am obsessed! Thanks for sharing these great tips <3

    Niamh xoxo

    http://ow.ly/R01Ov

  • *bookmarks* This is so helpful! I don’t have an SLR but my Bridge camera has a few of these settings so I will definitely play around with the exposure and see what works best for me ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

    • Hey lovely ๐Ÿ™‚ So happy that this was useful to you! Look forward to seeing your photos ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • Emma Hawthorne

    These tips are so helpful, they are going to really enrich my photography sessions for my blog. Thank you! Amazing blog!

    http://emscoffeechats.wordpress.com/

    • Hi emma! Thanks so much ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad to hear that!

  • You are so good at explaining these types of things without all the jargon, thank you!

    Sara – She Who Is Short

    • Ah, that is such a great thing to hear Sara ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks a ton! x

  • I’m about to get a good camera and this will be very helpful!! Love the way you showed before and after makes a huge difference!

    Sara | http://www.marybloomy.com

    • hey mary, glad to hear that! Which camera are you planning to get? xx

      • I was about to get a DSLR but my mom just got me the Canon Ixus 155 for my birthday which seems to be great! Will only be able to play with it in october thou!

  • Hi Chaitra!

    What a lovely space you have here! Great tutorial- The exposure triangle can definitely be a bit tricky to figure out. It really takes a bit of trial and error, and is something that can only be learned by shooting in different light and playing with the settings. But it’s also a thing that once you “get it”, you get it ๐Ÿ™‚ That being said this tutorial is really helpful, particularly the analogy of wearing sunglasses. This makes it much easier to understand!

    Happy to have found your blog ๐Ÿ™‚
    XO,
    amber
    http://wheretheresdesign.com

    • Hi amber ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so so much for your kind words! I am glad you found this useful – look forward to connecting more <3 xx

  • Pingback: The Sunday Skinny 8/23/15 - Skinny Fitalicious()

  • Helena

    Loved this post! Very easy to understand ๐Ÿ™‚ you’re a great teacher! I discovered your blog the other day and have been devouring almost all your posts haha loved it!

  • Pingback: Wildest Heart - Useful Links For Basic Photography()

  • This was so helpful, I finally understood my camera! Will practice and apply this to my next photo shoot. Thank you SO much, your blog is so awesome!

  • Rachel Ritlop

    This is so great! I just started playing around with my DSLR and i love manually setting these now compared to just letting it go on automatic!

  • Pingback: Link Love 10/2 | running with spoons()

  • Noa Dahan

    I finally understood how this triangle works, so thank you very much!
    P.S:your posts are awesome !!!

JOIN ME ON PERISCOPE

@PinkPot7