exposure

We’ve all heard the phase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So, what would a picture be worth if you knew all the techniques for proper exposure? Dare we say “priceless”? In any case, you’d definitely feel more empowered to take beautiful photos.

The Three Basic Tenets

In terms of exposure, there are three basic tenets to consider: ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Like baking the perfect cookies, when measured and mixed together properly, these ingredients will make your photos crisp, clear and well lit.

  • ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor and can be used in conjunction with aperture and shutter speed to make your photos darker or lighter. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera is to light and therefore, your pictures will be brighter. There is a catch though, higher ISO also comes with more grain or “noise,” so it’s best to use it only when necessary, like low light situations where flash isn’t available, or for fast motion shots where you need to keep shutter speed fast enough to avoid blurring your moving subjects.
  • Shutter speed is simply the length of time your camera shutter is open, exposing the camera sensor to light. Why is this important? It affects the overall appearance of your photos as it is responsible not only for the amount of light in your photos, but for creating dramatic effects such as motion blurring or action freezing. Think of shutter speed like opening a door. Fast shutter speed, like opening and closing the door quickly, will only let a little air in from outside and gives you a view of the neighborhood as it is at one moment. Slow shutter speed is like leaving the door wide open and seeing people pass by.
  • The Aperture of a photographic lens is basically the pupil that contracts or expands in the eye of the camera. It controls both the amount of light reaching the film or image sensor – think brightness – as well as the “depth of field” which lets you decide to keep everything in focus from near to far, or to focus on a close object and blur out the background. Photographers refer to the Aperture size in “f-stops”. F-stops are tricky little numbers because they seem backwards at first. A lesser f/number such as f/2 means the aperture is open wider, letting more light in. This is referred to as a “large aperture” and lets in larger amounts of light and more background blur – which makes for great portrait and beauty photos. A bigger f/number like f/8 indicates the aperture is constricted, letting in less light. This is referred to as a “small aperture”, letting in a smaller amount of light and less background blur – ideal for taking in the entire vista in landscape photography.
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