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In this post I’ll be discussing Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. The three camera settings that control “exposure” – the brightness of your photo.

There are three settings on your camera that control exposure: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.

The Aperture is the thing that opens when you press the shutter button on your camera. The ‘aperture setting’ determines how big the opening will be. It's measured in f-stops. The smaller the f-stop number the larger the opening, and hence the more light that gets in.

The Shutter Speed determines how long the aperture stays open. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. The faster the shutter, the less light that gets in.

The ISO setting determines the camera’s sensitivity to light. Think of it as a light amplifier. The higher the ISO, the brighter the image.

In most cases you will want fast shutter speeds (to eliminate blur), low ISO (to reduce noise), and an appropriate aperture setting to give you the 'Depth of Field' you want (small aperture = large depth of field, and vice versa).

Now, every camera comes with an “AUTO” mode that can automatically ensure that you always get correct exposure. However, the AUTO mode is typically a compromise of moderate shutter speed, with average aperture, and middle-of-the-road ISO. This can produce good results, but if you want to take great photos, you will have to take your camera off of AUTO, and gain a basic understanding of how the exposure setting affect your photos. Here's a basic guide to get you started.


 APERTURE
SMALL <-----------------------------------------------------------------------> LARGE
f/22           f/16           f/11         f/8          f5.6         f4        f/2.8
Large Depth of Field                                           Shallow Depth of Field

SHUTTER SPEED
FAST <------------------------------------------------------------------------> SLOW
1/2000        1/1000         1/500        1/250        1/125        1/60        1/30
Freezes images/sharp - no blur                   Motion blur (may need a tripod)

    ISO
LOW <-------------------------------------------------------------------------> HIGH
ISO 80        100             200          400          800         1600        3200
No noise                                                                       Noise


So what exposure settings should you use? Well, it depends on what you're trying to capture. I typically shoot wild birds, so I want to freeze the action (fast shutter), have a shallow depth of field (large aperture), and high quality (low ISO). Here's an example:

Common Grackle In Flight by GarryKirsch
Fast shutter speed, large aperture.


If you shoot landscapes, you may want lots of depth of field (small aperture), high quality (low ISO), and you probably use a tripod so shutter speed doesn't have to be that fast. Here's an example:

The Path Less Traveled by GarryKirsch
Slow shutter speed, small aperture.

</p>For more artistic shots, you may want a grainy look (high ISO), blur (slow shutter), and shallow depth of field (large aperture).

It all depends.

Here's the good news - you don't have to immediately go to MANUAL mode (where you have to control everything). There are several semi-automatic options. For instance you can choose Auto-ISO - which means the camera chooses the ISO while you control the aperture and shutter speed. There is APERTURE PRIORITY where you choose the aperture, and the camera chooses the Shutter Speed. And there is SHUTTER PRIORITY where you choose the Shutter Speed and the camera chooses the Aperture. In all these cases the exposure will be correct because the camera will balance whatever selections your making so that just the right amount of light hits the sensor.

Of course there are times when you may want to 'over expose' or 'under expose'. I suggest you use the camera's 'exposure compensation' settings for that, or switch to MANUAL mode and utilize the exposure meter.

I know this can be a lot to take in all at once, but to become a better photographer you will need to learn it - and in the world of digital photography, there's no cost to experiment. So be brave, take your camera off AUTO, and discover the possibilities!



Add a Comment:
 
:iconhearted-rogue:
Hearted-Rogue Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Student Photographer
Garry, 
is it possible for you to post this in the PhotoTakingLovers group?
that would be awesome!!!

please!!!!!?
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Done. :)
Reply
:iconhearted-rogue:
Hearted-Rogue Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Student Photographer
thank you!!!
Reply
:iconafrican-amber:
African-Amber Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you. This was really helpful!
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! I'm glad it was helpful! :)
Reply
:iconcharmed-ravenclaw:
Charmed-Ravenclaw Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was helpful to me :)
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
I am so glad! Thank you for saying! :)
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:iconcharmed-ravenclaw:
Charmed-Ravenclaw Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No worries!
Reply
:iconpureoptic:
pureoptic Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Student Photographer
This is a great guide for anyone looking to learn more about taking great quality pictures. This covers all the basics, and is really helpful. Great guide! :) 
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks ny friend! I appreciate the positive feedback. :)
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:iconpureoptic:
pureoptic Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Student Photographer
It's my pleasure! :) 
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:iconcrazcat:
crazcat Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Great guide, thank you!!
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:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful. :)
Reply
:iconjestephotography:
JestePhotography Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Great article Garry!  One area when shooting birds that manual mode is very useful is when they are flying in an area where the background varies greatly but the light remains constant on your subject.  Like a flock of geese flying in front of a broken tree line/skyline.

I often shoot in AP mode and use EV a lot.  I am also experimenting with the different metering modes.  Matrix metering is the safe bet but I have also got some very surprising and dramatic results using spot metering.
Love your articles Garry you have helped a lot of people with them, myself included!
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you my friend! It is great to hear that my tips are helping people.

As far as AF and metering go: I am a big believer in 'one shot' single point AF, and spot metering.
Reply
:iconjestephotography:
JestePhotography Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Yes When I figured out spot metering I said to myself "well this just opened up a whole new direction!"  I am leaning towards single point for even bird in flight shots as well, I've found the lens acquires focus wayyy faster and if I miss a shot? I would have missed it with 21 or 39 point too. Thanks for the feedback my friend!
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:iconthemystic14:
TheMystic14 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
thank you for the link :) your very helpful and I love your work by the way! :)
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:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! That means a lot to me. :)
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:iconthemystic14:
TheMystic14 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
on a Canon what does the A-DEP setting do?
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:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
I have never used the A-DEP (automatic depth of field) mode, so here's a link that will explain it better than I could:
www.digital-photo-secrets.com/…
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:icongiuseppetria:
GiuseppeTria Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014
Thank you for the explanation. I have just a problem,I'm not english so I don't understand so well what you have said,but I know it is useful for all. So thank you. I just wanted to know how can I modify the shutter speed,can you explain it?
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! :)

In general, we use fast shutter speeds to freeze action, and slower shutter speeds to show movement. If you are not using a tripod and do not want to have any motion blur, you will need a shutter speed of at least 1/(focal length) - that is to say, if you are using a 100mm lens you will need a shutter speed of 1/100. For a 250mm lens you will need 1/250, and so on.

If you're using a Canon camera, there will be a setting on your camera's mode dial called 'Tv' (if you're using Nikon this setting is 'S') - this is called 'shutter priority' mode. When your camera is in this mode, you will select the shutter speed while the camera chooses the aperture. You can also have the camera choose the ISO by selecting 'Auto ISO'. With these settings you can choose the appropriate shutter speed for what you're shooting, and your camera will ensure that the exposure is correct.

If you have any specific questions please feel free to ask.
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:icongiuseppetria:
GiuseppeTria Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014
Thanks. I have a Fujifilm camera,how can I set that?
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Which Fujifilm camera do you have? Does it have a model number?
Reply
:icongiuseppetria:
GiuseppeTria Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014
I have a reflex finepix SL240
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
On the SL240 you can set Shutter Priority by selecting 'S' on the mode dial.
The Auto-ISO can be set by using the camera's menu system (it is Auto by default).
Reply
:icongiuseppetria:
GiuseppeTria Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014
okay thanks!
Reply
:iconflashgrafic:
Flashgrafic Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
Ciao GiuseppeTria, spiega ciņ che viene mostrato nel link
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:iconflashgrafic:
Flashgrafic Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
Reply
:iconorchideacae:
Orchideacae Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you, thank you, thank you!Hug 
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! If it's been helpful then I am happy! :)
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:iconmipcrackestan:
MipCrackestan Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014   Artist
i dont have camera anymore:(
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:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
I'm sorry to hear that. I hope you can replace it soon.
Reply
:iconmipcrackestan:
MipCrackestan Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014   Artist
thank u so much.u know iam not good in taking photos but i realy love it and it makes me feel freeLa la la la :D
Reply
:iconmrs-durden:
Mrs-Durden Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Perfectly explained! A great resource for photographers! And great reminders for myself :p
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:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! I appreciate your positive feedback! :)
Reply
:iconthemystic14:
TheMystic14 Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you very much :) this will help me a lot. 
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome. I'm glad that it was helpful. :)
Reply
:iconcamara13:
camara13 Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
thank you for the article I am going to try to understand my camera better. I save it and try to change my setting an experiment. 
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
You're welcome! :)
Reply
:iconnodokavisualarts:
NodokaVisualArts Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional Photographer
Very nice and detailed explanation for those of us looking to improve our skills.

I usually use Manual w/a low light setting to help cut down on glare since there's tons of natural light where I live.
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. :)
Reply
:iconnodokavisualarts:
NodokaVisualArts Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional Photographer
You're very welcome.
Reply
:iconflashgrafic:
Flashgrafic Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Professional General Artist
Clap 
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! :D
Reply
:iconicemandbb:
IceManDBB Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014
Nice explanation for beginners. To experiment with these three values is also the reason you may need an DSLR, because not every digital camera lets you set every value at everytime, even in manual mode. Like my Powershot, if i have high exposure times, i only can set a given range in apperture and iso.
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks man! :)
Reply
:iconserel:
serel Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Very good journal with clear and to the point explanations.
Reply
:icongarrykirsch:
GarryKirsch Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! That is very kind of you to say! :)
Reply
:iconmypeanutgallery:
MYPeanutGallery Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014
Thank you so much for this blog. You teach in a way that beginners like me can actually understand! I find your tips very helpful.
Reply
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