Perfectly Exposed Photo
Have you ever heard of the Exposure Triangle? It’s the secret sauce behind every perfectly exposed photograph. AND it’s the single best way to learn how to shoot in manual mode on a DSLR. That’s right – we’re removing the auto mode training wheels you’ve been too scared to take off. This blog post will teach you the 3 main things you need to know on your journey to becoming the pro photographer you’ve dreamt of and equip you with the confidence to master every shot you take. Think of it as a DSLR manual mode cheat sheet!
What is the Exposure Triangle?
The 3 elements that make up the Exposure Triangle to capture a perfectly exposed photograph are:
- Shutter Speed
1. ISO – How Much Light is Available?
ISO is known as film speed. The number indicates how quickly a camera sensor absorbs light.
A lower ISO setting (such as 100, 200, or 400) is perfect for photos taken on a sunny day or in an interior set up with lots of natural light. Lower ISO settings are great for capturing crisper photos, as the camera sensor is less sensitive to light.
Comparably, a higher ISO (ex. 800 and up) is best for when there is little light present. However, it’s important to note that higher ISO settings create more grain and noise in your photos. While you can always use a faster shutter speed in situations where there is little light, it’s recommended to always increase your ISO first to ensure you won’t capture a blurry subject just to bring in more light.
To further break down ISO, here’s a little cheat sheet:
- 100 – Bright, sunny day
- 200 – Partially cloud, bright light
- 400 – Cloudy day, bright interior
- 800 – Evening, dim lighting
- 1600 – Night, dark interior
- 3200 – Dark; great for astrophotography
2. Shutter Speed – How Fast Do You Want to Take This Picture? Do You Want to Freeze or Show Motion?
Shutter Speed can be defined in a few ways: how long light is allowed into the camera, how long the shutter is open, or how fast the camera records the image. Think of Shutter Speed as your eyelids blinking. If you blink too fast, the less light goes in and the slower you blink, the more light that comes in.
If you take a photo and it comes out too bright, you’ll need to turn UP your shutter speed to allow for less light to come in. Likewise, if you take a photo and it’s too dark, you’ll need to turn DOWN your shutter speed to allow for more light.
A faster shutter speed is great for capturing clear, quick movement (such as a car driving by), while a slower shutter speed is great for more artistic images, such as blurring water flowing down a waterfall.You can adjust your shutter speed using the dial on your camera. Turn it to left for a slower shutter speed and to the right for a faster one. Tip: never let your shutter speed be lower than twice the length of your camera lens. If you’re shooting with a 50mm lens, your shutter speed should not be lower than 100. Additionally, the slower your shutter speed, the more you should use a tripod.
Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet:
- 1/8 sec – Blurring water
- 1/30 sec – Panning (ex. cars driving by or a person running)
- 1/125 sec – Normal photos (portraits, landscapes)
- 1/250 sec – Kids at play
- 1/500 sec – Great for capturing action moments in slower sport games (soccer, basketball)
- 1/1000 sec – Great for faster paced sports (baseball pitch)
- 1/2000 sec – Ideal for races (cars, horses)
- 1/4000 sec – Very fast objects (jets, planes)
3. Aperture – What Do You Want in Focus?
A camera’s aperture is measured in F-stops. It controls both the exposure and depth of field of an image. The lower the F-stop number, the smaller the lens opening (aka the less light there is coming into the camera). This will give your image a shallow depth of field, where the background of your subject is blurred out to create a clear focal point on your main subject. Likewise, with a higher the F-stop number, the larger the lens opening (the more light coming into the camera), and everything will be in focus.
Tip: For portraits, make sure your aperture is set to the same number of people in your image. For example, if you are photographing 4 people, keep your F/stop at 4.0 or higher. For a single person, only go as far down as F/2.8.
Aperture Cheat Sheet:
- F/1.2-4.0 – Blurry backgrounds
- F/4.0-6 – Slightly blurred background
- F/6.0-32 – Everything in focus
Bonus: The Light Meter
How do you know if your ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture are properly set? Your in-camera light meter is a game-changer in figuring out exactly how much light is entering your camera.
At the bottom of your viewfinder, you’ll see a few lines with a + sign, a – sign, and a 0 in the middle. If you see lots of lines leaning towards the + sign, there is too much light entering your camera. Too many lines leaning towards the – sign means there’s not enough light entering the camera. To take a perfectly exposed shot, make sure those lines are weighted towards the middle, which can be fixed by adjusting your shutter speed.
Now for the Fun Part – Editing
Elevate your perfectly exposed photo today with our Lightroom presets. Whether you’re looking for an aesthetic that’s bright and clean or dark and moody, we’ve got something for you.
Check out our high-quality and easy-to-use Lightroom presets that’ll transform your photos in just one click. All you need is your phone and the FREE Lightroom mobile app. Our presets are also compatible with the paid desktop version. Every preset collection comes with a step-by-step instructions guide that details (with screenshots) how to download and install your preset files so, even if you’re a newbie to all things photography and editing, you’ll be feeling like a pro in no time.
All images edited using the Forest collection.