How Do Camera Settings Influence Exposure

By | 24/10/2022

Exposure in photography: How does it work?

Understanding exposure in photography: the interaction between the 3 parameters

To empathize correctly the concept of the exposure in photography, nosotros will see why and how these 3 parameters are connected. In the iii cases below, twice as much light is sent to the sensor:

  • When opening the aperture (for example from f/4 to f/2.8),
  • When we increase the ISO sensitivity (ex: ISO 100 to ISO 200)-> It is after the capture of the light that at that place is an amplification of the signal allowing the sensor to receive ii times more lite. It’s a piffling technical detail, I wanted to summarize!
  • When nosotros increase the exposure time (ex: 1/100 to 1/50) ->

    We can run across that the notion “to increase the exposure time” tin be misleading, by seeing a number that decreases.

Information technology is important to remember that each of these parameters will influence the exposure, but not simply. For your data:

  • Modifying the aperture volition take an touch on the depth of field of the paradigm (the focus area, as opposed to the blurred zone also called the bokeh),
  • If the exposure fourth dimension is inverse (shutter speed), the movement captured may be more or less blurry (a tripod must be used to obtain proper sharpness),
  • Finally, the more you increase the ISO sensitivity, the more grainy your photo volition be (the photo volition exist more than “fibroid” we could simplify).

exposure triangle photography

I know there are a lot of technical terms, simply they will all be explained later on in more specific articles. In other words, there are more or less automatisms to proceed in mind concerning the choice of parameters depending on the shooting conditions (e.thousand.: ISO at its everyman during the day in the sun).

The goal to taking beautiful pictures will exist to notice a balance between these 3 parameters depending on what you want to exercise or shoot.

For case, the 3 following combinations will give the same exposure, but not the same photo result.

f/11 – 1/500 – ISO 400
f/8 – 1/1000 – ISO 400
f/8 – 1/500 – ISO 200

Proceed in listen that there are standard shutter speeds, discontinuity and ISO (understand that every time you modify one notch, the exposure will be doubled or halved). Here are the values:

For ISO: 50 – 100 – 200 – 400 – 800 – one 600 – iii 200 – 6 400 – 12 800 – 25 600 – 51 200 – 102 400

For shutter speed: 30s – 15s – 8s – 4s – 2s – 1s – 1/2s – one/4s – 1/8s – one/15s – 1/30s – 1/60s – 1/125s – 1/250s – i/500s – 1/1000s – one/2000s – 1/4000s – one/8000s

For aperture (f/): 1 – 1,4 – 2 – ii,8 – iv – five,6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 – 32 – 45 – 64 – 90 – 128

I’ll give y’all a more than detailed point below regarding the EI (exposure index) values. In any instance, if yous increment a parameter (ISO, aperture or exposure time), you will have more than light coming in, and therefore, a brighter picture show in the terminate. This is also truthful the other way around. Keep in mind that every time you double a parameter, the exposure doubles besides (example: become from f/5.six to f/four or from i/1000 to 1/500 or from ISO 100 to ISO 200).

Hither are 5 concrete cases explained in detail beneath

The purpose of the exercise is to find the aforementioned exposure on the moving picture by modifying one or more parameters of the exposure triangle. The starting parameters called are on the left of the table while the modified values are on the right.

  • The


    value is the one voluntarily modified for the exercise,
  • The value(s) in


    are the values changed to compensate for the voluntarily changed value (blue),

  • The values in
    remain the unchanged values in the parameter bounty.

Explanations: For this offset case, the aperture is modified. Nosotros therefore opened our aperture (diaphragm) by ii stops and went from f/eight -> f/5.6 -> f/iv. Remember (meet the grayed-out table above), each time we change a parameter by 1 notch, we double/divide the exposure by 2. Here nosotros have opened our diaphragm (aperture) by two stops (large aperture = pocket-sized f/ number), so nosotros take 4 times more than low-cal at f/4 than at f/eight (2 times doubled). For this first case, we but decide to alter the shutter speed parameter to compensate this excess of light. The ISOs remain the same.

: We have to recoup 2 stops to go on the aforementioned exposure on the picture. We therefore decide to increment the shutter speed, i.eastward. to have the picture faster (there will be less light reaching the sensor). Nosotros had a starting shutter speed of 1/60. If nosotros make up one’s mind to recoup by 1 stop, we take the flick twice equally fast, i.due east. 1/125 (run across grayed-out tabular array). Merely we have to compensate two stops, we shift the shutter speed another stop to reach 1/250. We have thus shifted the shutter speed by 2 stops to compensate for the 2 aperture stops changed for the exercise.

The photo will keep the same exposure between
f/8 – ane/60 – ISO 400
f/four – 1/250 – ISO 400.

:Because the aperture is larger (f/ smaller), the depth of field (expanse of focus in the epitome) will be reduced. Concretely, you lot volition accept part of your image that will be more than blurred, oftentimes your background. This is ideal for example to highlight a subject and blur an cruddy background. Your shutter speed is at present faster, which allows you to limit having a blurry picture when you have it. This speed could be ideal for capturing a nearby fast scene (for instance, your cat running in forepart of you…).

Explanations: For case N°2, information technology is the shutter speed that is modified. The latter has been voluntarily changed from 1/threescore to 1/500. By referring to the greyed-out table above, we accept shifted the shutter speed by 3 stops (1/threescore -> 1/125 -> 1/250 -> one/500). Then we take the picture faster than initially (small adding lx x 2 = 120 then 120 ten two = 240 and so 240 x ii = 480, i.due east. (3×2) almost i/500). This new setting allows vi times less calorie-free to enter (3 stops). We decide to compensate by irresolute the aperture.

Bounty: Equally you can see, to compensate for the loss of light through the three shutter speed stops, we must allow more than calorie-free into the sensor. We will therefore open our diaphragm (discontinuity) by 3 stops. Initially, it is f/viii. Nosotros change it to f/viii -> f/5.6 -> f/4 -> f/2.8. By choosing an aperture of f/2.viii, we take thus well compensated for the loss of low-cal in the practice.

The photograph volition proceed the aforementioned exposure between
f/8 – 1/threescore – ISO 400
f/2.8 – 1/500 – ISO 400

Impacts: Every bit in case 1, the aperture is now large (f/two.8). This parameter volition be ideal for blurring your groundwork for instance. If you desire a large depth of field (focus expanse) on your epitome, yous will have to go back to a smaller aperture (due east.thousand. f/11), which will straight impact your movie, as you will have to lower the shutter speed several stops (note: information technology is possible to have a abrupt paradigm at f/2.8, all will depend on the distance from your subject, we will talk well-nigh this afterwards). The risk of motion blur will then appear.

Explanations: For case N°3, it was decided for the do to modify the ISOs (ISO 100 to ISO 400). We have therefore changed 2 stops, i.east. double the light (4 times). We therefore have four times more low-cal reaching the sensor than initially. To compensate for this excess of light, we choose to change the shutter speed.

Bounty: We must therefore conform our shutter speed by 2 stops as well. Think that nosotros had an initial shutter speed of 1/250. By shifting one cease (1/500), we subtract the calorie-free by two (the motion-picture show is taken faster, so less light reaches the sensor). If we shift one more than finish, we get to a shutter speed of one/1000. Then we have compensated for the excess of light by taking the picture 4 times faster (1/250 to 1/yard).

The photo volition keep the aforementioned exposure between
f/4 – 1/250 – ISO 100
f/4 – 1/1000 – ISO 400

Impacts: The important thing to notation in this case is that by choosing to increment the ISO to 400, information technology allows us to take the motion picture four times faster. This will therefore be very useful in low low-cal conditions where a minimum acceptable shutter speed will be necessary to prevent the picture from being blurry. If we decided to go to ISO 800 (shift it another stop), the shutter speed would be 1/2000 for the same exposure. Keep in listen that raising the ISO allows you to obtain (while keeping the same exposure) a faster shutter speed. Note that it will be necessary to find a balance because the more than you lot increase your ISOs, the more you lose in image quality. Another possibility to compensate for this excess of light, we could accept changed the aperture by 2 stops (i.e. from f/4 to f/8).

You volition come across below in the article the advantage of increasing your ISO with a long focal length in depression light atmospheric condition (story with my orangutans).

Explanations: Example n°4 is similar to case n°1. We take chosen to modify the aperture by closing our diaphragm one stop (from f/5.6 to f/8). And then we halved the light of the image. To compensate for this loss of light, we decided to change the ISOs.

Compensation: We therefore decided to give more ISO sensitivity, by shifting them one end (from ISO 100 to 200). This doubles the amount of low-cal reaching the sensor. The loss of light is in this case compensated.

The pic will go along the aforementioned exposure between
f/five.6 – 1/500 – ISO 100
f/viii – 1/500 – ISO 200

Impacts: Going from ISO 100 to ISO 200 has little bear upon on a movie. On the other mitt, choosing to shut by i finish our aperture has an affect on the depth of field. Concretely, the whole picture volition be sharper everywhere at f/8 than at f/5.half dozen.

Explanations: This last case is the most complex of the 5 cases. We cull for the exercise to modify the aperture (f/eleven to f/5.half-dozen). Nosotros thus multiplied by four (2 aperture stops) the quantity of calorie-free in the flick. This fourth dimension, to compensate for this excess of calorie-free, we make up one’s mind to change the two others parameters and non just one (as in the other cases in a higher place). Retrieve, we accept 2 stops to compensate for.

Bounty: We starting time decide to double the shutter speed (from ane/1000 to 1/2000). The picture was taken faster (one stop), the amount of light is cutting in one-half. Merely this is non plenty, knowing that nosotros accept two stops to make up. Nosotros then change the ISOs by halving them (from ISO 400 to IS0 200), which once more divides the corporeality of light in the scene by two. Nosotros therefore halved the amount of light twice to compensate for the two stops of the exercise.

The photo volition proceed the same exposure between
f/11 – 1/1000 – ISO 400
f/5.6 – 1/2000 – ISO 200

Impacts: Case n°five proves that you can compensate an excess or a loss of low-cal by two parameters of the exposure triangle.

Call back the post-obit:

  • If you need to compensate for an excess of calorie-free past i stop, simply change one of the other 2 parameters that impact the exposure of your photograph,
  • You tin can recoup 2 stops with the other 2 exposure parameters (e.grand. 1 stop each),
  • Every compensation y’all make will accept an impact on the outcome of your photo and not on the exposure itself (if your compensation is correct). It could be a greater depth of field (e.g. if you lot compensated past endmost your diaphragm at f/xiii), or an increase in graininess in your photo (if you compensated by increasing the ISO), or a risk of motility mistiness (if you decided to decrease the shutter speed of the photograph for instance.

The goal will be to detect a balance between the 3 parameters according to what you want to emphasize on the photograph or your low-cal conditions for example.

Don’t worry, you won’t e’er have to do these exercises to recoup for this or that parameter. Once all 3 parameters influencing the exposure are well understood, you will exist able to apply, if you want, the semi-automatic modes, which will practise role of the work for yous. I personally use the Av Mode a lot, where I only need to set the desired aperture and ISOs (and even then, I could fix them to Auto). I’ll tell you about it beneath.

How to correctly expose with my camera then?

You’re going to tell me, it’s all well and good, but it’s very technical. Let me explain information technology to you lot in concrete terms. You take iv possibilities:

  • Either y’all use the automatic mode and yous let information technology manage past itself (but yous didn’t buy a DSLR or a mirrorless camera for that, did you?),
  • Either y’all apply the discontinuity priority way (“Av” at Canon / “A” at Nikon) and in this case, you lot only prepare the aperture (the “f/”) and the ISOs, the camera alone manages the adequate shutter speed,
  • Alternatively, you can employ Shutter Speed Priority way (“Tv” at Canon and “Southward” at Nikon) and set the shutter speed and ISOs, the camera will then select the appropriate discontinuity,
  • Either you utilize the manual mode and in this case, it is upward to you to choose the values of the 3 parameters (you will go there once the concept of exposure is understood).

To see if a picture is exposed “correctly” to the scene in front of you, you can use the histogram of your photo. It is visible on your camera for each photo. This allows you to see at a glance whether your photo is normally exposed, underexposed or overexposed. Here is an instance of three histograms to bear witness you.

Histogram representation of the three pictures shown at the beginning of the commodity (my terrace). On the left, the histogram shows an underexposed photo, in the heart a photo with “normal exposure” and, on the correct, an overexposed photo.

In this article I explain more precisely about the histogram in photography, larn how to read it in particular and how it volition help you improve your pictures and your exposures.

To summarize, remember that the histogram shows you the tone curve of your picture. If your histogram is stretched to the left (as in the first picture show), then your photo has a lot of dark tones, or fifty-fifty black (if the histogram is completely to the left). A “properly exposed” photo volition often have a histogram with both low-cal tones (to the right) and dark tones (to the left), see the histogram in the center of the image above. Conversely, the histogram on the correct in the image to a higher place is pulled to the right, showing that the motion-picture show has a very bright if not completely white part.

EV for better understanding

To end with the exposure in photography, here is a last technical precision. I mentioned the term in the introduction which specifies that EV is a unit of measurement for measuring the exposure value. I explained in the above paragraphs that at that place are standard values (for which the exposure is doubled or halved). On DSLR cameras, the EV is usually increased past 1/3 (or 1/2) increments each time (when y’all plow the dial to adapt a parameter). Iii 1/three (or two 1/2) notches are therefore required to double a parameter.

Hither’s an example of an intermediate EV value for i/3 notches (as on my Canon)

For aperture:
– three,2 – 3,5 –
– 4,v – 5 –
– half dozen,3 – 7,1 –
– ix – 10 –
– 13 – 14 –
– eighteen – 20 –

For the shutter speed: 1s – 0,8s – 0,6s – 1/2s – 0,4s – 0,3s – 1/4s – 1/5s – 1/6s – ane/8s – 1/10s – 1/13s – 1/15s – 1/20s – 1/25s – one/30s – one/40s – one/50s – 1/60s – 1/80s – ane/100s – 1/125s – 1/160s – 1/200s – 1/250s

Example in transmission manner (M) with 1/3 stops: you lot fix the aperture to f/sixteen, only you want a brighter film (keeping the other settings fixed), and so yous decide to open the diaphragm. Utilize the punch to shift the discontinuity by i third (1/3) to f/xiv. The moving picture is at present brighter. If you move information technology a step further, you are at f/13, and then at f/11 at the last notch. By shifting from f/16 to f/eleven you have doubled the corporeality of calorie-free reaching your sensor (loss of a terminate).

If you are in aperture priority mode (Av – Canon): it’s the same principle except that the camera compensates for this excess of light by automatically reducing the shutter speed.

Ex :
f/sixteen – ane/1000 – IS0 100
then after your change, the camera compensates at
f/11 – 1/2000 – ISO 100. (the camera has reduced the exposure time by 2 -> sympathize it takes 2 times faster).

The result in terms of exposure is the aforementioned except that your depth of field has been reduced (your picture is overall less sharp).

Photography exposure settings with a concrete case!

I’thou showing you a existent case I had a few years agone while taking pictures of an Orangutan in the jungle in Sumatra, Indonesia.

To put it in context, the place was very dark, completely in shadow. An increase in ISO was necessary in this case. I wanted to isolate my subjects (Orangutan) and blur the background. To practice this, yous take to open the diaphragm as much as possible (information technology all depends on the maximum aperture of your lens). Mine only opened at f/4 maximum. I therefore find myself express by ISO 1600 (from my photographic camera trunk) and an f/4 aperture. I was in Av way (aperture priority) at the time, and the camera was displaying shutter speeds that were also irksome (less than 1/200th) to have my moving picture. Concretely, what does this imply in reality?

The result was that a lot of my pictures were blurry, the shutter speed not beingness fast enough to take a precipitous picture in these conditions. And so I had reached the limits of my equipment hither (both my camera body and my lens).

The reason I’m telling you lot this is to try to make yous understand why there is a price difference between a Canon 24-70mm f/4 (900$) and a Canon 24-70mm f/2.eight (1900$). The price is doubled, that’s the reality. But if nosotros await back at my Orangutan case, if I had a lens with an aperture at f/2.8, I could accept actually taken the movie twice as fast (remember the table above, the shutter speed is doubled between f/4 and f/2.8). At present also imagine that if I had a camera body that went up to more than ISO 1600 (for instance 3200), I would have been able to double the shutter speed on my moving picture (therefore sharper). I’ve now switched to a Total frame camera and it’south much better.

exposure in photography

I notwithstanding finally managed to shoot some nice pictures!

If y’all understood that, that’s practiced enough. It explains to you concretely why some lenses or bodies are very expensive, but especially the relation between the iii parameters of the exposure in photography. The choice of your camera is therefore also of import. Did I lose yous with my Orangutans? ? 🙂


If you have understood my explanations, there are endless possibilities past modifying these 3 parameters to play on the exposure in photography. Depending on what y’all desire to take, how you want to shoot, at what shutter speed, what type of photo, etc., you lot will have to cull the correct parameters to heighten your bailiwick.

You must at present come up to understand all the difficulty in choosing the best compromise betwixt these 3 parameters. For the moment, the concept of exposure may remain a scrap vague, but I will invite you lot (as soon as they are written) to read the detailed manufactures on the parameters: aperture, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed. To summarize, you can increase the exposure of a picture in the following way:

Increasing the discontinuity of your diaphragm (one f/ smaller number)
Increasing ISO sensitivity (higher ISO number)
Decrease shutter speed (1/… smaller)

And vice versa to lower the exposure of your photo.

Attending, I remind yous that:

The more you open up your diaphragm, the shorter the depth of field (reduced focus area),

The more you increment your ISO sensitivity, the more noise/grain y’all will have on your picture (loss of quality),

The more you lower the shutter speed, the more blurry your picture is likely to exist.

That’s information technology, I’m washed with exposure in photography, and I hope you were able to sympathise the general idea and the three concepts that influence it. I’ll explain to you later the importance of the RAW format and post-processing in relation to exposure. Yous won’t get a professional photographer with a few readings (neither am I), but you lot will soon know how to shoot, capture, freeze a particular moment co-ordinate to your photographic equipment and its limits. This volition give yous beautiful pictures!

Was I clear? Too technical? Practise you need any precisions? Practice you have whatsoever questions? Experience free to leave a comment and we’ll hash out information technology together. To continue your learning, don’t hesitate to come and read the commodity on aperture in photography, or ISOs.