• ashleyknoll

Photography 101: Exposure Triangle

Many of you have been asking me for tips and tricks on how to use your camera that you have laying around at home. I decided to create a series of blog posts and emails to walk you through the basics of what it looks like to shoot in manual mode! If you have a professional grade camera it is an absolute must that you learn how to use your camera for all that it is worth IN MANUAL MODE, but to do that, you must learn the basics!

The exposure triangle is crucial to know and understand in photography. This should be one of the first things you learn when you start your photography journey.

The exposure triangle refers to three components you will be using on your camera. The exposure triangle includes ISO,shutter speed, and aperture (aka f-stop). I will explain each one of these through out this series but for now I'll give you more details about what the exposure triangle actually is. The exposure triangle shows us the relationship of these 3 components and how they interact with each other. When/if we change one component we must then make changes to at least one of the others to maintain the correct exposure.

So, what do you think about when you hear exposure in a photography sense? In photography we determine exposure based off of the amount of light that reaches the camera's sensor. Some choose a higher exposure to create a "light and airy" feel while others choose a lower exposure to create a "dark and moody" feel.

If your images need more light you would change one of the three settings in your exposure triangle to adjust for the amount of light that enters the camera. This is the same if your image needs less light, you would adjust accordingly.

Your camera will tell you if it is over or under exposed before you ever take the photo! Every camera has a light meter built into it. You should be able to see it in a few different places on your camera. Check your camera manual to find out where yours is.

When your image is properly exposed the tic mark will fall in the middle of the meter. If your tic mark is to the right of the center meter mark your image will be brighter. If your tic mark is to the left of the center meter mark your image will be darker. I typically shoot with my meter tic one stop to the right of the center or one stop to the left, but that's just personal preference. The photo below should make all of this make more sense just in case I completely lost you!

As we learned in the above text we must adjust one of the three components until they are balanced!! When we are adjusting these components they are measured in stops. Changing the exposure will either double or halve the amount of light that is captured in an image. The term stopping up means that we want to let in more light and stopping down means we want to let in less light. This applies to all the exposure settings! As a reminder, the components we are working with are; ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed. Each component has their own scale of stops and if you are a math person we could get real technical dividing and multiplying stops. However, math makes my stomach turn, so you will have to visit another article for that!! As I walk you through this series we will touch on each components scale so that you are able to better understand exactly what I mean!

Before I wrap up, I want to show you what my images looked like before completely understanding the exposure triangle and what they look like now. The image on the left is from July of 2015 when I officially launched my business. Even though I had been doing photography since 2013 I still didn't grasp how important the exposure triangle was. We have lost all definition in his shoulder and the grass. The highlights are completely blown out and unable to be fixed. The image on the right is from March of 2020. We were in downtown Atlanta, dead smack in the middle of the day. There was sun bouncing off of every window possible and she managed to keep her eyes open long enough for me to snap this photo. Obviously her facing the sun directly isn't ideal but my highlights are still there and the image isn't blown out! Practice makes perfect!

Harsh light, middle of the day. Highlights are completely blown out and we lost definition in his shoulder and the grass.
July 2015

Direct light, in the middle of the day
March 2020

Tune in next week for your next lesson!! We will start with ISO! Dust those cameras off and put them to work!

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