Excerpt: Put simply, exposure is the very foundation of all good photography. If you’re unsure of what exposure is and how best to use it to make your photography awesome, then this beginners guide to exposure is for you.
There are so many things to learn about photography when you first start out, from what all the buttons do on your camera to what all of those technical terms you see bandied about mean. It can get overwhelming at some points, but like anything, the more you learn and practice, the more you’ll get to grips with it. Possibly the most important thing to begin to master as a beginner photographer is how to use exposure.
Put simply, exposure is the very foundation of all good photography. By understanding the principles and rules of exposure you’ll be able to capture the images that you take at their ideal brightness and with optimum detail. If you’re unsure of what exposure is and how best to use it to make your photography awesome, then this beginners guide to exposure is for you.
What is Exposure?
On the most fundamental level, exposure refers to the darkness or brightness of an image that you take. To a beginner this can sound really basic, but getting this to work is far harder than it might sound at first. Another complication is that there is really no right or wrong when it comes to exposure, it would be more accurate to talk about it in terms of what you’re trying to achieve and what looks best.
For example, in some situations you’re probably going to need to under or overexpose certain elements of a picture to get the overall effect that you want. This doesn’t make it incorrect, but more a case of enabling you to use your artistic expression to get the desired end result.
How can You Control Exposure?
There are 3 main ways to control exposure, these are by altering your camera’s ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. To properly expose a photo you’ll need to balance the three of them perfectly, so we’ll take a look at them each in more detail.
This is literally the speed, or length of time for which your camera’s shutter is open for. The longer it is open for, the more light it lets in, resulting in a brighter image. Bear in mind that the slower your shutter speed, the more movement will take place during that time which can result in blur. Sometimes this is the effect you desire which is great, at others you will want to adjust other settings instead to compensate and create a sharper image.
Unlike aperture and shutter speed, ISO doesn’t affect the amount of light coming into your camera, instead it brightens your images after they have hit the sensor. While it is important, you should only really adjust your ISO when there is no other way to brighten your image. The reason for this is that by using a higher ISO, you introduce “noise” or a grainy texture to your images, significantly reducing their crispness.
This refers to the size of the hole that lets the light into your camera, and it works very similarly to the pupil of your eye. You can manually “dilate” the cameras pupil to make it larger or smaller, letting in more or less light. This also affects the depth of field of an image, or how much of the shot is in focus. A wider or lower aperture will let in more light and produce a shallower depth of field meaning less of the image is in focus. A narrower or higher aperture will let in less light and keep more of the image in focus.
How to Learn to Use Exposure
Understanding exposure and learning how to get the desired effects every time are two very different things, and like anything else, it takes time a practice. The best way to learn is to play around in different light settings with the aim of achieving different effects. Start with some basic values, like an ISO of 100, an “average” aperture of f/5.6, and a shutter speed of 1/100. From here you can adjust accordingly until you’re pleased with the results.
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