Back to Basics: Short Walkthrough Covers the Exposure Triangle for Beginners

When you’re first learning the basics of photography, one of the first things you find out about after dropping out of ‘auto’ is the exposure triangle.

Consisting of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, the exposure triangle is a system that takes into account each of those variables, making exposure adjustments a breeze when you need to change one of the variables for a particular situation (say, freezing motion or achieving a shallow depth of field).


In the above video clip, photographer John Greengo does a great job nailing the basics of this triangle down and offering some nice insight for those folks who are just getting into photography.

Obviously this video isn’t for the veteran or even intermediate photographers out there, but if you’re just starting out, this’ll definitely help you understand how each of those three main variables will affect your images, and how to adjust them appropriately.

(via Picture Correct)

  • Edgardo Contreras

    follow this rule:
    set exposure speed to the same number as ISO (or as close as posible), when shooting outdoors with sun light always use F/11.
    ISO 400 – 1/500 – f/11
    ISO 100 – 1/100 – f/11
    ISO 1600 – 1/1600 – f/11
    This way you dont need an exposimeter.
    I followed this when I used film. Always work. Play around opening apperture when in shadow or cloudy. Then changing speed, ISO, when you close one, you must open the other to keep the same exposure. This will help you learn and understand.

  • SiriusPhotog

    Edgardo, That is old school snapshot rules for back in the day using film cameras with no meters. If you want control over your images in depth of field or freezing action then follow the rules in the video. Using your example the Eagles wings and most likely the entire shot would have been soft and blurry. Because chances are he was using a very long telephoto like a 500-800mm lens.

  • Adrian S

    We all know what each setting does, but still find a good advice in taking it slow until you learn it well.

    BTW what are your opinions in shooting under exposed in RAW? Could a lower ISO and edit in post give a better result then a higher ISO with correct exposure? I’m always reluctant to increase my ISO value.

  • OtterMatt

    My camera isn’t exactly fantastic in low light (D3100), but I’ve actually gotten used to underexposing by about half a stop in sunlight. Indoors, I just expose to the brightest point in my frame and go from there. Even just using the basic tools in ACR or Lightroom, I seem to be able to brighten things up just fine, as long as I stay under about one stop of difference. Anything over one stop and the noise can get to be a bit too much for me to deal with. It’s a tradeoff, but pushing my camera up to ISO1600 is… touchy.

    One of my favorite shots so far was a snap shot in a park of a couple, and when I chimped the image while walking away trying not to intrude, I thought it was all but unusable, it was so freaking dark, but it turned out AWESOME in post.

  • bob cooley

    Well, you and I might, but I can’t (well actually I can) tell you the number of beginning ‘professionals’ out there that have no clue how the reciprocal relationship between ISO/aperture/shutter works. They let the camera do all the work.

    This isn’t a slam on anyone, but I’ve run into a lot of people who call themselves pros who really don’t have a clue how use their tools at the most basic (manual) level.

    On your ISO/RAW question – RAW, especially in the most modern sensors has an unreal amount of latitude – but I think you’ll find different results with different sensor and light combinations. Some sensors and/or lighting conditions will yield better results if shot at a lower ISO then pushed more in post, some will degrade more in post, so its better to go with the higher native ISO. You have to test your sensor to see which works better for you.

    Do the test in both well-lit and darkly lit conditions, your results may vary in those results as well. Once you’ve done the tests, you’ll have the formula you need to get the best results.

    But you’ll have to do the tests. If you are shooting w/ a D700 you’ll get dramatically different results than if you are shooting with a D90.

  • Omar Salgado

    Oldschool Sunny 16 never fails. I rely my mental metering on it, one only has to understand it well along with the reciprocal rule. Then there is no waste of time.

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