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Understanding the exposure triangle and shooting manual 101

Scared to shoot Manual?


Scared to shoot Manual? Yes that horrid little "M" on your camera that you don't know anything about. Well, hopefully after this blog post, you will have a little bit more clarity.

Then I talked about how there are THREE elements that you control in your camera: The aperture (opening of the lens), the shutter speed (how fast your camera takes a picture) and the ISO (how well your camera "sees" in the dark.)

First of all, The Aperture: It is measured with an "F" number. The small the f number, the bigger the opening of your lens.

You adjust this by adjusting your aperture with the front dial or on the menu screen, depending on the make and model of your camera. The smaller your number on your F stop, the more natural light and BOKEH (or blur) you get naturally on your camera. That's why getting a f1.8 or 1.4 are beautiful lenses to get in order to get gorgeous natural light or being able to get better image quality. Don’t have a cheap nifty fifty for gorgeous portraits and general photography? (get one for Canon, Nikon, or Sony here)

The second thing you control is your shutter speed. This is measured in a fraction of a second, like 1/100. The smaller the fraction, the quicker your camera takes a picture, the less light enters.

It’s like cooking. If you have ¼ cup of sugar next to a 1/16 cup of sugar, then obviously you know which cup holds more sugar.

Shutter speed is measured in a fraction of time. So if you have your shutter speed at 1/2000, obviously only a millisecond of light is coming into your camera’s sensor as opposed to 1/100 of a second that is coming in. The faster the shutter speed, the less light is coming in. The slower the speed then more natural light will come in.

The third way that your photo can be manipulated is with ISO, it's like the way that your camera can "see" in a dark room.

When film cameras came out, the ISO technology was found in the speed of the film that you would buy from the store. ISO is the light sensitivity of your camera. The more expensive the camera, the better the sensitivity to light.


The cheaper the camera, the more likely your camera will get noise or grain when shooting in the dark Which is why getting a nifty fifty is so crucial to get more natural light into your camera!

All three elements of the exposure triangle: the shutter, the ISO and the aperture all are "spinning" plates. When one is too high, the other "plates" will suffer. That's why when you change something, you need to compensate somewhere else.

Fortunately with AUTO functions, our camera does ALL the work for us. But we want to be smarter than our camera. Therefore, when You are first starting out, use the picture presets on the top of the dial.

For Example, when you want to take a picture of a landscape- turn the dial to the picture and the camera will do the rest. If you want to step it up even more, then using the "A or AV" function to control only the aperture. Would probably be the best for portraits. If you like fast moving subjects, try using the "S or the TV" function on the dial. If you are really feeling good, you can use the "M" function and control everything!

I know this is a LOT of numbers, but these are my "recipes" that I used to take these pictures. It's just a visual to show you how each pieces works together to create a great image.

Just know that if you want more like, open up the camera by allowing more light to come in (lower the Shutter speed, open the aperture and up the ISO)If you want LESS light, then do the opposite!

Christal Marshall is the owner of Virginia Photos and Films, Studio Marshall Arts, Marshall Arts Media Group and Virginia Beach Photobooth Company. She lives, breathes and does media and marketing pretty much 24-7 for over 14 local business through social media management, website design, photo, video or media coverage or graphic design. She is a homeschool mom of three, cat lover, sushi eater and poke fan! She started her business in 2011 with nothing but a $400 camera from Amazon, now she is has been published in over 60 different blogs and websites for her media work and rank top Wedding Photographer in Virginia Beach.

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