Understanding Aperture & Shutter Speed


As part of this Exposure series we’re first going to look at Aperture & Shutter Speed, then in the next article ISO.

I’ve recorded this video because I’m guessing you’re more visual learners as photographers but then I’ve focussed in on some of the points in the following text.

Video notes:

I made reference to the fact that I can’t describe every camera’s settings in one video but if you take a look under the Know Your Camera category of this site I am building up a library of cameras and showing how to use these manual settings.

Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority?

No, I’m not talking about the auto setting, tut tut. Rather the mental decision you need to make in any scenario about which is your priority. For example, if I’m at a motor-sport event my priority is to get a fast shutter speed so the car / motorbike is in focus. If I am taking a portrait of my wife and she is standing still, I don’t prioritise the speed but the aperture to either blur the background or keep it in focus.

Here are some scenarios to help you out.

Aperture Priority

  • Portraits with little or no movement
  • Flowers/Insects (macro)
  • Landscapes (wide angle)

Shutter Priority

  • Kids running around on the beach?
  • School Sports Day
  • Motor Sport event

As you’ll know, I really want to get you all off the automatic settings of your camera and onto manual. Now don’t panic, you do still have access to a very accurate light meter within your camera, you’ll just have to turn the dials yourself.

Here’s a video to show you how the light meter dial in your camera is used to balance Aperture and Shutter Speed in Manual Mode. You’ll also start learning about depth of field. This is really practical and helpful… I hope!

Video notes:

I mention Canon’s ‘Nifty Fifty’ lens in this video, if you fancy adding a lens that will give you a huge aperture I really recomend this one. See it here on either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Nearly 2000 5* ratings can’t be bad!
The 4 photos I take in the video are here with their settings as I mention.

So lets recap, as I really want this to sink in before you leave this page. In this video I’m running through what has already been said and shown in the previous videos but really trying to get you thinking about how you’re going to apply these settings to different circumstances.

The main thing to take away from this is that it’s ok to get it wrong, as long as you learn from it and improve.
No one needs know if you get some shots wrong, just delete them! The main thing is that you know how to fix the problem.

Too bright = turn up the aperture numbers (to make the aperture hole smaller) or increase the shutter speed.

Too dark = turn down the aperture numbers (to make the aperture hole larger) or decrease the shutter speed.

… If your image is still too dark you need to increase the ISO, and that’s our next post