Understanding Exposure


We have an amazing band at our Church and I often watch Keith on his guitar or Dave on the drums and think ‘man, I’d love to be able to play like that!

But the reality is they have spent hours and hours over many years learning to master their instruments and it’s only that dedication and discipline that marks a difference between us.

To some extent the same is true with photography.

I know you’re all enjoying this site because we’re keeping things simple but you really do need to understand how to set up your camera so grit your teeth and I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.

There’s no reason why your photos couldn’t be framed and hung on your wall!

Getting the right exposure is essential.

What we’re talking about is allowing the right amount of light through to the sensor. Too much and it’s burnt out, too little and it’s dark. Like a set of scales Aperture and Shutter Speed need to be balanced to get the correct exposure. I can’t stand looking at blurry photos, dark photos, burnt out photos and you’ll be the same once you realize where you’re going wrong. There’s no reason why your photos couldn’t be framed and hung on your wall if you master the basics. How exciting would that be!
So how do you get it right every time? By understanding the elements that balance your image.

The three key elements

Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Get your head round these and you’ll never use an automatic program mode again.


The aperture setting determines how wide your lens opens as you take your shot. Wide open and you let in more light, tight shut and you only let a small amount through.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed goes along side the aperture value and changes how long the shutter is open as you take your shot. Balancing these  two elements is all we’re doing.

Think of it like water coming out of a bottle, make a small hole and it will take longer for the same amount of water to pass through than if we take the lid right off. The same water goes through but the speed is adjusted by the size of the hole (aperture).

So why do we need a wider aperture in one image and a smaller one in another?

Why do we need different shutter speed with one over the other?

You’ll find out on the following pages and I’m genuinely excited for you if you’re learning this for the first time as it really will make the world of difference to your photography.


ISO comes very much second place to the other two but plays a vital role as our circumstances change. In a basic illustration it’s like a brightness dial on your monitor or phone that can be turned up if you can’t get enough light with the other two elements. (I can just sense the pros cringing as I put it so crudely but hey this site’s not for them and if it helps you understand it, I’m happy!)

Over the next posts we’re going to look at all three in detail.