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Understanding the Exposure Triangle to Get the Perfect Lighting for Your Photos

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Getting the perfect exposure for your photo will be a lot easier once you learn the concept of the exposure triangle.

The exposure triangle may sound like complicated geometry but it simply involves getting three variables down: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Once these are in balance, you can capture the perfect photos.

Read on to find out more about how the exposure triangle works.

Aperture

Aperture refers to how open or closed the lens iris is. If there is a wider aperture (lower f-stop number) there will be more of an opening to let more light into the lens. If the aperture is narrow (high f-stop number) it will let less light in to reach the sensor.

You may think that there will never be a time when you want to let less light into the lens. However, narrow apertures are ideal when you want a greater depth of field. They will get more of the scene in focus which is why they are often used for landscape shots.

Wider apertures create a narrow depth of field which is perfect if you want to hone in on a subject.

Most lenses are sharpest around f/5.6 of f/8. However, some photographers may trade that sharpness for the super isolating effects a wider aperture can provide.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed dictates how long the shutter stays open, i.e. how long the sensor is exposed to light. Fast shutter speeds give the sensor less time exposed to light providing a lower exposure. Slow shutter speeds give the sensor more time exposed to light and provide higher exposure.

High shutter speeds are good for capturing motion. Regardless of whether the camera shakes or the subject moves, it will help retain sharpness. Lower shutter speeds will record elements of the frame for a longer amount of time including any movement that will cause blurriness.

Most photographers say getting the right shutter speed is the most important aspect when it comes to getting a sharp image.

ISO

Increasing the ISO allows you to work with less light. However, it will also result in increased noise and less detail.

So, you may wonder, why shoot with a high ISO? Well, if you are working in low light and using the widest possible aperture and lowest possible shutter speed, increasing the ISO will be your only choice. It may produce a grainy image, but your only other option will be to go for a slower shutter speed that will result in unfixable blur.

The graininess may be reduced in editing.

What’s the Perfect EV?

There is no mathematical rule for the perfect EV, or balance between ISO, shutter speed and aperture. You need to find what works for you in your given situation.

However, if you adjust one of these, you will have to make adjustments to them all.

So, if you decide to decrease your shutter speed by two stops, you will need to increase your aperture by two stops. If you increase your ISO by four stops, you will need to find an equivalent decrease in your aperture and shutter speed.

This all may sound confusing, but over time, your eye will guide you to make adjustments that work. What EV tips do you use to find the perfect exposure?


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