Search

Balancing Exposure Part 1

Updated: Jul 4



Understanding balancing exposure will help you on the path to get out of Auto mode and towards taking your dream shot.


There are three fundamental building blocks to your exposure scale. These sit on one side of your scale.

Shutter

Speed

How long in which light enters

Aperture

Eye

How large of an opening in your lens through which light enters your camera

ISO

Sensitivity

How sensitive your sensor is to light

There are several challenges when explaining everything else. We're not going to talk about everything else in this blog post. Everything else depends on…

  • Your environmental light

  • Your creative outcomes including

  • Your scene or subject

  • Your composition

  • Your depth of field

  • Your camera

  • Your lens


Perfect sunny day for landscapes

The best place to start understanding balancing exposure is on a perfect sunny day. Here I have used the ‘perfect sunny day rule-of-thumb’. The image is perfectly exposed.

Shutter

1/100

Speed

Aperture

f16

Eye

ISO

100

Sensitivity

Look out from Spoin Kop over Woy Woy, Central Coast, NSW
Look out from Spoin Kop over to Woy Woy, Central Coast, NSW

Think of it as this.

What happens if I increase the shutter speed?

Shutter

Speed

1/500

Aperture

Eye

f16

ISO

Sensitivity

100

Result: I decrease the amount of light coming into the camera by making the shutter move quicker. The image appears much darker.


What happens if I increase the ISO sensitivity?

Shutter

Speed

1/100

Aperture

Eye

f16

ISO

Sensitivity

800

Result: I increase the sensitivity of the sensor to absorb more light. The image appears much lighter as the sensor can take in more light. The image appears grainier which is the payoff for accessing more light in this manner.


What happens if I open the aperture?

Shutter

Speed

1/100

Aperture

Eye

f6

ISO

Sensitivity

100

Did you see that when I opened the aperture the number went down?


Result: I open up the eye of the lens to let more light into the camera. The image appears much lighter. The image will have a different depth of field which is the payoff for accessing more light in this manner.

What happens if I close the aperture?

Shutter

Speed

1/100

Aperture

Eye

f22

ISO

Sensitivity

100

Did you see that when I closed the aperture the number went up?


Result: I close down the eye of the lens to let more light into the camera. The image appears much darker.


Balancing Act

When I have adjusted one setting in the exposure balance from my perfect sunny day balance, I have either under-exposed my image or over-exposed my image.


Shutter speed too fast means an under-exposed image. ISO too sensitive means an over-exposed image.


Aperture too open or too closed means an over and under exposed image respectively.


What's the best settings?

Many, many people have created tip sheets and blog posts decoding what are the best rules-of-thumb settings to use. On a perfectly normal day where the light is reasonable, I begin shooting by taking a test shot using my self-imposed default settings.

Shutter

Speed

1/160

Aperture

Eye

f6

ISO

Sensitivity

200

I see what I get and start balancing my exposure from here depending on everything else.


Why these settings? Because it suits my style and I know how my camera will behave. It has taken a lot of practice to get to know my camera and lenses. I’m not perfect, but I am a better technical photographer able to be flexible in difficult lighting situations than if I had stayed on Auto all these years.


Your internal go-to settings may be different because you have a different style and a different camera. For example, if you like to shoot smooth, creamy sunrises, you may go to the following settings and the play-around from there.

Shutter

Speed

2-10 seconds*

Aperture

Eye

f14

ISO

Sensitivity

400

*2-10 seconds you'll need a tripod to shoot this slow.



Time to experiment

Get yourself a tripod.

Pack a lens in the 18mm to 50mm range.

Pack your camera’s manual so you know how to adjust your settings.

Set your camera to manual mode.

Pick a sunny landscape scene and shoot with the 100-16-100 rule of thumb.

Use this same shot repeatedly and...

  • Increase and decrease your shutter speed from 1/100.

  • Increase and decrease your ISO sensor sensitivity.

  • Open and close your aperture.

When you get back home and look at your pictures which are the best exposed? What settings did you use? How might your settings change if the weather was overcast? Dusk? Something else?


Next time

We're going to add white balance to the mix and start talking about everything else.


Why not come along to a beginner's photography class where we practice these settings. See here for details.


Shayne Leslie

0412 241 773

shayne@lesliephotography.com.au

26 views

Recent Posts

See All