Exposure Explained

If you’re a keen photographer but you’re yet to properly delve into the technicals of DSLR practice, exposure is a rewarding place to start.
We’ve explored the dark and dangerous zone of exposure theory – an area which many casual photographers fear to tread – and compiled the below tips help you painlessly up your photography game.

Although it can be a bit confusing to begin with, get your head around the jargon and your output will improve in no time. You can change the exposure of a photo by tweaking three different settings:

  • ISO Sensitivity
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture

The benefits of nailing your exposure technique are significant. The benefits of nailing your exposure technique are significant.

ISO Sensitivity

The ISO Sensitivity is a measure of how sensitive your camera is to light. If the ISO sensitivity is set lower then your picture will be darker; if it’s set higher, the image will be brighter. Beware treading too close to the line: if the ISO sensitivity is too high then it can make your image look grainy and pixelated. The ISO sensitivity is particularly important when taking pictures at night. That’s right, if you want to get a picture of Batman then you’re going to have to pay special attention to your ISO sensitivity.


The aperture setting, measured in ‘f-stops’, decides precisely how much light the lens lets in. F/2.0 is quite a wide aperture, whilst f/15 is fairly narrow. Now, in layman’s terms, if you’re taking a picture of something bright you’ll need a narrower aperture and a higher f-stop; if you’re taking a picture of something darker it’ll be the other way around.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed measures how long the camera’s shutter opens for to let light in. The longer the shutter is open for (ie. the slower the shutter speed) the more light will be let in. For moving objects you’ll typically want a quicker shutter speed so the imagine doesn’t blur. Unless that’s what you’re going for, of course – who are we to straightjacket your artistic tendencies?

If you want to give this trick a go, why not check out the range of high-end cameras available to rent from nearby photographers on Fat Lama?
Whilst it may seem daunting at first, once you dig into the nitty gritty of your camera’s exposure settings, you’ll improve your picture-taking in no time. The auto-settings on your camera can probably handle all of the above for you, but then where would be the fun in that?

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