The Exposure Triangle Part 4 – Bringing it All Together

In our exciting conclusion to the exposure triangle series I will bring all of the individual elements together and explain my general thoughts on how I choose settings and modes.

The exposure triangle is the general concept that the elements of your exposure need to be balanced.  This is really more of an art than a science and takes lots of practice to master.  When shooting in automatic mode your camera uses various algorithms to determine what settings should be used.  If you’re shooting in a manual or semi manual (aperture/shutter priority) you need to choose some or all of these settings on your own.  Below I’ll be outlining a general guideline for how I choose settings, but the best way to learn is to experiment with all the various modes.

Unless I have lots of time to think about and compose a shot I prefer to keep my camera set to aperture priority mode with the ISO set to manual.  Aperture is usually my most important setting, depth of field can have a huge impact on your final photo and I always like to have that in mind when I shoot. I prefer manual ISO because I like to keep it set as low as possible for the highest image quality, and up the setting if the shutter would otherwise be to slow to handhold.  I usually set ISO around 200 when I’m outside and it’s moderately sunny, 400-800 when I’m inside and it’s sunny out, bumping up to a maximum of around 1600 when it’s darker. This maximum limit is more a limitation of my camera than a hard limit for ISO in general.

I tend to shoot with a wide aperture, f/ 1.8 to f/ 2.8, part of this is because it assures that I can almost always hand hold a shot, so if something unexpected happens I can usually get a picture without fiddling with the camera.  I’m also huge fan of bokeh, with the right lens it can make your images look dreamy and ethereal.  When I change my aperture setting the first thing to think about is how much of my subject do I want in focus, and the second thing is how much of the background do I want in focus.

The shots below were taken using this basic process for choosing settings, generally low ISO and a wide aperture, finding interesting subjects as I was out and about.

DSC_8348_2 DSC_8347_2

For taking motion shots, if I’m trying to take fast pictures I’ll usually change to shutter speed priority and then usually bump the ISO higher than normal so I can maintain that fast shutter speed.  For longer exposures where I need a tripod, I like to use manual mode.  This lets me control all the aspects of the shot and make sure nothing has changed between attempts.  An example of a fast shot is below, this was taken in shutter speed priority on an unfortunately cloudy day so I wasn’t able to shoot with as fast a shutter as I would have liked.


Again, all of the above are just my thoughts on how I like to shoot.  Go out try my method, make up your own, experiment, and have fun doing it.

My next post is about some of the basic composition rules.



2 thoughts on “The Exposure Triangle Part 4 – Bringing it All Together

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