Understanding the Concept of Camera Exposure in Photography

In Artwork Skills, Photography Skills

Generally, after buying a digital camera either SLR or point & shoot, many people rely on its auto mode. Auto mode is the easiest and quickest way, but it doesn’t yield more creativity satisfaction. Therefore, to improve your photography skills, you have to understand about camera exposure. Knowing how to set the elements of exposure in your camera means you know how to produce high-quality snapshots in different conditions of light strength.

If you want to improve your photography skills, especially in auto mode and want to conduct your creative spirit into photography work, you need to understand the concept of exposure in photography. A popular photographer, Bryan Peterson, has a book titled Understanding Exposure. The book explains the concept of exposure as easy as possible to be understood.

Exposure Triangle

Peterson illustrates about three elements you must know to understand what camera exposure is. He names the relationship among the three as a The Photography Triangle. Some photographers also call it as the Exposure Triangle. Each element in the triangle of photography is associated with light. It’s about how the light enters and interacts with the camera.

Understanding the Concept of Camera Exposure in Photography
The Exposure Triangle: ISO Speed, Aperture, and Shutter Speed.

Camera Exposure

Camera exposure is how much strength of light a camera needs to make an image becomes visible when it’s been captured. The camera exposure is determined by the three elements or three camera settings: ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

The Three Elements of Exposure in Photography (The Exposure Triangle)

  • ISO Speed – the measure of how sensitive the camera sensor towards light
  • Aperture – how large the lens opens when taking a photo
  • Shutter Speed – the time span “window” in the front of an opened camera sensor is open

The interaction among these three elements is what the Exposure is. The change in one of the three elements will result in changes in the other elements.

The Parable of the Exposure Triangle

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the exposure is to provide a parable. In this case, the parable of the exposure triangle is a water faucet.

  • Shutter speed – how long you open the faucet.
  • Aperture – how wide you open the faucet.
  • ISO Speed – the speed or strength of the water source to flow the water.
  • While the flowing water through the faucet is the incoming light to the camera sensor.

Certainly, this is not a perfect parable, but at least you get the basic idea. As you can imagine, if the camera exposure as the amount of flowing water out of a faucet, it means that you can change the camera exposure value by changing one or a combination of the three constituent elements. If you change the shutter speed, it likes you are setting how long the water faucet to open. The aperture change is like setting how much water to flow while changing how strong the push from the water source.

Finally, become proficient in using and setting the shutter speed, ISO speed and, the aperture on your camera is the most important part of improving your photography skills.

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