The Camera Settings that Control Exposure and How to Use Them: part2

Photographic Exposure and The Settings You Use to Control It!   Revised Edition to correct grammar and make more readable. 

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Carolina.Beach.SM.Edit.snap-Here we are again. If you remember last time we went over what exposure is, and a little on how a camera works, and the controls you use to get the best exposure. You ready to learn more on how to use aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Exposure again is the amount of light reaching the camera’s recording media, either film or a sensor with digital. The settings that you or the camera uses to control the light is the aperture and the shutter speed. We will touch on both here. starting with aperture, then shutter speed, and we will touch on ISO also. 

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The aperture mechanism is usually a leaf of blades that creates a circular opening inside the camera, or in most cases the lens for those cameras that have interchangeable lenses. The blades are opened wider or closed to let in more or less light, allowing it to then pass to the recording media. For ease of reading and writing, I will use sensor as the recording media since most of us are probably using a digital camera these days. Some of you may have an older film cameras either one your parents had, or you bought one many years ago, or are trying to use film to keep the old school nostalgia! Then others taking photography classes in school may still be using film. Either way, you’ll know if we say sensor it also will mean film unless there is a need to mention film separately due to some types of different properties of film than of sensors.

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The aperture is measured in f-stops such as f3.5 or f22. For now, I will just mention that the smaller number (f3.5) is the wider opening and the larger number f-stops (f22) are a smaller opening. So a setting of f3.5 lets in more light than f22, and f22 lets in much less light. The further down the scale you go the wider the opening. As you may have figured, f8 lets in more light than f22, and less light than f3.5. It takes getting used to, so get your camera and it’s manual out and start getting familiar with the settings, and where and how you go about changing your camera’s aperture and shutter speed. 

If you have a detachable lens, and it has a manual ring to change the f-stops, turn it while looking through the back end of the lens (The end that attaches to the camera), and you should see the difference in the openings as you turn the ring. You do this while the lens is taken off the camera body. Take notice of the f-stop number you change with each turn of the ring to and how wide the opening is, and then you will get more familiar with f-stops and how they affect the light hitting the sensor. Now along with aperture you need to set a corresponding shutter speed to get an exposure you’ll deem acceptable, or to your artistic liking. 

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is either set by a dial on the top of the camera body, or by adjusting it with a button or wheel on the back of the camera, and you can see the settings numbers for shutter speed and aperture in the LCD window on the back of the camera, a small screen at the top of your camera (if lucky enough to have a higher end digital model of camera), or you can seethese setting numbers in the viewfinder. The shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, 1/60, 1/250, 1/320, etc, and pronounced a 60th of a second, and so forth. Oh yeah, sometimes I may assume you are familiar with the workings of a camera but I shouldn’t do that. We are all at different levels, and knowledge about photography and how a camera works.

The shutters in single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, or point and shoots commonly called compact cameras operate on the same principle, which is a focal-plane shutter which is made up of two metallic or cloth blinds. The blinds are a thin membrane of whichever material and work together by one opening to let light in to expose the sensor, and the other to close to shut out the light from reaching the sensor. Does that sound a little complicated? Well in some ways it is. The two blinds have to be synchronized to open. and close at the right times to produce the correct shutter speed you set while also being coordinated so that the image is not cut off. When and if we have a chapter that goes into more depth on the workings of different cameras, and all the settings, bells and whistles available these days we will surely explain the shutter principle more deeply and thoroughly. Next up ISO, and this one is rather short for now.

ISO Explained

The ISO of films, which is called the speed of the film or sensor setting is a set amount of sensitivity to light, The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light it is, or it can gather and records lower amounts of light to expose it correctly as you go up in ISO numbers. The digital sensors of the DSLR cameras, and the digital point-and-shoots or compact cameras work off a similar principle as the different ISO’s of film. It is just that in a digital camera the light sensitivity is changed by light-sensing spots on the sensor being turned on or off to produce different sensitivities. With either film or a digital sensor, the more sensitive to light the grainier the image gets when developed or downloaded into the computer. 

When we talk of grain it refers to the dots or pixels being bigger, and it can show up in your photographs, especially if enlarged very big. Some cameras can take pictures in low light and control the amount of grain so it is less noticeable. The more expensive ones usually have the better low light qualities. Of course, right.

Well. we really covered a lot! You did superbly well, especially if you are reading this, I must have kept your attention fairly well. One other quick note about aperture, it is what affects depth of field. The wider the opening (smaller #) the less depth of field, and the narrower the opening in the lens the more depth of field. Depth’s of field refers to how much the rest of the picture is in focus in front and behind where your focus point is.         Click Me!“> Sign-UP                    more↓

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Now that is about all for now.

I hope you understood it all and were able to grasp the ideas and concepts to getting good, to great exposures. We will cover all the other terms I mentioned in more detail, even the 3 “Holy Grails” of exposure. Remember – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This is where you have an assignment. Try looking up where you can read what the camera is telling you should be the right exposure and pay attention to what looks like is lit up more, and also what is in shadow in your final image. Change the shutter speed, or aperture to see its effects on exposure. Bracket some shots by taking a correct exposure and one or two overexposed and one or two underexposed, taking notes for each shot – the settings, amounts of stops over and under exposed for each number of the frame exposed. Hope that made sense?? If you are fairly new to photography this will be a great exercise. Now go to it!

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Photographer and writer: @Tony Ballas

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5 Responses to “The Camera Settings that Control Exposure and How to Use Them: part2”

  1. Signe Boys says:

    Excellent post. I’m going through a few of these issues as well..|

    • mballas says:

      Dear Signa Boys,

      I am trying to start up a group of beginner and Intermediate photographers to share photos, ideas, common problems, and technical knowledge with each other.
      I would be honored to have you and any others that want to join in, learn and share your knowledge with the group to sign up or comment on the Advance Complete Photography facebook page;
      and you can email me at: We are setting the member page with galleries you can display pictures from, and a forum for all topics photographic related.
      COME JOIN US! Respectfully, @TONY

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