How To Use Your Fancy New Camera: A No-nonsense Beginners Guide to the Exposure Triangle.
I imagine some of you got a fancy new camera over the holidays, and now, you want to learn how to use it. Well, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with a how-to blog post on the matter, because I was once you. If you are new to photography, the first thing you need to learn is how to shoot in manual mode, this means learning to understand your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings, so here goes.
Aperture, think of aperture as a window that lets light into your picture, the lower the aperture, the more light you let through the window. The higher the aperture setting, the less light you let through the window.
Here’s a diagram I grabbed from thephotographerblog.com to help you understand what is essentially, the shutters on your camera’s window.
Shutter Speed accounts for how long you leave the window open. Faster shutter speeds keep photos sharp but let less light in the photo. Slower shutter speeds let more light in but can increase blurriness.
ISO is the other setting you need to pay attention to, keep it low, unless your shooting in low light, then dial it up, but expect grainy photos the higher your ISO setting gets.
Here are some examples that hopefully help you better understand what all these settings mean.
In this picture, my aperture setting is low. It’s letting in light, but it’s also narrowing the focus point otherwise referred to as the depth of field. The shutter speed is quick, and the focus is in the center, and the rest of the photo is soft and blurred.
Aperture: 1.8 | Shutter Speed: 800 | ISO: 200
In the photo below, the aperture is set higher, which lets less light in but also puts more of the leaves in focus leaving fewer leaves out of focus and blurry. To compensate for the darkness of the higher aperture I had to slow my shutter speed down and let in more light. And to compensate for the resulting blurriness and remaining darkness I dialed up my ISO.
Aperture: 6.3 |Shutter Speed: 250 | ISO: 640
Here is a photo of my sons little truck, and a shot of the back of my camera so you can see what the settings look like practically, in live view.
If all of this is confusing you, good because no one ever said photography was going to be easy, but if it’s worth doing, its worth doing right. So make your priority to learn these three settings, but if you’re feeling discouraged remember you can take good photos with minimal effort especially in uncomplicated lighting situations.
For example, this picture of my cat I left the aperture open and the shutter speed high, that coupled with good lighting, and a 75mm portrait lens and a perfectly still cat yielded the following:
Aperture: 1.8 | Shutter Speed: 640 | ISO: 200
If you follow my Instagram, you saw the edit of this photo. Editing is a whole other matter, and I think at first it’s exciting to take pictures and edit them but when you start out focusing on the post edit, you lose sight of getting it right in camera. Take it from me, getting it right in camera by becoming comfortable with aperture, ISO, and shutter speed is the key to your favorite photo’s not the filter or post edit.
The moral of the story is that sometimes you want the background blurry and the photo’s subject in close focus, for that you’ll want a lens with a low aperture setting available, like 1.8-2.8. Or if you are trying to get more than one subject in focus, you will want a higher aperture setting like 6.3 or higher.
I hope this post is helpful to anyone who should chance upon it while starting their photography journey. I’d like to add that I am an amateur photographer and am still learning myself, but I remember where I came from and I remember how hard it was to find straightforward posts that didn’t include long-winded videos with annoying songs.
To learn more about the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) follow this link: