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Photography Settings for Beginners

If you've picked yourself up a camera and your shots are a bit blurry, bright or dark - then this one's for you.

The Triangle of Light.

The triangle of light is made up of three elements that as a photographer, you will want to know ASAP.

  1. APERTURE

  2. SHUTTER SPEED

  3. ISO

Together, the trio determines whether a photograph is exposed correctly or not i.e. whether your shot is correctly lit and not too bright or dark!

Image credit: Studio Binder


Each element coexists with one another, meaning if you adjust one, you will need to make the necessary adjustment to another to balance the exposure of a shot.

So, what do each of the elements mean on their own and what are their functions?


APERTURE: Also known as the F-stop, aperture determines the focal length of your image and the amount of light that enters your lens.


In practice, a lower aperture e.g. F2.8 will give you a nice, blurred background. It creates a depth of field, also allowing more light to enter the lens. (a brighter shot)


A higher aperture e.g. F.22 will give you a detailed image with very little blur in your image. Almost everything should be in focus as the lens is now letting less light in.


SHUTTER SPEED: This controls the amount of motion blur in your image and how quickly your camera shutter captures the shot. Changing this setting to a higher shutter speed will give you crisp results, which in sport is key! BUT it will make your image darker. (Knowing the information in the last paragraph, this should tell you to let more light in by lowering your aperture... see the flow on effect?)


A lower shutter speed, e.g. 1/25 will allow a great deal of light in, but as a consequence any movement in your frame will produce motion blur. It can be used creatively like timelapses but for the most part you will probably want to sit around 1/100 depending on your subject matter.


ISO: The ISO of a camera is the camera's way of allowing light into the sensor. Depending on your environment you may need to bump the ISO up, or crank it all the way down. In daylight you should have it between 100-800.


The only danger of having a high ISO is creating grain in your image and having a photography with noise.


Putting it into practice!

If you've got a friend, take turns photographing portraits of each other and get use to exposing a photo correctly.


For portrait photography, I would start with dropping the aperture as low as possible as your starting point. This will give you a nice blurry background to start with. (If you want that look! If not play around with it)


Next, drop the ISO all the way down. That way you make sure your image is free from any sort of grain.


Finally, depending on what the shutter speed is already, you can bump up to 1/100 or 1/250. If your image is too bright at this point, go higher with the shutter speed. If it's looking a little dark already at 1/250, this is where you experiment with the ISO to make sure nothing is 'blown out' or grainy. I would recommend playing with an ISO within 400-1000.


*If you're camera has zebra settings, I would recommend setting it up so that you have a warning to the amount of light your image contains.


This should give you the recipe for a well-lit portrait.

Depending on your subject and what you're shooting, you'll have to work out what works best for you and your camera.


It's a hands-on type of learning. So, grab your camera and get out there.

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