Triangle of Exposure

Triangle of Exposure

Photographers hear all the time, “your pictures come out so well. What camera do you use?” Yes the equipment that photographers use is important, but only for the fact that they need it in order to be in their line of work. If a photographer did not have a camera, it would be pretty hard for him or her to be the picture taker. A photographer spends time with their camera when they first get it. Learning everything they can about it, like where the buttons are for the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, a long with many other settings that they will need to know how to get to like the back of their hand.

The big thing that many people don’t realize is how important ISO, aperture, and shutter speed is for a picture. Each one affects the other two, just like if you change a side on a triangle, the other sides are adjusted as well. Thus giving you, the exposure triangle.

Here are the three elements to the Triangle of Exposure are:

  1. ISO – the measure of sensitivity to light (graininess)
  2. Shutter Speed – the amount of time that the shutter is open (motion)
  3. Aperture – the size of the opening in the lens when taking a picture (depth of field)

 Triangle of Exposure

A good way to think of each one is by creating a metaphor for yourself. I like to think of ISO as sunglasses, this is due to the fact that when you lower your camera’s ISO it makes your camera read a neutral or darker light. Just like when you put sunglasses on when your outside, your are taking away the brightness of the sun, ISO does the same thing for light in your picture.

I use a metaphor that includes shutter speed and aperture together. I read this metaphor on Digital Photography School’s website. (Yes I still need reminders sometimes on what everything is). Think of a window with shutters, the window represents the aperture. Depending on how big your window is, that’s the size of the opening in your lens. The larger the window, the larger the opening, and the more light gets in. The shutters are your shutter speed. If you open and close your shutters quickly less light is going to get through. When you have your shutter speed set to be open longer, you will get more light and a brighter picture.

Lighting will always affect all three elements in the triangle of exposure. Now you know what each one does and a metaphor to go along with it. Here is an example, you set your ISO to 12800 and the aperture to ƒ3.5, your shutter speed will need to be lower so that your picture is not blown out. The best part now is that you’re probably using a digital camera, which means that you can practice without worrying about the cost of developing pictures. Many cameras now give you an option to put one of the elements into auto while you adjust the other two, by doing this you will get a chance to slowly ease your self into shooting full manual versus full auto.

Another thing to note about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed is that they also affect other elements. ISO affects the graininess of your image, Shutter speed affects motion that is captured, and aperture affects depth of field. I will talk about each of these in another post.


I’d love to see what pictures you take with your new knowledge of shooting in manual mode. Share your pictures in the comments below or on Facebook or Google+.


Professional head shot by Tonya Moken.

Professional head shot by Tonya Moken.

Tonya Moken is the owner of TLM Productions, LLC, a business focusing on you in Somerdale, NJ. Please call TLM Productions’ Tonya Moken at 609.440.6176 or email her at for a project quote today!


Tonya Moken created TLM Productions, LLC because of her love of story telling through the mediums of videography and photography. Everyone has a story to tell, and Tonya wants to help you tell yours.

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