Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture – A Beginner’s Guide

It is difficult to take good pictures without having a solid understanding of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture – the Three Kings of Photography, also known as the “Exposure Triangle”. While most new DSLRs have “Auto” modes that automatically pick the right shutter speed, aperture and even ISO for your exposure, using an Auto mode puts limits on what you can achieve with your camera. In many cases, the camera has to guess what the right exposure should be by evaluating the amount of light that passes through the lens. Thoroughly understanding how ISO, shutter speed and aperture work together allows photographers to fully take charge of the situation by manually controlling the camera. Knowing how to adjust the settings of the camera when needed, helps to get the best out of your camera and push it to its limits to take great photographs.

Let’s quickly review a summary of the Exposure Triangle as a refresher:

  1. ISO – the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. It is typically measured in numbers, a lower number representing lower sensitivity to available light, while higher numbers mean more sensitivity. More sensitivity comes at the cost though, as the ISO increases, so does the grain/noise in the images. Examples of ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600.
  2. Shutter Speed – the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. Shutter speeds are typically measured in fractions of a second, when they are under a second. Slow shutter speeds allow more light into the camera sensor and are used for low-light and night photography, while fast shutter speeds help to freeze motion. Examples of shutter speeds: 1/15 (1/15th of a second), 1/30, 1/60, 1/125.
  3. Aperture – a hole within a lens, through which light travels into the camera body. The larger the hole, the more light passes to the camera sensor. Aperture also controls the depth of field, which is the portion of a scene that appears to be sharp. If the aperture is very small, the depth of field is large, while if the aperture is large, the depth of field is small. In photography, aperture is typically expressed in “f” numbers (also known as “focal ratio”, since the f-number is the ratio of the diameter of the lens aperture to the length of the lens). Examples of f-numbers are: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0.

1) How do the Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO work together to create an exposure?

To have a good understanding about exposure and how shutter speed, aperture and ISO affect it, we need to understand what happens within the camera when a picture is taken.

As you point your camera at a subject and press the shutter button, the subject gets into your camera lens in a form of light. If your subject is well-lit, there is plenty of light that travels into the lens, whereas if you are taking a picture in a dim environment, there is not much light that travels into the lens. When the light enters the lens, it passes through various optical elements made of glass, then goes through the lens “Aperture” (a hole inside the lens that can be changed from small to large). Once the light goes past the lens aperture, it then hits the shutter curtain, which is like a window that is closed at all times, but opens when needed. The shutter then opens in a matter of milliseconds, letting the light hit the camera sensor for a specified amount of time. This specified amount of time is called “Shutter Speed” and it can be extremely short (up to 1/8000th of a second) or long (up to 30 seconds). The sensor then gathers the light, based on a pre-defined sensitivity, also known as “ISO”. Then the shutter closes and the light is completely blocked from reaching the camera sensor.

To get the image properly exposed, so that it is not too bright or too dark, Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO need to play together. When lots of light enters the lens (let’s say it is broad daylight with plenty of sunlight), what happens when the lens aperture/hole is very small? Lots of light gets blocked. This means that the camera sensor would need more time to collect the light. What needs to happen for the sensor to collect the right amount of light? That’s right, the shutter needs to stay open longer. So, with a very small lens aperture, we would need more time, i.e. longer shutter speed for the sensor to gather enough light to produce a properly exposed image.

Now what would happen if the lens aperture/hole was very big? Obviously, a lot more light would hit the sensor, so we would need a much shorter shutter speed for the image to get properly exposed. If the shutter speed is too low, the sensor would get a lot more light than it needs and the light would start “burning” or “overexposing” the image, just like magnifying glass starts burning paper on a sunny day. The overexposed area of the image will look very bright or pure white. In contrast, if the shutter speed is way too high, then the sensor is not able to gather enough light and the image would appear “underexposed” or too dark.

Underexposed-Normal-Overexposed

Underexposed (left) Normal (center) Overexposed (right)

Let’s do a real-life example. Grab your camera and set your camera mode to “Aperture Priority“. Set your lens aperture on your camera to the lowest possible number the lens will allow, such as f/1.4 if you have a fast lens or f/3.5 on slower lenses. Set your ISO to 200 and make sure that “Auto ISO” is turned off. Now point your camera at an object that is NOT a light source (for example a picture on the wall) then half-press the shutter button to acquire correct focus and let the camera determine the optimal exposure settings. Do not move your camera and keep pointing at the same subject! If you look inside the camera viewfinder now or on the back LCD, you should see several numbers. One of the numbers will show your aperture, which should be the same number as what you set your aperture to, then it should show your shutter speed, which should be a number such as “125″ (means 1/125th of a second) and “200″, which is your sensor ISO.

Nikon D5000 Viewfinder

Nikon D5000 Viewfinder

Write down these numbers on a piece of paper and then take a picture. When the picture comes up on the rear LCD of your camera, it should be properly exposed. It might be very blurry, but it should be properly exposed, which means not too bright or too dark. Let’s say the settings you wrote down are 3.5 (aperture), 125 (shutter speed) and 200 (ISO). Now change your camera mode to “Manual Mode“. Manually set your aperture to the same number as you wrote down, which should be the lowest number your camera lens will allow (in our example it is 3.5). Then set your shutter speed to the number you wrote down (in our example it is 125) and keep your ISO the same – 200. Make sure your lighting conditions in the room stay the same. Point at the same subject and take another picture. Your results should look very similar to the picture you took earlier, except this time, you are manually setting your camera shutter speed, instead of letting your camera make the guess. Now, let’s block the amount of light that is passing through the lens by increasing the aperture and see what happens. Increase your aperture to a larger number such as “8.0″ and keep the rest of the settings the same. Point at the same subject and take another picture. What happened? Your image is too dark or underexposed now! Why did this happen? Because you blocked a portion of the light that hits the sensor and did not change the shutter speed. Because of this, the camera sensor did not have enough time to gather the light and therefore the image is underexposed. Had you decreased the shutter speed to a smaller number, this would not have happened. Understand the relationship?

Now change your aperture back to what it was before (smallest number), but this time, decrease your shutter speed to a much smaller number. In my example, I will set my shutter speed to 4 (quarter of a second) from 125. Take another picture. Now your image should be overexposed and some parts of the image should appear too bright. What happened this time? You let your lens pass through all the light it can gather without blocking it, then you let your sensor gather more light then it needs by decreasing the shutter speed. This is a very basic explanation of how aperture and shutter speed play together.

So, when does ISO come into play and what does it do? So far, we kept the ISO at the same number (200) and didn’t change it. Remember, ISO means sensor sensitivity. Lower numbers mean lower sensitivity, while higher numbers mean higher sensitivity. If you were to change your ISO from 200 to 400, you would be making the sensor twice more sensitive to light. In the above example, at aperture of f/3.5, shutter speed of 1/125th of a second and ISO 200, if you were to increase the ISO to 400, you would need twice less time to properly expose the image. This means that you could set your shutter speed to 1/250th of a second and your image would still come out properly exposed. Try it – set your aperture to the same number you wrote down earlier, multiply your shutter speed by two and set it to that number, then change your ISO to 400. It should look the same as the first image you took earlier. If you were to increase the ISO to 800, you would need to again double your last shutter speed from 1/250 to 1/500.

As you can see, increasing ISO from 200 to 800 will allow you to shoot at higher shutter speeds and in this example increase it from 1/125th of a second to 1/500th of a second, which is plenty of speed to freeze motion. However, increasing ISO comes at a cost – the higher the ISO, the more noise or grain it will add to the picture.

Basically, this is how the Three Kings work together to create an exposure. I highly recommend practicing with your camera more to see the effects of changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

2) What camera mode should I be using?

As I pointed out in my “Understanding Digital Camera Modes” article, I recommend using “Aperture Priority” mode for beginners (although any other mode works equally well, as long as you know what you are doing). In this mode, you set your lens aperture, while the camera automatically guesses what the right shutter speed should be. This way, you can control the depth of field in your images by changing the aperture (depth of field also depends on other factors such as camera to subject distance and focal length). There is absolutely nothing wrong with using “Auto” or “Program” modes, especially considering the fact that most modern DSLRs give the photographer pretty good control by allowing to override the shutter speed and aperture in those modes. But most people get lazy and end up using the Auto/Program modes without understanding what happens inside the camera, so I highly recommend to learn how to shoot in all camera modes.

3) What ISO should I set my camera to?

If your camera is equipped with an “Auto ISO” feature (known as “ISO Sensitivity Auto Control” on Nikon bodies), you should enable it, so that the camera automatically guesses what the right ISO should be in different lighting conditions. Auto ISO is worry-free and it works great for most lighting conditions! Set your “Minimum ISO/ISO Sensitivity” to 100 on Canon cameras and 200 on latest Nikon cameras, then set your “Maximum ISO/Maximum Sensitivity” to 800 or 1600 (depending on how much noise you consider acceptable). Set the “Minimum Shutter Speed” to 1/100th of a second if you have a short lens below 100mm and to a higher number if you have a long lens. Basically, the camera will watch your shutter speed and if it drops below the “Minimum Shutter Speed”, it will automatically increase the ISO to a higher number, to try to keep the shutter speed above this setting. The general rule is to set your shutter speed to the largest focal length of your lens. For example, if you have a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens, set your minimum shutter speed to 1/300th of a second. Why? Because as the focal length of the lens increases, so do the chances of having a camera shake that will render your images blurry. But this rule doesn’t always work, because there are other factors that all play a role in whether you will introduce camera shake or not. Having shaky hands and improperly holding the camera might cause extra camera shake, while having a lens with Vibration Reduction (also known as Image Stabilization) might actually help to decrease camera shake. Either way, play with the “Minimum Shutter Speed” option and try changing numbers and see what works for you.

Auto ISO on Nikon

If you do not have an “Auto ISO” option in your camera, then start out with the lowest ISO and see what shutter speeds you are getting. Keep on increasing the ISO until you get to an acceptable shutter speed.

4) Exposure Compensation

Another great feature of all modern DSLRs, is the ability to control the exposure by using the “exposure compensation” feature. Except for manual mode, exposure compensation works great for all camera modes. Whether you are shooting in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Auto/Program modes, dialing the exposure compensation up or down (plus to minus) will allow you to regulate the exposure and override the camera-guessed settings. If you find your image (or parts of your image) underexposed or overexposed, you can use exposure compensation to adjust the exposure without manually changing the aperture or shutter speed.

5) Should you use flash or increase ISO?

It really depends on what you are taking a picture of. Sometimes it is not possible to use your built-in camera flash in a low-light environment. For example, if your subject is standing far away, you might not be able to reach the subject with your flash. In that case, the only solution is to either come closer to the subject, or turn off flash completely and use a higher ISO. Obviously, for landscape or architectural photography, you should always turn off your flash, because it will not be able to brighten up the entire scene. So in a low-light situation, the only two options are to either increase the ISO so that you can shoot hand-held, or set the camera to the lowest ISO and use a tripod.

6) What are “full stops”?

Have you ever heard of a term “full stop” in photography? Each of the increments between ISO numbers is called “a full stop” in photography. For example, there is one full stop between ISO 100 and ISO 200, while there are two full stops between ISO 100 and ISO 400. How many stops are there between ISO 100 and ISO 1600? That’s right, four full stops of light. Why do you need to know about stops? Because you might see it in photography literature or photographer might mention stops and it is sometimes confusing to understand what it truly means. But the term “full stop” does not just apply to ISOs – the same concept is there for shutter speed and aperture. It is easy to remember full stops between shutter speeds, because you just start from one and divide the number by two: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, etc. Obviously, the numbers are rounded (starting from 1/15, which should be 1/16) to make it easy for photography. It is harder to memorize stops in apertures, because the numbers are computed differently: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, etc.

7) Specific examples and case scenarios

Let’s now go over what you could do in your camera to properly expose an image in different lighting conditions.

  1. What should I do in low-light situations? Use Aperture-Priority mode, set your aperture to the lowest possible number. Be careful if you have a fast lens such as Nikon 50mm f/1.4, because setting aperture to the lowest number (f/1.4) will make the depth of field very shallow. Set your “Auto ISO” to “On” (if you have it) and make sure that the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed are both defined, as shown in section 3. If after increasing your ISO you are still getting small shutter speeds (which means that you are in a very dim environment), your only other options are to either use a tripod or a flash. If you have moving subjects that need to be “frozen”, you will have to use flash.
  2. What do I need to do to freeze action? First, you will need plenty of light. Freezing action during the broad daylight is easy, whereas it is extremely tough to do it in low-light situations. Assuming you have plenty of light, make sure that your aperture is set to the lowest number (again, be careful about depth of field), then set your “Auto ISO” to “On” (if you have it) and set your minimum shutter speed to a really high number such as 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second. For my bird photography, I try to keep shutter speeds at 1/1000th of a second and faster:
  3. Caspian Tern - 1/2000th of a second

    Caspian Tern - 1/2000th of a second

  4. What settings do I need to change to create a motion blur effect? Turn off Auto ISO and set your ISO to the lowest number. If the shutter speed is too fast and you still cannot create motion blur, increase aperture to a higher number until the shutter speed drops to a low number below 1/100-1/50 of a second.
  5. What do I do if I cannot get proper exposure? The image is either too dark or too bright. Make sure that you are not shooting in Manual Mode. Set your camera meter to “Evaluative” (Canon) or “Matrix” (Nikon). If it is already set and you are still getting improper exposure, it means that you are probably taking a picture where there is a big contrast between multiple objects (for example bright sky and dark mountains, or sun in the frame) – whatever you are trying to take a picture of is confusing the meter within your camera. If you still need to take a picture, set your camera meter to “Spot” and try to point your focus point to an area that is not too bright or too dark. That way you get the “sweet middle”.
  6. How can I isolate my subject from the background and make the background (bokeh) look soft and smooth? Stand closer to your subject and use the smallest aperture on your lens. Some lenses can render background much better and smoother than others. If you do not like the bokeh on yours, consider getting a good portrait lens such as the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 or the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, which is considered to be the best lens when it comes to bokeh.
  7. How can I decrease the amount of noise/grain in my images? Turn off “Auto ISO” and set your ISO to the base ISO of the camera (ISO 100 on Canon and ISO 200 on Nikon).

Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Kernan Davis

    While looking for information on “PILAF” I came upon your site on photography. In 1949, I received an Argus 35mm camera. I still have it, but seldom use it. Now I have a cheap Canon digital that works fine. But your review of the Three Kings helped me to understand what I have been doing, and should do better.

    Thank you. Now I must go and cook chicken and cashews with pilaf.

    • Kernan, thank you for leaving feedback and visiting our blog! :)

      Let us know how your pilaf turns out and good luck with your photography!

      • 67
        ) Roman

        You guys are phenomenal. There is so much of useful information here!!! Unbelievable! The Best website about photography.. I also really enjoy reading the case scenarios about when to use staff – very important. Sometimes you just can’t figure out when to use a certain mode or make an adjustment to the camera… Keep on! Best regards and best wishes to all who take part in developing this website! EEEEhhhaaaaa

      • Hi Nasim Mansurov,

        I went thru your “Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture – A Beginner’s Guide”
        Read more: http://photographylife.com/iso-shutter-speed-and-aperture-for-beginners#ixzz2OlEHfRgy.
        indeed it is very useful for a beginner. Thanks for making such a wonderful guide for a beginner.
        I have Nikon D60, but I am unable to do the setting like Shutter Speed, Aperture setting. Could you please help me on the same.

      • Great writing. I would like to invite you to my blog. Please take a look at my tutorials and give me some feedback. Cheers http://photoaffiliates.com/learning-photography-shutter-speed-and-f-stop/

  2. 3
    ) Pauline

    ‘Specific examples and case scenario’ is a great help.
    Now, I feel that I can take a freezing shot of a bird.
    Thank you!

  3. Excellent information….really really helpful! Now it’s time to get out and practice!

    • Dan, thank you for your feedback! Please let us know if you have any questions.

  4. 7
    ) ray

    thanks for the great info (love the case scenario part)… gives me confident adjusting my camera…

    • Ray, you are most welcome! Please let me know if you have any questions.

  5. 9
    ) Thomas

    Thank you very much for the detailed guide!

    Being a first-time DSLR user, this guide has really provided all the explanations I need! It also boost my confidence for taking great action pics during this coming weekend’s Formula Drift motorsport event!

    Once again, thank you!

    • Thomas, you are most welcome! Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment :)

  6. 11
    ) Lori

    I have just gotten serious with photography. I have a Nikon D3000 and a friend of mine let me borrow there flash to play with. I dont understand how to adjust the settings to what i have on my camera. My nephew will be graduating this weekend and i will be taking pics inside a gym that most probably will be low lighting. Please help!! What should I se this flash on?

    Oh by the way, your site has been the most informative of any that I have visited. Thank you so much for giving of your time and wisdom to us that want to learn.

    • Lori, I am very sorry for responding to your message so late. Just set your flash to TTL and fire away – it should work for most lighting situations.

      Let me know if you have any other questions and I will do my best to respond right away.

  7. 13
    ) Sarena

    Hi Nasim,

    I’m very new in this DSLR thingy and just got myself a Nikon D90.

    Your website is very informative especially for a beginner like me. Thank you so much for all the guides you have provided and now i just need to practice & practice! :)

    Thumbs up for you!!

    • Sarena, you are most welcome and thanks for visiting our blog!

  8. salam,
    thank you for the great informations (as you usually did!).somehow,i still having a problem in understanding about shutter speed.from what i’ve understood,fast shutter speed was used to freeze the moment,slow shutter speed to blur the motion,right?(correct me if i’m wrong).the question is,what is fast and slow shutter speed?what is low and high shutter speed ?is it 1/3 is considered as fast and high?then how about 1/2000?is it considered as slow and low shutter speed?very confusing term…please shed some light on this.thank you!

    • Izzah, yes, fast shutter speeds are for freezing motion and slow shutter speeds are for creating motion blur. 1/3 is considered to be very slow, 1/2000 is certainly fast. I consider anything below 1/50 to be slow (obviously depending on the focal length of the lens).

  9. 17
    ) Kai

    Hi Nasim,

    Great site! Been reading a lot of your articles. A good balance of theory and practical application of a DSLR. I just want to appreciate how you’ve ‘nailed’ a very clear, simple and informative explanation of the ‘exposure triangle.’ Loving my Nikon D90 by the way and learning a lot also on how to maximize its features, thanks to you.

    On the side, would you recommend a Nikon 50mm f1.8D as a good and less expensive alternative to the Nikon 50mm 1.4G for general photography or everyday shooting?

    Thanks and hope to read more of your posts.

    • Kai, thank you for the feedback. I would personally rather go with the newer Nikon 35mm f/1.8G for general photography…

      • 25
        ) Douglas

        Is the 35mm f/1.8G considered a portrait lense? I currently have a D7000 and have the kit lense and now a 35mm f/1.8G, I like to take mostly portrait shots but I wonder if I made the right choice buying the 35mm instead of the 50mm. My goal is to eventually to get me a 24-70 2.8 :) but that will have to wait since its an expensive lense! Also is the 50mm 1.4g that much better then the cheaper f1.8d? Sorry for all the questions and thanks again for this wonderful guides you have..

  10. 18
    ) shah

    Hello Mr.Nasim..Can u teach me in malay how to get the correct “exposure” with setting shutter speed,aperture and iso? I can’t understand very well with english…

    • Shah, I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Malay…

  11. 19
    ) JW Stallings

    Thank you for the informative article. Most of my work is portraiture and architectural shots. I have recently begun to shoot my daughters basketball events and I am completely frustrated by noise. I shoot RAW, Aperture, speed usually from 1/500,set a max auto ISO of 3200, with lens 85mm f1.8 and 70-200 f2.8, 50mm f1.8 with my nikon d700.

    When I upload into LR or PS, and expand image to 100%………I get significant noise. I am so frustrated I wonder why I ever bought over my D50. What can I do. Could someone(s) please email me.

    • JW, ISO 3200 is way too high for your D50. Set your max auto ISO to 800 instead. Doing so will cause your shutter speed to drop though and there is no easy solution to this, except adding more light to the basketball court or using flashes…

      • 31
        ) Sutanu

        Nasim,

        I had a question. Apart from tweaking ISO settings/proper lighting conditions, do you feel the effective megapixel count can have a significant effect on catching noise?

        Say I have a d3100 and normally it is set to its max pixel count i.e. 14mp. I am thinking of setting it to 8mp. With the same sensor area, if I decrease the pixel count that would provide more light to each photosite I thought.

        I know it sounds too theoretical, however I would try to come up with some more empirical results. Meanwhile just wanted to know your thoughts on this.

        Thanks,
        Sutanu

  12. 20
    ) Michael

    Thanks Nasim,
    I continually forget how these 3 kings relate and must research their respective characteristics.
    This time the internet brought me to your fantastic explanation with those very helpful examples, a great read. I feel much more confident to experiment with the D90 again.
    Thanks from Michael, Sydney, Australia.

    • Thank you for your feedback Michael, glad you found my article to be useful.

  13. 26
    ) Rosalinda Garcia

    I was wondering after doing all you have showed us do we still need to use a gray card to set the right ISO/Shutter Speed/Aperture ? I hear that we should and some doesn’t so what is the right thing to do to get the right exposure when we have a Senior waiting to get his pictures done. How about the meter? the one with the bulb?
    Is only one thing better than the other or do we need all the ones I mentioned?
    Thanks for you help in these questions

    • Rosalinda, I have never used a grey card and I don’t think I ever will. Meters in cameras are pretty darn accurate nowadays and you can always adjust the exposure with exposure compensation…

      • 28
        ) Rosalinda

        Thanks for sharing that info. I know I could google exposure compensation but I love the way you explain things in very simple terms…. I have always had trouble comprehending exposure .shutter speed. and aperture but you made it where I could comprehend it Thanks for that so I hope you don’t mind explaining how and where and when to use exposure compensation and the metering… Thank you for your time and help
        Rosalinda

  14. 29
    ) Wesley

    Could you explain how Crop Sensor and how that affects your lens (mm)

  15. 30
    ) Nikon 70D

    These are great explanations. I have a question though. I have a REALLY old Nikon D70, I received it a gift in 2004. When I go to the shutter menu, I get to choose from: 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 30″, 15″, 8″, 4″, 2″, 1″.
    While trying to understand the shutter speed, it is referred to as for example: 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, etc.
    I don’t see/understand 1/500th of a second in my shutter speed menu. Or, I guess what does my shutter menu mean. I tried referring to the manual, but it’s not really clear in there as well.
    Also, as I mentions I have a REALLY old D70 and am looking to upgrade since my camera has been to the repair shop twice already and the kit lens begun sticking (in the meantime I’ve bought a 50mm 1.4 D lens). I would like to eventually do children’s photography/portraiture. For a while I had my heart set on the d700 but I have trouble deciding whether I’d be better off with a d300 (+ a FX lens) and then once I get better then get the 700. I have taken some photos as a second photographer during my cousins wedding and of course I take/learn tons of photos of my two little kids. I have taken a lot of good photos, but I am still not confident enough to offer my services to public, especially if I can’t understand the shutter speed manual :)

    Sorry for making this a such long comment, but any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

  16. 32
    ) sameer

    I have purchased a canon sx 30 is. i am satisfied with the performance in the day light. I want to know how I can take sharp pictures with minimum noise in the night or low light conditions. I do not want grains in night pictures.

  17. 33
    ) Tracey Davdison

    Thanks so much, this has really helped me understand, iso, shutter speed and aperture. I am doing a Open Uni course and was blinded by all the tech stuff and spent nearly a whole day trying to get my head round it all, I have found your sight and spend about an hour and now understand, I have forwarded this link to friends to help them.

    Thanks Tracey

  18. 34
    ) Chintan

    Hello

    Your articles are very well written and easy to understand. I have one question about optimal exposure.

    I have Nikon D7000 and I use it in M mode, keep ISO 100 and all other settings are default (Auto WB, Matrix metering etc). When I focus the camera, I make sure that exposure indicatior in the view finder is at 0 (center). If it is not at the center, I play with aperture or shutter speed. Is this correct way to take a picture?

    Best Regards

    Chintan

  19. 35
    ) Erwandi

    Hi Nasim, your writings make photography fun. The camera manual says that u need to turn off the camera before changing the lens. What is the consequence if the camera is still in the On position and u change the lens? Many thanks

  20. 36
    ) Shubham

    Hello sir,
    I am from India.I want to know that ISO , aperture and shutter speed setting for great LANDSCAPE photo
    without using flash light..

  21. 37
    ) Jayjay

    Hi Nasim, your website came up on a google search and I’m so glad I found it. You have a way of explaining things that make it both easy to follow, and to be intuitive at the same time.

    You’ve taught me valuable information. I took a course on photography and we learned nothing about the operations of the camera. Our lecturer was more concerned with us sitting messing about with photoshop all day.

    You would make a great lecturer!

    Regards

    Jayjay

  22. 38
    ) Xandrea Stallin

    I have a Nikon D70 as my first Nikon camera. I try and get my shots to use more natural lighting but I can’t find the right settings to that my photos don’t have shady spots. I am not good with lighting and it really frustrates me when i can’t get the right shooting light. Can you help me?

  23. Hi Nasim,
    I am new to the dslr photography.I read all your photography tips for beginners and was very impressed with the way you explained the relation between aperture,shutter speed and ISO.I recently bought canon 550d with EF-S 18-55mm lens.I tried taking the photos with aperture priority mode with minimum 3.5′but I am not able to set it less than 5.6.Can you please help me.

    • 41
      ) Mujahid

      Hi Priyanka,

      18-55mm lens the aperture ratio is from 3.5 to 5.6 respectively, i.e. when you have zoomed out and are at 18mm then you can set the maximum aperture (minimum f number) to 3.5, and when you zoom in to 55mm, the maximum aperture (minimum f number) you can set is 5.6.

  24. 40
    ) B T SAWANT

    Dear Nasim
    Very Good information for bigginers like me. After my digital camera i have bought my Semi DSLR Nikon P500 yesterday and trying to find out all about it. The Three kings you have explained about are very useful. If you have some basic tips for me i will highly appreciate.
    Thanks once again Nasim
    Sawant

  25. 42
    ) JORDiAN

    Hi Nasim,

    I’m using a GE x500 camera but I can still manipulate with the three kings in manual, aperture or shutter priority modes. This beginner’s guide of yours really helps. Specially on how you explain it for us to easily understand knowing that i’m not professional photographer. Anyways, now I’m gonna practice this and off to read another topic. I might study next the “Understanding Aperture – A beginner’s guide.” or can you suggest what topic should I read next?

    Thanks A lot.

    Jordian

  26. 43
    ) Brittany

    Hi Nasim,

    Thank you for your very helpful advice! Do you have any specific suggestions when shooting in a school gymnasium with a Nikon D3000? My photos come out blurry, grainy and dark.

    Thank you!

  27. 44
    ) Anurag

    Hi Nasim ,
    I am new in photography and had just purchased a nikon d5100 from my first salary .I am very excited but the pictures i am taking from the camera are not that good and not able to use the camera to its level ,i have read the manual and few of your articles but still if you can guide me would be really helpful .i used to take pictures from mobile and normal camera they used to be really nice i would love to send some of my work for your guidence.
    Thank You
    Anurag

  28. 45
    ) priti chaurasia shaikh

    Hi Nasim…

    First of all, let me thank you for sharing all the enormous knowledge that you have about the technicalities of photography.It is a real god sent thing for beginners like me.

    I bought a Sony ( i think DX 500! would conirm and let you know) just before heading out on a safari to Kenya last year.I got some good shots, but, I couldnt take good pics in low light without flash.All my pics that I took were in the Automatic scene selection mode .But as cannot use flash for wildlife as i might scare them away, I didnt know how to get a proper setting ;o( So didnt take many pictures and missed out on lots. ( My pics are on facebook at PRITI CHAURASIA SHAIKH.

    I am going to back in Kenya this year again or the great Wildebeeste migration and want to take real good pics of them and the flamingoes at Lake Nakuru.I saw the picture of the tern u have taken and loved it with tye water drops!!!

    Please help Nasim…I cant take actio pics too well too but I know I avnt used the camera to its maximum level.
    And I didnt get a manual or instruction booklet either for all this !!!

    I would tell you the model number soon.

    Thank you very much again.

    All the best!!!

    God Bless.

    Priti

  29. 46
    ) Michele Morgan

    Nasim, thank you so much for all your efforts. I still have a difficult time with shutter speed and changing my ISO, having it all work together. This is written so simply, yet filled with so much information. I’m so happy!! I think, eventually, the light bulb will go off and I’ll be on my way!

  30. 47
    ) Harish

    Hi Nasim, I recently bought a Nikon D 5100. I am a person having no Camera experience but lot of passion on professional photography. I am really impressed with the Tips on photography which you mentioned in this page . Let me make use these Tips and shall share with you my experience. Meantime, how do you rate Nikon D5100 ?

    • 49
      ) Diana

      I have same question as Harish. I also have Nikon D5100 what are your thoughts Nasim?

    • Guys, perhaps a little search on this site would help you find answers? See the camera reviews page and you will find all the cameras that I have reviewed so far, including the D5100.

  31. 48
    ) Radjev

    Hello Mr Mansurov and members

    I have a nikon d7000 with standard lenses 18 105

    I am beginner can you teach me how to photograph in professional settings
    If I shoot with my camera inside my home the light are on I use in manual mode do i need to use the flash if there is light inside my home

    how much i have to put the shutterspeed ,aperture and iso
    Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO

    Thanks everybody
    RADJEV

  32. 50
    ) Diana

    Hi Mansurov and team,
    I’m having such hard time understanding ISO and Shutter Speed. I’ve already read your other articles on both and about to read this one. I think this is where I get confused .. I just can’t understand how ISO and Shutter Speed relate to one another..sometimes I think they are same. I will read this article and hope it becomes clear. I do however understand Aperture ;-))
    Thank you so much to all of you guys for this website!! I didn’t save it first time I found it and searched for it for months ;-( I’m sooo glad I found it and back with you!!!!

    Thank you,
    Diana.

    • Diana, read the ISO and Shutter Speed articles separately (link provided on the very top of the article here). If you still cannot understand, then I do not know how else I can explain it, sorry. Perhaps reading a book on Exposure would help? Try Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” – it is very good.

  33. 51
    ) mark

    ?
    Is it the same DOF if I use f22 ISO 400 and a really slow shutter speed AS
    f22 ISO 6400 and a faster shutter speed

    Lets assume I use a tripod.

    Really the question is does the ISO changing the shutter speed affect DOF and How?

    Shotting with a Canon 5D Mark2 and a Mark3 -have both and a lot of f2.8 lenses

    • Mark, neither ISO nor Shutter Speed have any impact on DoF whatsoever. Only lens focal length, camera to subject distance, size of camera sensor and aperture do.

  34. 55
    ) RADJEV

    Hi

    I heard from professional photograpers that they never shoot in auto mode only in M,P mode

  35. 56
    ) RADJEV

    Can the Nikon d7000 make btter pictures than Canon 5d mark

  36. 57
    ) Gary Clark

    Hi,

    I really enjoyed your guides! I am just getting into photography and I am taking good pictures because of your easy to understand guides.

    I only own one camera, fujifilm S1500, limited but I am enjoying using it.

    Thanks again!

  37. 58
    ) Gary Clark

    Just to follow on from my comment above,

    As my current camera is a little limited in its range of aperture settings etc…. Does anyone know the best combinations to use for specific conditions?

    I really like close ups of flowers and other things and it seems to do a really good job of the detail of the focal point but the depth of field can really trip me up sometimes!

    Anyone giving away a good DSLR? ha ha!

    Many thanks again,

    Gary,

    Middlesbrough, UK

    • 59
      ) Sonny

      Gary:

      What do you mean by the depth of field can really trip you up?

      I’m not familiar with your camera.. So I will speak in a general sense. The ‘best’ settings are to shoot with the lowest f-stop number / highest aperature settings (the most the lens can open). When you shoot in these settings, you will notice several things: your subject should be crystal clear. And anything NOT in the depth of field of the subject should be blurry. This is “bokeh.” Depending on your equipment, your bokeh may not appear to your liking.

      If your camera is a point and shoot: it may be hard to lower your f-stop number low enough to produce the bokeh. Or the lens might not be sufficient to produce bokeh that is pleasing to the eye. Nasir does a great job of recommending DSLR’s and lenses which produce good bokeh. I personally shoot with Nikon D5100 and Nikkor 35mm f1.8 when I shoot flowers. I use an f-stop usually between f2 – f3.2.

      If the lens does NOT zoom, you will have to either walk closer or farther to your subject. Depth of Field is very important to produce crystal clear subjects and proper bokeh when shooting in these settings. Best of luck to you, Gary!

      • 60
        ) Gary Clark

        Hi Sonny,

        Thanks for the reply. I gave up with that fujifilm bridge camera after a lot of futile attempts to create good bokeh.

        I went and bought a Nikon D3200 with a 18-55mm kit lens. Results were better bit not that much better so I got a nikkor 50mm f/1.8G prime and it is spectacular!

        I need to play around a bit more but I love working with this camera, its quite good for entry level kit!

        Thanks again for the reply,

        Gary

  38. 61
    ) krispradez

    I’ve owned several dslr’s, film, and evil camera (all in auto mode). Only recently did I try to be serious and study the concepts behind iso/shutter/apperture.

    Your blog nailed it in layman’s terms, very easy to understand. Thanks.

  39. 62
    ) ajay

    very helpful article to those who are stepping into the the world of dslr,cheers to nasim

  40. 63
    ) Chuks

    Thanks for your article, it makes things easier to understand.

  41. 64
    ) Raviprem

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for sharing such a nice information which is really helpful for beginners like me.
    After reading your writeup now i am confident on ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture which are key for any camera and should be able to use them.

    All these years i was clicking using point and shoot camera and now I am planning to own a pronsumer camera and i am unable to decide between the three listed below.

    The reason for choosing the following is they have the most of the setting defined and little or no manual effort required for taking great pictures / memories, apart from this i am also looking to edit the photos using Photoshop. I am also not sure how much importance i should give for RAW, EVS Aspect, Continuous Shooting, lens GPS & Macro Focus Range.

    Can you please help me in choosing the best

    Canon PowerShot SX 40 HS
    Canon PowerShot SX 50 HS
    Nikon coolpix p510

    Thanks and Best Regards,
    Ravi

  42. 65
    ) Tangie

    Thank you Nasim Mansurov for this very helpful information. I am enrolled in photography at college beginning spring and am required to have a camera with full aperature and shutter controls. Which
    camera(s) would you suggest that meet this criteria. I noticed a few cameras with shutter control and priority aperature, however it would be best if the camera was manual so I fully control the aperature and adjustments. Please help me out.

  43. 66
    ) Roman

    You guys are phenomenal. There is so much of useful information here!!! Unbelievable! The Best website about photography.. I also really enjoy reading the case scenarios about when to use staff – very important. Sometimes you just can’t figure out when to use a certain mode or make an adjustment to the camera… Keep on! Best regards and best wishes to all who take part in developing this website! EEEEhhhaaaaa

  44. 68
    ) hhdvn92

    In your real life example, you refer to “aperture priority” mode such as f/1.4 for fast lens and f3.5 on slower lenses. How you distinguish if they are fast or slower lense? Thank you.

    • 69
      ) gary clark

      Hi,

      What nasim means by the term ‘fast lens’ is a lens with a large maximum aperture, this is generally a lens that has a ‘F number’ lower than 2.8 (i believe) the reason these lenses are referred to as fast is because with a large aperture you are able to use a faster shutter speed. When you look at a lens there will be two bits of information that will tell you the type of lens, there is focal length which is always in millimeters, and there is the maximum aperture information which will be represented like this ‘f/1.8′ (example of a fast lens) or ‘f/3.5′ slower lens. Lenses that have a variable focal length will have two maximum aperture numbers, these represent the maximum aperture at the minimum focal length and at the maximum focal length, for example, my kit lens is a Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 so at 18mm the max aperture is f/3.5 and at 55mm it is f/5.6.

      I hope that clears up aperture and how to identify a slower lens from a fast lens.

      Gary

      • 71
        ) hhdvn92

        Thank you for the quick response.

      • 72
        ) hhdvn92

        As for the white balance or the AF-S or AF-C set up among others, do you have any recommendation other than the Three Kings of Photography? Thank you!

        • 73
          ) gary clark

          I Think the best advice is to get out there and experiment. You will see by altering settings what each does and how it affects your pictures.

          I am no expert but I can make my camera work for me now, reading this blog was the initial theory education, then using what I had read about to manipulate and fine tune my images was my practical education.

          Try reading through Nasims other articles under the beginner section, they can help you in many ways.

          Gary

  45. 70
    ) mark

    Ill take some time and explain the ISO, aperture, lens speed. I was thought this many years ago, nothing has changed.
    Your Job is to fill up a bucket of water Exactly to the top, not below OR above (exposure, over flow=overexposed, not full bucket= under exposed). Think of light as the WATER. The Aperature is the size of the water hose, The f2.8 aperture (fire truck size) will allow more water to pass, so you shut off the flow with a high shutter speed. Conversely at f8 (small straw) the water only trickles out so you need to keep the valve open longer, slower shutter speed. The size of the bucket you are trying to fill is set by the ISO, ISO 100 is the largest bucket, long time to fill but this will yield the best/better pictures, The higher the ISO, say ISO 6400 is thimble and only requires a tiny squirt these pics seldom make it to the web site or printed, but definitely can be viewable.
    When In dought, switch over to GREEN auto mode and focus, your display should show you what the computer software person thinks the speed and aperture should be (but how could they Possibly know What I Want the picture to look like?)

    There are an endless combinations of correct setting to get you bucket filled to the rim. Using f2.8 will make your focus point very small/sharp (like the nose on the face is in focus but the ear starts to blur) Using let’s say f8 will allow for an AREA to all be in focus, not a point. The above is Depth of field (DOF) and you will spend your career playing with and learning the tricks of the trades on DOF.

    If you got a fancy camera by all means set up the user configuration modes!!! I know this is Nikon site, but I have 3 canon bodies the two I carry are 5DMarkII and 5DMarkIII. Would only trade the MarkII for another MarkIII.
    But I set up all my cameras the same so I can switch in a second to the mode I want. Example: Bird mode is set to ISO AUTO, Tv mode 1/1000 or 1/1250, High speed 6fps, NO RAW, auto focus uses all 61 auto focus elements and has a TON of auto focus options that really work. So I see a bird/flock moving, are you going to have time to set up all this stuff (NOT), switch to C1 mode and as long as I get a bird in the frame I let her rip, most of the time I will get several in focus pic from a series.

    Forgot the main job of the photographer Picture Must be in Focus! If not it to the trash can.
    Steady on the trigger.

    Never would have gotten any of these pics if I did not set the camera up before you left the house
    http://mwsauer.com/Africa%20all/birds%20large/IMG_3366-1600×1200.jpg
    http://mwsauer.com/Everglades/Critters%2016×9/5D3_1989.jpg

    http://mwsauer.com/Africa%20all/birds%20large/IMG_1291-1600×1200.jpg

    http://mwsauer.com/Africa%20all/birds%20large/IMG_3905-1600×1200.jpg

  46. 74
    ) Marg

    Your explanations & examples are very easy to follow. Just one question, should you leave auto white balance on? I am a beginner & have the D3200. For me I love it as an intro camera. It has a lot & I feel I have a long way to go. I plan to use and play for all the examples you have provided. I would love to get into Macro as well. What lens do you recommend?

  47. 75
    ) Gurpreet Singh

    please some one help me – i have a fujifilm hs25exr camera. i want to know the best settings for product photography maily wrist watches,perfumes,wallets , belts eyegear. please some one do reply and guide me ….

  48. 76
    ) Sandy

    Hello sir,
    Will you please help me fix my new Canon EOS Rebel xs. I bought the camera few months ago and was working perfect but last week when i was taking picture it suddenly stopped and kept on saying “busy”. My camera wont take any pictures and the shutter button does not work either. The lens in my camera is EFS 18-55mm. I m so worried that my new camera broke. I would highly appreciate if you could guide me through. I looked everywhere for solution, and came across ur site. Please help me fix my camera. My brother is getting married and I desperately need that camera to function. Please

  49. 78
    ) Liza-Maree Kuhn

    I am very new to photography and I am really struggling with the course I am doing. In my new assignment I have to take pictures of an outside scene in natural lighting as well as inside with low lighting. While I do this I have to take more than one picture of the same scene while I increase the ISO with every picture … In the assignment I have to explain what takes place in the pictures and I am unsure of how to use the correct photography terminology. Can anyone maybe help me with this ?

  50. 79
    ) Ray Schwartz

    Where did you come up with the base ISO for Canon and Nikon

  51. 80
    ) Tejendra

    Hi Nasim,

    This is a fantabulous job you guys have done, i knew these terms technically but you described them in practical terms, but there is one thing which probably can be done (PS i dont know wheather it has been done already or not), you guys can make some videos and put them to youtube. I know that will be very time consuming and professional photographers like you doesn`t have time other than to puruse their passion. But its just a suggestion.

    By the way thanks a lot for sharing such a good information.

    Thanks and Best Regards
    Tejendra

  52. thanks again!! now i have better understanding about the three settings of photography – kaycee mcnally

  53. 82
    ) John

    I am fairly new to photography, and moving away from the Auto setting to Manual. Your explanation was very clear and for the first time it all made sense on how Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO comes together.

    Thank you so much Nasim, this was a big help.

  54. 83
    ) Biren

    Hi Nasim,

    I noticed that you have set the ISO mode to Auto in most of your given scenarios. Is that something that you do quite often when taking pictures ? Or is it done only in certain conditions like ample light, still subject etc ? I sometimes get overwhelmed by the 3 exposure triangles during a photographing spree and the lighting conditions change quite frequently (due to moving clouds, mist)

    BTW, thanks for your article.

  55. 85
    ) June

    iam a beginner in photograpy…stumble this article now i have a better understanding of how a picture could be captured ..how it works…pheww still a long way to learn… thanks..

  56. 86
    ) Jean

    I am so glad I have found your site. I did do a photography workshop for beginners, however I feel more confused than ever. You great explanation of the Three Kings has helped me so much. Now I am eager to get out and practice.

    Thank you so much.

  57. 87
    ) Arun Parappagoudar

    Thanks a lot for providing the information about three kings of photography :)

  58. 88
    ) Anurag Kumar

    Amazing article. Clearly explained all important aspects in brief and to the point.
    Lots of my doubts are cleared now. Thanks for this nice article. :)

  59. 89
    ) Nikhil Golani

    Dear Nasim,

    Thank you very much for this article. Its very knowledgeable.

  60. 90
    ) shehroz

    i am begginer of eos canon 60D give me suggestion what kind of lenses i use in the feild of events indoor and outdoor,wedding ceremony,fashion feild,and add campaigns…

  61. 91
    ) Jitendra Sen

    Really Great piece of knowledge shared here ! I am new to the photography world and got very confused about Exposure triangle. But cleared my confusion very well, thanks a lot.

    Nasim, you are really doing a great job by helping other with your vast knowledge bank.

    Thanks,
    Jitendra

  62. 92
    ) Tera

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d like to
    find out more details.

  63. 93
    ) Salona Ranjit

    Hi Nasim, I am glad that I found your site, you have explained every details in a very simple language which is easy to understand for a bigginer like me–I recently bought Nikon-d7000 ( my first DSLR :D) and so far I am learning from you and practicing often—you are doing a great job providing valuable info—just want to thank you!!! I was wondering if there is anyway I can share my snaps with you so you could guide me and give little tips for improving techiques—

    Thanks
    Salona

  64. 94
    ) Anil Nair

    Thank you for the nice article and illustrations which is very informative for not only the beginners but many amateurs too, who enjoy experimenting with their camera and skill sets. Photographic skills are something we learn every time we venture out and experiment more and more. With every mistake we do we only learn more things and improve our skills. This article very comprehensively captures the basics of digital photography for the photographer to revisit, if he /she has makes a mistake and spoil the shoot.

    Anil

  65. 95
    ) Prasanjit Das

    Amazing Information, I just reading and by the time ended had started taking notes.
    I feel more confident as a photographer after reading the information.
    Great work…

  66. 96
    ) Sara

    What a fantastic article! I feel infinitely more confident about playing with manual mode. I’ve read several sources of information but none explained as clearly and simply as this one.

  67. 97
    ) Ian

    Try it – set your aperture to the same number you wrote down earlier, multiply your shutter speed by two and set it to that number, then change your ISO to 400.

    Hi, the above statement is false, in that one ought to multiply your shutter speed by half, such that the shutter speed increases.

  68. 98
    ) AV

    great job summarizing these concepts! truly well written, easy to grasp for a beginner like me.

  69. 99
    ) Ajeesh

    What a great article! I have been checking for websites that teach me the photography basics. I couldn’t any where find such a simple and detailed article. Went through your other articles on Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed. Great and thanks alot!

  70. 100
    ) Jeff Stepper

    Thanks for this incredibly easy to understand article. I recently acquired a Sony DCS-H9 camera and have wanted to learn how to use it effectively to take photos outside of the range of the auto settings, which are great btw, only they are limited. Again, thanks for this article.

    • Correction: That should be DSC-H9, not DCS-H9

  71. 102
    ) mansoor ahmed

    Dear Nasim Mansurov,

    Thanks for your great tips for good photography. Now Iam very clear about the settings. Thanks.

    MANSOOR AHMED

  72. 103
    ) Wendell

    I also shoot with the Nikon D5100 and this information here is the best information I got in reference to shooting. I check many site and came up blank I seen people shooting in manual mode and always wanted to do it I did it over the weekend and wow what a difference it make but I made one error I forgot to turn off the auto iso. But when I did it took my pictures to another level. Thanks a lot on this information it was exactly what I need and easy to understand.

  73. 104
    ) sahil

    Thanks for all these information…I want to ask about night photography in manual setting…I have Canon 60d.

  74. 105
    ) Praveen Kumar G

    This is really an amazing post for the beginner to learn how the DSLR functions and to get to know at different scenarios how to shoot. Amazing blog. I recently bought a nikon D3300 and did not even know how thing work. From this I could really get a lot of information. I need to further play around with the above settings. Thank you…

  75. 106
    ) Vince

    Great info thanks.

  76. 107
    ) LauraFinazzo

    I’ve always wondered if there’s something wrong with my camera and I suspect there is. I’ve noticed that, for example, I’ll take a photo using the auto mode, then put it in manual with the exact same settings and the images are vastly different. I happened upon this article while researching and followed your instruction, the images different. In aperture mode, aperture = 5.6 iso=200, shutter= 2 image is exposed nicely and crisp, but in manual it is way over exposed and out of focus. These examples are with the lens fully pulled in. If I extend the lens then these settings work as described in your example. Why is that?

  77. 108
    ) Arjhay Tejares

    It is really very helpful for aspiring/beginner photographer about learning info, I practice alot so il know better about my cam, and knowing about triangle exposure makes me more confident in manual mode! By the way im using Nikon D3200 :)

    I-Spot PHOTOGRAPHY

  78. 109
    ) kashi

    10% photography is learned

  79. 110
    ) Atif hussain

    thank you very much for sharing all these things regarding basic photography. It’ll really help alot

  80. 111
    ) Sivaraj

    You are the Man, Thanks for the useful article.really made me to understand the Basics of Photography.

  81. 112
    ) Rehanna

    Thanks, v helpful advice!

  82. 113
    ) Ali Zaheer

    Loved the tutorial… I had been looking for such verbose and case-oriented article for so long… Thank you Nasim.

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