As we all know digital cameras have radically changed photography, allowing a more flexible approach, not only can view them immediately, delete the ones you don’t want and try again!  There’s no cost or waiting for films to be developed.  Most electronic devices include a camera of some kind, it’s hard to think of life before we all had cameras on our phones!  The result is a world where billions (yes billions!!) of photographs are being taken every day and in a lot of cases being shared on social media.

The one question that I get asked time and time again is ‘how do I use my camera?’, so I decided that I’d write a series of blogs to help all you budding photographers to take your next step in photography and take control of your camera!

So you have your camera, now what?  Most people will have their camera set to the green ‘auto’ button and will let the camera do the rest.  There’s nothing wrong with that and if that suits your needs, then all is good in the world.

If you’ve ever taken a photograph and it doesn’t reflect what you see or your images are not coming out the way you would like, then you need to take the camera settings into your own hands!  Sounds scary?  Well it doesn’t have to be!

The first step is to understand the exposure triangle, which incorporates the three main elements that your camera uses to create the perfect photograph:

It’s all about balance, your camera will balance these elements to give you what it thinks is the perfect exposure  Once you understand these 3 elements you will have a greater understanding of how your camera works.

If you change just one of these elements, you’ll be modifying the way your whole photograph turns out.  Each element brings its own additional ‘side-effect’ that you’ll want to keep in mind.

 Learning how these different exposure settings of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO work together takes some getting used to, but before long it will become second nature to you and you won’t even need to think about how changing each one can affect your photograph.  (Did you know that you have a certain flexibility to do this on iphones 6 & 7 too!)

So what do the different elements do?

Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when the picture is taken.  Aperture is measured in f-stops (f/1.8, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/8, etc).  The lower the number (f/1.8), the larger the opening in the lens or the more light that gets to the sensor.  The larger the number (f/22), the smaller the opening in the lens or the less light that gets to the sensor.

The aperture controls what is in focus in a picture.

TIP – A nice depth of field for a family photograph is F/5.6

The shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open.  Shutter speed is how fast or slow the camera records the picture.  The slower the shutter speed the more light get to the sensor.  The faster the shutter speed, less light gets to the sensor.  These are measured in fractions of a second (1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, etc, through to 1/8000).

How many times have you taken a photograph on your camera or phone in low light and it has a ghosting effect and is blurry?  This is because it has a slow shutter speed to allow in more light but at the same time it blurs anything that moves.

Shutter speed allows you to freeze any motion in a picture (ie action shot) or to blur any motion in a picture (ie waterfall).   If you want to take a picture of something and freeze the motion, this is done with a fast shutter speed.  If you want to blur the motion in a photograph, this is done with a slow shutter speed.

TIP – In some instances for long shutter speed you may want to use a tripod so your photographs aren’t blurry!

In basic terms, the ISO is how sensitive your camera’s image sensor is to light. The lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain in the shots you’re taking.

High ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds.  Ie.  An indoor sporting event where you cannot use flash but you want to freeze the action.  However, using a higher ISO will result in more ‘noise’ or grain in your shots.

You should try and keep your ISO as low as possible (ie 100) and this will give you lovely sharp images with little grain/noise.

Some cameras allow you to choose auto ISO where the camera will keep it as low as possible but will adjust to suit and some cameras will allow you  select your own ISO.

Remember if you override your camera settings and choose a specific ISO this will impact the shutter speed and aperture settings.  Every camera is different so you must practice to see your cameras limitations regards to ISO.

TIP – Try and shoot at the lowest ISO possible


Why not grab your camera and look at your photographs with the information on and see if you can identify the settings on your photographs.  They will read something like:-

f/5.6   ISO 250   1/250

(it will also show a figure say 50mm which is the lens/zoom that you have used – ignore this for now!)

Next time we will look into the different elements in more depth and take a little adventure away from the green button!!

Next Chapters:-


Shutter Speed

Composition & Light

If you don’t want to miss out on the next chapters, make sure you follow me on social media or keep checking the website x