The Three Kings of Photography: ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.

In order to take more awesome pictures, one must have a fairly good understanding of ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture, sometimes called the "exposure triangle". A brief introduction to the trio would be thus: ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, and vice versa. The only problem with a higher sensitivity is that it makes your pictures grainy. The aperture is a hole inside the lens that lets light in that can vary in diameter. It also brings more or less objects into focus depending on the size. Shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open and takes in light, making the picture brighter or darker.

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Step 1: ISO: Light Sensitivity

When taking pictures in high light levels, it is best to stick with your camera's base (lowest) ISO setting. If the light levels are low, then it is easiest to set the ISO to AUTO and go from there. But, as you can see from the pictures, a high ISO makes the pictures grainy.

Step 2: Aperture: Focus

When trying to blur the background of your image, the way to do it is by putting the aperture to its lowest setting, or just a lower setting. Another purpose of it (as you can see in the pics) is singling out one (or a few) in a line. Making some in focus and the rest out of focus. The larger the number setting, the smaller the aperture is, so if you want more in focus, you will have to change the ISO and/or shutter speed to accommodate.

Step 3: Shutter Speed: Frozen or Moving?

If you want to freeze motion, dial up your shutter speed. If you want a little motion blur, slow it down. The only drawback is that a faster shutter speed will make a picture darker. If you want do do something like light-painting, set the shutter speed to RREEAALLLYY SSLLLOOOWWW. In the end, one of the many secrets to a picture is the perfect compromise of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

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    8 Discussions

    Mike Fury 2

    3 years ago

    Awesome. I just went to photography school in like 10 minutes or less. ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture diameter .

    1 reply

    This is a fantastic explanation, I appreciate your approach to this I'ble. Last year I took on manual focus alone, have yet to be practised with it. I like the last line above about the perfect compromise, it creates a good mental picture. I'm thinking of them as ratios that work together now, I'm sure that will be a big help the next time I spend time with it. There's some beautiful clematis in bloom at the side of the house, I could go practice tomorrow!

    5 replies

    Thank you!! I am glad that you like this instructable. Go ahead! Practice makes perfect ?. But, to be honest, I don't usually use manual focus at all, usually the auto does good for me. When I'm shooting macro, however, I use manual.

    I looked up macro to be sure I understood. Most of what I shoot is up close, either nature or food. I post cook threads on my BBQ forum and have had a lot of fun learning to photograph food.

    I think the two photos of pork were taken on auto and the two swiss chard were taken with manual focus. I've never tried adding a photo on this website before, hope I got it right.


    Ok, sorry, when i said macro i meant with a macro lens like these photos (that's a window wiper) Cool! Those are great photos.

    p.s. yep, the pics loaded great!


    Thanks for your praise and yes, that is a very cool angle to see a windshield washer. Maybe one day I'll get learn enough photo stuff to be able to catch a windshield washer splashing rainwater.