Understanding Exposure – aperture and shutter speed

Okay, we’re doing things a little differently this month. There are already some AMAZING tutorials online about aperture and shutter speed (exposure), and these folks have explained everything better than I possibly could. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m linking ya’ll to a tutorial for this month.

Check out the tutorial at this link, and then we’re going to have an assignment for this month. I have created an album on the DD Pics group on FB, where you’ll all be able to upload your assignment pictures.


This tutorial is a great guide to understanding your camera, and how to change the settings to get the focus (and background blur) that you want, as well as how to properly expose your pictures so they look better straight out of camera. Let me know if you have any questions – the easiest way to do this is to post the question on the FB group but make sure to tag me when you post the question.

Just a couple of quick pointers that you can come back to after reading the tutorial. A low aperture is a small number (such as f/2.8). You use a low aperture when you want a small area of the picture to be in focus, or when you’re photographing a person (it creates a pretty, blurry background).

Smaller numbers such as f/2.8 are also called “wide” apertures, because the hole in the lens that lets in light is “wide” open to let in as much light as possible. It can be helpful to imagine your lens as an eye. When you’re in a dark room, your pupil gets really wide to let in a lot of light (just like a wide aperture such as f/2.8 lets in a lot of light). If you’re outside in the sun, your pupil gets really small (such as the small hole in the lens when you change your aperture to f/16) to prevent too much light from getting in.

You have to be really careful when shooting with a wide aperture (such as f/2.8) because the area of the picture that will be in focus is REALLY small – like a couple of inches. So if you’re shooting a closeup of a staged photo, and you use f/2.8, only the part of the picture that you’ve chosen to focus on will be in focus – everything else will get blurrier the further away or closer it is to the camera compared to what you chose to focus on.

Also, remember if you want to “freeze” motion, use a fast shutter speed such as 1/500th of a second. Just remember, when you use a fast shutter speed, you’re letting in less light, so you need to compensate for that with a wider aperture to let in more light.

Now, for the assignment. I want everyone to get out and really practice their exposures this month. I want you to photograph one staged photo indoors using good light, and one staged photo outdoors using good light (remember, open shade is always your friend). You can shoot in either aperture priority or manual, but really pay attention to how your pictures look and try to get the exposure correct in the camera – this will help your colors look brighter and more vibrant when we edit your pictures. I also want you to take two pictures of people – one indoors in good light, and one outdoors. Try shooting at a lower aperture to get a nice blurry background, but be careful and pay attention to getting the proper part of the picture in focus (with a portrait, you want to focus on the eyes so that they’re in focus; in a staged photo, you want to focus on the most important element in the picture so that it’s in focus).

Post all 4 pictures to the “aperture and shutter speed” album on the DD Pics group on FB. Make sure to post your best picture of each assignment with good lighting, focus, and proper exposure. Include your camera settings in the description (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) because this will help me when I offer CC on the images.

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10 Responses to Understanding Exposure – aperture and shutter speed

  1. Wendy says:

    Oh this helps me!! I have do many questions on how to use these features! Can’t wait to read and try it!!

  2. Tara says:

    Ummm…you pretty much ROCK!! Seriously! Oh boy – now to actually PUT these into practice! Whew! Here goes nothing…. BTW – be SO fierce in the critique of the photos I submit! I want to get ALL of your thoughts so I can do even better the next time! xoxo

  3. Kristen says:

    Thank you for taking the time and putting together a post for us. You are right there are SOO many great posts out there, I think linking up to your favorite posts that explain things already is a GREAT idea! Thanks so much for all you do!

  4. Erika says:

    Thank you! About to go try and put these to use!

  5. Kari says:

    Wow. Thank you for this tutorial! I don’t have an DSLR camera, but my camera does have some of these options, so I’m gonna test it out and get more familiar with what I can do with it. I’m excited to see what I can do! Thanks, this is amazing.

  6. Lisa says:

    This may take a while to understand…even with the explaining. But I am excited to try and learn! Thanks!

    • esianoyam3 says:

      Lisa, it definitely takes some time (and LOTS of practice) to understand. But if you can just get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot, it quickly becomes second nature and you don’t have to even think about it any more.

  7. Corie says:

    Thank you so much for putting this together. I am excited to take my 4 pictures using these tips. This tutorial gives me specific direction. THANK YOU!!

  8. Cami says:

    This is SO helpful. I WISH I had a nice camera. All I have is a point and shoot camera with none of these options available to me. Someday I might be able to really take these into effect. Thanks for taking the time!

  9. Kiirsten says:

    There is so much valuable information to learn! Thanks for all the guidance! Ohmigosh, I want and need a new camera SO BAD! (or at least a decent one), but I will put this knowledge to use as best as possible!! Thanks, girl!

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