From the example of the sunset picture in installment #1 of this photography basics series, you have learned the importance of taking full control over the exposure on your camera.  Now, it's time to dig into your camera and learn the three most basic tools available to you in controlling the exposure.

Those tools are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  After I explain what each one does, I'll explain why we need three separate tools to control the brightness or darkness of the photo.


close up photo of an aperture in a camera lens

A small aperture in a camera lens.

The aperture is a small set of blades in the lens that controls how much light will enter the camera.  The blades create a octagonal shape that can be widened (we photogs call it shooting “wide open”), or closed down to a small hole.  Obviously, if you shoot with the aperture wide open, then more light is allowed into the camera than if the aperture is closed down to only allow a tiny hole of light to enter the camera.

So suppose you take a picture that is too bright.  How do you fix it?  Simply choose a smaller aperture.  Simple! Aperture sizes are measured by f-stops.  A high f-stop like f-22 means that the aperture hole is quite small, and a low f-stop like f/3.5 means that the aperture is wide open.

Let's test your knowledge to make sure you have it down.  If you take a picture and it's too dark at f/5.6, would you choose a lower f-stop number or a higher one?  Yep!  You'd choose a lower f-stop number, which opens up the aperture to let in more light. The size of the aperture controls more than the brightness or darkness of the picture, though.

The aperture also controls the depth-of-field.  Depth-of-field is how much of the picture is sharp, and how much is blurry.  If you want to take a picture of a person and have the background be blurry, you'd use shallow depth of field.  If you want to take a picture of a sweeping mountain vista, you'd want to use a small aperture size (high f-stop number) so that the entire scene is in sharp focus. If you, like me, are more of a visual learner, then I think this graphic will help solidify the information about aperture.  Take a minute and make sure you understand this info before moving on.

Graphic explanation of the aperture for photography basics learners


Shutter Speed

The shutter is a small “curtain” in the camera that quickly rolls over the image sensor (the digital version of film) and allows light to shine onto the imaging sensor for a fraction of a second. The longer the shutter allows light to shine onto the image sensor, the brighter the picture since more light is gathered.  A darker picture is produced when the shutter moves very quickly and only allows light to touch the imaging sensor for a tiny fraction of a second. The duration that the shutter allows light onto the image sensor is called the shutter speed, and is measured in fractions of a second.  So a shutter speed of 1/2 of a second will allow more light to touch the image sensor and will produce a brighter picture than a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second. So if you're taking a picture an it is too dark, you could use a slower shutter speed to allow the camera to gather more light.

Example picture of motion blur caused by too slow of a shutter speed.

That's me! Typing away on this article from my studio in Meridian, Idaho.

Just as the aperture affects the exposure as well as the depth-of field, the shutter affects more than just the exposure.  The shutter speed is also principally responsible for controlling the amount of blur in a picture. If you think about it, it makes sense that the shutter speed controls how much blur is in the picture.

Imagine me sitting here at my computer desk waving to you (you don't have to imagine very hard if you just look at the picture on the right).If you take a picture of me with a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second, then my hand will have moved in the time that the camera is recording the picture.  To get rid of the blur, you need to increase the shutter speed to around 1/320th of a second.  At this speed, my hand is still moving, but the camera takes the picture so fast that my hand travels only such a small distance that it is not noticeable in the picture.

The next question that most people ask is, how slow of a shutter speed can you use and still get a sharp picture?  Click here for a blog post that answers that exact question.

Graphic explaining the effects of changing the shutter speed




The funny thing about ISO is that it is an acronym, but nobody really knows what it stands for.  It is always just called ISO even though it really stands for International Organization for Standardization.  Every once in a while, you'll hear an older photographer pronounce it “I-so”, but almost everyone pronounces it “I.S.O.” The ISO controls the exposure by using software in the camera to make it extra sensitive to light.

A high ISO such as ISO 1,600 will produce a brighter picture than a lower ISO such as ISO 100. The drawback to increasing the ISO is that it makes the picture noisier.  Digital noise is apparent when a photo looks grainy. Have you ever taken a picture at night with your cell phone or your pocket camera, and noticed that it looks really grainy?  That is because the camera tried to compensate for the dark scene by choosing a high ISO, which causes more grain.

What constitutes a “high” ISO is constantly changing.  Camera companies are constantly improving the ability of cameras to use high ISOs without as much grain.  A few years ago, only the highest-end pro DSLR cameras could achieve 2,000 ISO, and now even entry-level DSLR cameras can shoot at this level.  Since each camera is different, you would do well to do a few tests with your camera to see how high of an ISO you can shoot at without making the image overly grainy.

Right now, you will commonly find new DSLRs that advertise expandable ISO ranges. To learn more about that, click here.

A graphic explanation of how ISO settings work in basic photography


Putting It All Together

A ram attempting to mate with a ewe bighorn sheep in Yellowstone.

Bighorn sheep in Yellowstone National Park.  Photo by Jim Harmer (Founder of Improve Photography)

I know exactly what you're thinking: “Why do I need three tools to control the exposure!?!?  Wouldn't one suffice?”  The answer is no, and I'll explain why with an example. In January 2012, I took a trip to my favorite place on the planet to take pictures–Yellowstone National Park.  My guide informed us that the bighorn sheep in the park were dying off very quickly due to whooping cough, so I worked hard that week to capture pictures of the last few sheep in that area of the park. Around 9AM on a cloudy day, I found a small group of bighorn sheep and started photographing them with a long 600mm lens.  The early hour and clouded sky made the situation quite dark for shooting.

The lens I was working with (which costs $11,000–don't they know I've gotta send my kids to college?)… Anyway, it had a maximum aperture size of f/4.  So I set my aperture at f/4 to gather as much light as possible.  This also impacted the depth-of field to blur out the rocks behind the bighorn sheep. Next, I set my shutter speed.  I wanted to capture action in the photo, so I set my camera to 1/1000th of a second shutter speed.  I knew that this fast of a shutter speed would prevent any motion blur from the sheep running on the mountain side. Then, I took a picture.  WAAAY too dark!  I couldn't compromise my shutter speed or aperture, so I knew I needed to use the third player in the exposure triangle–the ISO.

I played around with my ISO and found that if I increased it to ISO 640, it made the picture bright enough to take the picture without making it overly grainy. Yahtzee!  This combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO worked out perfectly.  Now can you see why you need to know how to shutter, aperture, AND ISO, and know how to set them independently on your camera?

Click the link below to continue reading this totally free photography basics series of articles, but if you're more of a visual person and want to see how to set the camera settings for various situations, you should really check out Photography Start.

If you're a visual learner and want to really learn your camera, then be sure to check out my beginner photography class, which I call Photography Start.  It's a series of 22 short videos where I take you on location to shoot waterfalls, landscapes, people, kids, and macro photos.  You can look over my shoulder and see exactly how I set up my camera to take professional photos.  Best of all, the video series is priced REALLY reasonably at just $15.  Check it out here.

In part 3 of the Photo Basics Series, I'm going to teach you how to set these on your camera.

Go to Page 3 of the Tutorial


  1. Thanks for providing this information. Most websites do an ok job of defining the components and explaining their usage. What they don’t necessarily do is offer a clean, easy understanding of how to put it all together. Your instruction is well-written and easy to follow. Thank you.

  2. Thank you very much for this learning article! I have learn a lot from you though im still a beginner ill try to improve more 🙂

    1. Sir, you are a fantastic teacher.. Most simple language with great understandability. You are simply great in in short..

  3. I am really liking this series! Thanks so much for putting it together!

    There is one minor error that you may want to fix. It can be found in the last sentence of the first paragraph of the section called “Shutter Speed”

    You wrote: “So if you’re taking a picture *an* it is too dark, you could use a slower shutter speed to allow the camera to gather more light.”

    But you should have written: “So if you’re taking a picture *AND* it is too dark, you could use a slower shutter speed to allow the camera to gather more light.”

    (Sorry. I’m an English minor in college. I’ll let you know if I spot any more. =) )

    1. Hummmmm….correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this article with regard to some technical aspects of photography, and NOT about the correct way of writing a paragraph? But, firstly; since you brought it up, as the English minor, you claim to be….how is that you could pass by,welllllllll (and yes; incorrectly spelled on purpose) miss the incorrect spelling of shutter, in the sentence, directly above the one that you picked on? Secondly; and you shouldn’t have to be an English anything to know it…the proper way to write a paragraph, and the appropriate manner of speaking; is and would be to; start positive, make mention of a negative, but ALWAYS end, with a positive. It’s just a good and positive manner of communication! And; lastly…..and once again, NO necessity, to be an English anything, just a caring and feeling human being; move on! Shame on you to take the time, to pick apart, composition!! Really? As I’m sure most people were reading, this material for its content and weren’t even looking for what you pointed out, and shall I remind you, as an English minor in college, what YOU MISSED! So being, that your comment, is now just over two years ago, I hope as you progressed in your college studies, that you also progressed on how to carry yourself, in life! Feel free to let me know, if you saw this, as well as what your feelings and thoughts are, at Good Day to you!

    2. Jason, it’s considered extremely rude to make such a big deal out of something so small. If the entire article was riddled with typo’s I might understand the necessity for a critique. However this was a small mistake and probably just an oversight during the writer’s proof read. I know you were only trying to help, but here’s an extremely useful piece of advice: you don’t always have to be honest! Good luck with your studies (at time of writing you have probably graduated, so I hope it went well!), but I hope your qualifications don’t encourage you to become a pedant. All the best.

    3. Jason,
      I am so sorry that other’s have decided you are horrible for aiding this author in maintaining his well created website. I am sure the author appreciated your comment and that you took the time to politely let him know. I know I would. Please don’t let others that commented bring you down.

  4. I’m new to the world of photography. I have just bought my first DSLR two weeks ago. I appreciate your articles. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for any other informative site. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such an ideal manner?
    I have a venture that I’m simply now operating on, and I have been on the
    glance out for such information.

  6. Thank you so much… this make way more sense then some trying to explain…. now I can say I know a little bit more on photography – I used to just snap away and get lucky with the pics

    thank you for this post

  7. Brilliant!
    Simple and easy to follow, enjoying the learning experience.
    Thank you for making this available.

  8. Oh my GOSH. Thank the maker for your way with words! You have taught me more in my 30 minutes of reading your photography basics than I have learned in MONTHS of trying to understand it from any other photographer, website or video I have (no knowingly) wasted my time on! Thank YOU!

  9. Thanks for this. You explained it in a easy way to understand without trying to sound like you are sophisticated by using big words, like a lot of people do.

  10. Thank you for the visuals! I only noticed them after I had started writing something very similar hahah

  11. ISO doenst change the “brightness” of an exposure. Changing the ISO requires changes to either shutter speed or aperture to give the exact same EV or “brightness.” The only effect on the picture itself should be increased noise, more depth of field or less camera blur, the EV is the same. The reason dark motifs appear brighter, is that dumb modes in the camera exposure system try to move average brightness to zone 5. This is the main reason for shooting manual, so that a motif can be rendered in the correct zone – i.e. a dark scene might look better shot at the correct zone instead of being artificially moved up to average brightness. If you don’t want to do a bunch of post process, and want to control your images without a bunch of bracketing, you need to get away from matrix metering and take control of exposure by using the zone system previsualization and setting a EV that is appropriate for the motif.

  12. This is the clearest, simplest lesson I’ve ever had on how to use my camera! Thank you!!!! You should get paid for this! Seriously.

  13. Albert Einstein said, ““If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” You, sir, have a stellar understanding of the art and mechanics of photography.

  14. Your explanations are great and thank you for putting them in terms everyone can understand! Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!

  15. “The funny thing about ISO is that it is an acronym, but nobody really knows what it stands for.”

    ISO is not an acronym. See here:

    And the correct pronunciation is EYE-so (you can ask them yourself if you like), though most photographers get it wrong. In my experience, people who deal with ISO in other industries (chemicals, etc) are much more likely to get it right.

    1. Author

      @Keithy, I guess I was being a bit sarcastic. I don’t mean that NOBODY knows what it stands for, but that it’s not common knowledge.

      1. So …. I S O stands for International Organization for Standardization? Shouldn’t that be “IOS” instead? Am I missing something?

        Great article by the way! Thanks much!

        1. It’s a European organization with three names–a Russian one, an English one, and a French one (Organisation internationale de normalisation!).

          They normalised their own acronym, they claim, to ISO from the Greek work isos, which means “equal”. This is fairly standard practice for international orgs with names in different languages, which you’ll notice more and more if you look for them!

  16. WHAT AN ARTICLE!! this is so far, hands-down the best guide i could possibly find. It has been put very creatively simple that a layman like me could understand every single jargon with ease. I love the graphic examples and they are very immensely helpful. Thank you so much for your outstanding work and time to help people like me new to this exciting journey.

  17. Hi Jim,Great tutorials.I look at a lot of photography information and have lear’nt things that that I

    have not found out about anywhere else, Also your information is so simple and easy to follow.

    Regards Jim downunder.

  18. Jim, you are great. I got into photography about a year ago and I was able to pick up very quickly on these above mentioned settings but I don’t get some of the negative picky comments people make. You’re a nice guy who is doing something you love and have passion for and you are sharing it with us. Thanks and keep up great work! I love your podcast so please don’t take too long in between them episodes! I get withdrawals! Thanks!

  19. I was very confused initially dat wat those terms actually meant.But after reading your article,things are very clear in my mind.Now i’m pretty confident about taking a perfect shot.

  20. Made everything a lot easier but my camera doesn’t have shutter speed. I was told that with my camera, my shutter is my ISO. How can I distinguish between the 2. Are they proportonal?

  21. I have had a DSLR for a while now but could never get my head around ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. I read many articles but found them complicated and confusing. But your article has put it so simply, especially with your visual graphics, I have actually u dear stood these three elements.
    So, thank you very much for the article.

  22. For the longest time, I could NOT figure out how to put those three together. I knew what each meant but it was very difficult to figure out how to put them all together. Your article was very helpful. Thank you!

  23. Great set of articles you have made a complicated subject easy to understand.
    Thank you.

  24. Thanks for this tutorials. Simple to read, its giving me more interest to read. Photography is a hobby, but used only the automatic mode. I tried to learn from different articles in the past, but it confused me a lot and made to set with the auto mode. Now I am more interested to learn, presently having only a basic SLR from Olympus, giving some good shots only by luck, now I understand why. One clarification, what is focal length in mm and what photographers saying 100 mm lens etc. Are they same ? and how to choose it? Just my guess, the larger the mm, the good image of larger distance ? Can you please explain.

  25. Thankyou so much as I hv attended few classes but never had a detailed explanation. Your info really helped. Thankyou

  26. You are the first blogger (or what ever I should call you) which explained everything so good!! Only by reading this article I am your new fan haha I hope to learn a lot more about my camera with you 🙂 thank you

  27. Hey!!! Good Day! I recently bought my 1st ever cam with a manual setting which is the Fujifillm Finepix s4000 and I have been spending almost a week just to get the right adjustments. But thanks to your blog, it explained everything in laymans term.. I have a a question though, is my choice of buying this camera model a good choice or not?.. thanks and more power!!

  28. Thank you so much! I take product pictures of my handmade online hat business and cannot seam to get the pictures to not looked washed out or clear. I have searched high and low for a easy to understand step by step on dslr camera settings for my nikon and I also am a visual learner so your step by step instruction was perfect. Thank you!!!

  29. ISO is almost always last. If depth of field is your priority then set F-stop first. Shutter speed next and ISO last (full manual mode). This will usually result in using the lowest ISO for the best picture. Selecting the lowest/slowest shutter speed you can live with will allow the lowest ISO which gives you the best quality picture. Most cameras in most of the manual modes lock these three together and force you to change at least one for the correct exposure. Using AV/aperture priority, set the f-stop and then ISO to drive the shutter speed to the desired value.

  30. Kay,
    Only in the pure “manual” mode will you have to pick all three of these. If you are shooting in most other manual modes (TV; shutter priority, AV; aperture priority) the camera will indicate when all three setting will provide the correct exposure. Like you said, aperture first for a clear depth of field, shutter speed is your next priority but you end up getting it by adjusting ISO. In theses manual modes if you want to brighten the picture more than “normal” then you can adjust your cameras “exposure compensation” to +1 to +2. Most cameras have this option which is really just adding an amount of “F-stop”. In the pure manual mode (“M” on most cameras) the camera doesn’t link these three together and you have to pick each setting. This is really advanced and I recommend you start with AV mode and add exposure compensation. Have fun, Experiment!

  31. Hi Author,

    I brought my first DSLR yesterday and had a little clue about how to change these three controls in it! Your post has done me real good, especially the one where you have woven it all in a story form. Will read more about shooting from this website.


  32. Thanks for sharing this article! I have recently bought my first DSLR (canon eos100d). Your clear explanation and the clear examples made it very easy to understand the logic behind the Apperture, Shutter and ISO. I will defitely apply what I have learned here and keep checking future posts. Good work!

  33. thank you so much! I received a Canon Rebel T5 and many, many accessories to go with it for my 40th birthday, and have been finding these articles/lessons very helpful! I did not know where to begin, although I just shoot and have fun. I am determined to learn how to shoot decent pics of mostly my family, pets, daily life, in manual mode!
    I will be reading and rereading lessons 1-3 over and over while taking practice shots, so I can train my brain! Really, great job!!!!

  34. Thanks for sharing your knowledge to a beginner like me it’s a treasure of informations …/:-)

  35. After waiting for about a year and a half, I finally bought an entry level Nikon d3300 over the weekend. I poured over the camera manual for a day learning “how” to change ISO, aperture and shutter speed but didn’t know “what” values to set them to. Individually, they are easy to understand. Combining them all to produce a decent picture seemed rather difficult to get wrap my head around that during my first field day, I ended up resorting to the auto mode. The fine art I guess is how to mix them all to be able to get a picture I want. The article was very helpful, but even more helpful was the “Putting it all together” section where I got to understand the thought process on how to actually put together some “initial” values and how to correct them later on.

    Overall, this is an insightful and very educational read. The easy and laid back prose was practical and there are no complex fractions (math) and other charts that delude the reader with too much information to handle. Thank you.

  36. I am a newbie at DSLR cameras, so excuse my ignorance 🙂

    Why would I want to do all these manually when I can use the full auto option? do that means the full auto does not do a great job or not as good as we manually selecting the options of Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO? or is done just for fun and the challenge of doing it manually?

    Should I always shoot in RAW? if yes why, or what other modes should I use instead?

    Thank you and appreciate your input and thank you for such as great article 🙂


  37. I had bought Sony a7 with Sony 28-70 lens. Started learning by self with trial and errors. I found it difficult to understand the terms such as Aperture, shutter speed, iso, etc. After going thru this article many of my doubts are clarified. Yesterday I bought Sony 70-200 f/4 lens !! Thanks a lot !!!

    1. I bought Nikon D710 0 Nikon Nikkor 18-140 mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens and Nikon Speed light SB-910 . I am trying to learn more about this camera processing like shutter speed ISO aperture. Please give me some examples to learn and getting good pictures.

      Thank you


  38. Wow! I just a bought a camera and reading the instructions on how to use each one of those tiny buttons is very tiring for me but thanks to you for doing an amazing job for making my life so easier! I am a mountain climber and love to take landscape pictures and will sure try this. Thank You!

  39. I always appreciate when someone teaches well. You explained it succinctly and clearly. Thank you!

  40. By George… or By Jim… I think I am actually comprehending this Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO thing finally. You are explaining it very well and the bighorn sheep example was excellent!! Excited for page 3 of the tutorial. PS I really hate the whole f/stop big number is smaller opening/larger number is smaller opening. Really who came up with that! Not logical for me but I will roll with it.

  41. This is super helpful, much more understandable than other articles.

  42. This has helped me heaps thank you. Easy to read and understand, big thumbs up!!

  43. hy !
    i bought hx400v sony ! but i m nt able to blur the backgroung !
    can u tell me how to focus ?

  44. Thank you so much for posting this article, really loved it and very useful, but still I have a question, do you intend to change the shutter, aperture, and ISO in specific order? If YES please explain.

    1. @khalilhannahraimat:disqus

      I always want the ISO to be the smallest number it can be, so I set it at 100 to start with (unless I can tell from experience the lighting is too low then I will start with 400 or 800). Then I have to decide if my emphasis is stopping motion vs. the depth-of-field. If I want to stop motion I may use shutter priority mode so that I can se the shutter speed and let the camera figure out the aperture. If I want to control the depth-of-field (either making sure everything is in focus or only the subject is in focus and the background is blurry) then I will use aperture priority mode and let the camera set the shutter speed. It just depends what shot you are trying to create.

      Great question, I think I may do a Photo Taco episode on it!

      Jeff Harmon

      1. Thank you Jeff, I think this is you are totally right, instead to handle everything in Manual at once, sometimes when you in rush and you need this shot, you can’t make the precise decision unless you pick the suitable creative mode which suits the moment, as you said, if your interest is in getting the depth of field and focus, then you do this and let the camera do the rest, I’ll start adopt myself in using the creative modes more.

        Yes, I encourage you to do an episode about it, beginners like me will appreciate it too much 🙂 Thanks again pal.


  45. I have been using a digital Nikon L810 but you can’t make very many adjustments with ISO or aperture and nothing with the shutter speed outside of the different modes. So my Dad fished out my Aunts old camera for me to experiment with – it is an old Olympus OM-G film camera. She had 4 lenses (35mm, 50mm, 100-200mm, and a 135 mm) I was wondering if the lenses can be used on a digital camera… the film is cool but I don’t like that I can’t see if I got a good picture or not. Any help with tips on use would also be greatly appriciated it did not have its manual and what I could look up is hard to understand consisting of mostly pictures and very little explination.

    1. With some digital cameras that allow interchangeable lenses – yes you can (e.g. mirrorless Sony A6000, A6300, A7, A7M2). For example on Sony A7M2, I use my old (1960s) canon rangefinder film camera lenses (LTM39 screw mount) and my old (1960s) Nikon SLR film camera non-Ai, Ai, and Ai-S lenses (Nikon F-mount). I do need to use lens adapters to get the lenses adapted to the Sony camera E lens mount. Using these lenses means everything is manual, there is no auto-focus or auto aperture ability. I use Aperture Priority (A) and Manual (M) shooting modes and sometimes shutter priority (S) mode. But am definately not an experienced photographer.

  46. Thank you so much for simplifying everything.
    I really had a hard time relating the three elements together.
    Been reading a lot of things and only on your post that I understand them clearly.

  47. What a fantastic explanation. You are doing a really great job by creating this website which have useful tools and technique necessary for new photographers. There are millions of website on this subject but your explanation skills are best and user friendly. Keep it up.


  48. Thankyou so much for the explanation. I couldnt get my head around these basic . I till here its been so simple to understand and surely will help in application.

  49. Nice explanation, I’ve read a few things and it’s hard to put the pieces together. This is clear and concise.

  50. Now this is exactly how an introduction to Photography should be. Precise, a pictorial depiction and sticking to the facts. The examples with actual numbers and their effects makes it all the more easy to understand. Thanks a ton.

  51. Thank you so much for posting this article, really loved it and very useful, but still I have a question, do you intend to change the shutter, aperture, and ISO in specific order? If YES please explain.

  52. I haven’t explore the rest of site, but finally explaining these logic in lay man s term!! Great!!!!!!!

  53. Hello Jim,

    I am pretty new in photography. I have my Canon PowerShot 51Si that allows me to shot some pretty photos, but I think that I need a better one. Can you suggest me a good intermediate -advance camera? It is a mess when I read the posts between Canon, Nikon, Sony, Mirrorless, and so on. My two possible candidates are Canon and Nikon. I know the question is like asking which one is better Pepsi or Coke; it depends on each person. my budget is around US 1200 lenses included. Can I get a good one by this price? I have an small bakery business, and I have to take pictures of my products also, moreover, from time to time I like to take some photos in the forest, mountains and ocean. Thanks

  54. Your lessons are awesome, this tutorial is far better than your sample photos (Amazing Photograph of Bighorn Sheep). I have book marked dozens of Sites for for these 3 vital aspects of photography ( App,Shutter speed and ISO). No body has explained so well about these in just one single shot. You have explained the same with very basic examples. With this any layman can become a professional. Amazing. Thank you so much.

  55. You sir have made it an easy learning process for someone who is a beginner. I have always had to use advanced settings on my D3300 to get a brighter picture, however I was getting too much noise and a grainy photo. I can now use the camera on manual mode and set the iso/aperature. I have also turned off noise reduction – In my case it seemed to help.

  56. Thank you very much!this tutorial help me at my very beginning of becoming a professional photographer! I don’t know what I would have done without this simple beginning..thanks again…

  57. I appreciate this article a lot, it helped me understand the 3 elements much more. It’s taking me awhile to get the hang of this but I know I’ll master it. I’m very passionate about taking pictures and learning these 3 will help me elevate my photography skills too a whole nother level. Please take the time to follow my Instagram @jason.varela I try to post all of my best work on there. God bless and Keep Shooting!

  58. Awesome tutorial English is very simple that make us to read and get the exact point what you have really tried to teach us

    thanks for this wonderful and amazing work

  59. Short and completely useful steps. Very easy to understand.
    God bless you!

  60. Thanks very much, I have learnt basics of Aperture, Shutter and ISO from your article.
    I am a beginner and trying to move from Auto to Manual mode slowly and your article has helped me.

  61. Why is the underside of bird all black when flying in the sky? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I just have the hardest time getting this right.

  62. Beautifully illustrated & explained. Love the style as it just fits your head clearly given the logic / role of each component of the exposure triangle. Thanks for this share. Already started practicing, hopefully should land up clicking some nice pics in Germany and Croatia 🙂

  63. This is by far the most simplistic tutorial on photography basics that I have read so far on line……and I’ve read quite a lot including from books and still the exposure triangle didn’t quite stick in my mind. Now finally I can make sense of it and get out there and improve my photography without writing down various settings and copying them on my camera!. (It’s like being on automatic settings but with added lazy extras. No learning involved)
    Now 6 months on AV mode . ( yes I’m a Canon not a nikon)
    Thank you so much. Your quite a star I would say.

  64. Thank you for this article if not I would’t have done my project correctly thank you so much! (^__^)___/

  65. This is an excellent post, in what looks to be a great series of them Jim. I’ve been messing around with cameras and photography since I was 14 — I’m 63 now. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about cameras and photography in general, BUT as I frequently discover, I don’t know nearly as much as I should . . . or thought I did. I’d never heard of the triad of aperture, shutter speed and ISO before, but it makes perfect sense. And it gives the photographer considerably more control of the image.

    I guess I’ve had a difficult time changing from the days of film when you were saddled with one film speed — known way back when as the ASA. The initials ASA stood for the American Standards Association and referred to the way both black and white and color film speed was rated. ASA scales were calculated arithmetically and each film type had their own ASA. For example, the Kodak line of 35mm black and white negative films included: Tri-X with a 400 ASA, Plus-X Pan with a 125 ASA and Panatomic-X had a slow 32 ASA. You used Tri-X for outdoor sports without a flash and indoor sports with a flash and indoor natural light (it’s versatility made it a the go-to film of newspaper photographers); Plus-X was a great all-around film to use on bright, sunny days and with a flash indoors; and Panatomic X was used for portraits and stationary. pictures with a flash or if you wanted to shoot outdoors and capture the blur of movement, like waterfalls. ASA was sometimes used interchangeably with the term “Exposure Index” (EI). But I and most of my friends used EI as a reference of how much a film was “pushed”. Since we were stuck with the film with a specific ASA we had to rely on pushing a film to a higher EI to make it faster and therefore more usable in natural light. The first thing the photographer had to do was to shoot the film at a higher ASA than the film was rated for. The problem was that when a film was pushed, it’s graininess also increased sometimes to the detriment of the quality of the photograph. There were ways to minimize grain, though. For example, it was not uncommon to push Tri-X up to an EI of 800 or even 1600 using a developer like Acufine which helped keep the grain down. Kodak always included recommended developing instructions and times for a variety of developing agents in their packaging. If you developed the film at the temperature and for the time Kodak recommended for a developer like Acufine you might end up with a pretty usable negative at the end of the process. Anyway, now there’s ISO which replaced ASA as a speed rating sometime in the 1980s. And then digital photography came along which made the art form much easier to get started in and master . . . thanks to people like Jim and his blog. Sorry to wander off on such a tangent, but the discussion of ISOs, apertures and shutter speeds just triggered me into a need to reminisce and provide some perspective for persons just learning to use this wonderful tool.

  66. Thanks for such a nice article!

    One small correction: it should be f-22 not f/22 in the Aperture diagram.

    1. It really doesn’t matter. Aperture values are written with the slashes much more than with the dash.

      1. Sorry, John. What I should have said was that I think you meant he should have put it as f/22 and NOT as f-22.

  67. Thank you for explaining everything so simply. I was having trouble understanding the correlation of the three by reading other blogs. The way you explained it makes sense. Thank u!

  68. Hi, I have one question regarding aperture. Wide Open Aperture means Full-Depth-Of-Field or Shallow-Depth-Of-Field? This is a bit confusing because in the tutorial link 3, where you have provided an example of capturing the entire family member and whether to choose potrait mode, you said that – “portrait mode on your camera automatically makes the aperture go really low, because it thinks you want shallow depth-of-field in your portrait”.

    But in the above explanation , you said , small aperture means Full-Depth-Of-Field. Please explain this.

    1. Wide open means a shallower depth of field, which means less of your picture is in focus; a smaller aperture means a greater, more extensive depth of field, meaning that more of your picture from front to back will be in focus.

  69. Thank you for helping all us noobs out! It’s one thing entirely to point and click with an iPhone but a completely different beast when you want to learn how to shoot photos that can be framed and hung on your living room wall. Just bought my first DSLR (Nikon D3100) and I’m learning just how demanding real photography is! Thanks again for helping me learn!

  70. The good you are in photography goes same with explaining it. Truly amazing tutorials.

  71. Hi Sir,

    I’m a newbie int this field & I shot mostly auto. I really want to try manual, but I failed many times.
    From your article, it seems like the first rule to set up is Aperture, then tone down to shutter speed and lastly ISO?
    Which normally would you do sir?

    Btw great articles. All your articles helped me in understanding the basic rules.

    Thank you.

  72. Tnx…….brother. you….you have understand me lot….now umm. . Improving. …lot tnx to u😘❤ brother

  73. This was incredibly easy to understand and very helpful. Jim, you are amazing and your pictures really inspire me to pursue photography.

  74. It’s very helpful but very long vut I will try my best to keep it up….I’m only 13 but my dream is to become a vet and photographer….and with your notes this is very helpful thank you!!!!😄😄

  75. Thanks a lot… I got full information abt the basics Now I m going to start and will have a better pic

  76. From this article i got the thorough knowledge of camera, on the basis of which now i am able to choose a good camera phone. thanks allot.

  77. Can I simply just say what a relief to uncover someone who actually understands what they’re talking about online. You definitely realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.

  78. Much appreciate the well written explanation! An example really helps memories the difference.

  79. Thanks a lot. It was really helpful to me. I really enjoy reading articles on this blog. And, this one cleared many of my doubts on shutter speed and ISO

  80. Thanks Jim!! This is great information! Can’t wait to start applying these techniques!

  81. Hi there. I came across your website recently and I’m finding it very helpful. I appreciate you helping people like myself who are amateur photographers.

    I just bought a Canon EOS Rebel SL1. I’m using your printable quick guide for various photography settings and I’m confused about the Av setting and shutter speed. On my camera, when it is in Av mode, the shutter speed setting goes away and I am not able to adjust it. Am I missing something?

    Thank you in advance for your help and advice.

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