Exposure

Arriving at a good balanced exposure is about successfully combining ISO, Shutter-Speed and Aperture. 

At present, the smartphone's default app does not allow us access to any of the camera's real settings.

Third-party apps (free and paid) will allow us the ability to adjust the ISO and the Shutter-Speed, while the camera sets the remaining property (Aperture) for us.

This is known as a Shutter-Priority mode and it is very popular in cameras.

My DSLR gives me Shutter-Priority mode, an Aperture-Priority mode and also full-manual control, so I get to set everythingBeing in full-manual is where the fun is, and these are the steps I take to establish an exposure formula...

1. First, I set the ISO, establishing a base for the sensitivity of my exposure. Setting the ISO first is a holdover from film days when we put a roll in the camera, then turned a specific dial to physically set the ISO. 

2. Next, I pick the property, either the Shutter-Speed or the Aperture, which creatively holds the greatest impact for my photograph. If I am shooting a waterfall, my intention is either to blur the water or capture it in motion, so Shutter-Speed would be what I set next. 

3. I set the remaining property, in this case it’s the Aperture, to whatever brings my light-meter (next page) into balance.


That's it. That's my process, a simple 1-2-3 workflow.

Establish the sensitivity, Select the property that can get you to your creative destination and then balance the remaining property.

This exposure formula is not set in stone, not by a long shot. 

Sometimes it may take a little tweaking, while other times we nail it the first time.

ISO 200 | 0.5 seconds | f/29

ISO 200 | 0.5 seconds | f/29

Every single image in this slideshow has the same tonal balance, - meaning one image is not really any lighter, nor is it any darker than the others, aside from the variable of shooting in natural light.

They all look different visually from one image to the next, but tone-wise, they are the same.

Examine each photograph's individual exposure formula listed on the lower-left of the slideshow box. The sensitivity remains constant at ISO 200, but the Shutter-Speed and Aperture values change from one image to the next, in order to maintain tonal balance.

If there is a relatively long-duration Shutter-Speed, then I must equally close down the Aperture to reduce the light-strength.

If, on the other hand, I want a faster Shutter-Speed to freeze the water in action, I would open the Aperture up to allow the most light to pass through.

The duration of time the film/sensor is being exposed to light will have a dramatic impact on a photograph all across the spectrum, so have fun with your options!

For these photographs, I used Shutter-Priority mode, then ran the entire course of Shutter-Speed settings available to me based on ISO 200. (Actually, there were more but I thought I'd keep it limited to 15)

This is a perfect illustration of what is meant by maintaining balance.

I often find myself in the Aperture-Priority mode or in full-manual.

This way I can focus on the depth-of-field, while making sure the camera isn't selecting an   accompanying Shutter-Speed that causes a problem for my image.

As long as I arrive at the exposure formula that best suits the photograph in my imagination, it doesn't matter how I get there. As I like to say: “There’s more than one way to grandma’s house.”

This graphic represents the "Exposure Triangle."

We either have control over 2 of the 3 sides of this triangle, or those sides control us and our exposure. Simple as that.

In daylight, this is easy as there is plenty of light to deal with. Sometimes, too much light. In low-light conditions though, we may find ourselves out of our depth if we don't have a tripod or some other means to securely keep our camera still during longer Shutter-Speeds. Even with cranking up the ISO and opening the Aperture as wide as it can go, we may still be dealing with a Shutter-Speed that cannot be handheld.

Many times, we find ourselves simply unable to photograph the moment. That's when we have to just enjoy it and take the photograph with our imagination. I often find myself imagining what exposure formulas would work best in a given situation, and you should, too.

"To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."

Henri Cartier-Bresson

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