Understanding the exposure triangle: Beginner guide

Understanding the exposure triangle is important in photography and especially really important in time lapse photography. This is a beginner guide so if you are a seasoned warrior then this post is not for you.

As a timelapse shooter, we want to control what the camera takes. So no automatic or semi-automatic settings in your camera. Understanding the exposure triangle means that you can take control of what the camera takes.

Original graphic with Aperture Misspelled. lol

Let’s start with ISO. How sensitivity of the sensor to capture light through the lens. And it count in simple number like ISO 100 then double ISO 200 (check the table below). Basically as a timelapse shooter you want to keep this as low as possible. You will shoot timelapse on a tripod all the time so ISO is one variable we can control.

Next is the Aperture and it counts it odd number like f1.2, f2 check the table below. To understand Aperture values just imagine your eyes as a guide. If in sun light your eye pupil will contract or reduce to let less light in so it won’t damage any vital nerve in your eyes. If it was dark then the pupil will open up or dilate to gather more light.

Similar to the Aperture in camera lens but not as effective and efficient as our eyes. Lens open up and close to gather more light or reduce light going into the sensor. In photography the smaller the number for “F.Stop” the wider the lens open up to gather more light. Sorry DON”T ask me why that is the case, I wasn’t born then.

The third variable of our exposure triangle is Shutter Speed. Imagine a mechanical curtain going up and down when you think of the Shutter Speed. And it usually counts as in seconds or milliseconds like 1/125 second or 1/250 second. Each time it double which means one “F. STOP OF LIGHT”. We use “f.stop” to measure in photography. Check the table below for the “F’STOP”

ISO100200 400 80016003200640012800
SHUTTER SPEED1/601/1251/2501/5001/10001/20001/40001/8000

There are relationships between these three variables and understand them allow you to capture a correct exposure. Let’s do and example so it easier for you to grasp this concept.

EXERCISE 1: ISO at 100, f.8 and at Shutter Speed of 1/250. What time of the day is it?

Original graphic with Aperture Misspelled. lol

If your answer is bright sunny day, blue sky and very little clouds then you are right. Full mark for you. Now if you want to change the F.Stop to f5.6 which is one full stop., how would you do it? CHEAT TABLE is above.

a) ISO 100, f5.6 and Shutter speed at 1/500c) Answers a and b
b) ISO 200, f5.6 and Shutter speed at 1/250d) Can I call a friend?

Did you get it? Here’s another Exercise. ISO 3200, f2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second. What time of the day is it? Note I have thrown you a curved ball. So be very careful with you answer.

Original graphic with Aperture Misspelled. lol

Did you get? If you’re answer is at night time then you are right Full Mark. But didn’t I tell you I have thrown you a curved ball? What kind of photo do you going to get if you have that setting above? Go now and shoot with it with your camera and see the results. How would you fixed the problem? CHEAT TABLE is above lol.

Here is another exercise for you. If I want to photograph your son playing football and FREEZE the action. What settings should you use? I’ll give you a clue. Shutter Speed must be 1/1000 of a second to freeze action perfectly. Check out my video below if you want to listen to my voice and see me explain the answer for you.

Gear Used/Demonstrated for Video and Photos: All Links are Affiliated
Galaxy S8 https://amzn.to/2OPhVwQ
Rode Wireless Go https://amzn.to/3vKfkoE
Manfrotto tripod https://amzn.to/2OOF0Qh
Panasonic Lumix G7 https://amzn.to/2ONJfvi
Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 https://amzn.to/3cP11Xc


Published by Travis Chau

I'm a freelance makeup artist from Sydney, Australia. If you hang around creative people long enough you well get the bug to create as well. So now I am into photography, timelapse photography and maybe video/film later.

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