The Importance of the Exposure Triangle in Photography

What is the Exposure Triangle?

When I first started my career in photography, I never knew much about the exposure triangle and what it even meant. I never knew how these professional photographers got their photos to be so high quality and perfectly balanced, until one day I decided to pursue my passion in photography and I dove deep into learning everything I could about photography and the exposure triangle.

I studied photography day and night and realized how important the exposure triangle is when it comes to high-quality photos. The exposure triangle is just three basic components of photos that work perfectly together to create the most beautiful photos.

The exposure triangle essentially describes the relationship between 3 basic things: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. These are 3 factors that play a major role in any photography or film you are capturing, and they are what helps to perfectly balance your photos and get the message across that you’re capturing within your photos. Let’s dive a little deeper into what the exposure triangle is and why it’s so important…

Why is the Exposure Triangle so important?

Whether you’re just getting into photography or you’re trying to level up your skills. The exposure triangle is probably something you’ve heard a lot about. But what is it exactly? Here’s is a visual of what the exposure triangle looks like broken down…

So, what are the different elements of the Exposure Triangle?
  • ISO – This is a camera setting that helps you brighten or darken an image. If you’re working in a dark environment, you can increase your ISO to brighten the picture up. When increasing your ISO, you do want to be careful because if you increase it too much, you will then be dealing with too much noise or grain in your image.
  • Aperture – The aperture is the amount of light that goes through the camera lens. It’s the diaphragm that opens and closes allowing light to reach the camera. Think of your eyeball when thinking of aperture – when you walk from a dark room into a light room, the iris of your eyes naturally resizes and controls your pupil so you can easily see in the different environments. Aperture is measured in something photographers call F-Stop. The higher this F-Stop is, the diaphragm of your camera closed, letting less light into your lenses. This allows your camera to focus more on the object of focus rather than the background of the photo. 
  • Shutter Speed – To understand shutter speed, we first need to understand what shutter is. Shutter is a curtain in front of a camera’s sensor. So, shutter speed is the amount of time that curtain is going to be open. For example, if you want to take a picture of someone in a sporting game, you need to increase your shutter speed to catch all the different action shots. This will do two things – it will allow less light into the camera, and it will freeze the subject you are shooting. Increasing your shutter speed will essentially freeze your subject, giving you a clear shot of whatever you are shooting. If you have a slower shutter speed, you will see everything in motion.
Why is it so important to understand this?

The exposure triangle is important to know and understand in photography because it helps to convey the message of your photo. To produce high-quality and unique photos you must know how to balance your aperture, your ISO, and your shutter speed to really capture the moment. You need to know how to control how much light enters your lens, you must know what angles are best for what shots, you need to know when to lighten and darken your photos, and you need to know what speed the curtain of your lens sensor needs to be at.

Taking good photos is so much more than just capturing an intimate or special moment – no matter what kind of photography you specialize in. The exposure triangle is a tool that every photographer should be taking advantage of if you’re looking to improve your photo quality and turn your passion for photography into a full-time business as I did.

If you’re looking to take your photography skills to the next level and you want to learn more about the exposure triangle and how I use it to enhance my photos, make sure to follow me on all my social channels!

Sources used for reference, but all wording is my own.

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