The Exposure Triangle – Summer Photography Series

Today our Summer Photography Series is going to focus (pun intended) on the 3 elements of photography that we have discussed over the last three weeks – ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed – and how they work together to achieve your ideal exposure.

Summer Photography Series at 5 Minutes for Mom

What is exposure?

Exposure refers to how bright or dark your photo is. This is effected by the amount of light that is recorded by your camera’s sensor. A properly exposed photo should typically resemble the brightness of the original scene. A poorly exposed photo will either be too dark (under exposed) or too bright (over exposed), and may contain areas that are so dark or so bright that they contain no detail (know as being blown out).

Now that we understand exposure….what is the exposure triangle?

We have spent the last 3 weeks discussing ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, the three elements often referred to as the three points of the Exposure Triangle.

It is at the intersection of these three elements that a picture’s exposure is decided.

Photography - exposure triangle

The most important thing to understand and remember this week is that adjusting one of these 3 elements will impact each of the others. This means that you can never really isolate just one of the elements alone but always need to have the others in the back of your mind.

A window analogy

Imagine that your camera is a window with shutters or shades that you can open and close. A larger window (like a wide open/large aperture) will let more light into the room than a small window (or a small aperture).

No matter what size window you have, the longer you leave the shutters open the more light that will stream into the room, just as a long (or slow) shutter speed will let more light in to your camera’s sensor. Think of the way a sudden flash of light (from a quickly opened and closed shade or from a strobe light in a dark room) freezes action, or at least what your eye sees in that moment.

Imagine now that you are in a room with a window and you are wearing sunglasses. When I am in bright sunlight, I need sunglasses. I typically don’t wear my shades indoors, but I can imagine…. Light shades will probably not drastically change the way you view the room, but dark shades will really limit what detail you can see in the room around you.

Similarly, changing the ISO will adjust how sensitive your camera is to the available light.

A challenge

Which element of the exposure triangle (ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed) has been the hardest for you to grasp? Why don’t you spend this week practicing that element a little more. You could also share the successes you’ve had as you’ve worked on achieving the perfect exposure.

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Written by 5 Minutes for Mom managing editor Lolli. You can find Lolli blogging at Better in Bulk and tweeting at @1momof5.


  1. […] The Exposure Triangle… When I saw this weeks title I knew it was the week that I would become photographically lost… this is where most photography courses start. But with a few weeks of understanding those bits and pieces in the corners of the triangle – I got it, I really got it!!! I really need to practice this stuff… would somebody send me outdoors with my camera already!!! […]

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