A Basic Introduction to Exposure

The problem with digital photography is that its controls can be both a blessing and a curse. You will have so many controls to truly pinpoint exposure for a better image, but at the same time, you will have so many controls that you could easily get overwhelmed in a hurry.

Exposure is the most important set of controls on your camera, though, so it is a definite must that you learn much more than anything you will find in that little camera user’s manual. This article is meant as an introduction to the concept of exposure and what controls your camera has to manipulate it.

For a more in-depth explanation of the elements of exposure please read this article, Understanding the Exposure Triangle.

The Basics of Exposure

To begin with, you need to understand a basic overview of exposure and what it means to your own digital photography. It is through the exposure and the various settings involved in exposure that your camera will produce the best images. One of the great things about modern DSLRs is that they can handle exposure all on their own in most situations. You must now be wondering why you even need to know how to set exposure if your camera can handle it, right? The truth is there will be times when your camera will get confused in essence. Because of this, you will need to change some settings manually and if you want to continue to capture good images, you need to know how to handle those settings.

There are a few different things that will have an effect on exposure, how your camera reads exposure and the settings that you will need to use. Before you can learn more about exposure in depth, you need to know these things.

Light is perhaps one of the most important things that will affect exposure. The amount of light that is available to the camera, either through natural or artificial means, will have a direct impact on how your camera handles exposure.

The duration of the light and the length of time that the light is allowed into the camera will also have an effect on exposure.

Additionally, how much light is actually allowed to reach the camera sensors through the lens and through the shutter will have an effect.

Finally, the way that light is transmitted or reflected off of subjects and objects will cause a need for adjustments to exposure.

With this information, you are ready to delve more into exposure modes and how to use them.

The Exposure Modes

Your camera is equipped with various exposure modes that give you different levels of control over the exposure. These range from full camera control all the way to full user control. Understanding the different levels and how they affect each part of exposure will allow you to better control your camera. Many DSLR cameras will have different names for their exposure controls, so you may see some differences from the ones listed below. However, they generally offer the same options and the same levels of control.

Full Auto
Think of this setting as the closest that you will get to point and shoot. Your camera will make all the decisions, including shutter speed, aperture (f/stop), ISO and focus. This setting will also control the flash.

No Flash
This setting is the same as full auto with one exception. The camera will not use the flash under any circumstances. This way, you can still allow your camera to control all of the exposure without the flash, which is perfect for situations in which a flash is not allowed.

Program (or programmed on some cameras) is sort of a hybrid between auto and manual. The camera will automatically set the exposure settings for you. Then, though, you can actually make small changes to fine tune each of the images that you take.

Modern DSLR cameras will include a variety of different scene modes. These modes allow for fully automated settings, but you can choose for the camera to automate those settings based on certain situations.

Aperture Priority
This would be one of the semi automatic modes available for digital photography. With this mode, your camera will set everything else but will give you the control over aperture. Also called f/stop, aperture actually refers to how open the lens will actually be, allowing for changes to focus and depth of field.

Shutter Priority
As with aperture priority, this is a semi automatic mode. Your camera will control everything but the shutter speed. The speed of your shutter will have an effect on how much light is allowed in the camera overall.

The direct opposite of auto, this mode leaves all controls in the photographer’s hands. The photographer will have to set everything from aperture to shutter speed in order to take each image.

A Bit More on Scenes

The scene mode on your DSLR camera can be your best friend in many ways. Different cameras will have different sets of scene modes available, but here is a rundown of the scenes that you are likely to see on the camera.

– Portrait
– Landscape
– Nighttime Image
– Beach or Snow
– Sports or Action
– Macro
– Kids and Pets
– Color Accent Effect
– Vivid
– Antique or Nostalgic
– Under Water
– Miniature Effect
– Fireworks
– Fish Eye

Learning more about these scene modes can allow you to find many versatile uses for your camera. Keep in mind, though, that scene modes will not always work. There are times when your camera will need manual settings, especially in situations with strange lighting.

Exposure is one of the most important things about your digital camera. It can also be one of the most confusing things. However, when you get the basics of exposure down, you will find that you can improve your digital photography a great deal. Learning how to shoot on semi automatic or manual will give you so much more control over your image