Photography 1001 : Lesson 3 – Basic Settings

Today, we will talk about the basic settings of the camera.


Exposure determines how light or dark an image will appear when it’s been captured by your camera. When using the Auto mode, the camera will calculate the best setting in average photography. But it order to create different effects and achieve certain style of technique, photographers play with the three keys factors in the Exposure Triangle – Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed (also called Exposure Time). The general idea is that, when there is not enough light in the image, it’s under-exposure; when there is too much light in it, over-exposure.


Referring to the above image, you know that you can tweak with three settings to create brighter or dimmer images. Now we will go a bit deeper into the three factors.



Aperture controls the amount of light that can be let in for capture. It is presented in numbers, the smaller the number means the larger the aperture, vice versa. For instance, f/2.8 is a larger aperture than f/4.

When the environment is dark, you use a larger aperture so as to maximise the light you capture, and reduce chances of blurred and unclear images. At the same time, enlarging the aperture will restrict the depth of field, creating the effect of a blurry background so as to make the focused object stands out. On the contrary, if you want to take picture of the landscape, you may want to use a smaller aperture.



Shutter Speed / Exposure Time

Similar to Aperture, changing the shutter speed changes the amount of light you can captured on to the camera sensor. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure time; thus the more light captured.

When you are trying to capture a specific moment of sports events, you use a short exposure time to freeze to motion and prevents blurring. Keeping your hands steady, using a tripod and pushing up the shutter speed are keys to prevent blurring. On the other hand, if you are trying to create the intentional flowing effect, such as when taking pictures of waterfall or doing Light Painting, you will use a slow shutter speed.

Credits: Alisa Luk –
Credits: Trevor Williams –



ISO defines the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light; the higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is to light. Therefore, using a higher ISO can help you to capture brighter images, when keeping aperture and shutter speed unchanged. However, high ISO will leave noises on images, therefore when you are aiming for high definition photos, you will keep the ISO to minimal. But then, higher end and newer cameras are getting better at reducing the noises, and there will always be the Photoshop and other software to help you, so feel free to play with ISO when taking experiment shots.

Generally, ISO 400 can be seen as the default setting. When in bright lit conditions like sunny outdoor or if you are using studio lights, ISO 100/200 are usually used. On the contrary, ISO 800 will be used for poorly lit conditions.

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