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Photography Basics: Aperture, Shutter, and ISO

Today’s post is going to teach you a little of the photography basics, by going further into what we discussed previously with the exposure triangle. Want to learn more about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and how they effect your photos?

aperture iso shutter speed

Read on and explore each of these elements in greater depth to have an even better understanding:


photography basics aperture

Aperture is the setting that changes the opening in your lens that allows light in to expose an image on your sensor or film. The lower the aperture number, the more open the aperture is.

With all of these photo basics, there is a give and take. While lowering your aperture to make it very wide allows in a lot of light, it also leaves you with a very shallow depth of field.

Down at f/1.4 or so, your depth of field will be almost razor thin. While up at f/22 you will large amounts of your frame in focus, which is why higher settings are better, in general, for landscapes.

Shutter Speed

photography basics shutter speed

This is how long (in seconds) your shutter is open when you expose your photo.

Faster shutter speeds, like 1/8000 of a second, are great for freezing fast motion (like animals or sports), but they let in less light.

While slower shutter speeds over a second allow more light in but blur motion. If you’ve seen a photo where the water pouring over rocks is blurry and smooth, they used a very slow shutter speed.


photography basics iso settings

ISO is a measure of the sensitivity to light for your sensor or film. The higher the number, the more sensitive to light it is.

Low ISO, like 100, is not very sensitive to light, capture lots of detail, and is pretty much grain free.

High ISO, 3200 or above, is VERY sensitive to light, but details start to get muddy and the higher you go, the more noise/grain you are going to have.

Each element effects the other

Can you see the symbiotic relationship between these three elements? If you want to shoot at a very wide open aperture to get that low depth of field (very popular in portraits) you might have to use a much faster shutter speed in conjunction with a low ISO to make sure the details don’t get blown out.

And the opposite is true as well. If you’re photographing a landscape and you want to make the water look blurry you’re going to want a long shutter speed, and a narrow aperture that doesn’t let in a lot of light but gives you more depth of focus. Match that with a lower ISO so that you can get all those details.

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The Nerdy Photographer
The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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