Today we have digitalized everything including DSLR cameras. This allows us to practice, practice, practice at no additional cost. Over ten years ago, I got my first SLR camera. Back then they didn’t have digital and they were simply called SLR cameras.

I was shocked when my first roll of film was all blurry and out of focus. The lighting was all off and these were quite frankly the worst pictures I had ever taken. I became so overwhelmed that I put the camera on the shelf and didn’t touch it again.I had heard so much about how wonderful these cameras were! What was I doing wrong?

I did not have that freedom to practice 10 years ago, because film was so expensive and you just took a photo and hoped it turned out.

Ten years has passed and I decided to take another whirl with the DSLR cameras. So I dove into learning how to use these amazing cameras. You know once I started to learn a little here and a little there, they didn’t seem so hard to use after all.


To help you understand your camera better we must first tackle what the exposure triangle is. The exposure triangle is the relationship between 3 elements: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. Once you understand these 3 elements, you will have a much clearer understanding of how your camera works!

1. ISO

ISO is a measure of how sensitive the sensor is to light. Look at the table above. The lower the ISO number the more light you have. So if you were shooting outside on a sunny day then you would shoot with your camera on a low ISO setting, most likely 100. This will create a clear, crisp picture. If you are working indoors in lower light you would have to adjust your ISO to allow more light to the sensor. A lot of my food pictures that I shoot at night I shoot at an 800 ISO to compensate for the lack of light in the room.

Keep in mind that every camera is different and you must practice with your camera to see where your cameras sweet spot is in regards to ISO. An ISO of 800 is fine for my DSLR, but anything larger starts to become grainy.

When adjusting the ISO, always remember that a higher ISO comes at a cost. The higher the ISO, the grainer the picture will become. I try to shoot all of my pictures on the lowest ISO possible.


Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open. Shutter speed is how fast or slow the camera records the picture. The slower the shutter speed the more light that gets to the sensor. The faster the shutter speed, the less light that gets to the sensor.

Shutter speed allows you to freeze any motion in a picture (action shot) or to blur any motion in a picture (waterfall). When I take pictures of my daughter at her soccer game, I want to freeze the action of the soccer ball mid air. This is done by using a fast shutter speed. If I am shooting a waterfall and I want it to have a blurred motion, I need more light to get to the sensor so I am going to slow my shutter speed down to create the blurred effect.

Keep in mind, you can hold your camera for anything that falls above 1/50. If you reduce your shutter speed below 1/50 then you will need to use a tripod for that picture so it won’t be blurry. This can vary greatly from camera to camera, so play around with your camera to see when you need to use a tripod.


Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when the picture is taken. Aperture is measured in f-stops (f/1.8, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22…). The lower the number (f/1.8) the larger the opening in the lens or the more light that gets to the sensor. The larger the number (f/22) the smaller the opening in the lens or the less light that gets to the sensor.

The aperture controls what is in focus in a picture. Below is a picture of 2 bobble-heads (I know, it was all I had to shoot at that moment)! ?? The picture on the left has a very low aperture number, f/2.8 or a very large opening in the lens. It has a very shallow depth of field. Notice how the bobble-head on the left is barely noticeable because I have chose to blur it out so that the focus is on the bobble head on the right.

Now the picture to the right of this has an aperture f/6.3 or a smaller opening. Notice how the bobble-head on the left of the second picture is a little bit more in focus. It has a little bigger depth of field. As I increase the f-stop number, the clearer it will become. Keep in mind that in both of these pictures I have focused on the bobble head on the right.


Lets look at this diagram to learn a little more about how all 3 of these elements work together to create a picture.

As we look at this diagram you can see that 3 of these elements depend on one another. You can not isolate one, they all need to work together.

An example would be if you are creating a more shallow depth of field then you are allowing more light to come into your picture. You will have to either adjust the shutter speed or ISO to compensate for the change in light.

Don’t worry, this will be a later lesson. We will get to manual mode after we have done a little bit of homework and some exercises to help you better understand how it all comes together.


So that is it! Now this week start practicing shooting in these two modes and again play close attention to the aperture, ISO and the shutter speed and how they work together.

You’re one step closer to shooting in manual mode, just a few more steps and you are there! When you shoot in manual mode, you have the freedom to create the pictures that you are envisioning.