Basic Exposure - Your Camera has a Light Meter

Peggy Farren 2013-08-04

by Peggy Farren

Understanding exposure is the first thing a photographer must learn. Fortunately, the meter that is built into our cameras makes it so easy to learn.

First of all, there are three basic components to controlling your exposure:

ISO Shutter Speed Aperture


Exposure Triangle Diagram

Each component lets light in or stops light from coming in to your camera in a different way.

ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor to light. Most cameras are calibrated for best quality at ISO100. Use higher ISOs when you need more light.

Shutter speed – The shutter is a curtain that opens and closes. The longer it stays open, the more light on your sensor.

Aperture is a hole in your camera lens that gets bigger or smaller. Focal Stop or Fstop is the measure of the aperture. A big hole lets in more light.

So ….. how do you know which component to change and when? If we are only concerned with exposure, you can change any of three and get a good exposure.

We explain what each component does and when to change them in our workshops. Our basic exposure class is our best selling workshop! We really simplify things! Soon it will be available as on online class and video. Click HERE to view our calendar. Look for DSLR Exposure Basics.

How do you know when you have a good exposure? That's where your camera's meter comes in.

Each DSLR camera has a built in light meter. The camera “thinks” it has a good exposure when the meter registers at 18% gray.

That doesn't matter so much to you as a beginner as knowing how to read the meter. Point your camera at something and press your shutter halfway. You'll see the meter inside your eyepiece – in most cases along the bottom. You are “metering” also known as "measuring the light" where ever you are pointing your camera.

When your meter is on zero – you have a good exposure. That's it!

Nikon Meter
Nikon Meter

Change your ISO, aperture and shutter speed until your meter is on zero. You can make many combinations of settings and still have a good exposure. We've provided our cheat sheet to help you with some settings to start with.

Exposure Cheat Sheet
Exposure Cheat Sheet

Please read the reviews on our Meetup site about our DSLR Exposure workshop. It's our most popular class!!

Here are a few:

"Loved the class!!! I can't believe I finally understand the important basics, Peggy did for me what I could not grasp in books. Thank you!" ~Mary Sue Norberto

"I wish I had taken this class months ago." ~Marie-May Stevenson

"This class is a Must for a beginner. Peggy kept it simple and focused only on the basics to get started. It was "hands on" as well so we used ISO, aperture and shutter speed with our own cameras." ~Debbie Gladchun

"Was a fun class. Explained in a way that made more since than what I've read on my own. I was tired of just winging it, and wanted to learn." Tony Bevis

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Peggy Farren is an award winning, professional photographer, instructor, writer and speaker.

With over 17 years as a full-time professional photographer, Peggy offers photography training through her training center, “Understand Photography”.

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