Exposure - summary

So, I finally got round to summing up all the exposure posts (one, two, three, four).
I want to help you understand how to use your camera in manual mode without too much technical talk.
I hope so far you got your head around shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. But if you don’t feel confident enough yet to use all three at once (manually), keep reading.

First of all, before you take a photo you have to know what you want to emphasize, and what you want your picture to look like.
Is it a shallow depth-of-field you want to achieve? Or maybe you just care about your subject being in focus. Maybe you want both. Or anything else.

The best way to teach you how to set your camera manually is probably by showing you examples:

f/1.8, 1/160s, ISO 400

When I took this photo I wanted the focus to be on the flowers, maybe even just focus on a few, and have the rest of the photo be nice and blurry. No distracting background.
Knowing this I decided to keep my aperture really wide. A wide aperture is always useful as it already lets in lots of light, which then means you can keep your shutter speed fast (usually).
I then considered how much available light there is - it wasn’t too bright outside, but there was enough available light to work with, so I decided to go with an ISO of 400 (kind of my ‘standard’). 400 means there won’t be too much noise, but it’s also enough to keep my shutter speed decently fast.
All I had to do then is to look through the viewfinder of my camera and look at the light meter. Except for a few situations your light meter should be around the middle - indicating when your exposure will be right.
I already had my aperture and my ISO set, so I only had to play around with my shutter speed setting a bit, until the light meter ended up in the middle.
And there we go.

It’s always the same principle: know what you want your photo to look like, consider which element to set first.
Sometimes it will be very dark (at least for your camera), so you will have to put up your ISO, maybe even use a slow shutter speed as well as a wide aperture (you might have to use a tripod then).
Sometimes just putting up your ISO will do the job in order to keep your shutter speed fast.
And sometimes you might want to achieve a large depth-of-field, which means your aperture won’t let through that much light - meaning either your ISO has to increase or your shutter speed will have to be slower in order to give you a correct exposure (or both).

It’s just a matter of practice, really. And playing around with your different settings. As long as you know what all three elements will do and how they will influence your photo results you’ve got control over your camera.
It might seem a bit confusing and hard in the beginning, but I promise if you keep shooting in manual mode you will get there sooner than you think.

Let me know how it goes, or if you need any further help. :)

Here a few more similar examples to the one above:


  1. great advice.

  2. What a great post! Thanks so much for laying out everything in such simple terms :) xxx and lovely photographs too x


    1. Thank you, Roxy! I'm really glad you got something from it and understood what I'm talking about :)

  3. These are lovely pictures ,i'm still reading through your blog. I can't believe the loads of tips on taking pictures.

    1. Haha, thank you Uzo. I'm really glad it's helpful!

  4. Thus far I have taken two photography classes, and nothing, has taught me as much as you just have over the past half hour that I've been reading your Posts and taking notes. I wish I had a trip planned to London in the near future. Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you SO much, Peggy!! This really means a lot, and I am so glad it's useful! Please let me know if there's anything in particular that you'd like to read more about. (And I would love to help you out in person if you do come down to London sometime).

  5. Great great advice and easily to understand. I'll be bookmarking this as there are a couple of areas I'm not as confident with.

    Buckets & Spades