Beginners Guide to Manual Camera Exposure | Chad Thompson | Skillshare

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Beginners Guide to Manual Camera Exposure

teacher avatar Chad Thompson, Photographer / YouTuber

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction / Class Overview

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Exposure Triangle Basics

    • 4. What is ISO?

    • 5. What is Shutter Speed?

    • 6. What is Aperture?

    • 7. Balancing an Exposure

    • 8. Class Project Example

    • 9. Wrapping up this Class

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About This Class

In this course we will be taking a look at manual exposure for beginners and newcomers to photography. This course was made for those who have wanted to shoot in manual mode but are unsure of what to do. I designed to course to break down the various areas of the exposure triangle for best understanding.

There is a lot of information to pack in and some pieces may have been left out, but that's where I encourage questions in the discussion area of this class.

Along with the class videos and discussion area, I have provided various helpful files for you to download for free as reference guides. You can use these guides for more insight into exposure or even use them in the field as you're out shooting / practicing.

This class will help you better understand the following:

  • Manual Exposure Photography
  • ISO
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
  • Balancing and Exposure Triangle
  • Scenarios when you might use certain elements as a primary source for your exposure.

I hope you enjoy the class and get a better understanding for Manual Exposure Photography!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Chad Thompson

Photographer / YouTuber


Hello, I'm Chad. I've been a freelance photographer & videographer for over ten years! Since doing creative work, I have been able to work for clients such as: NASCAR, Old Navy, various colleges / universities, as well as many towns and city tourism groups.

I have over the years slowed down my client work in order to pursue more personal projects and teach online. I have ran a YouTube channel (Chadeveryday) for about three years now and decided to branch out to Skillshare as well.

I have a blast meeting and talking to others who love photo and video work as much as I do. It's more than just something I love to do, it's a big part of who I am.

I hope I can help you learn some new things and have fun along the way!

See full profile

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1. Introduction / Class Overview: hello and welcome to my second course here on skill share. I'm very excited for this particular episode because this episode is gonna help a lot of you beginners and newcomers to photography get out of those automatic modes and jump into manual. We try to make this as easy to understand as possible by giving you some visual examples as well a scenarios where these different pieces of the puzzle might make some more sense. So we're gonna be talking about today is three different key pieces that make up what's called an exposure triangle. And those pieces are I S O aperture and shutter speed. And what we're gonna do is we're going to dive into each of these different sections here, and we're going to explain what they are, what they do, how they work together, and we're gonna build ourselves an exposure. Based on that, I know a lot of you might have been trying to shoot in manual and being a little bit discouraged. Maybe your photos were way too dark. Maybe they were blurry. Maybe they were too bright. Whatever the case, we're going to figure out why it's doing that and teach you how to fix it. So if you're excited to learn more about manual photography, I can't wait to see you in the next video. 2. Class Project: So for the project. In this course, what we're going to be doing is taking two images of the exact same subject. But for one, I want you to use aperture as more of a main priorities. We can really get a shallow depth of field and concentrate more on that subject. And then we also want to open up that deaf the field space and have the whole frame really sharp and in focus. Now, you may not understand that really right now, but we're going to get to that and teach you how to do those different scenarios and how that's gonna work in the filled and overall just improve your photography. 3. Exposure Triangle Basics: So let's talk about manual mold. So for all of you that's gonna be the M mode on your camera. It may have something else, but typically on any camera. Rather, it's Canon, Nikon, Fuji. Whatever the manual mode would be represented by the letter M. You may have been using such things as like a little green box with a plus sign and a for automatic in some cases, a stands for aperture. But on a lot of cannon came hours, for example. It's going to be a V, which would be the aperture priority mode. TV would be the shutter speed priority, and then p disdains for priority mode, where the camera. It's basically a smarter automatic mode. I guess. In some cases, each of those modes were great, but primarily, I would say, 99% of the time. I only shoot in manual because it gives me most control and flexibility with my camera. That way I'm making the decisions of how I will my image toe look and not so much the camera. So if you think about it this way, when you're shooting in manual mode, it's kind of like you're the director this is your production and you get to create everything exactly how you want it. Whereas the rest of the pieces of the Kaymer are kind of like your musicians and they play according to what you want verses using these other modes. Maybe you got control over one musician or maybe none at all, and they just kind of play and do what they want And then the end, the results Not always what you want. So we're gonna kind of figure out how that works. And with exposure like this, what we kind of conform to is this exposure triangle, which is made up the three key components of aperture shutter speed and I S O. And when you properly used these three pieces to gather you create what I think of is like a balance, and you get a neutral exposure. And that's essentially just your exposures perfect from the shadows all the way to the highlights and everything else in between. It's not under exposed or too dark, and it's not over exposed or to light. And typically if you do over under exposed, you're going to see things like a really dark image that you're just not happy with. Maybe you see a little bit too motion blur and everything's not sharp and in focus. Or maybe it's so bright you can't really see the details of what's going on. Have you ever shot a landscape photo where the trees and maybe things like that look great . But your skies bright white, even though it was a beautiful blue, somewhat cloudy day. Well, you probably over exposed the image, and I'm gonna teach you how to not do that. 4. What is ISO?: So I want to start today with I s O. I believe that is pretty much the key component to starting to build an overall good exposure triangle. I like to start with I s O because that is the least setting that I'm going to change. Ultimately, a lot of situations I could just set my are. So leave it there and then I control the other two. So first of all, what is I eso And how does it work? Well, essentially I eso is your sensor inside of your camera's sensitivity to light, So does it need to create more light by increasing the is so if you're in like a darker seen or you out in broad daylight and you don't really need a highest I s So here's the way I think about it. If you're in a really bright seen or you have one artificially lit like I do, you probably want to shoot around 100. I s O. Because that's gonna introduce the least amount of film grain into your image or, in this case, digital noise and basically what that is, if I was to increase my eyes so to kind of even everything out on balance out this scene, I'm going to start to introduce more what we call digital noise into the scene. So here, for example, I'm at a 100 I s so everything's nice and eaten balanced. There probably is a little bit of digital noise just where it's some darker spots in the room. But for the most part, it goes unnoticed. But now let me change my exposure just a little bit to kind of introduce the more noise and show you what that would look like. So now I'm in I a so of 1600 the way that I've balanced everything out. So it still looks the same is I've increased my aperture. I've stopped it down. So there's less like coming into the lens because I have allowed my sensor to go up to 1600 kind of create this artificial lighting set up. Now the digital noise may not be awful at this scene. I can't really tell in my viewfinder just yet. I think I can see a lot going on here, but you can see the difference between the 100 dia So we were using versus the 1600. What we're using now. Now, in photography, it may not be quite as bad as you notice here in video, because with photography you're just dealing with one still frame image. So here's a couple examples. Both of these were shot in the same lighting environment. The 1st 1 you see here was shot at 100 I s O. Whereas the second image here was shot at 1600 I s O, and you can kind of start to see the differences, especially We zoom in here at the film grain at 100 versus 1600. And that's because we've increased the sensitivity of the camera's sensor to be more subjective to light hitting it. So the rule of thumb is is always keep your eyes so as low as possible. And the way that we would do something like that is to control our shutter speed as well as our aperture, which is what we're going to get into next. But first, here's a good rule of thumb. If you're in a really bright environment and you can handle shooting at an Esso of 100 try to keep it there. I typically try to never go above 400 if I can absolutely help it. Sometimes I do find myself having to go to 800 or even 1600 but I try to avoid that at all costs. That's not to say there's anything wrong with increasing your I S O. It's just best to try to keep that below. I would say at least 800 but again, if you're in brighter situations, you don't have to increase that, so try to keep it as low as possible. 5. What is Shutter Speed?: So now that we have, I s so kind of out of the way. Let's talk about my second part of the exposure triangle, and what we're gonna talk about now is the shutter speed. And essentially, what shutter speed is is the amount of time that your shutter opens and closes. Typically, when you're taking photography, it's gonna be a little bit faster, especially for using hand held photography. And you're in a good lighting environment and you want to stop action. You use a faster shutter speed, so let's think about this for a second. Shutter speed is the amount of time that your lens stays open toe allow light to come in. So, for example, if you see a number on your camera that says something like 1 25 1000 5000 or something to that extent, I just know that those are all fractions. So that is 1 25th of a second that your shutter opens and closes. It's pretty quick, but then maybe you get into a darker situation where your shutter is one whole second, so that literally means that your lens opens and closes for an entire second, which in Our case is a pretty slow shutter speed, and there's a lot of situations where you would not want to use that. But there are also situations where you would. So let's talk about one scenario where you'd want a faster shutter speed where it opens and closes. Superfast while a lot of you, especially if you have Children, probably go to sporting events. Your kids probably play some type of sports, and you've probably tried to take photos of them in manual mode. And you might notice the photos come out a little bit blurry. Maybe even auto mode, The photos air coming out blurry. Why is that? Well, you've got a slower shutter speed. Or maybe it's just cause it's your introducing a little bit of movement to the camera that the shutter speeds not compensating for so I would recommend shooting with a faster shutter speed depended on how fast the subject is moving now. There's not really a specific guideline here as to how fast that shutter speed needs to be , but let's say it's a bright day. It's a Saturday afternoon football game. Everything's well lit from the sun, and you've got an I s o set to 100. Most likely, your shutter speed is going to be maybe 1000 or 2000 or even a little bit higher. There's no problem with that if you want to stop that motion and freeze frames, if you look at what a lot of sports photographers do and you see that these images are nicely lit, but the subjects are also frozen in time. That's because they've used a faster shutter speed that is faster than the subject itself so it can freeze them. So, winner, sometimes you don't use a slower shutter speed. And how could you get by with that any time you're dealing with a slower shutter speed? And by this I mean pretty much anything below 1 25th more so. But anything from 1/60 or below I would recommend using a tripod. I wouldn't really try to hand hold these things because even the slightest little bit of movement on your camera is going to give a softer focus, because everything might not be so sharp because you have introduced that motion and movement from the camera tribe odds really Jeep. You can get these things for anywhere from 15 to $100. It was all dependent upon the quality. Want what you're looking to get out of those? But one situation in particular I can think of where I would love to use a slower shutter speed is when taking photos of moving bodies of water. So if you ever seen those really silky smooth waterfalls or riverbeds or things like that, and it just looks beautiful and you're like, How did that photographer create that? Well, they did that with shutter speed. And the reason is because when that shutter stays open for an extended period of time and you have that moving Bader body of water, you're actually capturing that movement in the process. So that's one situation where you want to use a slower shutter speed. Just think about this. The motion that's going to be in your frame, the subject or whatever it is that you're photographing. How fast do you feel like that's moving? Do you feel like you need a faster shutter speed to stop it? Or do you need a slower shutter speed to introduce some of that movement? And that's totally up to you. And in a nutshell, that's essentially shutter speed and how it works 6. What is Aperture?: So now the third and final component to the exposure triangle we're going to talk about aperture. This is one of my favorite pieces of the overall exposure triangle, and this is one piece that I usually am constantly changing. And there's really two reasons for this, one of which is the overall definition of aperture. Basically your iris of your lens. Think about it like the pupils in your eye. When you're in a darker room, your pupils really open up and get pretty big so it can allow more light to come in so you could see the environment better. Whereas if you're outside in bright daylight or have just been zapped by a flashlight, your people get really small. And that's because they don't need to let as much light to come in other things. Otherwise, everything's will be really blown out and blurry. The same deal happens with your camera and your lens. When you're in a situation where there's a lot of light, you don't necessarily need your lens to be wide open. You can actually stop that thing down and what we call F stops, which is basically the size of the lens openings That way, you could determine how much light comes in or doesn't come into the lens, and you can control that for different scenarios. For example, if you're outside and broad daylight and you don't have something like a neutral density filter, which is basically just sunglasses for your camera, you may not be able to use something like an F 2.8 at even at 100 I s. So unless you really crank up that shutter speed super high to compensate, it's not to say you can't do that, but it's going to change a few different things. So, for example, if you did want to shoot thes silky smooth waterfalls, you're probably gonna have to set your aperture somewhere between an F 16 and F 22. The reason is because it's allowing way last light to come into the lens, which overall makes a darker image. But if you slow your shutter speed down and allow light to come in for a longer period of time, it's going to balance out that image and expose it properly. So one you have a nice exposure, but you also have this silky, smooth body of water and That's one reason you would want to kind of control aperture and things like that. The other reason is because you want to control your death, the field. So say, for example, in this image, you'll notice that my background is slightly blurry, at least compared to my face. And that reason is because I'm using a wide open aperture. When I do this, the focus area starts to fall off right behind me. So you all of me is here nice and eaten focus. But it can't really focus the rest of the stuff back here now. If I were to change my aperture to, say, an F 11 which rat now? Now there's a lot more details in the background, and it doesn't fall off. It doesn't blur out, and there's certain situations you might want to use. Each of these personally for me in portrait site, typically use a more wide open aperture and blur out the background because my subject is the person I'm taking the portrait of their of most interest to the scene, and a lot of times the background doesn't necessarily matter. But in other circumstances, such as landscape photography or a subject in a scene where the background is kind of of importance. I may shoot with a an aperture value of, say, F eight F 11 so there is more focus and emphasis on the background as well as the subject. But basically, once you want to take away from here is determined. Is the background something that's too distracting? That you don't need everything in focus? Or do you want to blur that out? So it kind of falls off. It's still there to create atmosphere, but not so much that it takes away from everything. So this is where I say that, you know, there's not really a definite answer for everything. Sometimes you have to kind of think about these things for yourself and determine what works best for you. You're gonna have to kind of play around thes settings and different environments to see how things kind of work and play out. And that's one thing that we're going to do with the project in this class is putting these three things together to make them work. So in the next section, we're going to talk about as how to put these three components together to make that exposure triangle and make things work for you. 7. Balancing an Exposure: So now that we know about the three different components that make up manual exposure in the exposure triangle, let's talk about how to piece these things together. So as we mentioned, we talk about I s so that's kind of the base building block that I go by to set my exposure again. If I'm in really bright situations such as outdoors or in a controlled environment, I'm going to use a lower i e isso as possible. So say 100. But let's say you're indoors that maybe like a basketball game at a high school, 100 eyes so probably is not gonna work very well. You might have to shoot higher, such as 800 or so, especially if you don't have a wide open aperture value of, say, like 2 to 2.8. Somewhere in that realm toe allow mawr like to enter that camera. A lot of kit lens cameras have about a 3.5 to 4.6 starting aperture value, and that's not the best, so you probably will have to increase that I s O. But don't be too afraid to increase that just because it's gonna add grain or noise to your image because in some cases you have to do that. And sometimes getting the shot is a little better than losing a little bit of quality again . An editing. There are ways that you can add noise reduction to kind of take some of that grain in such a way. That's for a whole nother video. But just know that you can remove some of that. So if you do have to increase the eso, don't worry too much. But that's what I would recommend setting first. The second piece that I would recommend setting would be the shutter speed. And the reason I say this is because in a lot of situations, your stretcher speeds maybe not going to change a whole lot. Let's say you're out taking a hike. One day you're out in the woods and you've got your eye eso set. Everything looks fine that way, and your shutter speed is set to a healthy point where you can handhold the camera, such as at least 1 25th of a second. Now all you have to do is control your aperture to determine the overall exposure to make all this stuff balance out. But how do you do that? How do you know what aperture to set at one way is you can look through your viewfinder and watch the little needle go across. This dial looks very similar to this. You'll see a value very in the very centre with zero, and to the right of that, you'll see, plus one plus two, most likely and then to the left of that, you'll see, like negative one Negative, too. So right in the center is your neutral exposure. So all you really have to do is dial in your aperture until you get that thing set to neutral. And by neutral, I just mean getting it to zero. Because if you're in the negatives, you're under exposing your image and you're gonna have a little bit darker spots than maybe that you're looking for. But then again, on the other side of the spectrum, if you have a plus one or two, you're gonna overexpose those images, and you don't necessarily want that either, because when you do those things, you can introduce what we call clipping. And when you introduce clipping sometimes with your highlights, if you overexpose those you're never going to get those details back, whether you're shooting and raw J. Peg or whatever, and we don't want that because we want all the detail we can possibly get out of our camera now. Aperture isn't just used to balance out the exposure altogether. You can actually use aperture as your main point of focus when taking images. You'd mostly want to do this because you need a faster or slower shutter speed and you want more light to come in the camera or you want to control your death the field. So, for example, if I was going out to shoot a very vast landscape, I already know that I want everything to be sharp and in focus, So I'm probably wanting to use an aperture value somewhere between eight and 16. More specifically, F 11 tends to be my sweet spot for these really wide focus areas, so in this case, I'm setting my aperture first. Now I have to dial in that shutter speed to compensate. So if it's a really bright pretty day, most likely that shutter speed is going to be in a reasonable spot where I can still handhold the camera If not, I can pull up my tripod, set my camera up that way and introduce a slower shutter speed to get the shot. But now I'm focused more on the aperture because I want to control that depth of field. Same deal. If you're taking portrait, it's maybe you want a really shallow depth of field, and you really want open That lends up to say, in F two and F 2.8 or even Mawr if your lens can do that. But now you've got to control the shutter speed to compensate for the overall exposure. One thing you don't want is for that shutter speed to go too slow and make your subject blurry. So make sure that it stays within a range above, say, 1/60 of a second, preferably 1 25th would be my guess. So that way you don't introduce that motion. If it's a really bright day outside, you might have to bump that thing upto 1/1000 of a second to balance out your exposure. So the thing to remember is, once you have that nice balanced exposure, if you change one thing, you're gonna have to change something else. now, I could get in a little bit more detail on this, but I think that's for a more of an intermediate course, which we could talk about later. But think about it this way. You always wanna have a nice balance. And if you start to change your shutter speed, you're going to get out of balance. Because then your aperture is not going to allow that to work either. So if you've got a really wide open aperture in a fast shutter speed and decide, I want to slow things down and you slow down that shutter speed, then your aperture and shutter speed both they're gonna be allowing so much like to come into the camera, you're gonna have an over exposed image. So if you start to decrease your shutter speed down so it's slower and slower, you need to change your aperture and what we call stopping down to a technically a bigger aperture number. But it's gonna be a smaller overall aperture. So if you are an aperture value of, say, 2.8 and a shutter speed of 1 5/100 but then you drop your shutter speed down to 1 25th you're gonna have to bring that aperture value upto a different number. So say F eight or F 11 somewhere in those areas. So what? We find balance? 8. Class Project Example: I know that might sound a little wild and crazy at first, but here's what I recommend for you to do to practice and make things a little bit easier on yourself. Firstly, I recommend if you do have a viewfinder in your camera, be looking through that because you need to teach yourself to look through that. I don't feel like the LCD screen is always super useful, and it kind of doesn't project the image as well as I think the viewfinder does. The viewfinder really helps you toe isolate out your seen in your subject to create a better composition, and also you can see that little meter bar that I was telling you about their. So that way you can watch where that little pin needle girls. And once it gets closest to zero as possible for your scene, you'll know that you've doubt in your settings correctly. Toe have a proper exposure, and that's pretty much it for shooting in manual mode. I know it can be a little daunting and scary at first, but overall, as you practice this more and more, it's going to make it a lot easier. So for today's project as I mentioned, what we're gonna do is shoot the same subject twice, focusing on deaf the field. So that way you can really see the difference. So the first thing I want you to do is to go to the tiniest little aperture that you possibly can. So if you can get around f say 16 that were probably pretty good. If 11 f 16 take the image of the subject and really see what that background and everything looks like and then balance out your exposure so you can blur that background out. So if you're camera again, only goes toe like a 3.5 or a four point. Oh, said it to that. But if it can go lower, say a 2.8 or 2.0, or 1.8, that would be fantastic. Said it to that and then move your shutter speed around. So that way you're balancing out that scene. Just understand that when you're out shooting and you start changing these settings or the environment changes, you're probably going to switch things around so you can't just set it and forget it like you do with automatic mode. You've got to be in control of your camera. Non stop 9. Wrapping up this Class: So I guess the wrap things up today. What I want to say is, if you do have any questions, leave those in the discussion section of the class so that myself or other students can help you out and answer those questions, and we can be there for each other. I've also included any documentation that I put on the screen or any helpful examples that I thought might be of aid to you in the process of making and taking photos and practicing what you've learned in this course, I've also included those an upload section. Feel free to download those and use those however you see fit. But I hope you enjoyed today's class. You learned a little bit something more about manual exposure, and you start to take more control over your camera. But most importantly, be sure to create something new today.