Exposure settings are starting to become a thing of the past. The new auto functions on most phones and DSLR cameras are better than ever. They make it easy for everyone to take photos or shoot videos, regardless of the circumstances. I use them all the time. Especially on my phone, when I don’t have the time to adjust settings.

But as handy as they are, it’s frustrating when your pictures don’t come out the way you wanted them to. If you feel the same way, then it might be a good idea to at least understand the basics of how your camera works and what you can adjust to get the desired results.

The 3 types of exposure settings

In this article we’re going to tackle the three main exposure settings. These are shutter speed, aperture and ISO. They are the same on any camera, whether you’re using a phone, a digital camera or even shooting on film. Before explaining how they work, we need to understand what exposure means.

Exposure is the amount of light your camera lets in when you take a picture or record a video. In photography, light is everything. If you let in too much light, then your image gets overexposed. Too little light and you end up underexposed.

But even though each of these 3 settings adjust exposure, it’s how they do it that’s important.

Shutter speed

Your camera shutter controls how much time your sensor is being exposed. Not only does this effect exposure, but having your sensor exposed for a certain amount of time means you’re capturing everything that’s happening within that timeframe.

You may have wondered why your images are coming out shaky and blurry off your phone. It’s because your phone is trying to properly expose your image by lowering your shutter speed which in turn captures all the movement that occurs within that time frame, even with steady hands.

So to get a clear crisp image, the faster the movement in the frame, the higher the shutter speed you need to have. You’re basically trying to freeze movement by narrowing the amount of time you expose. In the example above, the toy car is moving from right to left, but adjusting the shutter speed, freezes it in place.


Without getting too technical, the aperture is an opening in the lens that dictates how much light goes in through it. Besides exposure, with aperture you can also control the depth of field in a frame. Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and furthest elements in a scene that are in focus.

As you can see, depth of field plays an important role in photography, giving you control of what’s in focus and what’s not.

It’s tempting to leave your aperture wide open, especially when dealing with low light. But this comes with drawbacks, like not having your entire subject in focus, vignetting and chromatic aberration, which we’ll cover another time.


ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, which standardized the sensor sensitivirty, along many other things. The ISO controls your camera’s sensitivity to light. In a low light scenario, when all else fails, this gives us yet another chance of getting our image properly exposed. But please be cautious, as a high ISO setting can leave you with a grainy image. This depends of your camera sensor as well. Usually the bigger the sensor, the less noise you’re going to get when cranking up the ISO.

Conclusion on exposure settings

I love how new technologies in photography are advancing and make it easier and more accessible for everyone. Just by understanding how these 3 settings work, the possibilities are endless. You will also be able to understand your camera’s shortcomings and what you’ll need to get for the type of photography you want to achieve later on.

If you’re trying to learn how to get better pictures for your social media campaigns and find all of this too overwhelming, give us a shout and we’ll help get you on the fast lane towards significant growth for your business.