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Learning Week - Day 7: It's a Wrap! | Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Family Photographer

Updated: Dec 27, 2018

We have made it!

The final blog in the Learning Week series is here - I remember only just gearing up to launch these (truth be told, the week leading up to the launch did not pan out how I intended it to, so I had done a lot less preparation than planned! Fear not, I'm rarely stuck for words, cue seven not-so-quick-hit blog posts we now have for our attention) and here we are, wrapping things up!

I have really enjoyed writing these and sharing my experience, I hope I have given you some crumbs for thought or, at least a good excuse to sit down for a latte with a pain au chocolate.

The final day I have decided to make a bit of a summary/overview of the week and also of some photo-basics, as promised from the week, so here goes.

The Exposure Triangle

Triangles are pretty useful for explaining things, aren't they?

Photography is no exception, there are three things, which affect the 'exposure' of your image - its brightness and even the fact that anything will show up at all.

When you are shooting in AUTO modes, the camera will make decisions for you and do its best to expose the image correctly - depending on the settings and situation, you might end up with some undesirable 'effects' - for example, if it's a little bit darker outside, your camera might slow down the shutter speed, causing the image to blur. If you were shooting in MANUAL, you may have decided to adjust this accordingly to minimise the blur.

Most cameras will have semi-automated modes, which I would absolutely getting to grasps with (at least). These allow you to set one of the three elements and the camera will adjust the rest for you. But at least, you have some creative control over your image.

First of the three 'corners' of our Exposure Triangle is ISO.

This controls your camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO figure means the camera will be less sensitive to light (good for a bright, sunny day), while a higher ISO means it will be more sensitive to light (limited light - cloudy/evening/indoors).

A lot of the newer cameras work hard to minimise ISO's effect on the grain of the image and some of the top range DSLRs do an amazing job of this! The general rule of thumb is that your ISO will be set to 100-200 in bright daylight outside, increasing to 800+ if moving indoors and dramatically higher, when there's limited lighting indoors.

This image was taken quite close to sunset on a November afternoon, so ISO of 1250 was required. Luckily, my camera is a little superstar, so the image did not end up covered in unsightly grain!


Aperture is the opening in the lens and regulates how much light enters the camera sensor and controls the depth of field.

Depth of field in plain words is the amount of blur you are going to get around/behind your subject.

A wider aperture (lower f-number (1.2, 1.4, 1.8 etc.) lets more light through, but has a narrow depth of field, which is often preferred for portraits and macro-style photography.

A narrow aperture (higher f-number 4+) lets less light through and has a wider depth of field - less blur on all panes within the image (preferred for landscape photography and also for images with a lot of people, where the desired effect is keeping all in maximum focus).

The aperture here is f/4.5 - to preserve some of the background, but also, because the image was taken on Scotland's one day of summer on a beach ( needed to make sure I didn't overexpose, so kept the amount of light entering the sensor at bay)

Shutter speed

Shutter speed controls the length of time the shutter stays open when you take a picture. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light enters the camera sensor. A fast shutter speed is good for freezing action, while a longer shutter speed will blur motion. Long shutter speeds can give interesting effects, but usually require a tripod or an EXTREMELY stable hand.

Fun fact: I actually don't know for a fact what speed was used here, as this image was taken with a film camera and such information is not recorded (you need to memorise it or record manually), but I would guesstimate that a speed of approximately 4 seconds was used to capture these car lights trails

No fun facts here. Just 1/2000 of a second to capture the Daffodil Dash

So, correct use of the combination of the three 'corners' of the Exposure Triangle will give you a correctly exposed image - or one exposed to your creative preference.

It's not actually all that complicated to shoot in complete manual and since I started controlling all the aspects of my process, I have been a lot happier with the results and more comfortable in any situation.

Give it a go, see what effect changing one of the three has on the image and find out what you like best!


This could just as well be referred to as 'Semi Manual', by the way and refers to the options available to you to use your camera's intelligence to make some of the decisions for you, yet allow you to retain some of the creative and technical control.

If you don't feel like full on AUTO works for you, but not yet ready to commit to full on MANUAL, this could be the solution for you.

Depending on the brand of camera you use, the modes may be denoted as A or Av = Aperture Priority Mode and S or Tv = Shutter Priority Mode. I guess, the title is fairly self-explanatory on how this works - you set the camera to a chosen semi-mode and control either aperture or shutter speed and the camera will assess the rest, giving you a correctly exposed image. The potential short-coming here is that if you want to get creative and expose for the highlights/shadows (lighter or darker than the camera would deem as 'acceptable', you'll have a bit of a battle on your hands.

Make it a habit to check the image you've just taken. I have made a mistake of getting overexcited and shooting a whole series of images, only then to discover that I hadn't adjusted my settings for bright sunlight after moving out of the dark woods (shortcomings of shooting in manual!). Even if you let the camera control your exposure and focus, it's a worthwhile habit to install in yourself, because, anything could go wrong requiring you to react and fix, but also, it means you can check how the image looks on the screen and make any changes you wish to before reframing the shot.

White Balance

White balance basically defines the 'warmth' of your image. I have only recently gone full-on manual on this and set my white balance to a figure, which I now control (now and then).

There's no shame in using Auto White Balance mode, though there are a number of ways to control it manually - this may involve just picking a number (educated 'guess') and testing out and amending as required in different lighting conditions or you may use a 'Grey Card' to set it correctly.

The general aim of photography is to get the image right in-camera as much as possible and having correct white balance set will give you the best colours in the environment and also skin tones, minimising the requirement for post-processing.

As I say though, out of all the knobs and buttons, white balance is one I was happy leaving my camera to decide for me the longest. No shame!

In the last few days we have also touched on the positioning, rule of thirds, seeking beautiful light and creative editing, but most importantly The Meaning - which (to me) overrides all of the above.

If the image speaks to you, you've done it!

Thanks for spending some of the last seven days giving my guides a read - I really appreciate your time.

I am looking forward to taking the next few days off writing and spend the time delivering some gorgeous client galleries before launching an exciting project for the summer!

Hope you join me and put the Learning Week discoveries into action.

Aberdeen | Aberdeenshire | Laurencekirk | Montrose | Photography | Family | Newborn | Children | Photographer | Corporate | Headshots | Business | Professional | Portraits | Lifestyle | Natural Light | Scotland | Learning Week 2018 | Basics

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