Exposure Triangle in Practice: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV, I’m Mark Wallace. Well about a year and a half ago I did a series on the Exposure Triangle, understanding the ISO, the shutter and the aperture value, and how those all relate to each other and a lot of people have written in and said; “can you please just give us an example of you putting that into practice” and so that’s what we’re going to do today. So I am in Pretoria, South Africa I’m going to be walking the streets, shooting some street photography. Maybe doing a portrait here and there, but the key to this episode is explaining my thought process. Why am I using a certain aperture? Why am I using a certain ISO value? Or why am I using a certain shutter speed? And how do all those things relate? And so we’re going to do that by me just walking taking pictures and explaining it as I go. So join me as we do this in this video today. Alright we’re going to start by using the simplest setup possible. We have lots of light here and so what I’m doing is I have my aperture set to f/8. That is the sharpest that this lens is going to be. So really, really, crystal clear. If you’re not sure what the sharpest aperture value of your lens is where you can google it or look at the Adorama Learning Center, we’ve probably had some discussions about that, but it’s going to be around f/8 around to maybe, to f/11 something like that. I have my ISO at 200 because we have lots of light. I don’t need to have that cranked up, so it’s going to keep everything nice and noise free. As far as the shutter is concerned, well I’m shooting in aperture priority mode. In other words, I’ve set this to f/8 ISO 200 the cameras going to figure out the shutter speed, because we know we have a lot of light, it’s going to be nice and fast, so I can shoot handheld and I’m sitting with the 21mm lens, which is perfect for street photography, because almost everything is going to be in focus. I can almost just point and shoot and take some great shots. So behind me we’ve a lot of construction. We got a lot of people working. We’ve got a lot of activity. So we’re going to walk around and shoot with these settings. This is Gertrude, we just met her on the street. She said we could take pictures. I think she sort of likes me. Oh I love you darling. Thank you. I just love you darling [unintelligible singing]… Okay and you don’t know the story I think she was then the double pawn. I think my husband will say, “why, why, why?” So I said, “Because you are not part of the story darling.” I’ll just talk just a second about Gertrude, so she just walked up and said “hello” on the street and engaged with us and what a fantastic conversation, but in that situation that’s when understanding the exposure triangle really comes into play, because I wanted to get a good shot of her but everything was all wacky. We had this really strong back light. The first shots I was taking were under exposed because the camera was metering for the background, and so I didn’t have a chance to fumble with my camera as I was having a conversation with her, so I quickly peaked at my histogram and the image on the back of the screen and I could tell that things were right and so as she was talking, I took a picture of her feet and that gave me a proper exposure because it was in the shade, then I adjusted my camera manually to the proper settings, and then I was able to shoot and get some shots of her face and everything was all correct. “Zinc, zinc, twilight…” So still ISO 200, still, I think I was at f/8 and then the shutter speed. I don’t remember what it is, but I will show it right here, so you know what I was shooting at, but that’s the kind of thing understanding the exposure triangle will help you with, is understanding what to do when things aren’t going right and I think these shots are really fun and I really had fun hanging out with Gertrude. Okay well in this situation what I’m doing is, we have sort of this busy shopping center with lots of hustle and bustle, and people buying things, and eating and so motion is the thing that’s important to me. So what I’ve done is I’ve set my camera to a really small aperture value. Its an aperture value of f/16 and that’s going to restrict the light and force my shutter speed to be really long so I’m shooting at a shutter speed of a 1/4 of a second, 1/4s at ISO 200 and that’s going to blur everything that’s moving but because my camera is on a tripod, anything that’s not moving; like the ground and the environment is going to be perfectly still, and that’ll give us that sense of motion. So slow shutter speed, low ISO, closed down aperture, almost everything is going to be in focus and now we can see that we have this sort of hustle and bustle scene and it works just fine. So in this shot Odette is joining us. You might remember her from previous episodes of Exploring Photography. So thanks for popping in for this. We are really in a dark environment, right now. It’s really, really low light. We have the gain turned up on the video camera, so it might not look like that. So what settings do I use? Well what I’m going to do is we’re going to shoot against this brick wall. We’re going to do a black and white exposure here, to be sort of really nice and contrasting. So what I’m going to do here is I’m going to start at an aperture value of f/2.8. That’s going to let in a lot of light. I’m an ISO 200. That’s my base ISO. When I try to take this shot. So you stand right there. I look and I see that, oh my gosh I’m at 1/8th of a second. That is really slow so I’m going to have some problems with camera shake. So the next thing I’m going to do is at an 1/8th of a second, I know I really need to crank up my ISO, so I’m changing my ISO from 200 all the way up to 800. On this camera it doesn’t do really well above ISO 800, so I’m stopping they’re. Now I’m going to check and see what my shutter speed is to see if I can shoot handheld. So we’re going to look again and now I’m seeing that my shutter speed is about 1/30th of a second, which is still going to be a little bit shaky so what can I do my ISO is increased my aperture is open luckily I have a lens that goes from f/2.8 all the way to f/1.4 That’s a full stop That’s going to allow me to shoot handheld and because we have that nice shallow depth of field against this, it doesn’t really matter how much is in focus, as long as I focus on the eyes. So ISO 800 for the low light. Aperture at f/1.4 also because of low light and now we’re going to shoot. Are you ready? Okay, let’s begin, beautiful, I love those eyes. Right well, I think these shots worked really great. Thank you so much for popping in and helping us with this video, but we have other shots to take so we’re going to leave you and do that right now Jimmy and Floyd, Jimmy and Floyd, Jimmy and Floyd I’m going to take one more picture of you guys okay we’re going to film is that alright? Alright Jimmy and Floyd are going to let me take pictures, so I’m shooting this f/2, shallow depth of field we’re sort of in low light here. That’s going to work out my 35mm lens. Give me your best Jimmy and Floyd expression. What I’m going to do now is, there’s some construction behind me ,you can see these guys working. I want to maybe get a couple of shots from them, but I want to isolate the workers and so I’m going to use a shallow depth of field, which requires a wide open aperture. This is a 50mm lens, so it’s not going to be two shallow at distance. So I’m going to go all the way to f/1.4 that’s wide open that means I need to have my ISO as low as possible with all this light, and that’s going to make my shutter speed really, really fast. That’ll freeze the motion so I’m going to shoot these guys back here and we’ll show you what we get. Can I take your picture? Yeah? Fantastic. Ammous. This is Ammous. Ammous. What is it? Ammous Ammous, alright thank you This was awesome. Alright well I think we’ve shot enough to illustrate the point of how the exposure triangle works. Remember; if you’re thinking about motion, you’re thinking about the shutter speed. A slow shutter speed shows motion, like we shot in that busy little market there. Fast shutter speed is going to freeze motion. if you’re concerned about depth of field, how much is in focus? Wide open aperture with a long lens is going to give you shallow depth of field, like we shot with construction workers or a nice short lens 21mm, like I used for the street photography is going to have everything in focus with an aperture value about f/8 So if you’re concerned about depth of field, think aperture first, but if you’re in low light, then you’re going to start thinking about your ISO, to bring that up so that you can capture that low light as best as possible. Once you start playing with this you’ll see that it works every single time you just need to practice, practice, practice and you’ll see that all of these things start to relate automatically in your brain and you’ll be able to adjust very, very quickly. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of Exploring Photography. Don’t forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV it’s absolutely free, so click the button and subscribe right now. Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you again next time.

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36 thoughts on “Exposure Triangle in Practice: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

  1. In the film days the film ISO was part of the exposure triangle, but with digital ISO has nothing to do with exposure, its applied gain, the sensor applies gain to an image that has been exposed.

  2. I'm not a fan of street photography 🙁 Plus, i was amazed your Leica produces poor results above 800iso… Time to swap systems !!

  3. hi yo dude you super amazing I learn tuition adorama TV on think it will how do photos we should click please reply

  4. At 6:15 I heard you saying that going open from f/2.8 to f/1.4 is a full stop. But that's two stops more light, isn't it?

  5. Thanks again for having proper closed captions on your video – not only are the videos enjoyable, but having the captions that you take the time to do makes the videos so much better 🙂

  6. Well done Mark…your final comments are something I preach all the time to anyone that asks….practice, practice, practice. Know what ever function on your camera does.

  7. Was the Gertrude part really not scripted?
    With the music, slow-mo, and the technical necessity to photograph her feet, this really made my day.

  8. at 9:30 in the video you are at f2.8 and go to 1.4 which you said is 1 full stop. It is 2 full stops. 2.8->2 is 1 full stop and f2 –> 1.4 is 1 full stop.

  9. Hi Mark! I'm from Ciudad Juarez Mexico, and i am a big fan of yours I even follow you on snapfactory. Well my question is, in what color configuration do you shoot your pictures or do you retouch them in Photoshop? They are amazing, specially the one at 7:23, the contrast and the sharpening are incredible too! I would be really grateful for this advice!

    Saludos desde Juarez!

  10. Thank you Mark. I started watching your tutorials when I started photography years ago and still find myself watching your new videos. You're an excellent teacher and do take care in your travels.

  11. Going from f/2.8 to f/1.4 is two stops, not one stop.  Interestingly enough, the shutter speed was only increased from 1/30 to 1/60 so the overall exposure was actually increased by one stop.

  12. Hi Mark, Nice video as always!
    Just a question, at 6:08 (https://youtu.be/J8gpm_QYRgI?list=TLGGbLbK4QKuyLAxMTAxMjAxNw&t=368) you show us the settings ISO: 800, 1/30s, f/2.8 then at 6:30 (https://youtu.be/J8gpm_QYRgI?list=TLGGbLbK4QKuyLAxMTAxMjAxNw&t=390) I don't understand why the shutter speed is only 1 stop faster whereas your aperture was 2 stop faster than f/2.8 (f/1.4 is 2 stop away from f/2.8) The shutter speed shouldn't have been 1/125s ?

  13. thanks for the practical application tips. I noticed that one business sign was blurred toward the end of the video. Why is that? Do you need business approval when doing street photography? Or perhaps the sign was inappropriate somehow?

  14. thanks much for your videos, beginner here, I just ordered a lens that has image stabilization.. does that change anything in terms of how I think about the shutter speed and the need to freeze motion? Thanks again!

  15. Mark thank you so much for the video. Absolutely fantastic job…clear and informative. I am still watching. Thanks to the cameraman too…:)

  16. Great video. For purposes of lens/focal length selection, is the camera used a Full Frame or APS-C sensor? I use 1.5 crop APS-C cameras primarily.

  17. New to photography hobby, appreciate how simple and easy to understand your videos are, make mambo jumbo language easier to comprehend. I have a long way to go but journey will be easier with your help, great work.

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