A Basic Guide To Camera Exposure

So you want to learn how to expose your camera hey? Well you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a quick and basic guide to exposing a camera, whether it’s digital or film. Knowing how to expose your camera properly helps when increasing frame rate! Here’s an article we’ve done in the past about 30fps vs. 60fps. Now, let’s get to exposure!

Exposure Basics

Camera Exposure is one of, if not the, most important aspects to any camera. Not knowing how to expose your camera properly will lead to disasterous results and wrecked footage. Don’t let this happen to you!

Automatic Mode

Shooting in an automatic mode on your DSLR or any other camera is not something I’d suggest. Automatic mode is typically for your average consumer. If you’re looking to become an expert with your camera, always be in manual mode. In automatic, you’ll see the auto-exposure adjustments (and focus if that’s on) being made during the shot by the camera. Obviously, this isn’t something that you’d want happen when filming your movie. It requires more work, but manual is and always will be your best friend. Especially when it comes to exposure.


You might not know this but ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. This was created back in the days of film and had to do with film speed and has a lot to do with exposure.  

What you need to know is what the range of ISO numbers mean. In basic terms, the higher the number, the more light you will let into the sensor. The lower the number, the less light you let in. The problem is that the higher the number is, the “noisier” the image will look. There are optimal ISO settings for certain cameras so you’ll have to do a bit of research to find out what’s best for your camera.

Different models of cameras have different ISO ranges. Know what range your camera has and how far you should push it.

What ISO can do to your image.
Good vs. Bad

Shutter Speed

Put simply, there is a mechanical door that opens and closes every time you snap a photo. Think about that classic picture taking noise. This door, the shutter, can move faster or slower. The faster the shutter speed, the better you will be able to capture fast-moving objects without any blurring effect. The slower the shutter speed, the more blurring and “ghosting” you will get. Some cinematographers will use this effect to add fun visuals during fight scenes. 

In sports photography they always use higher shutter speed to “freeze” the action in the image. In many time-lapse applications, you “roll” the shutter by slowing it down to get some blurring to avoid a staccato look.

In addition to speed, light allowance for shutter speed follows the opposite rule of ISO. The higher the shutter speed (i.e. 1/1000), the less light is let in and the lower the shutter speed (i.e. 1/60), the more light is let into the image.

Examples of shutter speed and how it effects exposure.


Aperture, also called f-stop, Iris, or t-stop is the final exposure setting we’ll talk about. If you look down the barrel of your lens you can see a star-shaped hole. It’s made up of six overlapping blades.  This hole can open and close to various diameters.  When the aperture is fully open, more light comes in.  When the aperture is closed, less light comes in. Makes sense right?

Again, the light allowance rule is opposite of ISO.  The higher the aperture (i.e. f/22) the less light is let in and the more depth of field your shot has, the lower the aperture (i.e. f/2.8) the more light that goes into the camera and less is in focus.

The sole function of aperture is light allowance.  Now different lenses have different aperture/f-stop capabilities.  The lenses that are “faster” than others have a lower aperture/f-stop ability (i.e. f/1.4).


Hope you learned a thing or two! Now get out there and start creating. Be sure to leave a link to your latest video in the comments!

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