Photography Basics: Aperture, Shutter Speed, And ISO

Understanding the basics of photography can go a long way in improving your skill in its many applications. Photography has been around for many years and is one of the most popular ways to express yourself through art.

What are some basic terms you should know about?

Well, in this article I will be discussing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. I will also discuss how you can use these tools to take amazing photos.

Let’s get started.

What Is Aperture?


Aperture is the size of the gap in the lens that lets in light when taking a photo. The number of times this area is split for light to pass through is known as its f-stop factor.

The higher the number, the larger the opening (or gap), and more light will pass through it. Using a high f-stop number also makes a shot with a shallow depth of field, and this creates softer backgrounds. This is very desirable in portrait photography because it isolates the subject from the background.

A lower f-stop number lets in less light and also creates a photo that is overall sharper with a deep depth of field. This can be very useful in landscape photography where you want all elements in the photo to be sharp.

Now, this can be a bit confusing, but an f-stop number of f/1.8 is considered to be a high f-stop number, and f/16 is considered to be a lower f-stop number.

What Is Shutter Speed?

Shutter and sensor

A shutter is a device in the camera that controls how much light enters the camera’s image sensor. It can be either open or closed. Shutter speed refers to the amount of time that the shutter is allowed to expose light onto the camera’s image sensor.

Using a slow shutter speed exposes light onto the image sensor for longer, and it can result in motion blur should there be moving objects in the scene.

If you use a faster shutter speed then light is exposed onto the image sensor for a shorter period of time. This is very useful if you want to capture moving objects without creating motion blur.

It is important to note that a shutter speed of 1/2 of a second is considered to be a slow shutter speed, and 1/200 of a second is considered to be a faster shutter speed.

What Is ISO?


ISO refers to the sensitivity, or signal gain, of the image sensor in a camera. This can be increased to make an image brighter, or it can be decreased to make an image darker.

It is important to note that a high ISO will generate noise in your images and this affects the overall quality of the photo. Therefore you should try to keep your ISO as low as possible. The lower your ISO, the better quality your images will be in regards to noise.

How To Use Aperture, Shutter Speed, And ISO To Take Better Photos

Ok, so now that you know what Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO do, let’s have a look at a few scenarios where you can make use of these tools to take better photos.

1.) Portrait Photography

Let’s say that you’re taking a portrait photo of a friend, but you noticed that your photos are coming out a bit dark. You already have the aperture value set high, at f/1.8, and you can’t set it any higher.

The very first thing you can try is to set a slower shutter speed. This will open the shutter for longer which will expose more light onto the image sensor. This will brighten your photo up a bit.

If you notice that the slower shutter speed causes unwanted motion blur, then you can opt to set a higher ISO value. This will add some noise to your photo, but it will brighten it up.

2.) Landscape Photography

You want to capture a beautiful sunset over the mountains, but you notice that your photos are looking a bit underexposed. Since you want the entire photo to be sharp, you opted to have an aperture value of f/11 and you don’t want to set it any higher.

If you’re making use of a tripod, then decreasing the shutter speed will expose more light onto the image sensor, resulting in a more exposed photo.

However, if you don’t have a tripod handy, then increasing the ISO will give the photo more exposure.

3.) Sports Photography

Let’s say that you’re at a baseball game and you would like to take a photo of your favorite player. But because he’s moving around on the field, he appears very blurry in your photos.

Well, a simple solution to this will be to opt for a fast shutter speed. If it’s a day game, then you can crank the shutter speed up much higher for blur-free photos.


After reading the above information, you should now have a basic understanding of what Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO are.

With these three key elements to photography, you can make your shots look just the way you want them to with plenty of options for different styles.

Experiment with your camera and learn about how these options can change the outcome of a photo.