Photography 101.

Hands up if you pick up your camera and rarely step out of auto mode? Whether it’s for ease, or you’ve never quite got to grips with the 500-page manual, many people find it easier to rely on auto. However, we know the best photos are shot in manual, so we've put together this handy guide to convert you!

Recently two members of the LEWIS team expanded their knowledge of manual photography by completing the Digital SLR camera training course at Stills, Edinburgh. The course explained how to master that perfect shot in all lighting situations, and after being inspired by the results they decided to share their knowledge on setting the perfect exposure. 


There are three elements to a well exposed shot – aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If one of these elements is changed, it will affect the other elements.


Aperture (often referred to as the F-number) is the circular opening in the lens that controls light.  To let in more light, a wide aperture is needed and to let in less light, a narrow aperture can be used. To make things confusing, when the lens is wide open, the F-number will be low (i.e. 1.4), when the diaphragm is narrow, the F-number will be high (i.e, 22).

Aperture also determines the depth of field (what is sharp in the photo). With a low f-number, there will be a shallow depth of field, with a high F-number, there will be a deep depth of field.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is how quickly the camera will let in light, allowing movement to be captured. When setting shutter speed (if you are not shooting with a tripod) hand movement must be considered. Most people can hold a camera with the shutter speed set between 1/60th and 1/200th without showing movement.

A longer shutter speed will show motion and let in more light, whereas a higher shutter speed will freeze motion.


ISO controls the image quality. A higher ISO is needed for shooting in a low lighting situation, but may appear grainy. Therefore, to produce the best quality photo it’s best to shoot at a lower ISO and adjust the aperture and shutter speed to balance this.

In general, when shooting outside on a sunny/overcast day ISO can be set at 100 or 200, on a heavy overcast day this may need to change to 400. In a brightly lit room, ISO can be set between 800 and 1600 so that flash is not required. In a dimly lit room, ISO can be set at 3200 or higher, however, this may reduce the image quality.

Balancing the perfect exposure

These three elements can all be adjusted to create the ideal balance for your shot. The exposure level indicator in the viewfinder of your camera will tell you when you have balanced your settings. The bars will move left or right to show if the exposure if too light or too dark (this varies with camera brand). When the bar sits at the middle point, you've set the perfect exposure.

Are you looking for some photography to support your marketing strategy? Or just fancy coming in for a chat to see what we can do for you? Get in touch today!