Manual Photography 101: Lighting

Vamp Collective Manual Photography

One of the most important things to consider when taking a photograph is exposure (lighting). Exposure is the amount of light that you let reach your camera’s sensor. There are 3 key ways that you can control lighting in a photo when shooting on manual but you have to bear in mind that each way has a trade off when you adjust them that affects the amount of exposure in the shot. We break down what these 3 components are and what you need to consider when deciding which one to adjust. Mastering the below 3 components will result in a beautiful high quality image that will set your photos apart from others on Instagram.

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ISO is how sensitive to light your camera sensor is. You can control the level of sensitivity by adjusting the ISO. You will adjust your ISO level based on the day or setting you are shooting in, for example, you will have a different ISO when you shoot during daytime vs. nighttime.

The lower your ISO the greater the amount of light you are letting in and the higher your ISO the lower amount of light. When you adjust your ISO to let more light in, the trade off is that you create more ‘noise’; this is the grainy/blurry/fuzzy effect you can see in some photos.

Also used to: Create a clean, crisp photo or a grainy moody photo.


Aperture is the adjustable hole inside your lens which controls how much light you let in. Aperture is measured in F numbers, the smaller the F number the greater the amount of light that is being let in.

When you change your Aperture the trade off is that it also controls your depth of field; this is what the camera chooses to focus on and how sharp it shows the subjects in the image.

Also used to: Focus and Sharpen or soften and blur images.

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Shutter speed controls the amount of time the screen in front of the top of the sensor is open for, adjusting how much light is captured on the sensor of the camera.

The slower the shutter speed, the more light you let in and the longer the shutter’s left open. When you adjust your shutter speed this also affects the capture of movement in your image. So if you are shooting on a low shutter speed make sure you are using a tripod as it will pick up the micro movements of your hand holding the camera, blurring your photograph.

Also used to: Capture or control movement


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