The Shutter and Aperture: Let the Sun Shine In

In order to get a picture that has the perfect brightness–not too light or too dark–the amount of light that gets into the camera has to be controlled. One thing that controls the light in the camera is the aperture. That’s what the light has to pass through before it reaches the sensor. The aperture opening settings are also called F-stops.

The camera’s aperture settings actually operate on the same principal as the function of the pupil in the human eye. When you go the the eye doctor and have your eyes dilated, the pupils are enlarged, which allows a lot more light to enter the eye. To protect your retina, you need to wear sunglasses when you go out into the sun, until the pupils have a chance to go back to their normal size. Your pupils will enlarge automatically when you go into a dimly lit area to allow you to see better.

how to use aperture and shutter speed on your camera

Photo by Joseph; ISO 100, f/6.4, 1/600-second exposure.

The smaller the aperture becomes, the less light enters the camera; the larger the aperture gets, the more light enters the camera. F-stop settings can be a little confusing. The smaller the F-stop numbers, the larger the opening; the larger the opening, the more light. For example, more light would get through to the sensor on a setting of f/2.8 than a setting of f/5.6. Some people are good at memorizing this type of information. But, if you’re not one of them, consider keeping this kind of pertinent information tucked in your camera case for easy referral.

The shutter, when open, allows light to enter the camera. This is determined by the shutter speed. Shutter speed, as with aperture, has a standard series of settings called stops. Shutter stops are measured in seconds or fractions of seconds, which determine how long the shutter is open. Shutter speed is relative to the length of time the shutter remains open after you press the button to take your picture.

using aperture and shutter speed on camera

Photo by Jeff Keacher; ISO 3200, f/3.2, 1/320-second exposure.

Shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second, such as 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000. The longer the shutter speed, the more light; the shorter the shutter speed, the less light. An average shutter speed that would produce a good photograph taken in sunny conditions is 1/125 of a second. Shutter speed impacts how action photographs–such as an aerial performance of the popular Blue Angels–turn out.

In this day and age, we’re more sophisticated and our equipment is definitely a lot smaller and more manageable. Cameras fit nicely in our camera bags along with our lenses, batteries, and accessories. But, the basic principles of aperture and shutter haven’t changed since the early days of photography. The waterhouse stop was invented by a photographer by the name of John Waterhouse in 1858. The size of the hole acted just as the apertures of today, and a lens cap was manually removed and then replaced for the exposure process, as our shutter does on today’s cameras.

Photographic artistry often times can be attained by manually focusing, rather than relying on the automatic settings. It gives you complete control over aperture and shutter settings. With manual focus, you have the advantage of speed. You don’t have to wait for the automatic focus before taking your next shot. This can be an important reason to go with manual exposure, perhaps at a fast-paced sports event. So, remember before you head out to that all important game and you’re loading your camera bag with your camera and accessories to check the settings on the camera and make sure they’re set to manual.

About the Author:
Suzanne VanDeGrift has developed this article for m-rock, manufacturer of user-friendly camera bags.

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2 responses to “The Shutter and Aperture: Let the Sun Shine In”

  1. Lori says:

    Very helpful information easy to understand. Thanks.

  2. Dylan says:

    Very easy to understand, very helpful, thank you

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