So I switched to manual mode M. In the viewfinder I see something like a scale, a fraction of the number 1/1000. The ISO value shows 100 and the aperture number is f6. I focus, press the shutter and take the picture. I glance at the screen and, oops, the photo is dark. I don’t know what to do, so I sit down on the internet and type “how to set aperture and shooter speed” into a search engine. What comes up is an “exposure table” and an “exposure triangle”. Now that’s a cool theory, how about how to shoot nice in manual mode.

While surfing the internet, I spin the wheel next to the shutter button casually, and lo and behold what looks like a scale moves and there is something like a nozzle in the middle. I’m intrigued and so I spin the wheel until the scale moves the line nicely to the middle, press the shutter release and just out of duty I glance at the display. What the hell? The photo’s ok.

How to set the aperture and time – trial and error counts too

Disbelievingly I look in the viewfinder once more, the shutter speed has changed. Not giving up, I try pressing another button on the front and spin the wheel. Now the ISO value has changed. Well I also found out that when I press the button next to the shutter release on my Nikon it changes the aperture value. Well then, maybe I could shoot by adjusting the ISO depending on the lighting conditions, leave it at say 400. Then I adjust the aperture value according to the depth of field I want. The rest I’ll crank the dial to the line, I only really have to watch the shutter speed. If it’s longer than 1/100 or better yet 1/200 long I’ll raise the ISO. I’m all shaky about it, I better go to bed and try again tomorrow.

I’ll have to study up on the theory of exposure time and the triangle. I don’t think I’ll remember those tables. It might be enough to know that when light is low I’ll shorten the time, raise the ISO, or lower the aperture number. Then when shooting motion, I’ll mostly watch the time. If it’s too long, the photo will be blurry. When shooting groups or landscapes, if the aperture is small, the background will be blurry. And if the photo is still dark, I’ll raise the ISO and vice versa. Of course, I always tweak it with the magic wheel. The camera tells me which way to turn in the viewfinder. Well, Jenny’s asleep, too, so good dreams and good night.

So that was a bit of a tale about the exposure triangle. For a graphical explanation of the relationship of the exposure triangle and a table of tried and tested aperture, ISO and time settings for each scene and much more about camera settings, check out the article How to learn to shoot with a DSLR and how to set up your camera correctly. Find out even more about how aperture works and how to set aperture correctly in the Aperture Setting Guide. For a total of 22 top tips that are sure to help you start taking better photos, check out 22x Tips on how to take photos, set up your camera and start shooting right