The Photographer’s Trinity: the Fundamentals of Photography

The Photographer’s Trinity may sound like a complex mystery novel but it actually features three of the most important tools in a photographer’s arsenal. The three important fundamentals of photography are related to exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Thinking of these three elements as balancing a juggling act; all three are related and if you let go of one, the others fall behind it.

Also known as the Exposure Triangle, understanding these three basic yet vital aspects can help you truly master the art of photography. Most DSLRs these days come equipped with an Auto mode that automatically adjusts all these settings. But all great photographers know that if you truly want to capture unique images, the manual mode is where it’s at.

All of these functions work together to control light. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works out.


The aperture is simply a hole on the camera lens that controls the amount of light that can travel through the lens and hit the sensor. By tweaking the aperture settings, you increase or decrease the size of that hole, thus allowing less or more light into the camera.

The aperture setting is usually measured in f-stops, for example f/4 and f/22. But the deal with f-stops is that the small the number is, the larger the opening. So if you want less light to enter the camera, stick to a larger f-stop number, and vice versa.

Shutter Speed

Just like your home’s windows have shutters, the camera also has shutters that decide for how long the light is going to enter the camera. The shutter speed is the time duration for which the shutter stays open. Both, the aperture and shutter speed, work together to control the amount of light entering through the lens.

The shutter speed is usually calculated in fractions of a second, for example, 1/1000 or 1/30. With shutter speed, you’re basically manipulating how quickly or slowly the shutter closes. Shutter speed controls exposure in addition to wonderfully capturing objects in motion, without blurring them out.


ISO refers to the sensitivity to light. ISO sensitivity determines how the camera’s sensor will respond to the light received from the aperture and shutter. A high ISO setting will make the camera more sensitive to light, while a low ISO will be less sensitive.

Controlling ISO can get pretty tricky because increasing ISO can lead to the picture being too “noisy.” You need to find the correct exposure without increasing the ISO too much. ISO is usually measured in the hundreds, for example, 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, etc.

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