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My Secret to Great Looking Videos (Exposure Triangle Simplified)
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My Secret to Great Looking Videos (Exposure Triangle Simplified)

Mar 03, 2022

The Exposure Triangle for Beginners: Simplified for Content Creators

 

What is Exposure Triangle and how does it help in creating a good-looking video?

 

The Exposure Triangle in photography and videography is made up of three factors, Aperture (also known as F-Stop), Shutter Speed, and the ISO that helps determine an image or video's overall brightness or darkness. Based on the desired outcome of the image or video, adjusting the exposure triangle components help to ensure a desired video or photo effect while maintaining proper exposure (how bright or dark an image is).

 

I want to teach you how to set your exposure triangle and how to achieve a consistent good looking video.

Let's dive in! 

You don’t have to become a professional videographer or professional video editor to create a good quality video.

The key is to understand the needs of your video depending on your environment to set the right camera settings. 

When it comes to my videos, I always make sure that it doesn’t look too bright or too dark.

I make sure that the colors, details, and textures look normal, not just me but all the things around me. 

The exposure triangle allows you to see my white table without looking at it infinity white.

You can see all the details on my black shirt without looking at it infinity black. Same as with the things in my background.

The frames, the mugs, my accent lights, they all look normal. You can see them clearly.

There are 3 factors that you need to know when it comes to the exposure triangle - the Shutter Speed, the Aperture, and the ISO. 

 

How to use and set the shutter speed on cameras

The shutter speed is the fraction-looking number you’ll see on your camera screen.

It can be 1/30, 1/40, 1/50, or higher depending on what’s necessary for correct motion blur and/or exposure on your camera. 

The shutter speed is related to your frame rate.

To set your shutter speed, you need to first pick your video recording frame rate. 

Most YouTubers choose 30 frames per second (30fps).

It is also commonly used on sporting events, and TV shows while 24 frames per second (24fps) are more commonly used for more films scenes. 

I personally use 24fps as a personal preference.

After picking your frame rate, multiply it by 2. The result will be what your shutter speed should be for proper motion blur. 

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of you’re new to all this:

  • If you’re using 24fps, set your Shutter Speed to 1/48th or 1/50th (whichever is available in your camera depending on where you live).
  • If you’re using 30fps, set your Shutter Speed to 1/60th for your Shutter Speed.

This is what’s called the 180 degrees Shutter rule.

Let me show you how you get your shutter speed. 

Frame rate x 2 = shutter speed

24fps x 2 = 48

The correct frame rate would be in this case 1/48th.

However, without getting technical, here in the U.S. your camera won’t have 1/48th available but instead 1/50th based on the region.

The goal, in this case, is to use get as close to the Shutter Speed you should be at as much as possible.

This setting means the motion blur in the video when moving around will look more normal and natural.

 

What is Aperture? 

The aperture is also called the F-Stop.

It is the number on your camera that can look like a whole number or a decimal with the letter F.

It can be f1.8. f12, f16, etc.

The aperture is based on your lens, not your camera. 

You’ll need to get a different lens if you want to have a low enough Aperture to provide a blurry background. 

If you want to learn more about lenses, I did a video that will help you find the best lense for you. Click here to watch. 

 

Is it better to have a higher or lower aperture? 

The lower the aperture is, the brighter the video becomes along with the background becoming blurrier (known as a shallow depth of field).

The higher the aperture is, the darker the image becomes and the more in focus your background becomes (a deeper depth of field).

What about a kit lens that has multiple numbers on it?

The kit lens has what’s called a variable aperture range.

With these kinds of lenses, as you zoom in and out, the aperture changes versus staying set at one specific number like popular lenses like the Sigma 16mm f1.4 lens.

Most commonly you'll see f3.5 to f5.6 aperture on a kit lens.

Unlike on lenses that have a constant aperture like the 10-18mm f4 lens, it stays at f4 aperture even if I zoom it out to 18mm.

Whereas on the kit lens as I zoom in and out from 16mm to 50mm the Aperture changes. 

When you’re getting started and you’re using a kit lens, I highly recommend setting your aperture as low as it will allow to help keep your image as bright as possible. 

 

How to Get a Blurry Background in Your Video

You can achieve a blurry background depending on the lens that you use. 

Lenses that are 3.5 or higher will give you a deeper depth of field which means everything will be in focus in the background, especially on APS-C size cameras like the Sony ZV-E10.

You cannot get a blurry background with this kind of lens.

A lens with at least an f2.0 Aperture will allow you to get a blurry background. 

 

The Sigma 16mm f1.4 lens is highly praised because it has an f1.4 aperture and it can give you a blurry background at an affordable price.

Another lens that can give you a blurry background is the Tamron 17-28mm f2.8 lens.

It has a constant f2.8 aperture. Whether you’re at 17mm or zoomed out to 28mm you can maintain a blurry background by keeping the Aperture at f2.8.

  

 

What does ISO on a camera mean?

The ISO on your camera deals with light sensitivity. 

The lower this number is, like 100, the darker the image. The higher this number is the brighter things become. 

The goal when setting your ISO is to not overdo it. 

When your image is overexposed it means it’s too bright. 

Here’s an example of what that can look like in your videos. 

 

 

What is the best best way to set the ISO? 

A great way to easily see if your image is overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) when you’re new is to use the inside of your hand. 

In the image below you’ll see the image is bright and you cannot see the details of my hand. 

 

As I decrease the ISO on my camera you can begin to see the details of my hand as I get closer to a more evenly exposed image. 

When setting your ISO, observe the things around you.

Can you see the details of your shirt or of your desk and the things in your background? 

It could be a little harder to set your ISO if you are recording in a brighter environment like if you are outside under the sun.

That’s when using an ND filter becomes helpful and functions like sunglasses for your lens. 

  

Auto VS Manual Camera Settings

Setting your camera into Auto will not help you achieve a consistent look on your videos but is often helpful when you’re brand new to video.

However, this is why copying someone's camera settings on YouTube is not helpful for learning what settings work best in your excitement.

Your camera setting will depend on your environment and the kind of video that you are creating. 

Understanding the exposure triangle (Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO) is very helpful in learning to feel more comfortable in what camera settings to change in your videos.

Understanding the exposure triangle will help you produce a consistent look on your videos. 

When choosing the best setting for your camera, always remember the 3 main things at the bottom of your camera screen, from left to right - the Shutter Speed, the Aperture, and the ISO. 


Want a lens that’ll give you a blurry background? 

One of the lenses I highly recommend taking a look at is the Sigma 16mm f1.4 lens. 

It helps provide a blurry background when you are indoors and a well-beloved lens that’s sharp, great quality, and budget-friendly. 

To see if this lens might be right for you and how much space you need for this lens check out the video post below. 

 

Recommended: How Much Space Do You Need For the Sigma 16mm f1.4 Lens?