For Week Six of professional pet photography blog circle Project 52 we continue working with exposures by “Mastering the Triangle.” In photography, the Exposure Triangle consists of the three elements that work together, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open to make your exposure; it is marked in fractions of seconds, such as 1/160, 1/250, 1/1000. The aperture (or f-stop) is how wide the opening in the lens is and the higher the number (f-16) the less light is let in while smaller numbers (f-4, f-1.4) let in more light. ISO is the sensitivity level of the sensor with higher numbers being more sensitive to light and lower numbers being less so. These three points in the triangle work together to give you proper exposure based on the combinations you choose for your shooting conditions. For this week’s assignment, we were to practice the different combinations to see how they worked together, kind of like a pianist practicing scales.

These first three images are all screenshots of the RAW, straight out of camera images (no adjustments), so that you can see the settings used and the changes that the adjustments made. To start off, I used ISO 400 and a shutter speed of 1/160 choosing to make adjustments to the f-stop. Since the weather was not so great this week (cold and snow returned, ugh!) I chose to shoot inside, and since my studio is in my basement, used my speedlights to add light.

This first image is with an aperture of 2.8, leaving it slightly overexposed for the ambient lighting.

The second image uses an aperture of 3.5 and is well balanced on the exposure for the ambient light.

The third image is slightly underexposed at an aperture of 5.6. As you can see from this experiment, by adjusting just the aperture setting, the exposure of the image changes as less light is let into the camera at each change in f-stop.

This next comparison shows a before and after from the straight-out-of-camera image on the left to the one on the right with basic adjustments. I kept the shutter speed at 1/160 and changed the ISO to 100 to be less light sensitive (I had to increase the strength of my flash units so that my images weren’t too dark). This time when adjusting the aperture I paid attention to the parts of the image more in focus at f-4 and those less in focus in the subsequent comparison.

Here is the final edit with all the adjustments made in Photoshop.

In this comparison, shot using the same settings, but with a wider aperture of f-1.8, shows how changing to a wider aperture can make the image softer as more of the image becomes less sharp in the details. The settings for this image are ones I shoot with quite frequently, because it gives me the look I like. In fact, you can see just a minor difference in the before and after as the straight out of camera image is practically perfect.

While the image would certainly be acceptable after the minor basic adjustments, I like to give my images finishing touches that make them pop.

As you can see, there are endless combinations for the exposure triangle and each adjustment will change the image in different ways, so it’s all a matter of deciding what your priorities are and making those changes. 

Now head over to DC pet photographer, Shelley Castle Photography, and then around the rest of the blog circle until you end up back here.

If you’d like to book a custom pet portrait session for your furry family member, contact us via the hot pink “BOOK NOW” button to the right of this post (at the bottom of the page on mobile), send us an email to suzi [at], or by calling us at 513-288-1650 in the Cincinnati area or 650-382-3242 for the Bay Area.

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