I love Oreos.

So do my kids.

In the afternoons I can often be found sneaking into the pantry to grab a pack of yummy Double Stuffed.  But then, almost without fail, after getting a few cookies in my mouth my two boys see me and they want some too.  What’s a mom to do?

Since I have a magical sickness ability to equate almost anything I do with photography and/or scrapbooking, I started thinking about how this Oreo dilemma is a lot like exposure on a camera.  Come on, stick with me a minute before you think I am totally crazy.


Our packs of Double Stuffs come with 12 cookies.  However, in my package there are only 10 cookies left (since I managed to stuff two in my mouth before I was caught by the cookie police). There are three of us who want cookies.  They have to be split somehow. Three piles for three people.

I could split them the way I really want to (one for them and the rest for me).


I could split them the “fair” way and give them each four and me two (since I already had two!)


I could give them three each, feel like I was sharing well, and still get four more for myself (after all, they don’t know I’ve already eaten two!)


I could also give them each one or two and put the rest away but since I am trying to realistic right now and that never happens, we’ll just skip that option. It doesn’t fit in my illustration anyway.

So, no matter how I split them up, I still get to the total of 10.  It doesn’t matter if I give

5 to me + 3 to Caleb + 2 to Levi or

6 to Levi +1 to Caleb +3 to me or

4 to Caleb + 2 to Levi + 4 to me

It all still adds up to 10.  Now this is how it is like exposure. Exposure on a camera is dependent on three things:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

They can be put together in different ways and still all add up to a correct exposure.


Look at these three pictures.  They were all taken with different settings (all in manual mode) and yet all achieved a good, basic exposure. That’s because these three things (aperature, shutter speed, and ISO) all work together and add up to a good exposure.  Just like it didn’t matter how I split the cookies up, it doesn’t matter how these three things are combined, they all still add up to a good exposure.   Add more to one area and you have to adjust the others. Take some away from one and the others have to be changed to make the the final outcome “add up to the total.”


So, now you may be wondering why it matters?  If it all adds up to the same thing, what does it matter what settings are what?

Well, let’s go back to my Oreos for a moment (please forgive me, my mind is on Oreos and my little photo shoot is still sitting next to me and I can’t tell you how tempted I am to throw all principles out the window and give all ten cookies to myself!)

I said it doesn’t matter how I split the cookies up.  And that is true.  No matter what I do the total will be the same.  However, the effect of the outcome would be different.  If I give 10 to me and none to them, my wasteline will not be pleased.  If I give 4 to each of the boys and 2 to me, my waistline might be saved but the boys dinner will be ruined.  The total amount of cookies consumed would be the same, but the effects of those cookies would have on the people who consumed them would be very different.

And so it is with exposure.  Exposure, the combination of aperature, shutterspeed, and ISO is all about LIGHT and how that LIGHT affects your photos.  Aperature affects how MUCH light comes into your photo, shutter speed affects how LONG that light comes into your photo, and the ISO affects how how well your photo soaks up the light. You can mix and match these magic three ingredients in lots of ways to get a correct exposure, but the effect of the way you mix them up with drastically change your photos.

Now, I promise you a few things:

  1. We will talk about how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed affect your photos in future posts
  2. I am not a professional photographer
  3. I do not claim to know a whole lot about photography
  4. There are LOTS of professional photographers out there who try to explain this concept.
  5. I always read their descriptions and wonder why they didn’t just write in English.  Even Bryan Peterson’s “worker bees” illustration in Understanding Exposure left me scratching my head  and headed back to Auto mode.
  6. I will try very hard to explain these things in simple ways and in digestible amounts.
  7. If I find that someone has already explained it very well I will link you to their post rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
  8. I am open to correction and further explanation from those who know more than I do.
  9. Once you start shooting in manual mode you will almost never want to go back.  I say  almost, because I think there are some situations where auto or semi-auto modes are better or more practical.  We will get to those.
  10. I only had nine promises and the list felt incomplete.  So I added a number 10.