Cedar Creek provides a picturesque option for amateur, hobbyist, and professional photographers alike. In fact, so many people come to Cedar Creek for photo opportunities that we decided to pull together a variety of tips to help our guests capture the perfect shot. In this lesson we will be reviewing the three main settings on a camera, which are ISO Sensitivity, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. These settings will need to be adjusted to capture all genres of photography.

ISO Sensitivity

Essentially, ISO Sensitivity is a measure of the camera’s ability to capture light. Digital cameras convert the light that falls on the image sensor into electrical signals for processing. ISO sensitivity is raised by amplifying the signal.

  • Tip 1 from Nikon (DSLR Camera Basics) Low ISO sensitivities require slow shutter speeds for correct exposure, resulting in blur caused by subject motion. High ISO sensitivities allow correct exposure to be achieved at faster shutter speeds, making it possible to take photographs that “freeze” motion.
  • Tip 2 from Nikon (DSLR Camera Basics) When lighting is poor, you can use a flash to light portrait subjects. Flash units, however, have limited range. If you raise ISO sensitivity, you can optimally expose both the portrait subject and the background without using a flash at all.
  • Tip 3 from PhotographyLife.com When there is plenty of light, you should always use the lowest ISO, to retain the most detail and to have the highest image quality. This means you should increase the ISO when there is not enough light for the camera to be able to quickly capture an image.


When you adjust your aperture you are adjusting the setting that controls the amount of light you let in with each exposure. The larger the opening, i.e. the wider the aperture, the more light you are letting in with each exposure. The smaller the opening, i.e. the narrower the aperture, the less light you let in with each exposure.

A device called a diaphragm usually serves as the aperture stop, and controls the aperture. The diaphragm functions much like the iris of the eye – it controls the effective diameter of the lens opening. Reducing the aperture size increases the depth of field, which describes the extent to which subject matter lying closer than or farther from the actual plane of focus appears to be in focus. In general, the smaller the aperture (the larger the number), the greater the distance from the plane of focus the subject matter may be while still appearing in focus. (Wikipedia)

Shutter Speed

In photography and digital photography the shutter speed is the unit of measurement which determines how long shutter remains open as the picture is taken. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure time. The shutter speed and aperture together control the total amount of light reaching the sensor. (Webopedia)

Additional Tips

The following tips are from Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture – A Beginner’s Guide by Nasim Mansurov

What should I do in low-light situations?
Use Aperture-Priority mode, set your aperture to the lowest possible number. Be careful if you have a fast lens such as Nikon 50mm f/1.4, because setting aperture to the lowest number (f/1.4) will make the depth of field very shallow. Set your “Auto ISO” to “On” (if you have it) and make sure that the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed are both defined, as shown in section 3. If after increasing your ISO you are still getting small shutter speeds (which means that you are in a very dim environment), your only other options are to either use a tripod or a flash. If you have moving subjects that need to be “frozen”, you will have to use flash.

What do I need to do to freeze action?
First, you will need plenty of light. Freezing action during the broad daylight is easy, whereas it is extremely tough to do it in low-light situations. Assuming you have plenty of light, make sure that your aperture is set to the lowest number (again, be careful about depth of field), then set your “Auto ISO” to “On” (if you have it) and set your minimum shutter speed to a really high number such as 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second.

What settings do I need to change to create a motion blur effect?
Turn off Auto ISO and set your ISO to the lowest number. If the shutter speed is too fast and you still cannot create motion blur, increase aperture to a higher number until the shutter speed drops to a low number below 1/100-1/50 of a second.

What do I do if I cannot get proper exposure?
The image is either too dark or too bright. Make sure that you are not shooting in Manual Mode. Set your camera meter to “Evaluative” (Canon) or “Matrix” (Nikon). If it is already set and you are still getting improper exposure, it means that you are probably taking a picture where there is a big contrast between multiple objects (for example bright sky and dark mountains, or sun in the frame) – whatever you are trying to take a picture of is confusing the meter within your camera. If you still need to take a picture, set your camera meter to “Spot” and try to point your focus point to an area that is not too bright or too dark. That way you get the “sweet middle”.

How can I isolate my subject from the background and make the background look soft and smooth?
Stand closer to your subject and use the smallest aperture on your lens.


To continue to enhance your skills as a photographer, we also encourage taking photos regularly to increase familiarity with your camera. For learning experiences as well as personal (non-professional grade photography), we invite you to visit Cedar Creek during our normal business hours on Saturday and Sunday. For professional grade photography sessions, including portraits and engagement sessions, please contact us.

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