What is the Exposure Setting On A Digital Camera?

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Updated July 27, 2022

If you have been experimenting with a new digital camera, or if you are a seasoned shutterbug, there may be some functionalities you don’t quite understand. A few include what is the aperture on a digital camera, what is ISO, and what is digital camera speed. What is the exposure setting on a digital camera, for instance? Once you understand this exposure setting, you are sure to find just about any digital camera easy to use.


  • Most digital cameras have a dedicated exposure setting that will do all of the heavy lifting for you.
  • If your camera lacks a dedicated exposure settings menu, you can manually adjust the camera to find the best exposure setting for you.
  • Generally speaking, image exposure is tied to ISO speed, shutter speed, and aperture.

What is the Exposure Setting?

A camera’s exposure setting determines just how much light the image sensor is exposed to. Some cameras include a dedicated exposure setting, while others tie exposure to numerous other settings.

Insider Tip

Shutter speed is a handy tool for freezing or exaggerating motion.

What Settings Interact with Exposure?

If a digital image receives too much light, it will be overexposed. If it receives too little light, it will be underexposed. You want proper exposure with little motion blur. Here are some of the common camera settings that help you get the correct exposure for your photos. Make sure to have your settings correct, or your digital camera pictures will be blurry.

Aperture Priority

A digital camera typically features aperture blades that block light, to control how much is allowed through to the image sensor and camera lens. The aperture setting is illustrated by an f-stop value. Generally speaking, the higher the f-stop value, the smaller the opening in the aperture. The reverse is also true. You’ll want to find the best aperture priority setting for your particular photo, though tastes and scenarios may vary. Finding the best aperture setting can lead to correct exposure and offer some exposure compensation.

ISO Speed

ISO speed determines how much image noise is present and how sensitive the camera will be to any incoming light. Similar to shutter speed, it correlates 1:1 with exposure, meaning the higher the ISO speed, the more exposed the image will be. A high ISO speed can result in some nifty digital effects, so it is commonly used in artistic photographs, as is the much-desired Bayer filter. Common ISO speeds include 100, 200, 400, and 800. Feel free to experiment to find the best ISO speed for your images.

Shutter Speed

A camera’s shutter will open or close at regular intervals to allow a predetermined level of light through to the image sensor and the camera lens. This impacts exposure because, well, a slow shutter speed will allow plenty of light in, which could result in overexposure. In other words, a faster shutter speed will result in a lower exposure time and a slower shutter speed will end up with a higher exposure time. Find the best shutter speed setting for your needs, which can be accessed via the camera’s LCD screen.


Perform some practice shots while fiddling with all of the above settings so you won’t mess up your desired image.


What is exposure compensation and when should I use it on my camera?

Most cameras include an exposure compensation option. This exposure compensation setting allows you to make our pictures look lighter or darker without having to access ISO speed, shutter speed settings, or aperture settings.

What metering mode should you use?

Exposure metering modes allow you to predict the exposure of a digital image, as the camera’s sensors will meter incoming light before you snap a photo. Be sure to take exposure compensation into account when choosing a metering mode, and also the depth of field, to get proper exposure.

When should you use exposure compensation?

You can use exposure compensation whenever you aren’t certain you will be able to nail the correct exposure for your image. Seasoned vets can get away with using it less, and newbies may want to rely on it more.

STAT: An exposure is a single shutter cycle, referred to as light per unit area. (source)

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