In this guide, we will define exposure in photography and empower you to take amazing pictures. Exposure is a fundamental aspect of photography that can make or break your images.

The exposure photography definition refers to the amount of light entering your camera. What is camera exposure? It is the delicate balance between 3 essential elements: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. 

What does exposure do? It grants you command over the luminance levels in your photographs, permitting you to regulate their brightness or darkness. Exposure empowers you to unveil hidden intricacies within shadows or highlights and infuses mood and ambiance into your visual compositions. It serves as a medium for artistic expression, allowing you to intentionally overexpose or underexpose for creative outcomes, such as crafting silhouettes, high-key or low-key visuals, or capturing extended light trails through long exposures. Exposure fosters harmony among various elements within your image, harmoniously blending them to construct a flawless shot. It may seem like magic, but it's a skill to be honed. Let's embark on this journey.

Exposure: Meaning In PhotographyExposure : What is it? - Skylum Glossary

As stated above, the exposure value depends on three main camera parameters: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.


The aperture is the opening through which light enters the camera. You can manually regulate the size of this opening and decide whether you want more or less light to enter your camera. This light is managed by adjusting the aperture diaphragm blades' opening. It is represented by the letter "f" followed by a numerical value, such as f/1.8 or f/5.6. The lower this number, the larger the aperture opening and the brighter the final picture.  

Aperture defines the depth of the field (DoF) - the picture area where all the elements can be seen without blur. The bigger the aperture number, the sharper the areas of the picture will be, and the small aperture is perfect for the bokeh effect (blurry backgrounds).

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the time your camera's sensor is exposed to light. It is achieved by keeping the camera's shutter open, enabling the light-sensitive component (sensor or film) to capture light. Shutter speed is typically indicated with a fractional value, such as 1/125 or 1/1000. 

Photography is all about freezing motion or creating a sense of movement regarding the genres you work in and the goals you want to achieve. If you adjust a slow shutter speed, ensure your camera is steady because if you move it, the picture can turn out blurry. Use a tripod for better stability. 


ISO means sensitivity to the light. It is displayed as a whole number - 100, 640, 800, etc. The lower the number, the darker the picture. 30-40 years ago, ISO referred to the light sensitivity of the material - film, meaning that a photographer had no impact on whether pictures would turn out brighter or darker. But modern-day cameras are digital, and the ISO parameter is manually or automatically adjustable. 

When the ISO is too high, there is a lot of unnecessary digital noise, creating an extra challenge for the photographers in the post-processing stage. That is why there is a concept of maximal working ISO, referring to the maximal level of ISO with which the noise does not occur. It depends on the camera and usually varies between 800 and 6000. 

The Exposure Value Formula

The exposure value is proportional to the logarithm of the aperture squared divided by the shutter speed/exposure time.

EV = log2 (f² / t) Where:

f = Aperture f-stop value (e.g., f/4)

t = Shutter speed in seconds (e.g., 1/125)

For example, if you are shooting at f/8 and 1/125 seconds, your calculated EV is 12. As we see, the ISO parameter is omitted from the formula above. Still, it remains the defining factor of the exposure. So, after performing all the necessary calculations (or simply setting the EV in your camera settings), you should adjust the ISO manually or automatically (the manual mode is always better since you can fully control the adjustments applied).

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Exposure To Different Types Of Pictures Exposure : What is it? - Skylum Glossary(2)

The exposure value for the picture taken under artificial light is usually lower than for those made within natural lighting conditions. 

If you take pictures at home, the EV parameter is usually at most 5. The same is true for outdoor images with artificial light from buildings. For offices, gyms, and other public places that are typically well-lit, the EV should be 8-10. The same is true for pictures with neon ads.

The outdoor pictures on a clear, sunny day, in turn, require EV 12 (up to 16 if there is also a bright, well-lit surface like sand or snow). Taking pictures at night without any light sources demands the negative EV parameter: -2 to -12.

Correcting the MistakesExposure : What is it? - Skylum Glossary(3)

Regrettably, digital camera sensors often possess a skewed interpretation of light, particularly when photographers opt for automatic adjustments instead of selecting manual settings or when images are hastily captured.

However, photo editing software can fix the exposure during the post-processing stage. Here is how to adjust the exposure with Luminar Neo: 

  1. Import your image into Luminar Neo.

  2. Go to the "Exposure" adjustment panel.

  3. Use the slider to adjust exposure to your liking.

  4. Experiment with other settings like highlights, shadows, and contrast to refine your image further.

  5. Save your exposed photograph.

Bottom LineExposure : What is it? - Skylum Glossary(4)

Exposure is not just about letting light into your camera; it is the essence of translating your creative vision into a visual reality. 

And, with a firm understanding of exposure values, you now know how to choose the right settings for various types of photography. Whether you are capturing landscapes, portraits, or the enchanting glow of night scenes, the exposure value can be tailored to suit your subject and desired outcome.

But what if, despite your best efforts, you need to make some exposure adjustments? That's where photo editing software like Luminar Neo comes into play. It provides a user-friendly interface to fine-tune your exposure and transform your images.

With practice and experimentation, you will develop an intuitive sense of the right exposure values, unlocking the full potential of your creative vision.