The exposure triangle is worth lingering on—it’s the mechanical heart of any filmmaking or photography process, and worth breaking into multiple classes. Students who figure it out will take exponentially better shots than ones who struggle to. Once students are starting to get the hang of getting the correct exposure, you can add in the additional variable of area of focus, and its relationship to the camera settings. Check out these two shots.

The one on the left, with the shallower depth of field, simply looks “more artistic,” mostly because it’s something that most phones can’t yet do (they can mimic it through effects, so this whole artistic thing won’t last long). So let’s teach your students how to get those shots!


Go over aperture, shutter speed and ISO again. They’re critical, and they can take a while for students to get the hang of. Even my expert students can struggle with this, often picking up the camera, seeing that it looks about right and going with it, not realizing the ISO is cranked way up (and that their footage is now going to be very grainy).

This tool is phenomenal in showing the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO–it simulates a camera. Have the students play around with it. http://camerasim.com/apps/original-camerasim/web/


Getting your exposure correct is critical and (almost always) the number one priority when shooting—getting it wrong can turn the best shots into unusable footage.

For the students who have started develop proficiency in exposure, the next step is determining how large you want your area of focus to be.

This chart, from the site Fotoblog Hamburg, does a terrific job explaining the relationship of everything:

The key here is aperture. The wider your aperture is, the more light is let in from multiple angles, which leads to your area of focus being very small. A small area of focus is very in style right now—almost any photo can look great with the background blurred (perhaps because phone cameras aren’t quite as good at doing this, yet, iPhone 7 Plus I’m looking at you). Of course, photographing/filming with a small area of focus is very difficult, you’ve got to be perfect to ensure your subject is in that narrow field. Increasing your aperture darkens the shot and brings more into focus. Sporting events tend to go with a large area of focus, that way none of the action is missed.

These pictures of eggs, from the Simply Delicious Food Photography blog, illustrate the difference well.

Of course, in order to keep the lighting the same, other variables have to be manipulated—the shutter speed, or the ISO, or the actual lighting of a scene (which is of course a whole ‘nother art to talk about).


The best exercise is simply taking more photos.

Have students experiment, getting photos of scenes with a small depth of field and with a large one. Discuss if either version works better, or how your objectives may impact the way the shot looks.

Next lesson, we’ll start integrating all of this into our videos.