Exposure Triangle — a Concept That Needs More WorkExposure Triangle — a Concept That Needs More Work

Understanding exposure is at the core of shooting manual film cameras. But it’s a tangled concept with some seemingly-contradicting attributes.

This weekend, I tried to rework the traditional exposure triangle design — a visual teaching aid for explaining exposure. And so, I drew a diagram for visual learners that shows traceable lines that point to all the possible options for camera settings.

To me, the new design felt straightforward. Exposure Triangle 2.0 illustrates all the possible options for a hypothetical lens with an aperture range of f/2.8-f/16, shutter speeds between 1/15-1/500, and film stock options with ISOs 100-400. Here’s how it works:

Trace the line from the desired exposure up; your options are all the apertures and shutter speed values that have their respective lines intersect the solid exposure line.

Well, not everyone thought this was easy or useful. I’ve asked for feedback on Twitter, which turned out to be very helpful. My drawing made little sense to many, and I can understand why.

Nevertheless, I decided to publish my work here as I still think this new exposure triangle concept can be helpful for a certain kind of learner. And it may be improved if there’s interest in this concept.

And so, here’s the Exposure Triangle 2.0 diagram:

Throughout the experience of collaboratively creating this, I’ve had some fun with Adobe After Effects — software for creating 2.5D animations and Adobe Illustrator.

These are not the tools I typically use in photography, but working with the animation suite reminded me of my blissful days as a creative director for a small business in Toronto. It was the last full-time position that allowed me to be an artist on the clock. Unfortunately, that business went under, like my weekend’s efforts to improve the exposure triangle.