Principles of Photography – Exposure

In our Principles of Photography Workshop Series we try our best to share what we were able to teach ourselves about photography, in simple, easy-to-understand concepts. These are just some basics to help you get started, there is much more information to learn beyond these basics. But by understanding the most basic principles of photography then building upon them through practice, practice and more practice, you can capture the type of images that you want.

Note: Teaching and understanding photography can be often be complicated and confusing. Of course, there are many ways to explain these concepts & there is no “right” way to teach this. So if  you think you can explain it better, then obviously you don’t need our help. :D Now, everyone grab your camera and let’s start figuring this stuff out together! And have fun!

What is Photography? Photography is about essentially about LIGHT:

  • How to harness it
  • How it enters your camera
  • How your camera measures it
  • How to control the light to capture the  images that you want

Gorgeous people, food, scenery? Who cares! The camera doesn’t care or even know if you have a perfectly plated meal, the cutest kid in the world or if you have a Brad Pitt photo op. Your camera only registers the amount of light entering your camera. That’s why understanding exposure helps you capture the photos you want.

What is Exposure?

  • Your camera understands EXPOSURE, which is essentially the total amount of light entering your camera used to create the photo.
  • Exposure describes how light or how dark your photographs are
  • Under-exposure – is when your photos come out too dark.
  • Over-exposure – is when your photos come out too light, washed out or “blown out”.


(L) Over-exposed – Too bright. The white dog is blinding. Need sunglasses. (M) Under-exposed – Too dark.The white dog looks like a phantom. (R) Nice balance of light on the dog, bubbles and grass. Awwww! Precious.

But slightly Under and Over Exposed images can be great for artistic or stylistic reasons! Images that are technically considered to be over or underexposed can be visually appealing:

exposure(above) Both these beach images have elements of under and over exposure. But stylistically, they can be quite beautiful from the contrasts of light and dark.

exposure (above) Lighter, brighter tomato or food  images can look pretty when shot slightly over-exposed.

How to control Exposure?

  • Exposure = combination of Aperture + Shutter Speed + ISO
  • Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO are components that make up your photograph’s Exposure.
  • Understanding these three main principles through your camera functions will help you get the best exposure possible for your images.

Final Thoughts on Exposure: Essentially, there really is no “right” or “wrong” exposure. Learning all the components of exposure will give you the choice and creative control of what your final results are. Photography is more fun when you can have better understanding and control of Exposure.

Next up: Understanding Shutter Speed, Part II of Exposure


Photography Series: Understanding these concepts one step at a time will help you capture  the images that you want. (We need to discuss basic photography principles before we jump to Flash Food Photography because photographing with flashes can be more technical. Grasping basic exposure concepts will make flash food photography easier. Thanks for your patience!)

1. Exposure
2. Shutter-Speed – “Controlling Motion”
3. Aperture – “Controlling Depth of Field”
4. ISO
5. White Balance
6. Flash Your Food Photography #1- Using Built-in Camera Flash for DSLR and Point & Shoot. Includes some tips to making your own accessories.
7. Flash Your Food Photography #2- Using Speedlight Flashes ON the camera
8. Flash Your Food Photography #3 – Using Speedlight Flashes  OFF the camera with remotes, sync cords, triggers and commander mode. (Cool cocktail shots will be highlighted here! )
9. Flash Your Food Photography #4 – Using multiple Speedlight Flashes or Strobes OFF the camera. Short discussion of Dedicated vs. Non-Dedicated flash mounts.
10. Natural light Food Photography
11. Photography inside restaurants, kitchens and capturing Chefs in action.
12. Editing


{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. EdinBraw - The Best of Edinburgh

    Thanks for such an informative post. 2018 is going to be the year that I master exposure settings on my camera!

  2. pooja s

    Loved your article..really helping…

  3. Edinburgh Food Blog

    When we started out we didn’t really give much thought to the style and quality of our images we were putting up on the blog but that’s something we are constantly trying to get better at! A blog with beautiful images can make such a difference, even if it’s just to do the food justice 🙂

  4. Blackinese

    Thank you so much for providing this information. I feel like I now have a better grasp of the principles. Of course I plan to reread a few times to commit to memory.

    Thanks again.

  5. Cookin' Canuck

    What the heck took me so long to discover these photography tutorials?! They are incredibly helpful. I always controlled my aperture manually, but never understood how to control shutter speed and aperture at the same time. I can’t wait to play around with this!

  6. Rachel

    can’t wait to follow this! thank you

  7. Cheryl D Lee

    Thank you for sharing all of this great information on photography. I’m shopping for my first DSLR now, and the timing could not have been better!

  8. Tom

    Thanks very much for putting this series together. Just got my first DSLR recently and been using it to take photos for our web site. Looking forward to completing the series! Cheers.

  9. evenlyn

    Have been reading you guys’ blog for quite a while now. I’m so glad that you giving the lesson. Much much easier to understand than those full of jargon. THANK YOU. Waiting for more teaching.

  10. Lan

    What a great series. Way better than the DSLR class I took through my city. I love the pictures that show what exposure and shutter speed can really do. The only thing I really got out of camera class was to open my manual!

  11. Fuji Mama

    I am so excited about this series! I love that you pointed out that under and overexposure can be a desired effect. Looking forward to the next installment!

  12. Rasa Malaysia

    This is great. I can’t wait to finish the whole series. Any chance you can move up Natural Light food photography to before the flash series? I think most people shoot with natural light, no?

  13. deeba

    I have a LONG way to go, and have procrastinated learning about photogaphy for too long. The tweet from Rasa Malaysia just woke me up. Thank you for the series.
    Eternally grateful, Deeba

  14. Aparna

    I was looking forward to this series. Have just bough a dSLR and have more control over my pictures now but have a long way to go.
    Thanks, and will keep following your posts.

  15. Wendy

    I was JUSTthinking about how gorgeous your photography is when I scrollled backwards and found this post. How generous to want to share your tricks with other people. I look forward to this series!!

  16. Hélène

    I’m just starting to play with my new DSLR. This is so great for me. I’m learning a lot. BTW just voted for you guys. Congrats!

  17. Whitney

    Great new series. I want to learn to take better pictures!

  18. Sopheavy

    Love the tips! You two should have a photo workshop in your garden. That would be fun! I’ll come…if I live in Cali or in the area.

  19. Phoo-D

    Looking forward to reading more! Thank you for sharing all of this- I am forever in awe of your beautiful photos.

  20. Mélanie

    What a great idea! i look forward to reading the rest of this serie, especially the parts about the food photography with flash, this is something I really don’t control…

  21. Livia

    Thank you very much for planning and writing these tutorials. I have finally taken the step to acquiring my first camera since I gave up on them around 1988 because my photos were consistently drab and boring.

  22. Andrea Meyers

    Your presentation at BlogHer was great, thank you for bringing it to your blog for those of us that need the review. I graduated from a point and shoot to a DSLR in December and am still learning the ins and outs of my camera, but slowly getting better. I’m really looking forward to the rest of your series and trying out your tips. Thanks Diane and Todd!

  23. kitchenMage

    I was just saying that I need to learn more about my D70 before I decide it is time to upgrade the body. Looking forward to learning enough to do that before too long, this will help. Thanks!

  24. Patricia

    Thanks a bunch! I need all the help I can get and your short blurbs make it easy to understand. The books I’ve collected overwhelm me.

  25. Christine

    I am REALLY excited for the rest of this series. I love how you’ve broken it down into very manageable bits, while still going in depth on several topics. Thanks!

  26. matt

    awesome stuff guys. an in-depth but totally understandable look at cameras, light and exposure. Really looking forward to your next installment! cannot wait for the posts about flash photography too – much needed for us up in Seattle in the winter.

  27. Kristina

    As a complete newbie who has sworn to master her point and shoot before buying a more expensive camera, I thank you for this post.

  28. kara

    As a photographer, I have to say that your advice is spot on and great for the amateur wanting to learn more.

    Otherwise, please please please … 🙂 … it’s “photos” – no apostrophe. Photos = plural of photo. Photo’s = possessive – as in “the photo’s corners were bent”.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but it’s one of the things that really bugs me. 🙂

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Kara- LOL! thanks for the lesson. We’ll fix it asap! 😀

  29. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction

    Fantastic overview of exposure… I’m really looking forward to the rest of your series on photography! While my photos have definitely improved since I started my blog, I still have a lot to learn, and love to do so!

  30. Misty Mays

    Great Topics, Great series one of my favs!

  31. Cheryl

    As someone who’s self-taught, I often have no idea what the hell I’m doing, though I’ve been able to produce photos I’m very proud of. I can’t wait to learn the whys and hows to help me fill in the blanks and replicate some of my “luckier” shots. There’s nothing worse than taking a great picture and not really knowing what you did to get it that way!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Cheryl- Your photographs are beautiful. But it certainly does helps to continually fine tune your skills and understand photography to take your work to a higher level. We want to show people the liberating feeling of having more creative control over your photography work!

  32. Theresa

    Thanks, great topic for a series, I’m looking forward to more. Your photos are wonderful.

  33. sarah

    so excited about this series – thanks in advance for you help!

  34. Maria

    Thank you for posting this. I really enjoyed your presentation at Blogher Food. It is good to have a recap though, I have lots to learn. Your photos are always stunning. Thanks for helping us out!

  35. Jennifer

    Those beach scenes are dreamy…I’m excited about this series and am grateful you’re taking the time to provide us with this valuable information.

  36. Nicole Spasiano

    Thanks for the info. I’m a simple point a shoot person but I think playing aorund with my camera will produce some great shots for my blog and scrapbooking.

  37. Meaghan

    This is exciting! When I take a photo it is usually a surprise if it turns out well– I look forward to reading some more of your tips & tricks. Thanks!

  38. Jessica@FoodMayhem

    I am so excited about this series, especially the “simple, easy-to-understand concepts”.

    Would you be willing to write a post about how to set-up a home photo studio, without too much space and without too much money. Is that possible?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Jessica – Of Course! Each topic, if it applies, will have photographs on home studio set ups.

      1. Jessica@FoodMayhem


  39. joey

    This is fantastic! You guys are so generous to share your expertise…thanks and looking forward to the series!


    Enjoyable series. I see the word “flash” and I shudder.

  41. mattatouille

    i love how you point out that it’s not really about the camera, but about the light. for people like gastronomer and i, it’s hard to control light when you’re at a restaurant or eatery. the best thing to do is go during daylight and pick a good seat, or else you may not have much choice. for food blogging at home, well, i have a perfect place in my house that gives me great light, so i’ll use that for when i’m cooking. great point though, good photography starts with light and exposure.

  42. Divina

    Thanks for posting this. I admire those two bloggers you’ve mentioned above. The are brilliant photographers even with a point and shoot.

  43. Gastronomer

    As a proud new owner of a DSLR, I am REALLY looking forward to this series! Thanks, guys!

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