Control the light... What does this mean?

In a camera there are 3 ways to control the light- aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Of course, there are outside sources as well- open shade, full sun, the elusive golden hour, studio settings and more!

But I want to do a quick explanation on the 3 camera settings you should play with in order to manipulate the available light around you in your photoshoots.

All DSLR cameras have a manual mode. Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO can all be controlled in manual mode, you just have to play around and start turning all the dials! I encourage all aspiring photographer moms to try and shoot in this mode! This is 1,000% how I learn! You can read every tutorial and watch all the YouTube videos but practicing is THE best way to learn.

I've listed the ways to control light below in order of importance, in my opinion:


Basically controlling light by how small or how wide your lens hole opens up to let light in. The weird thing is the smaller the number - F 2.2, 2.8 the bigger the lens opens up and lets in light. The bigger the number F 9, 11 the smaller the hole and less light.

The best part- The smaller the number - you will achieve the fantastic blur effect. So lets say you're taking a picture of your child's face in f 2.2- most likely everything behind them will be blurry! There's a lot of other factors that can go into it, but that's the basic idea!

The easiest mistake- If you are taking a picture of 2 of your kids in a low aperture such as f 2.2 and they are not lined up evenly (shoulder to shoulder) - child 1 will be sharp, but child 2 will be blurry if they are slightly behind child 1.

Picture above taken in Redding off of 44 near the Old Oregon Trail exit.. that random dead end road behind Rare Air!

Nikon D800E

Lens- 85mm

Aperture- f/2

Shutter Speed- 1/320

Shutter Speed

This is how fast your shutter speed clicks- the sound you hear. If you can hear that fast click- its capturing your child running. If you hear it drag out a bit- your child better be sitting like a statue! But the lower the number- the more light its bringing in! The numbers go very low and up to something like 4,000. But if you've ever had a blurry picture and you had your camera in auto mode- most likely it set your shutter speed too low. For my own sanity, I try not to ever use a shutter speed lower than 250 because I'm not very still!

The best part- You can capture things like outdoor sports and literally freeze a child running! You need a good amount of available light like a full sunny day, but if you have your shutter speed like 2,000 + you can probably capture all the energy; just play around with it!

The easiest mistake- Setting your shutter speed too low. Even if you need more light, don't risk setting your shutter speed too low! A rule of thumb is to look at your lens- if you're shooting with a 50mm lens- at least double your shutter speed!

Same location, same camera, same lens

Aperture- f/2

Shutter Speed- 1/320

Shutter speed pretty low for this action shot- but I wanted a little blur effect in their hair!


ISO feels so old school in the camera world. It used to pertain to the "film" speed. If you have been so lucky to have bought film in your lifetime, it was 100-800+ depending on if you were taking high-light outdoor photos or low-light indoor photos. It still pertains to how we set our numbers in a digital camera! So for a DSLR the numbers go from below 100 to upwards of 6,000 depending on your camera. The lower the number- the less light, the higher the number- the more light. This is typically the last number I tweak with when I am in manual mode.

The best part- If you have a high quality camera the ISO makes quite a difference in controlling the light in your camera- especially if you are dealing with a low light situation. But read below:

The easiest mistake- If you need the extra light and control it in your ISO by bumping it up to the highest number in your camera- say 4-6k your outcome will be a very grainy photo. For extra sharp and clear photos, you do want to maintain a low ISO. For myself and my camera, I am comfortable with 1,000 and below.


Please go shoot in manual mode! Play with all these settings in your DSLR OFTEN! You will have blurry photos and you may get grainy photos, but you will learn as you make mistakes. The BEST thing about your camera is that everything is digital and mistakes are priceless.


—Lisa Magladry of Modern Image Photography