Understand Your Camera Better with this Photography Cheat Sheet

Still getting familiar with your camera’s controls? This simple photography cheat sheet should help with that and eventually get you experimenting with manual mode.

Missed the manual photography cheat sheets we shared previously? We bring yet another one that you can use both to practice shooting in manual mode and get to know your camera controls better. If you’re just getting started with photography, let this be your quick reference for your next practice!

The photography cheat sheet, which we spotted on Reddit, covers the three elements of the exposure triangle: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture refers to the opening of your lens; the bigger it is (or the smaller the f-stop value), the more light gets in, but also the shallower the depth of field. Shutter speed refers to how long your shutter is open when you take a photo; the slower speeds blur movement, while faster speeds freeze it. ISO affects the brightness of your photos; the higher it is, the brighter your photo looks but will also have more grain or noise.

There are also a couple of useful additions to this cheat sheet. It lists the typical modes you’ll find on the dials of your camera to help you remember what the letters stand for. Manual Mode gives you full control over your exposure settings. Aperture Priority Mode lets you set the aperture, and the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed for that setting. Shutter Priority Mode is the other way around; it sets the aperture for the shutter speed you set. Choose Automatic or Auto if you want the camera to set everything for you.

What this cheat sheet doesn’t show, however, is how a proper exposure is actually the result of balancing the trade-offs for each of the exposure triangle elements. This is especially the case if you’re shooting in manual mode. For example, shooting with the aperture wide open will let in more light, but also overexpose your photo. To compensate for this, you need to use faster shutter speed. If you’re shooting in low light, you might want to either use a larger aperture or higher ISO. But if you’re shooting long exposures, keep your aperture small, the ISO low, and the shutter speed longer to make sure the photos are sharp and with minimal grain.

Need more learning materials? You may also want to check out this tutorial by Chelsea and Tony Northrup.