Aperture, shutter speed and ISO – Explained visually


First of all: my entry into visualization using Flash in my last article was less than perfect. Mainly because I didn’t shoot every image in my sequence with the same aperture. Meaning that the background changed because the depth of field change.

So, I’ve made a new ISO-test of the 5D Mk II. Slightly better. At least the aperture stayed at 5.6 at all ISO values. The flash file is big, and I’ve not made any kind of download indicator. So when you click the link you need some patience while the page load.

Link to: Flash animation showing ISO-change


But what about that aperture stuff? Did you say depth of field? Yes. When you change that thing called aperture on your camera things happen to your image. To put it short: a low value, like 1.4 gives more blur in your image. A high value, like 22 gives less blur. The detail that you focus on will stay sharp, but the amount of detail around that point change.


Huh? Exactly. This is easier to show with an image. Or, actually several images. In an animation like the ISO-experiment. Where you can click the row of f-numbers at the bottom and see the image change. And it’s the same as with the ISO-animation. When you click the link you have to wait a while for the page to load.

Link to: Flash animation showing aperture change

Shutter Speed


But hey! I can also adjust something called “shutter speed”. Yes, in addition to ISO and aperture the shutter speed adjust the amount of light you will let in at the CMOS- or CCD-chip. And the effect on the image? A long shutter speed gives motion blur. And if you are shooting without a tripod or something to support your camera a long shutter speed mostly means a completely blurred image.

To show the difference that the shutter speed makes I did the test again. With a train moving in the image. So now you can see the effect of both the shutter speed and the aperture. And you know what? When you click the link you need patience. Let the page load…

Link to: Flash animation showing aperture and shutter speed change

But your flash animations are crap

Indeed. I haven’t coded flash since 1999 and used Apple KeyNote to make these. So, if you want to make them better I have provided you with all the original images. Full resolution:
ISO-test Originals
Aperture Test Originals
Aperture and shutter speed test Originals

These are zipped archives of the images. And please let me know in the comments if you use these images. They’re licensed under a creative commons license.

Aperture, shutter speed and ISO – Explained visually

17 thoughts on “Aperture, shutter speed and ISO – Explained visually

  1. Hi.
    Good post. Very interesting comparisons. The aperature and shutter-speed animations could be used effectively to learn people starting off with DSLR´s or more complex cameras how those things actually work. It´s so much easier to explain when you have a visual aid.

    Always exciting to see how cameras such as this one performs on high ISO-ratings and it does seem as if it does pretty well up to 12800, though 25600 still is a bit too rough.
    Pretty impressing up to 6400, and compared to what I can do with my 30D at ISO800 it is pretty staggering. I did notice that it seems as if the exposures change a little from 400-800 and back again at 1600, and some between 6400, 12800, and 25600. ISO 800 and 12800 seem a bit darker, but I guess it´s natural that there could be some inconsistency. What was your set-up by the way? I guess you used a tripod and so on, but what mode did you use, and how did you change the exposure according to the change in ISO-values?

    Looking forwards to seeing more from you and the camera.

    Andreas Bjerknes

  2. Eirik,
    Very nice flash examples. They didnt take too long to load. Now I just have to figure out how to apply this to my camera. I have a Fuji s8000fd. Has lots of options on it and every time I mess with them the pics don’t seem to come out right. It is usually a result of light or a grainy image.

  3. The only comment about your flash examples is that it was a little big for my laptop. I don’t know if it just my screen size or the size of your images, but I had to reduce the size from 100% to 75% to make it fit so I could use the buttons and see the picture. But the info was great and spot on.

  4. Arlen says:

    very nice examples, thanks! I’m new to photography outside of auto-mode, and this definitely helped more than anything I’ve read previously.
    BTW the reason it doesn’t auto-adjust the size is because you have a set size for the flash file in the HTML. If you wanted it to auto-resize you’d need to remove the size, or use a % rather than PX based size, or give people a link directly to the SWF file:


  5. Thank you. I’ve now changed the links to point dirctly to the swf-files.

    They still needs their time loading and I have no idea how to make a progress bar, but now they’re scaling with your browser window.

  6. Hi Eirik,

    Wonderful website! If it’s okay with you, I’d love to download and play some of your animations in a beginning photography class I’m teaching this weekend (specifically the “Flash animation showing aperture and shutter speed change” for sure). I don’t have internet access where I’m teaching, otherwise I would just play them from your site…


  7. No problem. Actually, I always recommend downloading anything you would want to show in a presentation. Even if you know you have an internet connection at the venue.

    Having everything locally is a nice way to eliminate possible problems during the presentation.

  8. Gaute Heggen says:

    Hei Eirik. Eg googla litt for å finne ei bra innføring for en kompis, og der dukka du opp som nr 2. Bra forklart og flashen din gjer jobben på en god måte;)

  9. Hey! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  10. Hugo Garcia-Cotte says:

    Hi 🙂
    I used your pictures for a graphic on wikipedia.
    I had to change the license a little so it is compatible with Wikipedia. Is it ok ?

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