# Calculating Exposure

by Steve Kozak

M. Photog., CR.

CPP

The basics of photography begin with correctly exposing the sensor by finding the right combination of f-stops and shutter speeds. Exposure can be expressed in this formula:

**Exposure** = **INTENSITY** X **TIME**

or, **E = IT**

“Intensity” is the f-stop and “Time” is the shutter speed.

By the way, there is no actual multiplication taking place in this formula. It is used as a way of explaining the concept of keeping exposures “equal”.

“E” will represent the amount of light that reaches the sensor. If you remember any algebra, because there is an = in the equation, I can change my variables, so long as I keep them an equal value.

**For Example:**

**E = 2 x 10,
**

**and**

E = 4 x 5

E = 4 x 5

(E is the same answer in both, but we used different variables.)

Using this formula we can plug-in some f-stops and shutter speeds just to see what happens. So let’s do it…

**E = I x T
E = F8 @ 1/125**

(F8 and 1/125 are variables that I selected entirely at random for this example.)

In my sample, I stated **E = F8 @1/125**. If for some reason I wanted to change the **F8** to **F5.6**, could I do it? YES! As long as I keep the amount of light that reaches the film equal!

-If I move from **F8** to** F5.6**, I am opening up the lens to let twice the amount of light reach the sensor.

-In order to remain equal, I have to cut the light in half by moving the shutter speed to the next **faster** speed.

**E = F8 @ 125**

And

**E = F5.6 @ 250**

**F5.6 @ 1/250** would be an equal, or **equivalent exposure** to **F8 @ 1/125** because in both cases, the exact amount of light reaches the film. As a matter of fact, there can be many equivalent exposures:

**F22 @ 1/15**

** F16 @ 1/30**

** F11 @ 1/60**

** F8 @ 1/125**

** F5.6 @ 1/250**

** F4 @ 1/500**

** F2.8 @ 1/1000**

Each of the above exposures yield the exact amount of light onto the film. This process is the same no matter which f-stop and shutter speed combination you choose to start out with. The hard part about exposure is figuring out which f-stop and shutter speed to start with in the first place. (We will cover this in-depth later.)

It is at this point that you may be thinking, “Gosh, If **F8 @ 1/125** will work, why the heck would I want to change to **F4 @ 1/500**?” This is where we first begin to realize the magic of photography.

Remember, F-stops control depth of field, so changing from **F8@1/125** to **F4@1/500** allows you to create an image with a shallower depth of field.