The Exposure Triangle and Why I Break All the Technical Rules

June 17, 2018

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I'm Helena!

A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...



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Over the years with my journey in photography, I’ve taken tons of classes and observed other photographers, read technical books and participated in a few different mentorship programs. And through it all, I’ve experimented and tested different perspectives and rules. When first learning photography, practicing the technical rules is important and before you can experiment with odd or uncommon practices, I would always reccommend some trial and error. Nonetheless, I don’t follow the majority of the technical exposure/composition rules in traditional portraiture. I’ve found what works for me.

The exposure triangle is all about balance.

It’s important to decide what is most important to you in an image. For me: I want to make sure all the people in my portrait are clear and that none of their faces are blurry or out-of-focus. From there, I adjust and prioritize what is secondary in importance.

Super Fast Shutter Speed

I love a 3200 shutter speed. Yes, you heard that right! But I’m also a family and children’s photographer. So, my #1 priority is to make sure everyone is in focus. And an easy way for images not to have that crystal clear, tack sharp element to them….is a slooow shutter speed. My minimum shutter speed is always 400. During my sessions, I have kids jumping over dad, people are rolling around on the grass, and toddlers making their silliest dinosaur voices. I need to freeze that moment and make sure my clients are in focus. Especially with toddlers and my little friends that are just learning to crawl!

High ISO

You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I love a high ISO in my images. Personally, I find a little bit of grain beautiful, but truly – my photos never come out grainy. Those fancy DSLRs are built to go high in ISO. It’s okay – your camera can handle it. I promise you.


If I cut off a head or a hand while framing up my portrait, that’s okay. If mom’s face is blocked by her child’s giggling face, that’s also okay. I don’t worry about these traditional portraiture rules when it comes to framing an image. For me, my most important job when photographing people is to capture real, honest emotion. It’s to observe that human connection and then act quickly and press that shutter button. My job is to record raw, emotive human connection over perfectly posed portraits. I would rather capture that moment of intimacy and connection and have my frame cut off an arm. That’s personally what I aim for in my work, but everyone has their own truth and process for them. (My mother, also a portrait photographer, would think I’m crazy but our photography styles are also vastly different.)


My first rule of thumb is to make sure that everyone is on the same plane. I  personally love a lot of bokeh and want everything super soft and milky in appearance except for a singular focus point: the eyes and face. I like a wide open aperture and place the focus right on the eyes, which is my favorite part of an image. Emotion and connection is visually shown through body language and the eyes.

I Love to Over-Shoot

For about a 45 minute – 60 minute session, which is my standard session that most of my families purchase, I shoot around 600-700 frames. I shoot a lot. But for me, I would rather go through them all in post-processing and have a ton of options and a variety of angles and expressions.

I hope these quick photography tips (however untraditional they may be) help you on your photography journey!

Are you interested in me posting more about photography? Comment your thoughts below! 🙂

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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