So we all know there are 3 golden parameters in camera: aperture, iso, shutter speed. I could sense those 3 parameters are innate, which means they are directly related to the mechanics of the camera, they are set before light is hit and determine how the the light is received, they are difficult or impossible to change after the photo is token.

There are other parameters that are derived from the 3, such as exposure.

There are also parameters that could easily be manipulated after a photo taken in raw, like white balance (not sure though) and tons of others in photoshops or the software inside the camera.

I ask this because its useful to know in practice. You know some priority and not worry too much on effects that can modify later on. Also you know how to adjust a parameter, the underlining formula, which other parameters will be affected.

Some parameters I am not sure are like contrast, saturation, etc. I know depending on camera, many parameters are meant to be processed differently maybe.

So what other important adjustable parameters are innate, derived, or belong to post-process? What are their formulas and intuitions? Thanks for any ideas and contributions!


Aperture and shutter speed are fundamental: they determine exposure, i.e., how much light gets to the sensor. If there's not enough light, or if there's too much, you won't get a good image.

ISO speed lets you select the amount of light that the camera needs to get an image. If the scene is too dark to get full illumination with reasonable choices of aperture and shutter speed, increasing the ISO setting will give you an image that's usable, but with more noise.

When you take the picture, the camera has to process the signal that comes out of the sensor to turn it into a bunch of bits that represent the light levels that reached the sensor. This produces a raw image.

Beyond that, it's all post-processing. If you're producing JPG images the camera might adjust white balance, compensate for over- or under-exposure in parts of the image, etc. Some of these things can be changed by controls whose effects are described in the manual. My wife's camera, for example, has a setting for shots that have a lot of water. That setting is supposed to make the color of the water look more realistic. I think that's just an adjustment to the white balance, but I don't know for sure.

Serious photographers <g> want to control these things themselves, so shoot in raw to avoid as much of the camera's tampering as possible.

So, in short, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are the fundamental settings. Everything else can be done after the picture has been taken, either by the camera's internal image editor or by a standalone image editing program.

  • Although it's implied, I think it would be better to make it explicit that if you intend to do post-processing you should configure the camera to save raw images rather than JPEGs. Jul 19 '18 at 14:52
  • @PeterTaylor -- that's what the next-to-last paragraph was intended to say. A certain amount of post-processing can be done with JPG images, but serious manipulation of JPG images can be compromised by repeatedly saving, because of JPG's lossy compression. Jul 19 '18 at 15:21
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    It's not even just JPEG artifacts: JPEG is 8-bit, and RAW files tend to be 12 or higher. I don't propose major changes to the answer, but perhaps the final, summary, paragraph, could add a clause about it being preferable to save in RAW if you intend to post-process. Jul 19 '18 at 15:54
  • It's far beyond the number of bits or lossy compression. Things like black point, white point, and the overall Color temperature and white balance are "baked in" when the raw data is converted to jpeg. The same is true of a 16-bit TIFF, where you avoid compression or reduction to 8-bits, but still lock in WB and the black and white points, as well as the basic response curve.
    – Michael C
    Jul 19 '18 at 21:11

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