photography Uncategorized

Photography Terms every beginner should know

Let’s face it going out and taking photos is a lot of fun. But have you ever been out taken photos and someone else say “man I just can’t get the right exposure out here. What shutter speed and aperture are you using?” Or “damn I just got some sweet bokeh right up on main street!”

Did that talk leave you scratching your head not know what they were talking about. You just happen to pick up your camera and start snapping photos without a second thought. Today we are going to go over the photography terms every beginner should know. Knowing these terms won’t turn you into a super star. However, they will help give you a better understanding of photography and how far you can push your own limits.

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Once you know the terms, it will help you better apply them to your style of photography. Everyone has their own style but after today you can better explain it to those you are around or happen to bump into while out doing what you love. It won’t happen overnight but the more you apply the terms to what you are doing the better you will understand and can help others understand.


Maybe the most important term to know. Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. This opening helps determine how much light is let in. This is very important when it comes to photography. It helps you decide what shutter speed and ISO to use. It is also part of the exposure triangle which you will hear about below.

Aperture is measured in f/stops. They typical range from f/1.2 up to f/22 or higher on some cameras. The smaller the f/stop the more light that is let in. f/1.2 lets in more light than f/8 or f/22. A larger number f/stop allows less light in. Your aperture doesn’t only effect how light or dark an image is. It also effects how much of your image is in focus.

A larger f/stop (f/22) helps keep more of the image sharp while a small f/stop (f/1.8) helps give you that blurry background that is soft and out of focus.

f/1.8 -1/1600s – ISO 100 – photo from Pixabay

Determining which f/stop you should use matters on what type of photographer are you. Do you only shoot landscapes? Use a higher f/stop. Only into portraits? The low f/stop is the way for you to go. More into street photography and those things that happen in the moment? Try to stick around the middle like f/11.

Since you should be shooting in manual mode. Changing the aperture is easy and helps you have so much more control on the final outcome of your photos.


Bokeh is the effect you get when lights are out of focus. It’s the one thing every beginner photographer wants in their photos (once they mistakenly get it the first time) . A nice subject in the foreground and the background filled with colorful orbs.

To help achieve this effect use the lowest f/stop you can. The lower your f/stop the better chance you have of creating nice bokeh. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens to start off with. You can find the same type of lens for Sony and Nikon too. The canon version is only $125 and can really help improve your photos over the kit lenses.

Bulb Mode

When using bulb mode you can keep your shutter open for longer than 30 seconds.

Burst Mode

Burst Mode is a setting in your camera where you hold day the down the shutter button and it takes multiple pictures at a time. Depending on what you shutter speed is will depend on how many you can take.

This mode is great when trying to get action shots. Unless you are really lucky, it will be hard to get the moment a ball cracks off a bat. Or the face your dog makes as it is running back to you. Having the camera in burst mode can really help you so you don’t miss those action shots.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is a term that refers to how much of a photo is in focus. You have shallow depth of field and large depth of field. The camera itself will focus on one point and that point will stay sharp and in focus. Everything in front of and behind that point that stays sharp is the depth of field.

You will see many portrait photographers using shallow depth of field. While landscape photographers prefer a large depth of field.

Digital or Optical zoom

Digital or optical zoom refers to how your camera zooms. If you are using a mirror less or DSLR camera chances are the lenses you have are optical zoom lenses. Whereas your cell phone or point and shot cameras use a digital zoom. Optical zooms are much better than digital.

Don’t believe me. Take out your cell phone and zoom all the way into a subject. Now take your camera with your longest lens and take that same photo. Is the camera image sharper and more clear? I bet it is. A cell phone can take a decent photo today. However, they really can’t zoom well since it is a digital zoom.


Exposure is how light or dark your image is. If a photo is too dark than it is underexposed. Too light and it was overexposed.

You have to play around with your ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture to get the correct exposure.


Focus in terms of photography means something that is sharp. So an object in focus is sharp while an object out of focus isn’t sharp.

Auto Focus

Auto Focus or AF is a function on your camera that automatically focus on a subject without you having to do anything. This is normally achieved by pressing halfway down on the shutter button.

Back Button Focus

This is when you assign a button on the back of your camera to focus instead of the shutter button. This is very helpful when shooting at night and in low light. This will even allow for faster focusing and shooting during bright conditions as well.

Manual Focus

Manual Focus is where you the photographer will focus on the subject by adjusting the lens by hand.


A burst of light coming from your camera or an external source.

Hot Shoe

The hot shoe is the slot at the top of the camera usually in the center that is used for adding accessories like a mic or flash.


ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light. Generally, you want to leave this at the lowest setting either 100 or 50 depending on your camera. The higher your ISO the more noise (grain) you will see in your image.

ISO is one side of the Exposure Triangle. Shutter Speed and Aperture are the other two sides.


JPEG is an image file type. It gives you little control when editing your photos in a software program.

Long Exposure

A Long Exposure is an image that has been exposed for a long time. Usually the shutter speed is set for a second or longer. It is a useful technique when shooting at night. Long Exposure photography is great for photography and night photography. However, it can also be used during the day with the right filters.

By using long exposure you can capture star trails, light trails, motion blur, and so much more.

Manual Mode

Manual Mode is the only way to use your DSLR in my opinion. In manual mode you are in control of the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture not the camera. It gives you full control over your image.


Noise or grain is specks on your image that make it look fuzzy or grainy. This happens when you use a High ISO.

Example of a High ISO with lots of noise/grain.

Prime Lens

A prime lens has a fixed focal length. These lenses can not zoom. If it is a 50mm lens, that is its minimal and maximum focal length. By using prime lenses it forces you to become more creative and move around. Unlike a zoom lens where you can zoom in and out to find the right balance in an image.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only


Raw is a file type that gives you more control when editing your photos in a software program. It is best to always shoot in RAW. This way as you get better with editing you can always go back and improve the photos you took when you first started out.

Nikon D3500 DX-Format DSLR Two Lens Kit, Black

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter is open. This determines how much light is let into the camera. The longer the shutter speed the more light is captured and brighter your image will become.

Shutter Speed helps capture motion. You can freeze a speeding car or just have the light trails behind it. In the picture above you would need to use a high shutter speed to “freeze” the water and pepper. Otherwise it would all be a blur if the shutter speed was too low.

It all is determined by the shutter speed. Shutter speed is also another part of the exposure triangle.

Time Lapse

A time lapse is a video that is made up of many different images of the same subject taken over a period of time.

White Balance

White Balance is a camera setting that helps the color white actually appear white in your photos. Can use auto-white balance or pick one from the given selection.

I normally keep this setting on auto and will correct the color when I am editing in Adobe lightroom. However, sometimes it is much easier to get the correct white balance in camera. Just play around with the settings to find which one works the best for the currently lighting conditions you find yourself in.

Zoom Lens

A type of lens that has different focal lengths. Typically you will find zoom lenses ranging anywhere for 14mm to 300mm and everything in between.

While you don’t need to memorize these terms to become a photographer. It does help to understand what you read or hear from others in the field. By just knowing the terms will NOT make you a better photographer.

However, it will give you a better understanding and help your improve your photography. Understanding how to achieve a shallow depth of field is only easier once you know and understand the terms. But as you know the best way to improve your photography is to get out there and start snapping photos. So what are you waiting for?

If you found this helpful don’t forget to leave us a comment and a like. Sharing this article with friends and family also greatly helps out us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Below you will find some of our other photography guides and articles. If you are just starting out give them a look over. You never know what new info you will learn.


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