If you are an aspiring photographer, or are simply just interested in this unique artistic medium, you have probably heard some terms that you are unsure of what they mean. Like any other artistic medium, photography does have some terms that are commonly used amongst photographers. If you are an aspiring photographer, it would be in your best interest to learn these terms and to get familiar with them. If you are not a photographer, but you are interested in this unique artistic medium, then knowing these terms will simply enhance your knowledge of photography as a whole.


There are many different photography terms out there, but the ones you may have heard often are listed below. Each of these photography terms are crucial to the photographer when it comes to making an image. If you have these terms set the wrong way, you will not get the photograph you desire. If you are using these terms correctly, and the settings on your camera are in the right spot, then you will have a very satisfying photograph.


ISO is 1 of 3 factors of exposure (the other 2 being aperture and shutter speed).  ISO is responsible for the cameras sensitivity to light and standards of internal organization of standardization. This part of the camera is the body that standardizes sensitivity ratings for camera sensors, and is typically uniform amongst all types of cameras.

The ISO is a very important setting whilst setting up your camera for your next photography venture. A high ISO setting may contribute to a very “noisy” photograph, whereas a lower ISO setting will contribute to a much “cleaner” photograph. You want to make sure you ISO setting is as low as possible for the light conditions so that you can create a vibrant and beautiful photograph that his minimal noise.

Note: Noise is, in a sense, the grains you see on some images. They make for a very distracting, not well put together photograph.

Aperture and F-Stop

The aperture and F-Stop are very much related, and work together to help you create a fantastic photograph. The aperture is the size of the opening on the lens diaphragm, and is expressed in terms of F-stops.

The aperture is what allows the light into the camera lens. A smaller aperture will result in less light to enter the camera lens, which is ideal if you are in a very sunny environment. A larger aperture allows more light in, which may be ideal for darker situations.

The F-stop is what the aperture is measured in. However, the values of an F-stop are reverse to that of the aperture. A larger aperture would result in a lower F-stop value, less depth of field, and a blurry background. A smaller aperture has a higher F-stop value, a greater depth of field, and a sharper background.

Both of these camera settings work hand in hand, and most cameras allow you to control each of them. However, sometimes the camera may not allow you to control both. If that is the case, it is up to you to make the best out of your situation. Understanding how aperture and F-stop work, however, is a great place to start.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed of a camera is controlled by both the aperture and F-stop. A smaller f-stop (larger aperture) would require more light to enter the lens, and a faster shutter speed. If you have a high f-stop (smaller aperture), then you have less light entering the lens, which results in a slower shutter speed.

It may be helpful to think of shutter speed like blinking. If you blink your eyes really quick, you do not see much light pass through (a fast shutter speed). If you stare at something for an extended period of time before blinking, more light will enter your eyeballs (a slow shutter speed).


There are 3 elements to exposure: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed—all of which we have already gone over. That being said, how do these 3 elements work together to make a great photograph? Before we answer that question, it is best to understand that exposure is how light or dark an image is. Underexposure is a dark photograph, and over exposure is a very light photograph. You want to make sure that you have the right exposure, but remember that exposure is objective (there is no right exposure).

Let’s say that you are trying to take a photograph of a sunset. Your first step is to make sure that you ISO is set right. Sunsets give off plenty of light, so there is no need for a high ISO. Check the lowest ISO setting first, if that is too dark then adjust your ISO accordingly. Your next step is to adjust the aperture and f-stop. For such a scene the aperture should be set about the middle, resulting in a mid-value f-stop. Anything above or below could result in a noisy or not-sharp photograph. Once you have these values set, you can adjust your shutter speed. The shutter speed is based off preference, so that may require playing around with your scene a little more.

All 3 of these elements contribute to how a photograph is “exposed”. It is up to the photographer to determine what the best settings are per situation that they are in.


The final term that you may have heard a lot is bokeh. A lot of photographers aim to use Bokeh in their backgrounds, which allows more attention on the subject (common in portraits). Bokeh is when you turn light into orbs that are blurry, resulting in a blurry background. This is a fun way to put together a photographer, and allows for much more attention on your subject versus the background. Bokeh is usually achieved with a larger aperture (lower f-stop).

These are just some of the common photography terms out there. It is encouraged that all aspiring and current photographers—regardless of what level you are at, that you become familiar with these terms and revisit them frequently.


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