The 25 Fundamental Photography Terms All Beginners Have to Know

Learning digital photography seems like a tough task—especially when you’re met with all kinds of technical jargon that leave you clueless and itching for a dictionary. Or worse, leaving you trying to explain what you just learned by using phrases like “that hole you look through” or “that one button you press to take the picture.” Understanding the common photography terms, definitions, and lingo is a crucial first step towards improving your skill as a beginner photographer. Whether you’re shooting with your very first digital camera or want to learn more complex terms like chromatic aberration, f-number or image sensor, read on to see how you should change your perspective (or field of view!) when approaching digital photography or iso photography.

After all, those great how-to guides and classes to improve image quality or depth of field are full of new terms and concepts. While there are hundreds of terms associated with photography, beginners should add these 25 terms to their vocabulary to get a good start on mastering the basics. Speaking of basics, you can catch our annual Fundamentals of Photography series, taught by John Greengo.

And now, on to the common photography terms and definitions all beginner photographers need to know:

Aperture

This is the first common photography term you should learn. Simply put, aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. Think of the lens as a window—large windows or wide angles let in more light, while small windows let in less light. A wide open aperture will let more light into the image for a brighter photo, while a smaller aperture lets in less light. Aperture is measured in f-stops; a small f-stop like f/1.8 is a wide opening, a large f-stop like f/22 is a very narrow one. Aperture is one of three camera settings that determine an image’s exposure, or how light or dark it is. Aperture also affects how much of the image is in focus—wide apertures result in that creamy, unfocused background while narrow apertures keep more of the image sharp.

Aspect Ratio

If you’ve ever printed images before, you’ve probably noticed that an 8 x 10 usually crops from the original image. That’s due to aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is simply the ratio of the height to width. An 8 x 10 has an equal aspect ratio to a 4 x 5, but a 4 x 7 image is a bit wider. You can change the aspect ratio in your camera if you know how you’d like to print your image, or you can crop your photo when you edit it to the right ratio.

Bokeh

Bokeh is the orbs created when lights are out of focus in an image. It’s a neat effect to have in the background of a photo, created through wide apertures. It will have an interesting effect on your image quality. Check out our ultimate guide to Creating Backgrounds With Bokeh for everything you could want to learn.

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