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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Newhall

Terms For New Photographers!

Updated: Jan 10

So, I've told you about shutter speed, aperture, exposure, and so on. But I realized that my posts have been ignoring one crucial thing! The definition of terms! Whoops.

Thankfully, photographers tend to be rather literally minded. Nonetheless, I realized it might be good to have a list of the terms and their definitions, so here you are! This, of course, is no photography dictionary. The terms I picked are the ones I tend to see and use most often. These are also the ones that most photographers probably see and use. Hopefully, after reading this, you'll be prepared to converse with other photographers. You could become fluent in Photograph!

The first set is the less fun set, but the most important set:

Shutter - This term simply refers to the part of the camera that opens and closes when you click the camera. The button that causes this is also called the shutter. Sounds confusing? Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it.

Exposure - This one is fairly self explanatory. Exposure is when the digital sensor (or film, if you're using film) is made available to light. A long exposure means that it was exposed to light for a long time, short exposure means it was exposed to light for a brief time. See? That one wasn't too bad.

Aperture - the size of the opening of the lens. How wide is the lens going to be once you click the shutter? The lower the number, the wider the aperture. I know, this might seem counter intuitive, but it makes more sense once you add Depth of Field.

Depth of Field - how much the image is in focus. A low depth of field has very little in focus, and high depth of field has lots in focus. This is determined by the aperture of the lens. The lower the f/stop, the lower the depth of field.

F/number - F/number is a term for the aperture. Often the F/number is indicated as f/(aperture number). Ex. F/11 means an f/stop of 11. So, if f/ indicates the aperture of the camera, an F/5.6 means what? What effect does a F/5.6 have in a photo? What about an f/number of 22? Answers at the bottom*.

Shutter Speed - If you've been paying attention, you can probably guess what this one means. It's the amount of time the shutter opens and closes. How is this determined? For the answer click this link.

Now for some more interesting terminology! To be completely honest, I rarely use these terms. In fact, I mostly use these terms because they're fun to say. I hope you enjoy them too.

Bokeh: So, you know how when lights are out of focus they tend to make these strange looking dots? These are called bokeh. You create it by using wide apertures. Do you remember what a wide aperture is?* Yeah, that's basically how you do this.

Bracketing: This is a fun little term and a useful little effect. Especially for landscape photography! This term refers to taking the same photo multiple times, but with different exposure settings. This can be extremely handy if you're not sure what type of photo you want!

Rule of Thirds: I know, this sounds like a mathematical or maybe legal concept (groan), but it's actually a useful photography skill! It's a little difficult to just write here, but it's a way to compose an image using types of lines. Honestly, this is probably the most useful skill I've learned! It deserves a whole post just to itself. Oh wait, it has one!

Chromatic aberration - I know. It sounds like its a rainbow colored ghost. But color aberration is actually a technical glitch where some color fringing effect to subjects in a photo can occur. It can also feature some blurring effects. It's caused by light wavelengths not focusing correctly on the sensor in the camera.

Well, I hope you found this post both amusing and educational! Personally, one of the things I liked the least about learning photography was the terms. Oh, the many terms. At first they were so confusing, but once I got the hang of it they started to (sort of) make sense. I am optimistic that they will become more clear to you as well!

Good luck!


An f/stop of 5.6 means it has a low depth of field and a wider aperture, where as an F/stop of 22 has a greater depth of field and a smaller aperture.

A wide aperture is basically where the shutter opens quite wide in the camera. This link should be a good summary.

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