Digital Photography Terms Every Aspiring Photographer Should Know

As an amateur photographer, it is essential that you understand common photography terms so that you can further develop your photography skills.

From A to Z, here’s the digital photography terms glossary to help you dive more deeply into the creative field of photography.

How DSLR Cameras Work
How DSLR Cameras Work


Aperture is the opening between the lenses (similar to the pupil of our eye) that lets the light into the image sensor. Wider the aperture opening, more light enters the sensor resulting in a brighter image and vice versa.

aperture in photography
Aperture in photography

f1.4 is the smallest f-number meaning wider opening, so more light will enter, making the photograph brighter. f22 is the biggest f-number meaning smaller opening so less light will enter, making the photograph darker.

Aperture Priority

Aperture Priority Mode appears as A or Av on your DSLR mode dial. It gives you control over the aperture setting. You set the aperture; the camera will set the shutter speed for you according to the lighting conditions available to make the correct exposure.


Astrophotography is the photography of astronomical objects, celestial events, and areas of the night sky. It includes Moon Photography, Star Trails Photography, Milky Way Photography and Northern Lights Photography.

Blue Hour

Blue Hour Photography
Blue Hour Photography

Blue Hour lasts between 20 – 40 mins before sunrise and between 20 – 40 mins after sunset before it gets too dark. Sometimes, you may also see orange, yellow, pink colors near the horizon. It’s a wonderful time to step out, experience and capture the enigmatic beauty of nature etc.

Bokeh Photography

bokeh photography
Bokeh Photography

Bokeh means blur produced (by the lens) in the out-of-focus area of a photo that lie outside the Depth of Field. They are circular or hexagonal shapes created while photographing a scene with a wide aperture opening, say f/2 (Shallow depth of field) when the lens displays out-of-focus points of light. Light sources that can be used to create the Bokeh Effect include fairy lights or lamps in the background, sunlight coming through the trees and city light at night.


Centered Composition Photography
Centered Composition Photography

Composition is the way in which the different elements in a scene are arranged within the frame such that they work together harmoniously to convey emotions/stories to the viewers. Some of the composition guidelines include Rule of Thirds, Centered Composition, Leading Lines, Frame within a Frame, Foreground Composition, and Golden Ratio.

Creative Filters

There are built-in Creative Filters, present in your DSLR Camera menu. You can apply different creative filters to your photo – options include Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fisheye Effect, Toy Camera Effect and Grainy B/W.

Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field photography examples
Shallow depth of field in photography

Depth of Field (DOF) is how much of the scene in your photo is in focus. Shallow depth of field is when you click a photo using wide aperture of say f/4, you will be able to see the subject clearly in your snap but the backdrop will appear blur.

Deep depth of field is when you take a snap using small aperture of say f/16, the subject as well as the backdrop in your photograph will be clearly visible.

Drone Photography

Drones have revolutionized and evolved photography; from weddings and archaeology to environmental studies and movie production – drones have made it easier to capture aerial photographs of some of the world’s most amazing and hard to reach places.


Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor; the Exposure Triangle comprises of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. You’ll have to adjust the settings of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO to set the correct exposure such that your photos don’t come out too dark or too bright.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure Compensation in Light Trails Photography
Exposure Compensation in Light Trails Photography

DSLR’s meter calculates the light reflected off the subject and adjusts it to maintain the standardized middle gray aka 18% gray so that the photo doesn’t turn out to be too dark or too bright. If the subject to be photographed is very bright, the light meter will darken the exposure to maintain 18% gray; if the subject is very dark, the light meter will brighten up the exposure. To create the photo, the way you remember seeing it, you’ll have to either dial up or dial down Exposure Compensation (EC) to override the meter’s gray setting.

File Format

Depending on the level of quality and post-processing you require, choose the file format in which you need your photos to be saved. File format includes JPEG and RAW. RAW format captures all image data recorded by the camera sensor without processing it, making it more suitable for post-processing in Lightroom. Since JPEG is a compressed version of RAW, some of the image data may be lost; it gives you fewer options to edit photos in Lightroom.


Focus in photography
Focus in photography

When you set focus on your subject, your subject will appear sharp, while the objects far away will appear blurry since they are out-of-focus; you can either use Autofocus (AF) or Manual Focus (MF).

Golden Hour

If you want your photos to have a natural, soft and warm glow, try taking photos during the Golden Hour; it lasts approximately 40 mins after sunrise and 40 mins before sunset.


High Dynamic Range (HDR) helps in capturing the details in the darkest and lightest elements of an image. Most of the high-end DSLR Cameras have built-in HDR mode in which the camera takes a series of images of the same scene with different exposures/brightness levels, then combines them to create one final image.


Histogram in photography
Histogram in photography

A histogram is basically a graphical representation of the pixels exposed in your photograph; it measures tones and exposure. The vertical line indicates volume of tones and the horizontal line indicates distribution of tones from darkest to lightest: 1) Blacks 2) Shadows 3) Greys/Exposure or Midtones 4) Highlights 5) Whites. If the histogram is towards the left, it means the image is underexposed and if it is towards the right, the image is overexposed.


ISO sensitivity is a measure of the camera’s potential to capture light; it is displayed as ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO 6400. As you increase the ISO number, the brightness of your image will increase and vice versa. Using a very high ISO can affect the quality of the photo; it will give you more noise in the image.

Light Painting Photography

Light Painting Photography is the art form of using a moving light source (a flashlight, light painting tube, light painting stick, light wand) as a brush to write, draw or paint in a dark scene with long exposure (slow shutter speed).


Lightroom is a photo organization and post-processing software that allows you to improve your photos with its powerful tools by adjusting the white balance, brightness, contrast, sharpness, color etc. You can do edits/adjustments to enhance the overall photograph as well as specific parts of a photograph.

Macro Photography

Macro Photography allows you to capture sharp, close-up pictures of small subjects that bring out the fine details; subjects can be insects, flowers or inanimate objects. Macro lens is used which offers a magnification ratio of 1:1 (life size magnification).

Manual Mode

Manual mode allows you to control the exposure. Instead of having your DSLR camera set the exposure automatically, you choose the settings for aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The settings you choose will affect how light or dark the photo will come out.


Metering in photography
Metering in photography

Your DSLR Camera has a built-in light metering sensor that takes the light reading. Metering measures the brightness of the scene to be photographed; it divides your photo into multiple areas and measures their brightness separately. Choose from different Metering Modes – Evaluative or Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Metering, Spot Metering and Partial Metering depending on your creative vision.


Panning photography settings
Panning photography settings

Panning allows you to create photos using slow shutter speed where the background is blur but the moving subject appears sharp and in focus. You’ll have to move your DSLR Camera along with the moving subject that you’re photographing. Moving subjects could be a moving vehicle, skateboarder, runner, motorcyclist etc.

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is the time period for which the shutter is open to capture a scene (the time for which light will pass through to the sensor); it’s measured in seconds or fractions of a second. 1/4000 sec is the fastest shutter speed while 30 sec denoted as 30″ is the slowest shutter speed. Faster the shutter speed – lesser light will enter the camera sensor and slower the shutter speed – more light will enter the camera sensor.

Shutter Priority

When to use fast shutter speed
When to use fast shutter speed

Shutter Priority Mode appears as S or Tv on your DSLR mode dial; it gives you control over the Shutter speed setting. You set the shutter speed, your DSLR Camera will set the aperture for you according to the lighting conditions available to make the correct exposure. If you want to freeze the action in your photo, go for fast shutter speed. To create motion blur in your photo, use slow shutter speed.

Silhouette Photography

Silhouette Photography
Silhouette Photography

Silhouette photography is a type of creative photography where the sun/any other light source is behind your subject which allows you to hide your subject in the darkness, thereby creating a sense of mystery in your photos.

Telephoto Lens

Telephoto lens photography
Telephoto lens photography

Telephoto lens is used for making distant subjects appear closer to the camera. It is mostly used in wildlife photography where you will need telephoto lens of at least 250 mm. On a trip to a nature reserve (wildlife sanctuary), it is ideal to carry a 600 mm telephoto lens.

Time Lapse

Time lapse allows you to show actions/movements that are happening at a normal/slow speed in the scene at a much faster speed. You can shoot a time lapse video from your DSLR Camera of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moving clouds, moving people on the street etc. You can also take a lot of photos at short intervals and then create a time lapse video out of the photos using a software.

Underwater Photography

Underwater photography includes underwater wedding photos, underwater model photoshoot, photos of the marine life, portraits of divers etc. For professional underwater photography, you’ll need a DSLR/mirrorless camera with underwater housing, dome port and 2 underwater strobes.

White Balance

When you take a photo, the subject is lit by light sources like incandescent bulbs, sunlight, fluorescent light etc; these light sources have their own color temperature which they cast on the image. White Balance setting helps in adjusting these color casts so that the objects that looked white to you while photographing, appear white in the photo and not red or blue. White Balance settings include Fluorescent, Shade, Daylight, Tungsten, Cloudy and Flash.

Wide-Angle Lens  

Wide-angle lens allows for a wider field of view. In 18-55mm lens, 18 mm is wide-angle lens which is ideal for taking large group photos and broader view of landscapes and architecture.

Zoom Lens

Zoom Lens offers flexibility by allowing you to zoom in or out by rotating the barrel of the lens. In 18-55mm lens, 55 mm is zoom lens which makes the subject appear closer than it really is.

When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.

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