Digital Photography Terms Every Aspiring Photographer Should Know

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

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

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.

Composition

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

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

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.

HDR

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

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

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

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

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

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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Qualities of an Inspiring Photographer

9 Qualities of an Inspiring Photographer

Bought a camera? While you explore your camera, master the camera settings and learn how to use it to its fullest potential, it is also essential to develop certain qualities that will reward you with a fun and fulfilling photography journey!

Let’s take a look at the Qualities of an Inspiring Photographer

Sukesh Rai, an Inspiring Photographer
Sukesh Rai, an Inspiring Photographer

Image Courtesy: Anuradha Zingade

Passion

Passion is the fuel that inspires and drives you to achieve your goals. It will motivate you to learn and practise photography to improve your skills and make you a better photographer with every day that passes by.

Doesn’t matter, if you’re using a DSLR camera or a smartphone camera – when you’re passionate about photography – you’ll see beauty in everything and capture that beauty in your photo.

Patience

landscape photography

In photography – lighting plays an important role in creating a good photo. There will be times when the lighting conditions won’t give you the desired results, especially in landscape photography during winters/cloudy days. So, you’ll need to wait for the perfect lighting to get the right shot.

Adventurous Spirit

photography

Image Courtesy: Anuradha Zingade

With great power comes great responsibility! As a photographer, you have the power to capture the beauty of life on earth, natural light display in earth’s sky and more. You’ll need to trek in the mountains/offbeat places, adapt to extreme temperatures and camp in the wild. An adventurous spirit will help you capture and share the unseen, raw beauty of nature with the world.

Creativity

composition in photography

Photography is a form of art. It requires creativity, imagination and an eye for detail that will help you compose your photo in a way where all elements within the photo work together harmoniously to convey emotions or a meaningful story to the viewers. 

Flexibility

architecture photography

Flexibility is needed to give the viewers, a different perspective of your subject. While photographing a monument/building – you should try to take shots from different angles to give an unseen perspective of the monument. For wildlife photography, you’ll need to be flexible to get on your knees and take low angle shots.

Flexibility will help you create a good photo with the available equipment. For instance, if  you’re outdoors and see a bird but you aren’t carrying your DSLR, it’s okay – try capturing the bird with your smartphone camera, you’ll still be able to capture a decent photo, if you use your composition skills.

Subject Knowledge

Wildlife Photography

With subject knowledge, especially in wildlife photography, you will be aware of the bird/animal behavior which will help you get opportunities for the best shot. For instance, if your subject is a bird and you know its feeding/active time, then you can be present at the place during that particular time to capture the perfect shot.

Curiosity and Love of Learning

Curiosity and love of learning will motivate you to keep yourself updated with the latest happenings in the field of photography. You’ll be keen to improve not only your photography skills but also your editing skills in Lightroom.

Good People Skills

Knowing how to interact with your subject is crucial for portrait photography. You’ll need to make the subject/model feel comfortable and communicate/suggest different poses to create an engaging and powerful photograph that tells a story about your subject or reveals your subjects’ mood or personality.

Besides, good people skills will also help in obtaining clients and partnerships to grow your photography business.

Encouraging Budding Photographers

When a great photographer is around you, there is a certain energy/presence that shines from them that can be infectious; it’s easy to be lifted up by their energy, enthusiasm and passion. Great photographers love to learn, share their knowledge & skills and contribute towards the betterment of budding/aspiring/fellow photographers.

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

Do Share The Learning – Like It, Post It, Pin It, Tweet It!

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DSLR Manual Mode Settings for Beginners Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO

Sample Photos with DSLR Manual Mode Settings for Different Types of Photography

The ability to control the amount of light reaching the image sensor is what defines how a photograph turns out!

understanding DSLR camera
understanding DSLR camera

Knowing what settings to use for Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO will enable you to set the correct exposure and create photos that don’t come out too dark or too bright.


Aperture

aperture in photography
aperture in photography

Aperture is the opening between the lens (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.

The aperture is measured using f stop scale (f-number): f1.4, f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22 and so on. A smaller f-number means wider aperture/opening while a larger f-number means smaller aperture/opening.

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

Aperture also affects Depth of Field. When the aperture is set at a smaller f-number say f5.6, the subject stands out but the background will appear blur, this is known as Shallow Depth of Field. And when the aperture is set at a larger f-number say f22, the background will be visible beyond the subject, this is known as Deep Depth of Field.


Shutter Speed

Shutter lies behind the aperture and ahead of the image sensor. When the aperture opens, light enters the camera. When you click a picture, the shutter opens for a particular period of time to allow light into the image sensor.

Shutter Speed is the time period for which the shutter is open to photograph a scene (the time for which light will pass through to the sensor). It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second.

Bigger the denominator – faster the shutter speed. 1/4000 sec is the fastest shutter speed while 30 sec denoted as 30″ is the slowest shutter speed.

For instance, 1/1000 sec is faster shutter speed so lesser light will enter the image sensor, darker and sharper will be the image.  

30″ is slower shutter speed so more light will enter the image sensor, brighter and blurred will be the image.

Shutter Speed allows you to freeze or blur the motion in your photo.


ISO

ISO is the sensitivity of the image sensor to light which helps to darken or brighten an image. The image sensor needs less light at a high ISO and more light at a low ISO.

ISO 100: Low ISO (low sensitivity to light) = higher quality image; ideal under clear skies and bright day.

ISO 3200/ ISO 6400: High ISO (high sensitivity to light) = lower quality image (grainy/noisy image); ideal for night photography.


Ready to dive into the Manual Mode to have more control and take better photos with your DSLR?

Scroll down to uncover DSLR Manual Mode Settings for different types of photography:

Bokeh photography

Bokeh Photography

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f4 or wider, ISO: 100/400, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec or faster.

Pro tip: To create Bokeh effect, there should be a source of light like fairy lights/lamps/sunlight/city light in the background; there should be a good distance between the subject and the background.


Disco photography

Disco photography

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f2.8 or wider, ISO: 640 or higher, Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec or faster.

Pro tip: To take photos from a distance, use a zoom lens with a wide aperture.


Food photography

Food Photography

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f4 or wider, ISO: 100/400, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec or faster.

Pro tip: Use cooking utensils, tableware, ingredients, sauces & other related props in the foreground or background to add depth, try to use natural light but not direct sunlight.


Freeze motion photography settings

Freeze motion photography settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f11/ f16, ISO: 100/400, Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec.

Pro tip: Set the focus as the subject(s) come into the frame and then take the snap. 


Golden hour photography

Golden Hour Photography

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f11/ f16 to capture landscapes during golden hour or f2.8 to create bokeh effect, Shutter Speed: 30 secs or slower, ISO: 100/ 400.

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings to freeze action during golden hour – Aperture: f5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec, ISO: 100.

Pro tip: Use a tripod when using slow shutter speed, set white balance to cloudy to warm up the colour temperature in the images.


Landscape photography settings

Landscape Photography Settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f11/ f16, ISO: 100, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec or faster.

Pro tip: Use wide-angle lens (In 18–55mm lens, 18mm is the wide-angle lens) to capture a broader view of the landscape.


Light painting photography settings

Light painting photography settings

Photo by Kev Jay – Light Painting Photographer. For more such amazing images, do check his Instagram profile here instagram.com/kevjayphotos/

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f8 – f22, ISO: 100, Shutter Speed: 10- 30 secs.

Pro tip: Keep your light source (a flashlight/light painting tube/light painting stick/light wand) constantly moving, use manual focus, use a tripod and remote shutter release/self-timer mode to avoid camera shake.


Light trail photography settings

Light trail photography settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f5.6 – f11, ISO: 100 or least ISO (Lo 1), Shutter Speed: 10-15 secs.

Pro tip: Use a tripod and remote shutter release/self-timer mode to avoid camera shake.


Macro photography settings

macro photography settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f5.6 – f11, ISO: 400/800, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec or faster.

Pro tip: Use manual focus; use macro lens since it offers a magnification ratio of 1:1 aka life size magnification (minimum focus distance for 100mm macro lens is 30cms).


Milky Way photography settings

Milky Way photography settings

Photo by Daniel Damschen, Product Designer and a Photographer. For more such amazing images, do check his Instagram profile here instagram.com/damschend/

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: widest aperture available in your DSLR, ISO: 800/6400, Shutter Speed: 30 secs or slower.

Pro tip: Place your DSLR on a tripod to avoid camera shake and use Manual Focus.


Panning photography settings

Panning photography settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f8 – f16, ISO: 100/200, Shutter Speed: slower than 1/60 sec.

Pro tip: Move along with your subject while keeping adequate distance between you & your subject.


Portrait photography settings

Portrait with a blurred background/ Shallow depth of field photography examples

Portrait With a Blurred Background

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: widest aperture available in your DSLR, ISO: 100/400, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec or faster.

Pro tip: To create a blurred background (shallow depth of field), use wide aperture and keep a good distance between the subject and the background.

Portrait photography with Deep depth of field (and stream in the background)/ Deep depth of field photography examples

Deep depth of field photography examples

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f22, Shutter Speed: 1/15 sec or slower to blur the motion of the waterfall and make the water look smooth, ISO: 100.

Pro tip: The model should remain still since the slightest movement by her will cause a blur image since slower shutter speed is used here.


Sun photography settings

sun photography settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f11/ f16, ISO: 100/400, Shutter Speed: depending on the lighting conditions present in the scene.

Pro tip: Use a tripod to create sharp images, set white balance to cloudy for sunset photography if you want to warm up the colour temperature in the images.


Waterfall photography settings

Waterfall long exposure settings (slow shutter speed)

Waterfall long exposure settings

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings – Aperture: f22, ISO: 100, Shutter Speed: 1/15 sec or slower.

Pro tip: Slow shutter speed (long exposure) will blur the motion of the waterfall and make the water look smooth. Place your DSLR on a tripod or a nearby rock to avoid camera shake. If the day is bright, you can also use a neutral density filter to set slower shutter speed.

Waterfall photography using fast shutter speed

waterfall photography shutter speed

Recommended DSLR Camera Settings –Aperture: f4, Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec, ISO: 100/400.

Pro tip: Fast shutter speed will freeze the motion of the waterfall.


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

Do Share the Learning – Like It, Post It, Pin It, Tweet It!

Did this blog help you with any ideas to improve your photography skills?

For more useful photography tips, examples, ideas & inspiration, please subscribe below to receive notifications of new blog posts by email.