Friday, 19 August 2016

A Beginners Guide To: Understanding Photography Terminology

A Beginners Guide To: Understanding Photography Terminology Help advice tips tricks photos blogger blogging

You guys know I love photography and you also seem to really like my blog posts I do on photography, whether that be my photo diaries or posts where I actually share my photography tips. However, sometimes I feel like I get a bit too technical. I am a big camera geek and I forget that not everyone shares my passion for getting excited at pieces of plastic.

I recently posted my most comprehensive photography tips post to date; A Beginners Guide To: Getting into Photography' where I went through everything from buying the camera to cleaning it. However, that post was very long and I didn't get the opportunity to really explain all the words I was using, in that much depth. I know a couple of my blogging friends have recently invested in their first proper cameras, so I want to help them and the rest of you guys out as much possible.

I thought what would be really useful is a photography terminology guide for beginners. There's a lot of fancy words used in photography which can seem pretty complicated at first. Trust me I know, it took me forever to get my head around what most of these words mean. But now I know and have a good understanding, I want to make your life easier. So here is a very long list of photography words which you may not understand fully, but hopefully, I have explained them clearly in this post. If you have any more photography questions or want anything clearing up, don't be scared to ask! 


Aperture- is the hole in your camera, where the light passes through. Aperture is responsible for creating photos with really nice blurry backgrounds, but the subject in the foreground remains in focus. You control the aperture by increasing or decreasing the F-stop/ F-number. If you have a high F-number, the smaller the hole whereas the lower the F-number the bigger the hole. The lower the F-stop the blurrier the background. However, you need to bear in mind your subject. Just because you are using the lowest F-number this isn't always best, for example, if your subject is big and you want it all to be in focus.

Composition- is simply the placement of objects within the frame of the photo. The composition is so important and can make or break a photo. A badly composed photo might have too many objects in it or not enough. Make the most of all the space you have and if possible position the subjects in an aesthetically pleasing way. 

DSLR- stands for digital single lens reflex unlike SLR's (which are what we used before DSLR's) use optics and a digital imaging sensor instead of film to create photos. DSLR's can be expensive but offer you more freedom with your photography than less expensive counterparts. 

Depth of field- is the distance between the subject in the foreground which is in focus and the furthest objects/ background which is out of focus. Depth of field is controlled by aperture and is very important, as it helps draw your eye into the object in the foreground instead of being distracted by a busy background.

Exposure- is to do with lighting. If you image is over exposed, there is too much light coming through which will make the image look white washed. On the contrary, if the image is under exposed, then not enough light will be coming through and your image will be dark. You can control the exposure by using the exposure triangle which is made up of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

F-stop- see Aperture.

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Fill the frame- is a popular photography technique which adds an instant impact to your image. Fill the frame is as simple as it sounds. It's where your subject fills up all or most of the frame, which reduces unnecessary background clutter which distracts the viewer from the subject in the foreground. 

Filter- filters are pieces of glass that go on the front of your lens to either protect it or help create interesting effects. Filters can also come in lot's of different colours and in paper form. Most come in the shape of circles, though. You need to make sure that you check the size of your lens first before buying a filter e.g. if you have a 58mm lens you need a 58mm filter. It should say somewhere on the end of the lens what size it is if you are struggling to find it.

Focal length- is the distance between the lens and the image sensor, when your subject is in focus. This is measured in mm (millimetres) For prime lenses, they will have a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm) but zoom lenses will state both the minimum and maximum focal lengths (e.g. 55-250mm)

Fisheye lens- is a fun lens that lot's of people use to have fun with. It creates a wide angle shot- covering 180 degrees. The scale is reduced around the edges, giving your images a curved effect.  

Golden hour- also known as the magic hour is a very short period of time after sunrise and before sunset where the light is redder and softer than later in the day when the sun is higher in the sky. During this time is the best for natural lighting and you should definitely make the most of it if you can.

ISO- is your cameras sensitivity to light. You can change your camera's sensitivity to light by changing your ISO. A low ISO e.g. 100 will usually create a clear image but a higher ISO e.g. 3200 is likely to create a noisy image, however, there are times when you need to increase your ISO. Generally, you want your ISO as low as possible. Your ISO should be changed injunction with your aperture and shutter speed, in order to create the best shot.

Image stabilisation- which is often shortened to IS, is a way of reducing the likelihood of taking a blurry photo. When buying lenses you may get two options; one with IS and one without IS. The one with is usually more expensive, but it is worth it especially if you are buying a large lens with a large focal length e.g. 250mm. If you have a lens with IS, you can turn it on and off by using the switch on the side of the barrel of your lens.

Kit lens- is often the lens that comes with your DSLR if you buy a kit pack. Kit lenses are often 18mm-55mm as this covers wide angle and close up photography. These lenses tend to be quite cheap and are a perfect starter lens if you are new to the world of photography. 

Leading lines- is a compositional technique used to lead the viewers eyes into the photograph. Whether this is to the subject, vanishing point or background. Anything can be used to make leading lines e.g. a path, row of flowers etc. but it's all about framing and position in order to get it to look right. 

Monopod- a monopod is like a tripod but it only has one leg! Which may seem really silly and you may be thinking where on earth you would use it. Basically in some crowded environments, there isn't room for a tripod but you want some stability. This is where a monopod comes in, they are pretty cheap too!

Megapixels- All digital capture images as pixel elements. A megapixel is equal to one million pixels. All the photos you take will be made up of thousands of these, tiny picture like elements. When buying a camera especially a bridge camera or point and shoot you want to be looking for a camera with a higher number of megapixels as this will mean the resolution of the photo will be better and therefore, it should be a better photo.

Macro lens- macro lenses are very useful for taking photos of your subject very close up, without actually being that close to it. They are perfect for taking pictures of bugs, beetles and bees close up without getting too close so they fly away. Most macro lenses will have a very low f-number such as F 2.5-2.8. 

Neutral Density filter- is a filter which is used to absorb light from all wavelengths to the same extent. This creates an overall dimming effect to the photograph but does not change the colour. By reducing the amount of light entering the photograph, it enables you to use a longer exposure, which enables you to emphasise motion. Ever seen a photo of a lake or waterfall that looks blurred but is still in perfect focus? Yeah, they probably used a neutral density filter.

Optical zoom- allows you to zoom in and out to capture the perfect image of your subject. Optical zoom changes the magnification of the images with the optical glass before the image reaches the sensor. When buying a camera, you want one with a large optical zoom. This will mean that you will be able to zoom in without loosing quality of your image. 

Prime lens- A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length, such as 50mm. You can't zoom in or out so the only way of making your subject seem closer or further away is to physically move yourself or the subject. In some situations this is great but sometimes it's not even possible! 

Polarising filter- have you ever seen a photo of the sea and it looks really blue, like REALLY blue? They probably used a polarising filter. This filter is used to reduce reflections but can improve contrast and also can reduce the glare from lakes and the sea. They are my go to filter as they help create a more professional looking photograph.

Pancake lens- is the colloquial name for a flat, thin lens which has a short barrel. They are usually prime lenses which are normally used for wide angle photography, such as capturing landscapes! If you want to get a pancake lens, I recommend a 24mm!

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Rule of odds- is a technique that helps you capture more visually appealing images. In photography, a photo will look better with an odd number of subjects than even. So try using three or five subjects not two or four. They can also help create a frame for the subject in the middle. 

Rule of thirds- can be a little bit tricky to understand but basically, it's where you, align your subject with the grid guidelines on the camera. All cameras should have an option where you can turn the grid guidelines on and off (check your manual if you are unsure) You should place the horizon on the top and bottom lines of the grid and the subject on an intersectional point.

Standard lens- are great for capturing an image that is closest to the naked eye. They usually cover anything from 35mm-85mm, basically, they are a go to lens for most types of photography. They can also be referred to as a normal lens, as their perspective is so similar to what we would see normally.

Shutter Speed- this is simply is the length of time that the digital sensor within your camera is exposed to the light. The shutter is open when you take a photo. You can adjust the shutter speed to create lots of cool effects. For example, by using a slow shutter speed you can create motion blur or light trails with traffic at night.

Telephoto lens- this lens will have a longer focal length, this means that it will give you a narrow field of view and a magnified image, meaning you can zoom in far with these lenses and not lose the quality of your image. A medium telephoto lens is anything above 70mm. I use a 55-250mm telephoto lens and it's great. Telephoto lenses can be very expensive, though, depending on the focal length. 

UV filter- is just a piece of glass that is placed on the front of your lens. UV filters add nothing to your image but they do help protect your lens. They are a lot cheaper to replace than a lens. I highly recommend you buy one for every lens you own. Accidents will happen, so it's best you look after and protect your lens the best that you can buy using UV filters.

White balance- is the internal process that happens within your camera, which removes unrealistic colour casts in your photos. If you are taking a picture of a subject that appears white in person it will appear white in the photo. The camera will need to take into account the colour temperature of the light source which is to do with the warmth and coolness of the light. You can adjust the white balance manually on most cameras. 

Zoom lens- is a lens with a varying focal length. A zoom lens will let you be able to zoom in and out smoothly from being far away to close up. Zoom lenses are ideal for all kinds of photography and make your life easier than a prime lens because you don't have to move yourself or the subject and you also don't have to change the lens which if done incorrectly can be damaging to the lens or the camera.

I think I will leave it there for now! I honestly praise anyone that read everything in this post- I bet your head is hurting now! Don't panic if you didn't get a word I just said! The best way to learn photography is to get your camera out and experiment, you will pick the terminology up as you go along and it will soon become second nature to you.

But if you do have any questions, please ask in the comments below or on Twitter. My handle is thriftyvintage_  and my DM's are always open!

I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe you even learnt something!

Thank you for reading, as always x

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12 comments

  1. Such an in-depth post which I loved! Will definitely be using this because I am useless at cameras hahahaha.

    Lee | www.thatbelllemakeup.co.uk

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  2. This was so helpful! I am definitely going to save this post for future reference, Nicole! Great post! xx

    https://guiliannamarie.blogspot.com

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  3. Love this, it's good to have all the terms in one place! I am slightly obsessed with aperture now, but still getting my head around it :P xx

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    1. haha! It's very fun and important to use in blogging! but I agree it can be quite tricky at the start to get your head around xx

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  4. Best blog post ever !!! This is better than a book :) thank you so so much for sharing xxxx

    aishettina.blogspot.it

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  5. I didn't know there was so many words for photography, really helpful post thanks for sharing xx

    Sophie | Sophie's Spot

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    1. There is so many more as well, which I didn't include! Glad you enjoyed the post x

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  6. This post would have been very helpful when I was doing photography in college! amazing.

    HANNAH FROM NYLONTOAST

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    1. aw! I hope it could help many people out xx

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