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4 Common Photography Terms Explained

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When it comes to photography, there's certainly no shortage of things to learn. If you've just bought your first camera, you've probably been bombarded by terms that you quite literally don't understand at all. A lot of these terms are quite technical and as a beginner photographer, it can often seem like you have no hope of understanding what they mean. What's more, a lot of the explanations and definitions available online (or in books) can be quite long winded and complex. Truthfully, most of the common photography terms that you need to know aren't that difficult to understand at all, they just need to be explained in the right way. So, here's what a few of the most common photography terms mean in plain English.
#1 - Aperture

[caption id="attachment_868" align="alignnone" width="600"] Aperture explained.[/caption] Essentially, the Aperture of your camera is the amount of light that is being let into it. The absolute best way to think of Aperture is like the pupil of your eye. The wider the pupil of your eye gets, the more light it will let in and this has an effect on your vision. You'll notice that when you turn the lights off in a room, for a few seconds you won't be able to see anything at all. This is because your eyes haven't adjusted yet and therefore, aren't letting in enough light to allow your eyes to see. After a few seconds, your pupil starts to open up and let more light in, thus allowing you to see better. This is Aperture at its most simple. Aperture is measured using something called the f-stop scale. For example, you might have a lens for your camera with an f-stop of 1.2 or 3.5. Depending on the f-stop, the camera will let more or less light into the lens.
#2 - Exposure

Exposure is essentially the most important photography term that you need to understand and basically, it is the overall result of many different combining factors. For example, a camera works by letting in light through the Aperture, then deciding how much light is allowed to enter the sensor (i.e. shutter speed) and then deciding how much to increase the exposure by (i.e. ISO). This might sound quite hard to understand but it's actually quite simple. Exposure is basically the combining factor of what your image is exposed to and how this affects the image. For example, an aperture of f/2.8. would mean that you have a pretty shallow depth of field. Understanding exposure is something that will come with time. Don't worry about this term too much, just worry about getting your images to look right and how the different factors affect them.
#3 - Shutter Speed

[caption id="attachment_869" align="alignnone" width="600"] Example of long exposure photography.[/caption] Shutter speed is the second part of how your camera works. Basically, once the light has been let into the camera through the Aperture, your camera will then decide how much of that light it's going to use. So, if your shutter speed is around 1/100th of a second, it will only use that amount of light. If it's 1/1000th of a second, it will use that amount of light. Clearly, using 1/100th of a second allows the camera to use more light than 1/1000th which will have a huge effect on how your image looks. If you have a lot of light to play with, your shutter speed may make your image look overexposed. Your shutter speed also controls aspects such as the amount of motion blur your photo will have any a few other things too if you're shooting video on a DSLR for example.
#4 - ISO

[caption id="attachment_870" align="alignnone" width="600"] A grainy image caused by high ISO.[/caption] This is the final thing that your camera will decide upon and it's an important aspect to remember. Essentially, once you've decided how much light will be let into the camera (Aperture) and how much of that light you're going to use (Shutter Speed), you need to decide whether or not this is enough light to give your image the correct exposure. Depending on lighting conditions, depth of field requirements and a few other factors, your image might still be either over or underexposed. The ISO is essentially how sensitive your camera is to light. If you increase the ISO, it will be more sensitive to light and therefore, it will make your image more exposed. If you lower it, it will make it less exposed. ISO can make your photos look grainy and poor quality if you increase it too much however, which is why you should adjust your shutter speed and aperture as best you can first. A low f/stop lens will also help the situation.

These terms might seem like a lot of exposure yourself too (forgive the pun), especially at a beginning stage of photography but the truth is, you need to learn them. Start playing around with your camera and have a look how altering each aspect independently alters the image. This will be the easiest way to teach yourself the meaning of the terms and how they affect you in a practical setting.