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Learn the basics of photography with our photography!

It was never too late to get your first camera.
We know how intimidating it can be to learn a new skill. Most of us have lost touch with the simple joy of getting started. And when you muster up the courage to teach yourself a craft, you find an unexpected obstacle in your practice: jargon!
ISO, Bokeh, Aperture, Histogram ... These obscure words can see the enthusiasm of any aspiring photographer. If you don't know what they mean, don't be disappointed! We're here to help. We believe that everyone should be able to understand the basic terms of photography, whether you want to start taking photos yourself or regularly work with photographers. And even if you haven't yet acquired your first camera, understanding the terminology can help you better appreciate the work of the photographers you admire.
We hope you enjoy this photography terminology (photography if you want)!

Photo by Olena Sergienko / Unsplash

Aperture

It is a complex term for "hole". Photographers use this to talk about the size of the opening in their lens. And when you know how important it is, you understand why such a fancy name is needed. The width of the aperture determines how much light the camera enters, and well, the light is a lot more than photographers' ink: volume is everything. Wide aperture, bright picture. The aperture is measured in f-stops, and is slightly inverted: a stop of f / 22 is small, while f / 1.4 is large (for lovers of mathematics: yes, that's because it's a fraction).
Aperture is also a major component of something called an exposure triangle, but more later!

Bokeh

(B) Well, we promise, that is the only Japanese word you will find in this list. Bokeh is the Japanese word for bloke. If you have heard it before, but do not speak Japanese, as it is a very popular influence in photography. Ever seen a picture where the background is bright and blurred, with soft, nice shapes? That bokeh. And you can achieve this good effect by using a wide aperture: wider aperture, smoothing bokeh.

Contrast

Unlike some of the words on this list (we're looking at you, ISO), it's a very straight-forward one: there is a difference in its brightest and darkest tones as opposed to a picture. Higher contrast means a wider range of tones and more dramatic shifts between different parts of the picture. Pictures with lower contrast are more homogeneous, which can be considered dull or harmonious depending on your aesthetic preferences!

Photo by Landon Martin / Unsplash

Depth of Field (DOF)

We are already very deep into the most technical aspects of photography! Depth of Field (AKA DOF) is the distance between closest and distant objects that are in focus in a photograph. While your camera will be focused on a particular point, there are some objects behind and in front of this point that will remain sharp. The larger the distance, the larger the DOF. The DOF is determined by the focal length, aperture, and distance of the object.

Exposure

Hopefully, you'll get some exposure as a photographer if your work ever appears in important magazines or popular Instagram accounts (and if you send us any of your work, we can share it with our 60K Insta followers Huh). But that does not mean that we are here. Exposure is a technical term that specifies the amount of light reaching a camera's sensor. And in photography, light is everything. Exposure depends on three important factors: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Photographers like to balance these elements by imagining them as the three corners of the exposure triangle. If you are confused, you can read about it here: We make everything clear with metaphors of overflowing buckets and tight ropes.

Exposure triangle for photography

Focal length

The focal length has nothing to do with the external shape of your lens and its optical properties. Let's be technical, shall we? There is a difference in the focal length of a camera, in millimeters, between the optical center of a lens and its camera sensor. Lenses are named after their focal length (you can find this information on the barrel of your lens). This important feature will determine how your photos will "zoom in". The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle: you won't be able to take pictures of the landscape but some objects may appear distorted. A longer focal will allow you to take close-up shots of distant objects.

Golden hour

It's like the photographer's happy hour: your photos double with half the effort! We are definitely joking. When you can't really quantify these things, most photographers will agree that it is ideal to take photos just before sunset or just 45 minutes after sunrise. The low sun position makes the light soft and consistent, which is ideal for portrait and landscape photography. And we love it! You can see one of us scrambling the streets at sunset, a camera in hand, trying to make the most of the "magic hour". We have compiled our favorite suggestions and creative ideas here.

Taking a photo of a church
Photo by Patrick / Unsplash

Histogram

If you're not crazy about interpreting diagrams, you can't get too excited about the histogram from the get-go. But bear with us: this handy tool is really easy to use when you have understood the basics. This can be a lifesaver when you are shooting, allowing you to determine the exposure of a particular photo (you usually cannot rely on the camera screen for this), or during the editing process. The X-axis represents all shades of color, ranging from 0% to 100%, while the Y-axis represents the number. We tell you everything you need to know about histograms here!

ISO

The name ISO is a legacy of film photography. It stands for the International Organization for Standardization. The various rolls of films you could find in the market had sensitivity to light, and the industry needed to standardize it across the country, so they came up with a scale that starts at 100. With digital cameras, you can adjust ISOs in between. Shoots, determining how much light your sensor can absorb. An ISO of 100 is the default, and as you climb the ISO ladder, photos will get sharper. With aperture and shutter speed, ISO exposure determines the triangle. Here you have to know everything about it.

ISO examples

Lens

Shout here for the complete beginners who are still searching for the basic anatomy of a camera (there's no shame in that). When I started learning about photography, I was surprised to learn that advanced cameras (such as DSLRs) have two parts that can be purchased separately. The main part of the camera is the main part (which you hold in your hand) and has all the components necessary for control, LCD and photograph taking. However, you cannot use it to take photos without a lens. If you are a beginner, you can start with a basic lens and gradually upgrade to more specialized lenses with different special apertures and future lengths.

Manual mode

Suppose you have a camera in your hand for the first time: You want to let it make some technical decisions for you. You can choose to shoot in Program, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority mode, which can optimize camera exposure triangles according to the brightness of the camera you want to capture. As you slowly build confidence, you want to try to establish these parameters yourself, playing with different apertures or shutter speeds and figuring out what works best for you. This is when you return to manual mode, and when you do, we have just the guide for you.

Noise

Try to record your voice and hear annoying sound interference on the recording. Noise is the photographic equivalent of that. If you take pictures with very high ISOs, you can see small grain-like distortions, such as colored glasses. This is why it is better to shoot at the lowest possible ISO for the amount of light available.

Shutter Speed

Click! Click! Why do you hear this sound every time you take a picture? This is to open and close the shutter to light. The speed at which the shutter moves can determine how much light reaches your sensor, and, as such, one of the three components of the exposure triangle. Slow shutter speed is ideal for taking still photos of objects or creating a cool effect with bright, moving objects: the shutter remains open for longer so that the sensor can take in more light. If you want to capture sharp pictures of a scene in action, then faster shutter speed is necessary, but your photo will be darker.

What is shutter speed?

Wide-angle

What do you do when you are trying to capture an entire landscape, scene, or when you are trying to show a real estate photographer a room in its entirety? You use wide-angle lenses, of course. Think of it as the opposite of a close-up. Wide-angle lenses typically have a focal length of less than 35 mm. Wide-angle lenses are great for incorporating a lot of information into a shot, but if not used carefully, the sides of your images can become distorted. (If you're ever on the edge of a group photo and your arms look larger than usual, you can blame the wide angle)

Zoom lens

Most of us would understand the term zoom as a close-up on a particular object. But for a photographer, the term zoom would produce a zoom lens. These flexible lenses have a focal length that can be modified, allowing photographers to zoom in on certain objects.