Photography Jargon: What Beginners Need to Know

When you first get into photography, you encounter so many new words and phrases that learning what they mean and how to navigate around understanding all these terms can seem like more of a task than you’re willing to take on. I’ve been in the same boat, and I know how hard it all seems!

When I first took up photography as a hobby, I had no idea what on earth an aperture was and how depth of field could have an impact on my photography. So, in order to make the task a bit easier for you—something I wish someone had done for me too—here’s a list of the jargon you’re going to hear most often in the photography industry:


Aperture refers to the size of the opening of the lens of your camera. These can be of various sizes and each provides their own functions; a larger aperture lets in more light into the camera, while a smaller does the opposite. This helps determine how light or dark the image is, also known as exposure. Wide open apertures are also used to take blur effects, while smaller apertures take images that are sharper. Aperture is commonly measured in F stops.


Aspect Ratio:

The aspect ratio refers to the ratio of height to width. Knowing this can come in handy when you need to print out the pictures you take.

Depth of Field:

This term refers to how much of the image is in focus. Depending on whether you are taking a landscape shot—which typically has more of the subject in focus—or a portrait shot—in which the background is blurred, the depth of field will change accordingly.


How light or dark an image is, is based upon the exposure settings of your camera. The more light that enters into the lens of your camera, the brighter your image will be—not always recommended.



The ISO of a camera refers to the sensitivity of the camera to light. Smaller ISO levels are suitable for daytime photography, whereas higher levels are ideal for low light photography. The higher you crank up your ISO, the grainier your resultant pictures will be, so use this feature with a little caution.


Noise in a picture does not refer to the auditory term you’re used to hearing. In photography, noise refers to grains found in low-quality pictures, which can negatively affect the image’s quality.

Shutter Speed

The higher the shutter speed, the better you can capture fast moving objects. Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter stays open when taking a picture, and the longer it stays open, the more chances of the picture coming out in a blur. However, longer shutter speeds are ideal for landscape photography.

White Balance

White balance refers to the feature on your camera that adjusts your settings to make white objects appear as white as they are in real life, without letting them be contaminated with blue or yellow light.

Even the most expensive of cameras is not going to churn out terrific pictures if the person behind the camera does not know how to work it perfectly. Learning the jargon can help you better understand photography blogs, helping you on your journey to becoming a seasoned photographer.

The author is a photography expert with over ten years of experience in travel photography. Along with taking the most breathtaking shots of the places he visits, he also helps aspiring photographers improve their photography skills at, a website that offers online photography courses for amateur photographers.

Lisa Scholfield

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