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Friday
Jan202012

photography 101 {definitions}

How nice of me to give you this “thinking required” post on Friday.  The day when your brain is beginning to shut down.  The day when you just want to see photos and a tantalizing weekend recipe.  Maybe I should plan out my weeks more carefully?

But, what’s done is done!  Let’s get on with it!

If there is anything we both know, it’s that photography terminology can be confusing.  These words aren’t commonly used everyday and they are easy to mix up and forget.  We’ve tackled most of these definitions in the past, but I thought it would be a good idea to have them all in one post.  I’ve also included a few new + old visuals to help explain things a little clearer.

I’m hoping the diagrams + photos will make up for the fact that I posted a long list of definitions on a Friday.

Don’t forget to check out my photography page for a full listing of my photography 101 posts!

aperture Measured in f-stops, aperture controls the size of the opening in your lens.  The size of the opening controls the amount of light that passes through the lens, to the image sensor.  Aperture effects the exposure + depth of field in your photographs.

Don’t forget!  Aperture not only determines your depth of field, but it also effects exposure [the brightness/darkness of your photograph].

  • the wider the aperture -> the more light will be allowed through the lens
  • the tighter the aperture -> less light will be allowed through the lens
  • the wider the opening -> the smaller the f-stop # -> the narrower the depth of field
  • the tighter the opening -> the larger the f-stop # -> the wider the depth of field

f/1.8 = wide opening = more light coming in = less in focus = narrow depth of field

f/22 = tight opening = less light coming in = more in focus = large depth of field

As the aperture narrows to f/22, the depth of field widens.

image

When narrowing your aperture, which increases your depth of field, the camera will require more light to properly expose the photo. You can manipulate the amount of light coming in by adjusting the shutter speed and/or the ISO.

image

 

auto mode The mode on your camera, where the camera decides all of the settings for you.  It makes the decision on how bright the photo should be, if the flash will be used, etc.  If you’re using a dSLR and keeping it in “auto” mode, you basically just paid $600+ for a really fancy point n’ shoot.

backlit Lighting your subject from behind.  You are facing the light.

bokeh  The out of focus area in your photograph, which lies outside of the depth of field.

depth of field A range of sharpness [about 1/3 in front of the focal point and 2/3 behind it] in front of and behind the subject. This is determined by aperture [f-stop #], focal length, and focus distance. 

*Remember* Depth of field not only varies by changing the aperture [f-stop #], but also by your distance away from the focal point.  The further away you stand from your object, the wider the depth of field becomes [more is in focus as you stand further back] and vice versa. 


diaphragm The piece inside of the camera that opens + closes as you change the aperture.  The opening inside of the lens. 

[source]

exposure The brightness or darkness level of the photo, caused by the amount of light captured on the photographic medium, as the photo is taken.

  • when shutter speed is increased [faster], the exposure is darkened
  • when shutter speed is decreased [slower], the exposure is brightened

Tip! When working in manual mode, a rule of thumb for a properly exposed photo, is getting the in-camera exposure meter to read right in the center at “0.”  However, this is not always the case. Maybe you prefer a slightly brighter photo or artistically, want a photo darker or brighter for a specific reason.  Or, maybe your camera shoots on the dark side.  Mine does!  Aim for setting the exposure meter [aka: light meter] in the middle, then preview the photo and adjust accordingly for your next shot.

[source for all 3 images below]

Brighter ———————————-> to the right

Understanding Your Camera's Light Meter

to the left <———————————— Darker

Understanding Your Camera's Light Meter

fixed focal length A lens that is unable to zoom.  You must rely on yourself by moving further or closer to the subject.  When you see a lens with only 1 “mm” measurement, it is fixed.  ie: 50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2

focal length [mm] Distance from the center of the lens to the image sensor plane [inside the camera]. This is measured in “mm” and determines the framing of the subject [how much of the subject/scene that the lens can capture]. [ie: 50mm lens : 25-78mm lens : 100mm lens]

image

focal point The point at which you have focused your camera.

ISO Your camera’s [specifically the image sensor] sensitivity to light.

low ISO = 100 [less light sensitive]  When using a low ISO, means the lighting conditions are bright.  This would be a sunny day outside or if you have a window where light pours into your house.  I don’t know if I ever shoot in ISO 100 indoors, simply because there is not enough light coming into the house.  A tripod definitely helps to allow a lower ISO to be used since the shutter speed can be set much slower with the camera being stable on the tripod.

high ISO = 1600 [more light sensitive]  Using a high ISO means the lighting conditions are dark or poorly lit.  As it gets darker out earlier, I have to crank up my ISO to make up for less light.  You will tend to need a higher ISO in the evening, or in a poorly lit restaurant, etc.

iso 100

iso 200

iso 400

iso 800

iso 1600

jpeg A file format that compresses + saves the image data into one layer, as soon as the photo is taken.  It undergoes sharpening + contrast adjustments inside the camera and then flattens the file.  This makes it much harder to post process, without seeing degradation in the quality of the photo. [jpeg = pre-treated = flat]

  • data collected when the photograph is snapped –> data is sharpened, saturated + compressed –> camera spits out a flat file for you to use
  • In a way, jpeg is kind of like auto.  You’re basically letting your camera decide things for you.  When the photo is taken, as the data is being compressed, the camera is also making adjustments like sharpening + saturating the photo.  It’s like a little mini editing process that you have no control over.

 

light bounce A reflective surface, used to bounce light onto your subject.  This creates fewer shadows and softer lighting.

In a pinch, I’ve even had luck bouncing light with a paper towel or a white plate! 

(5 of 14)

manual mode The setting on your camera, that lets you set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for each photograph you take.  Your photos have the most potential when using manual mode.  YOU are in control.

  • Experiment using trial + error.  It’s hard to ask why an “auto” photo didn’t turn out right, but it’s much easier to figure out if you have your camera on full manual.  You can see the settings for each photo you’ve taken, evaluate what is wrong with the photo, and what setting needs to be changed next time.  ie: the photo is underexposed [dark] – one way to fix this is to slow your shutter speed to let more light in the camera, which will brighten the photo

minimum focus distance Varied with each lens, this is the minimum distance you must be standing from your subject, for the lens to properly focus.  This is measured from the focal plane inside the camera body [not from the lens] to your focal point.  For instance, with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, to allow the lens to focus properly, the focal plane needs to be at least 1.5’ away from the focal point.

noise A grainy film on the photo that results from setting the ISO too high.  Just because your camera’s ISO can be set to 1600, 3200 or higher, it doesn’t mean your camera is able to produce a quality image at that level.  The higher you set the ISO the noisier the photo

ISO 1600, which is the highest setting on my camera and not really usable.

(1 of 4)

over exposed A washed out or blown out photo.  Too much light, creating a loss in the highlight detail.


(4 of 5)

RAW Not technically an image yet, this is the image data that has been collected onto the image sensor of your camera, after snapping the photo.  The data is collected in a series of layers, that can be manipulated during post processing without losing much quality in the photo, because it has not been flattened. [raw = untreated]

data collected when the photograph is snapped –> data is kept in a series of layers –> camera spits out the series of layers into your photo editing program

*refer to diagram under "jpeg" for a visual

shutter The piece in the camera that allows light to pass through, for a specific amount of time, varied by your shutter speed setting.

shutter speed Measured in seconds, shutter speed refers to the amount of time your shutter remains open while you take the photo.  During this time, your camera collects light + records the photographic data.

  • 1” = the shutter will remain open for 1 second
  • 1/50 = the shutter will remain open for 1/50th of a second
  • shutter speed affects the amount of light coming into the camera and the way movement appears in a photo
  • the faster [less time] the shutter stays open, the less light enters through the lens opening
  • the slower [more time] the shutter stays open, the more light enters through the lens opening

under exposed Not enough light, creating a muddy photo, and a loss of detail in the shadows.

(1 of 5)

white balance An in camera adjustment, which allows your camera to create the most accurate colors in your image as possible.  This can also be adjusted in post processing.  

Phewww!  We made it!  Well, hopefully you did!

And for a little exciting news…

I’m starting to feel a bit more professional, with this 24” HP monitor for photo editing! This will make a world of difference in comparison to using my laptop.  Thanks to hours of Chris’s time researching + waiting for the best deal to pop up.  He got everything set up last night and calibrated the monitor, using Spyder Pro 3.  Definitely a necessity for delivering the best quality images to clients!

--photo

 

Ashley

In case you want to print the definitions, but don’t want to waste a ton of ink on the photos + diagrams, I copied + pasted the definition list below.

aperture Measured in f-stops, aperture controls the size of the opening in your lens.  The size of the opening controls the amount of light that passes through the lens, to the image sensor.  Aperture effects the exposure + depth of field in your photographs.

Don’t forget!  Aperture not only determines your depth of field, but it also effects exposure [the brightness/darkness of your photograph].

  • the wider the aperture -> the more light will be allowed through the lens
  • the tighter the aperture -> less light will be allowed through the lens
  • the wider the opening -> the smaller the f-stop # -> the narrower the depth of field
  • the tighter the opening -> the larger the f-stop # -> the wider the depth of field

f/1.8 = wide opening = more light coming in = less in focus = narrow depth of field

f/22 = tight opening = less light coming in = more in focus = large depth of field

auto mode The mode on your camera, where the camera decides all of the settings for you.  It makes the decision on how bright the photo should be, if the flash will be used, etc.  If you’re using a dSLR and keeping it in “auto” mode, you basically just paid $600+ for a really fancy point n’ shoot.

backlit Lighting your object from behind.  You are facing the light.

bokeh  The out of focus area in your photograph, which lies outside of the depth of field.

depth of field An equal range of sharpness [about 1/3 in front of the focal point and 2/3 behind it] in front of and behind the subject. This is determined by aperture [f-stop #], focal length, and focus distance.

*Remember* Depth of field not only varies by changing the aperture [f-stop #], but also by your distance away from the focal point.  The further away you stand from your object, the wider the depth of field becomes [more is in focus as you stand further back] and vice versa. 

diaphragm The piece inside of the camera that opens + closes as you change the aperture.  The opening inside of the lens.

exposure The brightness or darkness level of the photo, caused by the amount of light captured on the photographic medium, as the photo is taken.

  • when shutter speed is increased [faster], the exposure is darkened
  • when shutter speed is decreased [slower], the exposure is brightened

Tip! When working in manual mode, a rule of thumb for a properly exposed photo, is getting the in-camera exposure meter to read right in the center at “0.”  However, this is not always the case. Maybe you prefer a slightly brighter photo or artistically, want a photo darker or brighter for a specific reason.  Or, maybe your camera shoots on the dark side.  Mine does!  Aim for setting the exposure meter [aka: light meter] in the middle, then preview the photo and adjust accordingly for your next shot.

fixed focal length A lens that is unable to zoom.  You must rely on yourself by moving further or closer to the subject.  When you see a lens with only 1 “mm” measurement, it is fixed.  ie: 50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2

focal length [mm] Distance from the center of the lens to the image sensor plane [inside the camera]. This is measured in “mm” and determines the framing of the subject [how much of the subject/scene that the lens can capture]. [ie: 50mm lens : 25-78mm lens : 100mm lens]

focal point The point at which you have focused your camera.

ISO Your camera’s [specifically the image sensor] sensitivity to light.

low ISO = 100 [less light sensitive]  When using a low ISO, means the lighting conditions are bright.  This would be a sunny day outside or if you have a window where light pours into your house.  I don’t know if I ever shoot in ISO 100 indoors, simply because there is not enough light coming into the house.  It’s rare that I”m on ISO 200.  Typically my camera is set to ISO 400 when indoors, using a tripod.

high ISO = 1600 [more light sensitive]  Using a high ISO means the lighting conditions are dark or poorly lit.  As it gets darker out earlier, I have to crank up my ISO to make up for less light.  You will tend to need a higher ISO in the evening, or in a poorly lit restaurant, etc.

jpeg A file format that compresses + saves the image data into one layer, as soon as the photo is taken.  It undergoes sharpening + contrast adjustments inside the camera and then flattens the file.  This makes it much harder to post process, without seeing degradation in the quality of the photo. [jpeg = pre-treated = flat]

  • data collected when the photograph is snapped –> data is sharpened, saturated + compressed –> camera spits out a flat file for you to use
  • In a way, jpeg is kind of like auto.  You’re basically letting your camera decide things for you.  When the photo is taken, as the data is being compressed, the camera is also making adjustments like sharpening + saturating the photo.  It’s like a little mini editing process that you have no control over.

light bounce A reflective surface, used to bounce light onto your subject.  This creates fewer shadows and softer lighting.

manual mode The setting on your camera, that lets you set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for each photograph you take.  Your photos have the most potential when using manual mode.  YOU are in control.

  • Experiment using trial + error.  It’s hard to ask why an “auto” photo didn’t turn out right, but it’s much easier to figure out if you have your camera on full manual.  You can see the settings for each photo you’ve taken, evaluate what is wrong with the photo, and what setting needs to be changed next time.  ie: the photo is underexposed [dark] – one way to fix this is to slow your shutter speed to let more light in the camera, which will brighten the photo

minimum focus distance Varied with each lens, this is the minimum distance you must be standing from your subject, for the lens to properly focus.  This is measured from the focal plane inside the camera body [not from the lens] to your focal point.  For instance, with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, to allow the lens to focus properly, the focal plane needs to be at least 1.5’ away from the focal point.

noise A grainy film on the photo that results from setting the ISO too high.  Just because your camera’s ISO can be set to 1600, 3200 or higher, it doesn’t mean your camera is able to produce a quality image at that level.  The higher you set the ISO the noisier the photo

ISO 1600, which is the highest setting on my camera and not really usable.

over exposed A washed out or blown out photo.  Too much light, creating a loss in the highlight detail.

RAW Not technically an image yet, this is the image data that has been collected onto the image sensor of your camera, after snapping the photo.  The data is collected in a series of layers, that can be manipulated during post processing without losing much quality in the photo, because it has not been flattened. [raw = untreated]

  • data collected when the photograph is snapped –> data is kept in a series of layers –> camera spits out the series of layers into your photo editing program

shutter The piece in the camera that allows light to pass through, for a specific amount of time, varied by your shutter speed setting.

shutter speed Measured in seconds, shutter speed refers to the amount of time your shutter remains open while you take the photo.  During this time, your camera collects light + records the photographic data.

  • 1” = the shutter will remain open for 1 second
  • 1/50 = the shutter will remain open for 1/50th of a second
  • shutter speed affects the amount of light coming into the camera and the way movement appears in a photo
  • the faster [less time] the shutter stays open, the less light enters through the lens opening
  • the slower [more time] the shutter stays open, the more light enters through the lens opening

under exposed Not enough light, creating a muddy photo, and a loss of detail in the shadows.

white balance An in camera adjustment, which allows your camera to create the most accurate colors in your image as possible.  This can also be adjusted in post processing.  

Reader Comments (62)

this is like your encyclopedia of oats, except with aperture and iso ... LOVE IT. Ashley, can I just say you rock.. I KNOW THIS TAKES WORK! have a great day! - Jasper

What a wonderful post! As someone who is fairly new to photography I can't tell you how helpful this overview of terms is. You put everything in a basic language that even I can understand (the little diagrams and examples help too) Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge - now I just have to put it to use!

This is an awesome reference post! Bookmarking :)

Thanks for the excellent reference! I'm embarrassed to admit that I have a DSLR which I don't use to its full potential, so it's nice to see a breakdown of how changing just one parameter will change the final image. :)

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAda

These are so useful Ashley! I've bookmarked them and just might print them tonight too. Thanks for putting so much effort into all of the diagrams and explanations. And have fun playing with your new screen! :)

I love you :)

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMara @ what's for dinner?

Fabulous post, great tutorial for anyone, great refresher and brushup for anyone as well.

Congrats on your new monitor. I have the 27" iMac, up from the 21 or was it 24? That I had for a couple years. You are going to LOVE your new monitor. I was editing solely using my macbook pro (which that's a 17inch) for the month of December and it was the best feeling ever to come back to my HUGE screen :)

Such a great reference and straight forward, thanks!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie @KatieDid

This is awesome! What a great summary. Totally sharing this with my newbie photographer friends. :-D

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Pinning this post for future reference. Thanks for sharing-very helpful!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

thank goodness heather tweeted this to me.. I've been needing these tips for my new DSLR. I'm so clueless.

THANKS, lady! just pinned this shiz.

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa @ Life of bLyss

Hahahaa, love it. It takes awhile for everything to make sense, but the more you read the easier it gets!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Thank you for passing it along, and I'm thrilled you found it helpful!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Thanks Caroline!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

I'm so excited about it!! Definitely will make a world of difference, especially having it color calibrated!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Aw shucks ;) xo

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

You're welcome Angela!!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

No worries Ada. You'll get there!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

So glad you found this helpful! Definitely check out my other photograph posts for even more examples!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

This is very helpful --thank you!

Whew!! That was a lot of work, lady - thanks for putting it all in one place...very helpful!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

you.are.telling.me. haha It was fun though!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

This is a handy little reference that you can pass along too! Found this the other day when I was looking for a consolidated "cheat sheet." http://livinginthestills.tumblr.com/cheatsheet" title="Cheat Sheet" rel="nofollow">http://livinginthestills.tumblr.com/cheatsheet

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Really great post! Thank you for sharing!! I have it pinned!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAggie

Great post! Lots of good info! Thanks!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGen

Hi Ashley, I'm always curious about other photog's workflow. Do you shoot in RAW? What program do you edit in? I shoot raw, and then convert in bridge and edit in photoshop, but having problems recently and thinking about Lightroom . . .

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

This was absolutely the best, easiest to understand photography post that I have seen since I started trying to figure this stuff out again. I took Photography in college and I was a confused mess. I had put the idea out of my mind to figure it out again until recently. (We're talking about 20 years here!) Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the work you did to help the clueless like me think I can do this!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMicha

awesome!!! cant wait to dig through this in depth.

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily @LivingLongfellow

Wow this was super helpful....I'm just getting started with my blog and photography, but have bookmarked this for reference. I know good skills take time so I'll just keep practicing. Hope you have a great weekend :)

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah @ The Healthy Diva

I just got the book plate to pixel because I have no clue on how to photograph food. Your lessons are so helpful. You give a better understanding then the book. Thank you!

Why are you so damn smart?!! Haha! Great tips that I hope to somehow figure out and put to use!

Hope all is well! : )

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

What a great tutorial, thanks!

Great info..thank!!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizAshlee

Ashley, I cannot get over how generous you are with your time and energy in creating these posts! I just got my first fixed focal length lens (60mm F/2.8 macro) and it's been such an adjustment after being used to shooting exclusively with my huge 18-200mm 4.5-5.6, but being able to shoot in lower light is awesome. I am going to bookmark and share his post with all of my other friends who, like me, are just trying to get the most out of modest equipment and homemade setups. Thank you SO much!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterK

i love your photography posts - thanks ashley! we recently got a HUGE 24" monitor too. i am in love with it! it makes everything so much easier, especially compared to my 13" macbook.

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersarah @ sarah learns

Holy Bookmark, Batman!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay @ Lindsay's List

Wow, I can see the effort that went into this post ^_^ Lovely! I am definitely book marking this. Its concise and easy, thanks!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaya

This is so awesome! I'm pinning it so I can get my camera out and try everything since i basically keep it on auto mode all the time!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen@FoodFamilyFitness

Great tips! I have some homework now....

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAli

Thanks for pinning!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

p.s. under my photography tab there are a lot more posts -- check this one out on manual mode + raw vs. jpeg :) http://edibleperspective.com/2011/11/photography-101-manual-mode-raw-vs-jpeg/

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Thanks Maya. :)

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Haha, I know. I can't wait to use it!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Thank you so much! Your comment means more than you know. I really enjoy writing the photography posts and I'm always thrilled when people let me know they're easy to understand. Congrats on your newest lens! :)

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Aw, thanks! I'm so glad my tutorials are helping you! I do love that book though!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

I'm glad this will come in handy for you! Good luck!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

YAY!! I'm so happy to hear! Thanks for letting me know, Micha!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

I do shoot in RAW and edit in Lightroom. For my people photography, I then take a lot of the photos into photoshop to apply actions to, for different looks. On my photography blog, you'll see photos that I've taken into Lightroom and then into Photoshop - http://ashleymclaughlinphotography.com/blog/ All the food photos, I just edit in LR. For my camera workrlow [what settings I set first], I wrote a little about that in the end of this post. - http://edibleperspective.com/2011/12/photography-101-exposure/

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Thanks for passing that along!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Wow...these are all amazing tips and some I had NO idea about!! This makes me want to get a better camera now more than ever!! Such a great tutorial...I love how you explained everything so perfectly!

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChar

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