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Top Photography Terms You Need to Know

Photography might seem like an easy hobby until you check out equipment and learn a little more. That’s when you’ll realize that experts spend years honing their craft. They don’t simply buy a DSLR camera and suddenly exclaim that they are photographers and can take pictures for others. If you have an interest in this hobby, I highly recommend that you take a look at some of the top photography terms that you need to know.

Terms for Beginners

One of the most important terms the beginners need to know is aperture. This essentially refers to the size of the opening on the camera lens. Experts recommend thinking about the lens in the same way you would a window. If you open the lens wider, you let in more light in the same way that opening a window will let in more light.

You might not see the word aperture because most cameras list the term f-stop. The number attached to that stop gives you an idea of how wide the lens is on the camera. An f/22 stop is much wider than an f/8 stop and will let more natural light into your pictures.

Another term you might need to know is aspect ratio, which is a measurement of the height to the width of the photo. Aspect ratio applies to television sets too. A ratio of 3:2 means that the television is wider across the bottom than it is tall. Many cameras today let you switch between aspect ratios such as 4:3 and 3:2.

Exposure is another important photography term that you should know. It refers to the amount of light in an image and whether it is bright or dark. On older cameras, you control the exposure through the shutter speed and other functions. Some digital cameras now include automatic settings that do the work for you.

Another term you should know is focus, which refers to the center point of the image. When you focus the camera on one specific thing, objects and items in the background will appear slightly blurry. This allows you to add effects to your photos without using editing software.

ISO is another term that you need to know as you shop for a DSLR camera. This simple term tells you whether the camera is more or less sensitive to light. If the number is lower, it is very sensitive light and suitable for use for daytime shoots. Cameras that have a higher number are less sensitive to light and perfect for using at night.

Zoom Terms

Professional and amateur photographers both need to understand zoom terms such as optical and digital. Digital zoom refers to how the camera can zoom in on objects based on the built-in software. Optical zoom refers to the lens of other parts of the camera that can zoom in on an object. Most professionals prefer using an optical zoom to digital zoom because of the clarity it provides.

Effects Terms

Instagram and other apps let you add frames and other fun touches to the images that you share online. Some cameras now come with built-in effects that you can use before you transfer files to your computer. The effects terms that you need to know include:

Matte painting

Forced perspective



Other Terms

I compiled a list of other photography terms that you might find helpful. These terms can help you understand how your camera works and what you can do with your photos.

File format


Negative space

Manual mode


White balance

Red eye

I hope that these terms set you off on the right path of learning about photography and choosing the best camera for you.