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Understanding Basic Photography Terms for Beginners by Laura Jeeves

Understanding Basic Photography Terms for Beginners by
Article Posted: 08/12/2021
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Understanding Basic Photography Terms for Beginners

When you’re starting out with a new skill or in an unfamiliar field it’s quite easy to become overwhelmed by all the jargon and professional terms that get bandied around. Photography is no different, but even for absolute beginners there’s really no need to let that put you off. Once you’ve got a handle on just a handful of basic terms you’ll be talking like a pro in no time. Of course backing that up with the skills and creativity to match might take a little longer, but everyone was a beginner some time.

Basic Photography Terms

As you progress you’ll become familiar with many, many professional terms, but here are just a few of the very basics to start you off.

Depth of Field

In the simplest of terms, depth of field basically refers to how much of the image is in focus. There is one point of focus in any image and then a certain amount in front and behind that point will remain sharply in focus: this is the depth of field. Creatively, it can be used in many different ways; for example a portrait might use a shallower depth of field than, say, a landscape image where you want extreme detail from front to back.


Simplest explanation of them all: the aperture is the size of the opening in the lens of the camera. So, the larger the opening, the more light is allowed in, and the smaller the opening the less light comes in. We measure the aperture by what are called f-stops and the larger the number, the smaller the opening – so, f/22 is a very narrow opening (less light), while f/1.8 is larger (more light). That may sound a bit back-to-front but makes sense once you get used to it.


Exposure refers to how much light a camera sensor is exposed to. An image is considered over-exposed (very ‘blown out’) when there’s been too much light, and under-exposed when too little has been allowed (very dark).

Focal Length

The focal length refers to the lens of a camera. There’s a huge range of different lenses available and their name (example 35mm, 18mm) is simply the distance between the lens and the image that is captured in-camera. Different focal length lenses will affect the finished image because of how zoomed in they’ll be, and the width of the angle that can be captured (a wide-angle can range from 16-35mm). It’s important to note that some lenses are a fixed focal length and some cover a range. A Word to the Wise

These terms cover the absolute basics, but for those who are really serious about developing (or improving) their skills, some professional training can go a long way. If you’re looking to learn from the best in the business there are numerous courses with renowned Master photographers, including one of the most iconic of our times, Joel Meyerowitz. Course videos are offered online – which is perfect for those who need to learn in their own time, at their own pace. You’ll also get lifetime access with the Joel Meyerowitz course, meaning you can dip in and out at your leisure when you’re looking for inspiration. Imagine having a Master photographer on tap, where it feels like he’s talking directly to you personally and that’s what you effectively have with a Joel Meyerowitz course.

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Adam Harper is a Photography Consultant at Masters of Photography. If you’re looking for courses from the world’s greatest photographers, they offer a Joel Meyerowitz course online as well as other excellent Masterclasses. Suitable for all levels, the courses provide lifetime access to easy to follow classes, allowing participants to learn valuable tips and tricks and take big steps to improve their photography. The online community affords the opportunity to find inspiration from both the Masters and fellow students.

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