Basic Photography Terms

If you want to get started in photography, learning the lingo is probably one of the first hurdles that most people must overcome. A few of these terms are essential, like aperture, but some will only come up every so often. Here are some of the basic terms, as well as a few lesser known terms one should become familiar with in the pursuit of taking great photos.

Shutter Speed

Every camera has a shutter that opens in order to read what’s in the viewfinder. The shutter speed controls how long that shutter remains open, and it’s typically expressed as either a fraction or a whole number. Longer shutter speed times will capture more movement, so it’s crucial that subjects remain still.

F-Stop or Aperture

F-Stop is a method of controlling how much of an image remains in focus during a shot, but it’s also part of the manipulation photographers use to get the perfect shot. Aperture is a function that controls the amount of light in a shot, so low-light environments can cheat with a higher aperture. The trick is to capture that light with a shutter speed that allows for enough light to come through.


ISO is the film speed of the camera, and it’s the final part of the exposure triangle. ISO is basically an international standard for measuring film speed. Go too low and the photo will look washed out. Too high and the photo will be too dark.

Final Thoughts

The key to photography is manipulating these three elements into the best possible exposure. Sometimes, it might be necessary to change shutter speed to allow for a certain distance to focus (also known as “depth of field”). Play around with these three settings on your camera if you’re getting inconsistent photos or washed out colors.

Basic Photography Terms