Common Photography Terms - Part 1

August 13, 2018  •  1 Comment

There are so many confusing terms related to photography that can really bog you down especially when you are starting out. This post will explain some of the more common photography terms. 


Refers to the size of the opening in the lens, letting in the light. The larger the hole the more light and the smaller the hole the less light. It is most commonly referred to as f/stop, and this is where it can get confusing! the lower the number eg f/1.8 the more light, the higher the number eg f/22 the lower the amount of light. Aperture is one of the 3 deciding factors which affect the overall exposure of the image. As well as affecting light, the lower the f/stop the less of the image that is in focus giving soft blurred backgrounds, and the higher f/stop gives images with most of the image in focus.

Highland Cattle, Mount Gambier

Lower f/stops are prefered for images where you want a blurry background, such as the image above or low light photography while higher f/stops suit landscapes and scenery such as the image below of The Blue Lake, in Mount Gambier South Australia.

Shutter Speed

Simply put is the speed the shutter opens and closes to capture the image.It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second for example 1/2000th of a second (fast) or 30 seconds (slow). The faster the shutter speed the less light that is let onto the camera sensor or film. Fast shutter speeds also freeze action and is suitable for sports photography, children, birds and animal photography. Slower shutter speeds allow more light to hit the sensor or film and also picks up movement in the image, slower shutter speed is perfect for landscape photography, low light photography and creative panning images. 

Mount Gambier photographerMount Gambier basketball playerHigh flying basketball player dunking the ball in Mount Gambier, South Australia

This image of a basketball player in Mount Gambier dunking the ball is taken with a fast shutter freezing the action. While the image below at Port Macdonald, in South Australia was captured using a slow shutter speed which has blurred the fast moving water and clouds showing the movement in the image.



ISO is how sensitive the camera is to light, the lower the ISO the less sensitive it is to light. ISO 100-400 are best for daylight shooting, while low light situations call for higher ISO such as 1600-3200. Higher ISO introduces noise (grain) into the image which can have undesirable results.

White Balance 

Is the way the camera measures the temperature of light, which is visually represented at the colour of light. Light can be referred to as cool or warm and while our eyes adjust to the different temperatures of light cameras can not do so. Using the correct white balance will make the camera represent items which are white to our eye white in the image. There are a number of camera presents, it can also be set manually using a grey card or the camera can select automatically.

Long Exposure

The process of allowing the shutter to be open for a long time, therefore letting in a larger amount of light and creating points of interest in images such as silky smooth water, blurred clouds, smooth waterfalls, light painting and star trails. Long exposure photography requires a tripod or something that keeps the camera very steady as when the shutter is open for a long time the camera movement will make the image blurry.

Easter Sunset, Port MacdonnellEaster Sunset, Port MacdonnellBeautiful Sunset, Port Macdonnell


Golden/Blue Hour

The hour before sunrise (blue) and after sunset (golden). These times of the day have beautiful soft light and are some of the best times of the day to photograph landscape photographs. To take photos during these times of the day it is recommended that you have a tripod as there is not a large amount of light during these times so you will need to use slow shutter speeds.

Obelisk, RobeObelisk, RobeRotary Photographic Art Show Landscape Winner 2017

The above image of the Obelisk at Robe was taken at 4am in the middle of November, 1 hour before the sun appeared above the horizon, and the image below of the same location was taken at 9:45pm at the end of December about 1 hour after the sunset. 

Robe SunsetRobe Sunset2015 Rotary art show merit winner


Thanks for taking the time to read, part 1 of Common Photography terms and keep your eye out for Part 2 Coming out soon!!



We offer photography mentoring, small group workshops and short sessions to teach you the practical skills mentions in this article. If you are interested in checking out more of our work head to our website. Please feel free to add comments and questions below!


Thanks for helping put these tricky elements of photography into easier understood terms. Looking forward to Part 2.
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