15 Easy Beginner Photography Terms

Beginner photography terms

When you first take the dive into photography, you’re going to start hearing a bunch of terms.

A lot of these terms aren’t going to make sense to you because they aren’t terms that are used in everyday life.

Because of that, things can get a little confusing and you might start to get a little overwhelmed every time you think about your camera.

Photography isn’t easy and if you don’t take the time to study a little bit and understand certain things, you’re never going to get the hang of it. There are beginner photography terms that you need to know.

You may be able to take some decent pictures but at the same time, you’re not going to understand why you got a good picture because you lack basic knowledge around certain photography terms.

15 Beginner Photography Terms

When you understand all the terms photography has to throw at you, you’re going to have a much deeper understanding about why photos turn out good and why some turn out bad.

You’ll also understand more about how your camera works and why certain images turned out the way they did.

Because of that and because I want all new photographers to fully enjoy their experiences with their cameras, I’m going to give you 15 photography terms that every beginner should know.

Now, there are more photography terms that you can learn, but the ones that will be mentioned below are going to be terms that will help you have a nice kickstart to your photography journey.


Aperture is going to be one of the most important settings you have on your camera.

This is simply the opening and closing that happens within your lens.

Having a larger aperture will let more light into your lens and a smaller aperture will let in less light.

Understanding aperture is easier if you think about your pupils. They work just how aperture works.

When you’re outside on a sunny day, your pupils are going to be smaller because they don’t want to let in more light. When you’re inside in a dark area, your pupils are going to get wider so let in more light.

Aperture is always defined by an f-stop number as well. For example you’ll see number like f2.8 or f11.

The tricky thing about this is that f2.8 is a larger aperture than f11. So having an aperture that’s f2.8 will let in more light than an aperture of f`11.

F-stop numbers that are closer to zero are going to have a larger opening in the lens.

Aperture is also going to affect your depth of field. This is a term that will be explained more soon.

Shutter Speed

Like aperture, shutter speed is going to be an extremely important setting on your camera.

This is the amount of time that it takes your shutter to close once you press the shutter button.

Shutter speeds are represented by fractions like 1/100 or 1/200.

When you see this, that means you have a shutter speed of one one hundredth of a second or one two hundredths of a second.

I know this seems pretty fast, but there are going to be times when you want to have a much faster shutter speed.

There are also going to be times when you want to have a much slower shutter speed.

Don’t be scared to experiment with different shutter speeds.

You can get cool effects with longer shutter speeds and you can get cool freeze frames with slower shutter speeds.


Of the first few terms, ISO is still going to arguably be just as important.

What does ISO do? Simply put, it just brightens or darkens your image.

There really isn’t much else to it.

However, the only times you should really consider adjusting your ISO is when you’re in a low light setting.

Personally, I would keep ISO as low as possible. Tiny adjustments to this settings can drastically change how your photo turns out.

Turning up your ISO too much is going to lead to something called noise. This is another term that will be discussed soon so I won’t get into that now.

Exposure Triangle

This term encompasses the first three terms in this list.

The exposure triangle is a good way to think about how your photo is lit. Basically, how bright or dark your image is.

Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are all connected.

When you adjust one of these settings, you’re going to have to adjust at least one of the other settings if you want to achieve perfect exposure.

I know I haven’t gone over exposure yet, but that’s coming.

Just know that when one setting is changed, another one will have to change with it.

Depth of Field

This term is referring to how much of your image is actually in focus.

There are different depths of field. You can have photos where just your subject is in focus and everything around it is blurry. Or you can have photos where your subject is in focus, but everything around it is in focus as well.

If you want to adjust your camera’s depth of field, all you need to do is adjust your aperture. The larger your aperture, the shallower the depth of field. This means that more of your image is going to be blurry.

When you have a smaller depth of field, more of your image is going to be in focus.

Another way to affect your depth of field is to get closer or slightly further away from your subject.

The lens you use can also greatly affect your depth of field. Using a Canon 50mm and a Canon 16-35mm will offer different depths of field because they offer apertures.


Exposure is how bright or dark your image is.

The first three terms mentioned in this article are the camera settings that will affect the exposure of your camera.

You’re going to hear things like overexposed and underexposed quite a bit.

Overexposed means that your image is a little too bright in areas.

Underexposed means your image a bit too dark in areas.

You always want to try and find that perfect exposure so that lighting never seems like an issue.


Noise is something I mentioned a little earlier when talking about ISO.

Noise is the digital grain that can appear on your images.

This will happen more in images that are shot in low lighting situations. With low light, you need to make adjustments to try and get the most light possible out of your image and when this happens, you’re going to lose a bit of quality.

There’s always going to be some give and take when it comes to your camera.

Noise is something that isn’t terrible but it will give your image a lower quality look.

One good thing is that you might be able to save your image and get rid of some grain through editing softwares. However, for the most part, if you have grain, you’re not going to be able to get rid of it completely.


This is two terms combined and it makes sense to combine them.

Both of these are filing formats that your camera stores pictures as.

There is definitely a difference between the two and if you don’t know the difference between the two, this video will give you a clear explanation:

Personally, I will always choose to go with RAW over JPEG simply because it has more to offer me for what I do.

But you may have a reason to go with JPEG.

White Balance

White balance is going to be very important when it comes to your images.

Essentially, white balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts.

So, with white balance, you camera is going to do it’s best to make spaces that are supposed to be white in your image, actually white.

There are a bunch of different white balance settings that you can choose from but this all depends on the type of lighting that you have for your photo setup.

Prime Lens

When you’re starting off as a photographer, one of the major first decisions you’re going to have to make is what lens you want.

When it comes to lenses there are two different types, one of those types is a prime lens.

A prime lens is one that cannot zoom. It has a fixed focal length.

Now, there are many different types of photography out there so it can be a little difficult to feel like you’re making the right decision on a lens.

However, choosing a prime lens could be the way you need to go.

Zoom Lens

The other type of lens that you can choose from is a zoom lens.

This is a lens that has the ability to change to different focal lengths.

When you’re able to have different focal lengths, you’re going to be able to have a little more diversity than with a prime lens.

However, there is going to be some give and take with both lens choices.

My suggestion would be to do a little bit of research so you can make the best decision for you.

Manual Mode

As a beginner photographer, manual mode is going to seem intimidating and that makes perfect sense.

It should be a little intimidating.

Why shouldn’t it be?

You’re still learning everything about your camera so moving straight to manual mode is probably the last thing on your mind.

With manual mode, you’re going to have full control over all the settings on your camera. That includes everything with the exposure triangle as well.

You can also make it so you have manual focus on your lens which is something else that’s intimidating.

Getting the right focus won’t be difficult but if you move your camera slightly, then you’re going to have to adjust the focus all over again.

Being in manual mode, as a beginner, is going to be tough. However, the further you go with photography, the more I would suggest venturing towards manual mode because that will simply make you a better photographer.

Negative Space

This term refers to the space around your subject that in unoccupied by anything.

When you use negative space effectively, you’re going to be able to make your main subject stand out a lot more which could lead to better images in the end.

There isn’t a lot to negative space, but at the same time, it’s not the most easy thing to work with so using it effectively will take some practice.

Rule of Thirds

This is a basic photography rule. If you have taken a photography class before this will 100% be one of the first things you’re taught.

This rule states that your image is divided into a 3×3 grid and your main subject should be placed at one of the intersections of the lines in the grid.

Why? Because it makes for a more aesthetically pleasing image and it’s the fact that most people tend to naturally look at one of these areas in an image first before anywhere else.

That’s right, most people don’t look directly at the middle of an image first. They tend to look at one of the points that are slightly off center.


This last beginner photography term is going to be one that you’ll probably hear a lot more often than you think.

You’re going to go from maybe never hearing this term, to hearing it a lot in the photography community.

This is referring to the blur in your image.

So you know how with depth of field, we talked about blur a little bit? Well, that blur has a name and it’s bokeh.

Bokeh really can make for some amazing photos so don’t be scared to have all the focus on your subject because your images could stand out that much more when you have the right bokeh.

Photography Terms You Need to Know

These are all terms that you’re going to hear at one point or another at the beginning of your photography journey.

And knowing these terms is going to help take you a long way.

You’re going to have a better understanding of your camera and why your images are turning out the way they are.

You’ll become a much better photographer if you can commit all of these terms to memory and never forget them.

Another way to become a great photographer is to not only understand these photography terms but to know how to take a good picture with any camera as well.