Understanding the Language of Photography: Basic DSLR Definitions

By Brian Thomas
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So you've got a new DSLR camera. Here are a few basic definitions to help you use your new toy.

Aperture - Aperture is the physical size of the hole through which light passes to reach the sensor. Aperture is usually expressed using F/stop values. The smaller the value is, the larger the opening of the lens.

Depth of Field - This refers to how much of the image is in focus. Deep depths of field will generally allow everything to be in focus while a shallow depth of field will only have smaller portions in focus.

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Exposure - Exposure is the amount of light that is collected by the camera’s sensor. Exposure is similar to f/stops in that it refers to the relationship between shutter speed and aperture.

F/stop - Perhaps the most misunderstood term in photography. F/stop refers to the relationship between the aperture of the lens and the shutter speed. In order for enough light to reach the camera’s sensor, both the aperture and shutter speed must be set properly. Without a meter, it is almost impossible to determine which settings to use. In most cases it is best to let the camera determine these settings for you.

ISO - ISO refers to the “film” speed. With a film camera you can buy different speeds of film for different situations. A dSLR can change film speeds without the need to change your film. ISO refers to the sensitivity that the camera will have to light. The lower the number is, the less sensitive it will be. Often times, higher ISO speeds will generate noise which can ruin an otherwise fine photo.

RAW - Many photographers will choose to shoot their images in RAW format. This is essentially an unprocessed image. Shooting in RAW allows the photographer a broader range of flexibility after the shot is taken. It is almost like an undeveloped negative. Images captured in JPG format have been processed and aren’t as easy to manipulate later.

Shutter Speed - The shutter speed is the actual time that the shutter is open to allow light to hit the sensor. Shutter speed is usually measured in seconds. The smaller the number is, the shorter the shutter will be open. Longer shutter speeds are used for low light conditions such as shooting at night, or can give the effect of fast motion making objects appear blurry.

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Electronics » Digital Cameras » Entry-Level DSLR Cameras » Understanding the Language of Photography: Basic DSLR Definitions