— Bringing Photo Know-How to the Masses —

Lesson Two: Basic Terminology – Some words you should know and why.

In this lesson we’ll talk about the words that make up the craft.

* This will be a concise terminology, dealing with only those terms that are important to learning the art of photography.

I will not be explaining terms like: SD Card, Battery, Tripod, Lens Caps, Megapixel, MegaByte… You get the picture.
Also at this point I won’t be talking about advanced terms such as:  Sync Speed, Aperture Lock, Colour Temperature…
These term will come up in future lessons and before getting into more professional concepts I will post a list of advanced terms.

Everyone has their own way of explaining how a camera goes about making photos. But we all have to refer to the same common components that allow the process to take place.  ~ Here is a mild breakdown of the most important things to know about your camera.


Terminology: ~ (In order of importance)

– This refers to the hole that allows light to pass into the camera;  found inside the lens on your SLR.
~  In a pinhole camera, the aperture would be the size of the hole.

Shutter – The camera’s shutter opens to allow light to enter the camera.  and closes when the desired amount of time has elapsed.

Shutter Speed – The amount of time the camera’s shutter remains open for.

Meter – Metering takes place inside the camera, it is the camera’s judgment of the correct camera setting for a proper exposure.
The camera’s meter reads the amount of light on a subject and scene. (or at the center/custom point in spot metering)

ISO -  (aka: film speed or ASA) – Describes the cameras sensitivity to light while exposing a properly balanced picture.
A camera can take better pictures in low-light situations based on this camera setting.

Depth of Field – This is the distance from the center of the focus point at which thing start to fall out of focus.

Focal Point – The center of the Depth of Field. The point of the subject or subject area that is meant to be in sharp focus.

Frame – The entire area of the photo as seen through the viewfinder of the camera.

Exposure – The process of making a photo is called “Exposing” but “Exposure” refers to the level above or below a perfect balance of tones.
(Example: If someone asks you, “how is the exposure on this picture?”  ~  They want to know:  is it too dark, or too bright.)

Ambient (light) – Light that comes from constant sources, such as: The Sun, Lamps, Overhead Florescent, and even Candles and Television Screens are considered “Ambient Light”. Although these are constant in the sense that they stay on in most cases, they are far from consistent, as clouds and or power surges can vary they intensity of the ambient light at any given time. Making reproduction of tones and colour more difficult.

Flash / Strobe (light) – Light that fires in an instant from any flash device attached to the camera’s trigger (usually via wireless triggers) are called Flash Speedlights, or Strobes. They fire in a split second and deliver consistent light levels, shot after shot.

RAW – RAW  images are taken directly from a digital camera without any in-camera processing.
(The opposite of RAW data is ~ JPG data ~ which is compressed and sometimes auto-corrected in camera at the time of exposure)

Image resolution – The size of the photos being captured on your camera.

White balance – A setting that tells the camera if it needs to compensate for unnaturally coloured light.

Grain – Grain is/are visual specks or texture on the photo as a result of ISO sensitivity rising above certain levels.   Iso 800+ on my D700

Histogram – A visual calculation of a photo’s exposure data within the acceptable rage of reproduction.
(This is a tool for knowing if your picture has colours or bright/dark areas that fall outside the range of printing)

Shutter Release – (aka “the thingy”) – This is your cameras built in trigger, it tells the camera when to open the shutter.

Sensor – The sensor has replaced film inside the camera for capturing the image from the lens. They are engineered to mock the properties of film to some extents and to out perform it in others.


So now we are caught up in our terminology, let’s talk about what these things have to do with making photos…

Photography is about balance, we’re dealing with the balance of light. This balance has a margin of  error is some respects, but only when dealing with static subject matter. Once you introduce movement into the equation, things get messy quick.  That’s because a huge part of the control we have over the balance of light, is through time.

In most conditions the camera fails to produce the desired image we see in our mind’s eye, this is true if it’s on Manual or Auto. If you have no clue how to balance an exposure (take a nice photo) and you leave the camera on Auto, chances are you will get a picture that is comparable to the scene you are photographing. But if you have any artistic sense and have a creative idea for the scene you are looking at; the camera will rarely take the photo you want it to.

You have two options to get a proper exposure:

1. Learn how to trick your camera’s auto mode into metering a select area of your scene to achieve a more desirable auto exposure setting. This is called (spot metering).
2. Take your camera off Auto mode, and take control of the creative process in one of the three Manual modes on your SLR.
The three Manual modes you have to choose from are listed below with their intended uses.

Shutter Priority: You select your desired shutter speed based on the artistic needs of the photograph, and the camera chooses the correct Aperture and camera setting to make a proper exposure balance.

Aperture Priority: You select the Aperture size based on the desired Depth of Field for the photograph, and the camera chooses the correct Shutter Speed and camera setting to make a proper exposure balance.

Full Manual: You have full control over both Shutter Speed and Aperture, as well as ISO and White Balance settings.
If you don’t set both Aperture and Shutter Speed correctly, you will likely make an improper exposure.
But when being creative and learning through practice, there are no worries about making a few mistakes on the road to a great photo.

The Balancing Act:

When we want to make a perfect or at least interesting exposure, we have to balance four different variables.

Aperture size  ~  Shutter Speed  ~  ISO  ~  Light

Each has a different effect on the final result and each one affects the balance of the correct exposure.
Sound confusing? It comes down to a push and pull of one variable to the next.

In the next lesson we will look at the relationship between the four different variables and how they affect your photograph.


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