Digital Photography Guide - A Glossary Of Essential Digital Photography Terms - Part 1!

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For those new to digital photography, there can be a vast amount of literature to read on such a wide reaching subject. There are also terms used that, while being understood by the experienced photographer, can mean little to the novice. Therefore, I have put together this digital photography guide - the first in an occasional series - which aims to give easy to follow explanations of the most common terms you may come across.

Aperture - This is the hole inside the lens that allows light through. Aperture is measured in "f" numbers. The size of the hole is adjustable - the bigger the hole, the more light is allowed through. A small hole carries a high f number, a large hole a small f number. A small hole provides greater depth of field (see below). Using a Digital SLR will enable control over depth of field that a compact camera cannot.

Depth of field - dictates how much of a scene (from front to back) will be in focus. In landscape photography it's not unusual to keep all of the scene in focus, such as a boat in the foreground, and distant mountains in the background. However, in portraits it's common to use a shallow depth of field (low f number, wide aperture) to keep the subject in focus and blur the background.

DSLR - Digital Single Lens Reflex. This is the digital equivalent of the traditional film SLR camera. The camera's design means the photographer looks straight through the lens prior to taking a photograph. The viewfinder's view is therefore the same as the image recorded by the camera.

Hot Shoe - This is the slot on the top of a camera where a flashgun can be fitted. They are usually found on DSLRs, and are uncommon on compact cameras. It is worth noting that each manufacturer have their own design, therefore a flashgun bought originally for a Nikon, for example, would not be compatible with a Canon camera.

ISO - is a term originally from film photography, being a measure of how sensitive film was to light. Low ISO (100) was not very sensitive - high ISO (say 1600) was. Photographers would use a whole film of a certain ISO. The advantage of digital is that ISO can be changed for each individual photograph, if necessary. In digital photography the ISO number reflects how sensitive the image sensor is to light. By making the sensor more sensitive to light, photos can be shot at higher shutter speeds and in lower light. The disadvantage here is that high ISO can introduce some noise into the image (see below).

Noise - This is the digital equivalent of film grain. It shows up on digital photographs as small coloured speckles, mostly within darker areas of an image. Noise becomes more obvious in blown up photographs. It can be reduced in post production (i.e. Photoshop or equivalent) but, generally speaking, the better quality the camera, the less the influence of noise.

I hope this digital photography guide helps to demystify some of these subjects. Look out for further articles providing explanations of other commonly used digital photography terms.


If you found this digital photography guide helpful, and would like to discover how easy it can be to take truly stunning photographs, please check out for further information.

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