Learning photography can be a complicated subject, but there are a few terms that can help you navigate the photography industry.

I tried to create a simple explanation for each term, but realize there will be some learning involved to understand more about how each works.

Top 10 MOST common photography terms

Take a moment and check out our quick list of the top 10 most common photography terms when learning to shoot with manual settings.

1. Shutter Speed

The length the time the camera takes to create a exposure. Many cameras can take long exposures or they can also take very fast exposures to capture quick moving subjects. This is measured in seconds and fractions of a second.

shutter speed

Long exposures are used to create milky looking water and waves in large bodies of water. Shorter shutter speeds can help you capture fast moving subjects like in sports or birds flying

2. Aperture

The aperture refers to the size of the opening in your lens and the amount of light that is let thru to the sensor. This is measures in F-stops. Larger fast apertures are actually small numbers like f/1.4 or f/2.8 and smaller slower apertures are higher numbers like f/18.0 or f/22.0


The larger the aperture the more depth of field and subject isolation you will get. the smaller the aperture, the more that will be in focus.

3. ISO

The sensitivity to the light that is hitting your sensor. The lower the sensitivity  the lower the number such as ISO 100 or ISO 300.

When you’re shooting in low light conditions and can’t change to aperture any wider and don’t want the slow down the shutter speed, you can raise the ISO to get a better exposure. Sometime you can go to ISO 6400 or higher.

Many cameras are getting better and better with higher ISO performance. Noise tends to be the next issue you have when shooting higher ISO ranges.

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4. Noise or Grain

Noise is also known as grain and can be more prominent with higher ISO ranges. This is something brought over from the film days, and some people love adding this in post production to mimic film editing. It is most commonly seen as the small dots covering a photo.

Bokeh Balls

5. Bokeh

Bokeh refers to the out of focus background blur within a photo. This is more prominent when shooting with fast apertures such as f/1.4 or f.1.8.

Bokeh balls are created when your subject is in front of small lights or highlights, and your lens is focusing on the subject.  This creates bokeh balls in the background. Think of taking photos in front of a Christmas tree and seeing the tree and lights blurred in the background.

6. Focal Length

This is the distance between your camera sensor and the main lens elements. This is measured in “mm”. Wide focal lengths are considered around 12mm, 16mm and even 24mm. Short focal lengths can be considered the 35mm, 40mm and 50mm. Longer focal lengths can be 85mm, 135mm and 200mm.

Each focal length offers advantages and disadvantages depending on your shooting style. It is not uncommon for photographers to have many focal lengths for different use cases.

7. White Balance

Who knew the color white could vary so much. The white balance refers to the cast of the white tones in an image. Sunsets tend to have very warm color casts and cold cloudy days have more of a cool color cast. Your camera can take this into account with white balance and helps you render colors in a more natural manner.

8. Metering

Metering refers to your cameras ability to scan a scene and create a proper exposure. Highlights and darks are taken into account and an average is created so your camera can take a properly exposed photo. There are different metering models learning then will come in handy when shooting manual on your camera.

Camera terms

9. Shooting RAW

RAW is a file type that many interchangeable cameras shoot in. Another type of JPG. When shooting RAW, your camera is creating a file with more digital information so you can bring up and down highlights an shadows in post editing. This also helps change colors and correct color casts.

The biggest thing to know about RAW files are they tend to be much larger then JPG (compressed) files and are better for editing.

10. Exposure

Exposure is a balance of lights and darks within an image that your camera meters. Without getting to technical, you want to find a good balance of highlights and darks within an image.

Many photographers like to under-expose an image so they can retail details in the highlights. Over-exposing lets photographers create more bright and airy photos by bringing up the darks areas of an image.

Auto or Manual: Depends on your preferences

Photographers shoot in auto or manual modes depending on specific situation. there is no wrong or right answer to which one to use. They best thing to do is analyze a scene and figure out if you need the camera to set your settings or if you want to manually changes these yourself.

Learning to shoot manual mode can give you more creative freedom as you continue to grow in your photography journey.

Great Sony Full-Frame Cameras for Portrait Photography:

I hope you enjoyed this session. Consider checking out some of the great gear from Sony.

My Sony A7riii Mirrorless Camera – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7rii – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera (2nd Generation)
Sony a7iii Mirrorless Camera
– 3rd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
Sony a7ii Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – 2nd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7 Mirrorless Camera – Great full-frame starter camera for beginners

Sony Full-Frame Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)

Sony 85mm f1.4 G-Master – Best 85mm portrait lens
Batis 85mm f1.8 – Lightweight 85mm portrait lens
Sony 85mm f1.8 – Smallest 85mm portrait lens
Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 – Small, sharp, lightweight portrait lens (my favorite lens)
The Sony 50mm f1.8 – Cheap starter nifty fifty
The Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 – Great wide option for portraits and lifestyle images
Sony 24-70 G-Master f2.8 – Sharp and versatile zoom lens
Sony 24-105 G Lens f4.0 – One of the best zooms for Sony
Wide Angle 16-35mm F2.8 – G-Master wide angle lens
The Sony 70-200 G-Master Lens f2.8 – Long range telephoto zoom

Great Sony Starter Cameras for Portraits: (crop-sensor)

Sony a6400 Mirrorless Camera – Amazing eye auto-focus detection
Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Sony mirrorless camera (2nd generation)
The Sony a6000 Mirrorless Camera – Great affordable interchangeable lens camera
Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – Amazing photography and video camera

Affordable Crop Sensor Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)

Sigma 30mm f1.4 – Great for blurry backgrounds
Sony 50mm f1.8 OSS – Made for crop sensors and shallow depth of field
Sigma 16mm f1.4 – Amazing lens for Vloggers and video
Sony 35mm f1.8 – Super walk around lens for travel

Recommended Accessories:

Godox Ving V860IIS Camera Flash – Speedlight Paired w/ X1T-S Wireless Trigger
Meike Grip Sony a7 – Camera extension grip
Meike Grip Sony a7ii – Camera extension grip

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