Photography terms explained

So what are all those terms such as aperture, shutterspeed, iso and what on earth are they used for?? To start off, I will give some basic information on what it is. How you can use it will follow in a later article.


If you click on the above link you will get the wikipedia explanation of what aperture is. Now in very simple terms; Aperture is the device in your camera that controls the amount of light falling on your sensor. It is generally a hole and can be opened or closed depending on the amount of light. The aperture is usually located inside of your lens. You can recognize apertures by the letter F and then a number such as F2.8, F4.0, F5.6, F8.0. The lower the number the larger the hole. So you will have more light coming in with an aperture of 2.8, then you will with an aperture of 8.0 (or higher)


Apart from the amount of light, the aperture also have an effect on the depth of field as you can see from the example above here. Be aware though that this effect will not be as pronounced when using a compact camera. There is a big difference between an SLR or a compact camera when it comes to Depth of field.


While the aperture determines the amount of light coming in, the shutterspeed determines how LONG that light will be allowed in. Shutterspeeds are registered such 1/60s, 1/30s, 1″ (= one whole second) etc. Apart from the fact that a fast shutterspeed will freeze movement, a slow shutterspeed will mean blur. A general rule is to have a shutterspeed that is at least as fast or faster as the length of your lens. So, if you have a 200mm lens, make sure that you shutterspeed is 1/200s or faster, in order to prevent blur. A lot of lenses these days have image stabilization or vibrance reduction, which means you can handhold up to a slower shutterspeed, but be careful there! It also greatly depends on how stable your hand is.


ISo, stands for the sensitivity of your sensor. In the days of film, we used to buy a roll of 100 iso, or 400 iso if we needed more light. With digital it has become much easier to switch to a higher sensitivy by simply changing the iso on the camera. Most camera’s start with a lowest iso setting of 100, some going up to 3200 or even higher in newer models. If the light becomes lower, you can raise your iso in order to be able to still take photos handheld, but there is a catch! Increasing your iso, also means you increase the amount of noise in your photo.

This could mean that the colors look less vibrant, the overal look of the photo is not so sharp and you could even have a high amount of colornoise. So where possible, make sure you have the iso at the lowest setting. Having said that; sometimes it is ok to have a higher setting as you wouldn’t be able to make a photo otherwise. But in general, if we’re talking about foodphotography, the lower the better.

Simone van den Berg

Food- and travelblogger from the Netherlands. Loves good food. Loves to taste good food the world over. She also loves to share travelstories, delicious recipes and ok, cat pictures too. She sometimes feels the need to get really healthy for a while, always mingled with periods of insanely delicious sweets and other decadent treats. Lives together with Tom and their two cats; Humphrey and Buffy. Profession: Food photographer

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