Ten Things To Know About Photography

Understanding even a little about the techy stuff in photography can improve you skills quickly. So read on for the Ten Things To Know About Photography.


A camera is a light tight box with a opening on one side to allow light to enter and a recording medium at the other. This simple sentence can describe any camera either digital or analogue.


There are three ways that a camera can be adjusted prior to creating a photograph. The aperture and shutter speed controls govern the amount of light allowed into the camera while the film or digital sensor’s sensitivity is measured and adjusted on the ISO scale. Exposure controls are adjusted in what a photographer call “stops”. A stop represents a doubling of halving of light or sensitivity and will make the resulting image darker or brighter. Each of the three exposure controls have unique properties and alter the look and feel of photographs. Your camera might make these adjustments automatically or allow the photographer to take control of each individually. Manufacturers make a number of assumptions when designing cameras about how they will be used and set automatic modes to perform accordingly. Many photographers find that their cameras do not perform well in challenging situations and opt to take control of the exposure controls manually. Understanding the relationship between exposure controls is key in basic and advanced photography.


The aperture is an opening inside the lens which controls the amount of light to reach the film or CCD. It can be increased or decreased and will make the image brighter or darker. The aperture will also increase or decrease the depth of field (see below). The increments or stops used to adjust the aperture are f1, f1.4, f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22, f32, f45, f64, f90, f125. f1 will allow all the light entering the lens through to from the image while f1.4 allows only half the light through. While f5.6 allows only 1/32nd of the light entering the lens to arrive at the image plane. The larger f number the smaller the amount of light that that makes it through to form the image. 

Shutter Speed

The amount of time a film or sensor is exposed light to form the image. The shutter speed can be either seconds or fractions of a second. Exposure times of one second or more are expressed as whole numbers 1,2,4,8,16 each allowing twice the amount of light through to form the image as the previous. Exposures times of less than one second are 1, ½, ¼, ⅛, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 1/500, 1/1000 and allow half the amount of light through than the previous f stop.


ISO is the measure of sensitive to light of the recording medium (film or digital CCS) and is the third of our exposure controls along with the aperture and shutter speed. The ISO can be adjusted in stops to be either half or twice as sensitive as the previous stop.


Light is the section of the electromagnetic spectrum that is perceptible to the human eye. In photography common terms to describe light and its properties include harsh, soft, natural, available, incandescent, fluorescent, flash, reflected, incident, modified and many more. Photographers can use the available light from the sun or a man made light source to illuminate a subject, in either case the light from the source can be modified to change its properties. Common ways to modify light include;

  • passing it through a translucent material to a softer effect
  • bouncing the light source off of a reflector
  • passing soft light through narrow slits to make it harsh

Focal length

Lenses are described by their focal lengths that is to say the distance from the rear of the lens to the film place or digital sensor. Lenses are split into three categories wide, standard and telephoto. Choosing a lenses of a certain focal length will affect the look and feel of the image.
  • Ultra wide angle lenses range from 14mm to 24mm and have an angle of view of between 114° and 84°.
  • Wide angle lenses cover 24mm to 35mm and have an angle of view of between 84° and 64°.
  • Standard lenses are regarded as 35 to 60mm and have an angle of view of between 64° and 40°.
  • Telephoto focal lengths lie between 85mm to 135mm and have an angle of view of between 30° and 10°
  • Super telephoto include 300mm and have an angle of view of between 8° through less than 1°

Depth of Field

In photography Depth of Field (DOF) is the amount of an image that appears sharp. Images with an isolated object or area in sharp detail and where the rest of the image is unsharp can be said to have a shallow DOF. While pictures that are sharp from the nearest to the farthest object have deep DOP. Depth of field is governed by lens selection and aperture. Higher f numbers will increase the DOF while lower numbers reduce it. Select a wider angle lens for greater DOF or a telephoto lens for shallow DOF. 


Composition in photography can refer to the decisions a photographer takes in creating an image or to the final image itself. The rules of composition apply to all the visual arts and both define and reflect how we perceive images, movies and newspapers. The most common rule of composition is the rule of thirds. To follow the rule of thirds imagine dividing an image into equal thirds horizontally and vertically. Any object placed on the imaginary lines or where they intersect will appear more pleasing to the eye.


In simple terms copyright is the ownership of an image. Copyright is automatically generated when a photograph is created either on film or digitally and will by default exist with the creator of the image where no other prior agreement exists. When an image is reproduced it can be done so under licence from the owner where a fee is agreed for the duration of the publication. Alternatively copyright can be assigned and will remain with the publisher in perpetuity. A higher fee is normally associated with assigned copyright as the copyright holder losses control over their work. 

If you are the copyright holder then it is you right to demand payment for publication of your images either in print, television or the internet. When images you own are published without your consent then the publisher is said to be in breach of copyright as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 which can be read here.