A DSLR camera

Photography jargon buster: A simple guide to camera settings

Published 5th January 2023
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As a beginner, understanding the various camera settings is key to taking better photos. Whether you’re shooting with a smartphone, a compact camera, or a DSLR, the settings can be daunting. From ISO to shutter speed and aperture, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But don’t worry – we’re here to help… So let’s get started!


What is camera aperture?

Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. It’s measured in f-stops, with a smaller number representing a larger opening. Aperture controls the amount of light that enters the camera and affects the depth of field. A shallow depth of field means that only a small part of the image is in focus, while a large depth of field means that the whole image is in focus.

What is camera shutter speed?

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter stays open. It’s measured in seconds and fractions of a second. A faster shutter speed means that less light enters the camera, while a slower shutter speed means that more light enters the camera. Shutter speed is important for capturing movement, so it’s important to understand how it works - for quick-moving objects, you need a much faster shutter speed.

What is ISO?

ISO is the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. A lower number means a lower sensitivity and the camera will require more light to capture the details in a photo. ISO is important for controlling the brightness of the image, so it’s important to practice and understand how it works.

What is white balance?

White balance adjusts the camera’s colour temperature and is handy for making sure photos aren't tarnished by different lighting conditions.

How do you use different focus modes?

Focus modes are the settings that determine how the camera focuses. There are three main focus modes: single, continuous, and manual.

Single mode means that the camera will focus on one point and will not refocus if the subject moves. Continuous mode means that the camera will continuously refocus if the subject moves. Manual mode means that the photographer must manually adjust the focus.

Experimenting with focus modes can have a huge effect on the image composition, so it's a good idea to play around with these settings and explore how they work.

Lights, camera… Action!

As a beginner, understanding the various camera settings is key to taking better photos. Now you know what the different settings are, it's worth practising with your camera to get used to these in action… So get out there and start shooting!

Still looking for the perfect camera? Check out our guide to the best DSLRs for beginners and our guide on what to look for when camera shopping.

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