Aperture-Aperture controls light and depth of view. Normally described with an f/ in front of the number it can sometimes be hard to understand the different ways to describe Aperature adjustments. Wide, Fast and Low are all descriptions for aperatures that have a narrow depth of view and let in more light, these would be the lowest possible f/ on your camera, such as f/1.2. Similar to how your eyes dilate in the dark lower f/ or f-stops as their often referred to, widen the opening of the lens, which lets in tons of light and makes a more narrow depth of view. Narrow, Slow and High are all descriptions for apertures that have a wide depth of view and let in less light.  F-stops that are in the 8-11 range let in very little light but have a wide depth of view, these are the typical settings used for outdoor landscape photos. When discussing aperture I prefer to describe my settings as High or Low because I believe the f-stop number is the easiest to grasp.


Backlighting– Placing a light source directly behind the subject. By creating their own shade this helps ensure that they exposure on the subject can be even. The biggest rookie mistake in photography is thinking that people should face the sun when having their picture taken, outside of Golden Hour, this will leave harsh shadows caused by the person’s nose or eye sockets.

Blown out-Caused by exposure differences between the subject and the background so large that the background is totally white. Detail is lost in blown out areas of pictures.

Bokeh-This is the quality of the out of focus area of a photo. Bokeh is great for focusing the viewers eyes toward a spot in the photo that they photographer wants to highlight. In order to increase bokeh, use low f-stops, use longer focal lengths, increase the distance between the subject and the background and go closer to the subject.


Contrast-The difference between light and dark areas of the photo. Increasing contrast makes darker things darker and lighter things lighter. Decreasing contrast attempts to make everything gray.



Exposure– Our eyes have had hundreds of thousands of years to evolve; they are very good at quickly adjusting their “settings” to make what we are looking at appear in the right light. The lighting in photos we take should be compared to what our eyes actually see, this is how we strive to achieve the proper exposure in our picture. Note-Exposure, as well as lots of other controls available to photographers can be used for artistic expression. To become a good photographer I recommend you first try to figure out how to recreate what your eyes see in your pictures. Once you’ve mastered this you’ll know how to adjust your camera and make edits in Photoshop or Lightroom that highlight the artistic image you are trying to create.

Exposure Compensation– In automatic modes your camera calculates the proper settings based on what it thinks will yield the optimal exposure. I’ve found that these are rarely correct, especially on lower end cameras. If you notice that the scene looks too dark or too light there is a setting in your camera where you can adjust it to compensate.

Exposure Triangle– ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture all have an impact on exposure. Automatic settings on cameras such as Av (Aperture Priority) or Tv (Shutter Speed Priority) lock in your preferred setting and then adjust all other settings automatically based on a few calculations. As an example let’s say you are using Av or Aperture Priority and you set an Aperture at f/5.6. Right before you take a picture the camera reads the reflected light from the scene and it calculates your Shutter Speed and ISO. If you are in a low light situation it will probably pick a slow shutter speed and/or a high ISO, so your picture has a good chance of being blurry from camera shake from the slow shutter speed and/or grainy from the high ISO. I believe that only by playing around with settings in manual or paying very close attention to the exposure settings while editing photos on your computer will you ever truly understand how to achieve your desired exposure.



Golden Hour– The two times during the day where the sun is lower in the horizon, creating a soft and warm light on the subject. This is many photographers favorite time of the day to take pictures.


HDR-Ever taken a picture where the background is completely blownout or your subject is too dark and the background perfectly exposed? Of course you have. Cameras simply do not perform the same way that our eyes do. They can’t adjust shadows to be lighter while also reducing the intensity of highlights like our eyes can. HDR is a setting that most phones and some camera have built into them. Essentially what it does is take 3 pictures at different exposure settings then the software on the camera or on the computer sandwiches these images into one photo, hopefully creating a better-exposed image. Most professional landscape photographers will do this process manually in Photoshop to achieve the image they want.


ISO-ISO adjusts the sensor’s sensitivity to light. On most cameras the lowest ISO is 100. I try to shoot at 100 as much as possible. Cameras are going to have a vast range of highest ISOs. At high ISOs there will be more grain in the photos. The easiest way to think about it is to compare ISO to your vision at night. Once your eyes adjust you can make out objects but the level of detail is much worse the more your eyes have to compensate for the darkness.








Prime Lens-Prime lenses only have one focal length (they don’t zoom). There are less moving parts so they are typically of higher quality for their relative price. They often have lower minimum f-stops which help in low light situations and when bokeh is important.




Saturation-I think about Saturation as the weight or intensity of the color. Increasing saturation increases the weight making the colors standout more. Decreasing saturation move those colors closer to white.

Shutter Speed-The shutter speed controls how long the camera’s sensor is exposed to light. The longer the shutter speed the more light that it lets in. Also the longer your shutter speed the more susceptable it is to camera shake so be careful not to slow the shutter speed down too much when handholding a camera. I prefer not to shoot at shutter speeds slower than 1/100 of a second.


Temperature-Light from different sources have different colors, the term used to describe these colors is temperature and the unit of measurement is Kelvins (K). The easiest way to think about light temperature is in how blue or yellow/orange the light is. To counteract the color of the light in your pictures your camera has a setting called White Balance. Most people leave this on AWB (Automatic White Balance) and they let their camera pick the best correction. I like to customize my K. I’d recommend you test the presets you camera has for situations like direct sunlight, clouds, shade and even different types of artificial light.