Simple Definitions for Photography

General definitions: boy with camera

Scene: This refers to the whole picture. If you are taking a photo of a house on a field, then the house is your subject but the entire picture is the scene.

Subject: The subject of a photograph is whatever you are trying to get a picture of. If you are shooting a picture of a lake, then the lake is your subject. In the picture on the right, the owl is the subject but the entire picture, including the owl, its perch, and the background is the scene.

Different kinds of cameras:

Compact camera: This is also called a point and shoot camera. These are cameras that do not have removable lenses. They are usually small and do not have a lot of functions. Normally, compact cameras will have some preset modes like "Sports Mode" or "Night Mode".

Hybrid and DSLR cameras: These cameras have removable lenses and give you more control over the camera functions. They are usually bigger and more expensive. They can take better pictures if you know how to use them properly, but they are harder to use than compact cameras.

Toy camera: A very simple camera, usually bought from a toy store, which can do little more than take a photo.

Camera parts & functions:

Aperture: The aperture is the opening inside the lens which controls the amount of light that enters into the camera.

Flash: This produces a flash of very bright light, which is useful when it is too dark to take a good picture. Depending on your camera, this may happen automatically.

Lens: This is the camera's eye. Light enters the camera through the aperture and passes through the lens, which focuses it onto the sensor so as to make the image sharp. The lens also creates the zoom effect so that things which are far away appear larger or closer.

Screen: The screen on the camera can be used for changing the camera settings, for looking at pictures, and in some cameras you can also use it to make simple changes to the pictures.

Sensor: This is the part of your camera that records the light entering through the aperture and turns it into a photo. In the old days, before digital cameras, the photo was recorded on film; now it is recorded on a digital sensor.

Shutter: The shutter is a mechanical device like a curtain that opens and shuts to let light hit the sensor of the camera.

Shutter Button: When you press the shutter button all the way down, the shutter will open allowing a bit of light to touch the sensor. This is how the camera takes a picture. On most cameras, pressing the button lightly will make the camera focus so you can see the scene clearly before taking the picture, while pressing it all the way down will actually snap a photo.

camera cutaway

Viewfinder: The viewfinder is a small window you can look through to see what you are taking a picture of. Using the viewfinder is the easiest to see what you are photographing.

Zoom control: The zoom dial will move the camera's lens to give you a different view. Moving the dial one way will give you a wide view, useful for photographing a landscape, and moving the other way will give you a narrow view, which is good for taking close up shots.

by Simon James Allanach, edited by Alan Frost
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