The Knowledge Base

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The amount of light hitting the film is called the exposure. To get a photograph that is not too dark or not too light the photographer uses the f-stops and shutter speeds to control the amount of light hitting the film.


In optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light travels. More specifically, the aperture and focal length of an optical system determine the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane.

An optical system typically has many openings or structures that limit the ray bundles (ray bundles are also known as pencils of light). These structures may be the edge of a lens or mirror, or a ring or other fixture that holds an optical element in place, or may be a special element such as a diaphragm placed in the optical path to limit the light admitted by the system. In general, these structures are called stops, and the aperture stop is the stop that primarily determines the ray cone angle and brightness at the image point.

In some contexts, especially in photography and astronomy, aperture refers to the diameter of the aperture stop rather than the physical stop or the opening itself.

The aperture stop of a photographic lens can be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the film or image sensor. In combination with variation of shutter speed, the aperture size will regulate the film’s or image sensor’s degree of exposure to light. Typically, a fast shutter will require a larger aperture to ensure sufficient light exposure, and a slow shutter will require a smaller aperture to avoid excessive exposure.

In easy words, aperture is a hole within a lens, through which light travels into the camera body. It is an easy concept to understand if you just think about how your eyes work.

This is also known as F value / F numbers of your camera. You need to remember that a large aperture results in a large amount of background blur. This is often needed for portraits or photos with blurry background.

On the other hand, a small aperture results in a small amount of background blur which is typically ideal for landscape or architectural image.

Aperture / F Values list:

f/1.4 Very large
f/2.0 Large
f/2.8 Large
f/4.0 Moderate
f/5.6 Moderate
f/8.0 Moderate
f/11.0 Small
f/16.0 Small
f/22.0 Very small


In photography, shutter speed or exposure time is the length of time when the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light, also when a camera’s shutter is open when taking a photograph. The amount of light that reaches the film or image sensor is proportional to the exposure time. ​1/500 of a second will let half as much light in as ​1/250.

Shutter speed is the length of time of the camera shutter is open, allowing light to enter onto the sensor. Alternatively, it is the time of your camera spends taking a photo.


Film speed is the measure of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light, determined by sensitometry and measured on various numerical scales, the most recent being the ISO system. A closely related ISO system is used to describe the relationship between exposure and output image lightness in digital cameras.

Relatively insensitive film, with a correspondingly lower speed index, requires more exposure to light to produce the same image density as a more sensitive film, and is thus commonly termed a slow film. Highly sensitive films are correspondingly termed fast films. In both digital and film photography, the reduction of exposure corresponding to use of higher sensitivities generally leads to reduced image quality (via coarser film grain or higher image noise of other types). In short, the higher the sensitivity, the grainier the image will be. Ultimately sensitivity is limited by the quantum efficiency of the film or sensor.

The ASA and DIN film speed standards have been combined into the ISO standards since 1974.

ISO controls the brightness of your photos, and it is a crucial setting to use properly if you want to take the best possible images.

Common ISO Values

ISO 100 (low ISO)
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400 (high ISO)

Please note, raising your ISO has consequences. A photo taken at too high of an ISO will show a lot of grain, also known as noise, and might not be usable.



A mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC), frequently simply mirrorless camera, and sometimes also called EVIL (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens) features a single, removable lens and uses a digital display system rather than an optical viewfinder. The word “mirrorless” indicates that the camera does not have an optical mirror or an optical viewfinder like a conventional single-lens reflex camera (SLR), but an electronic viewfinder which displays what the camera image sensor sees.

Compared to DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras are mechanically simpler and are typically smaller, lighter, and quieter due to the elimination of the moving mirror. While nearly all mirrorless cameras still have a mechanical shutter, many also have an electronic shutter, which completely eliminates any sound. Additionally the lack of a moving mirror reduces vibration that can result in blurred images from camera shake.

The first mirrorless camera commercially marketed was the Epson R-D1 (released in 2004), followed by the Leica M8. The Micro Four Thirds system, whose first camera was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, was released in Japan in October 2008.


digital single-lens reflex camera (also called digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera that combines the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film. The reflex design scheme is the primary difference between a DSLR and other digital cameras. In the reflex design, light travels through the lens, then to a mirror that alternates to send the image to either the viewfinder or the image sensor. The traditional alternative would be to have a viewfinder with its own lens, hence the term “single lens” for this design. By using only one lens, the viewfinder of a DSLR presents an image that will not differ substantially from what is captured by the camera’s sensor. A DSLR differs from non-reflex single-lens digital cameras in that the viewfinder presents a direct optical view through the lens, rather than being captured by the camera’s image sensor and displayed by a digital screen.

DSLRs largely replaced film-based SLRs during the 2000s, and despite the rising popularity of mirrorless system cameras in the early 2010s, DSLRs remain the most common type of interchangeable lens camera in use as of 2019.


A point-and-shoot camera, also known as a compact camera and sometimes abbreviated to P&S, is a still camera designed primarily for simple operation. Most use focus free lenses or autofocus for focusing, automatic systems for setting the exposure options, and have flash units built in.

Point-and-shoots are by far the best selling type of separate camera, as distinct from camera phones. They are popular for vernacular photography by people who do not consider themselves photographers but want easy-to-use cameras for snapshots of vacations, parties, reunions and other events. Point-and-shoot camera sales declined after about 2010 as smartphones overtook them in such uses. To overcome market shrinkage, compact camera manufacturers began making higher end versions and with a stylish metal body.

Most superzoom compact cameras have between 30x and 60x optical zoom, although some have even further zoom, most notably the Nikon Coolpix P900, which has 83x optical zoom, and weighs less than 300 grams, much less than bridge cameras and DSLRs.

The terms “point and shoot” and “compact camera” are used differently in different parts of the world. In the UK point-and-shoot predominantly means a fully automatic camera, regardless of size or shape. A “compact camera” on the other hand, has a small body, regardless of any fully automatic capabilities. Thus a DSLR can have point-and-shoot modes, and some compact cameras are not designed for point and shoot operation, with the equivalent controls to a DSLR.



Fisheye lenses are basically ultra wide angle. These very specific lenses are most often used in abstract photography, and allows you to capture the most panoramic view given by any other type of photography lens. These lenses use a particular type of “mapping” that purposely distort lines given a more convex appearance. As the name implies, fisheye lenses look just like actual fish eyes, giving a panoramic view of anywhere from 100-180 degrees.


The speciality of telephoto camera lenses are that they are used to photography subjects/scenes from a very far away! Some telephoto lenses can also zoom, meaning they don’t necessarily fall into the fixed focal length “prime” category. Telephoto lenses are the best when it comes to photographing nature and wildlife (basically when you don’t want to irritate the majestic lion that seems on the hungry side). It’s perfect for planet/star photography and for photographing sports (like surfing or from the sidelines of a football game).


Wide angle lenses are pretty self explanatory, they allow you to gain a wider field of view. Landscape photographers tend to use these lenses to make sure they get the full scene of what they are photographing. Keep in mind that the lower the number focal length, the more that will fit in your frame. Wide angle lenses tend to distort photos (especially of faces), which can fixed moderately post-processing. They are very versatile lenses and tend to be really affordable.


Macro camera lenses are used for extreme close ups! These Macro lenses will show details of fine hairs on insects, water droplets on plants, or detailed shots of diamond rings. It’s main goal is to reproduce a life size 1:1 image of your subject. Other lenses simply don’t let you get up close to focus so precisely.


Zoom lenses are great due to their extreme versatility! These lenses allow you to stay in one place (no running around or twisted ankles) and zooms to multiple focal lengths with one auto focus function! A popular zoom lens is the Canon 70-200mm, which means it can zoom as far out as 70mm and up to 200mm (and every focal length in between)! What’s really cool is that zoom lenses (if on auto focus) can maintain that focus while you change your focal length, which means you can snap quickly!


Prime lenses are a fixed focal length. That means that if you choose a 35mm lens, it will ONLY give you a 35mm perspective (meaning you can’t zoom in and out). You can only shoot from one length, meaning you have to move your physical body to get wide shots vs close ups. Primes (“fixed lenses”) tend to work for all types of photography, specifically street photography, portraits, weddings, landscape, etc.



Negative space is the area which surrounds the main subject in your photo (the main subject is known as the “positive space”). This definition is rather abstract, so take a look at the example photo.

Negative space defines and emphasizes the main subject of a photo, drawing your eye to it. It provides “breathing room”, giving your eyes somewhere to rest and preventing your image from appearing too cluttered with “stuff”. All of this adds up to a more engaging composition.



It is often said that triangles and diagonals add ‘dynamic tension’ to a photo. 

What do we mean by ‘dynamic tension’ though? This can be a tricky one to explain and can seem a bit pretentious. Look at it this way, horizontal lines and vertical lines suggest stability. If you see a person standing on a level horizontal surface, he will appear to be pretty stable unless he’s stumbling out of a pub at 2am. Put this man on a sloping surface and he’ll seem less stable. This creates a certain level of tension visually. We are not so used to diagonals in our every day life. They subconsciously suggest instability. Incorporating triangles and diagonals into our photos can help create this sense of ‘dynamic tension’.

Incorporating triangles into a scene is a particularly good effective way of introducing dynamic tension. Triangles can be actual triangle-shaped objects or implied triangles. I’ll explain this in more detail in a moment.

Downtown West Palm Beach


Leading lines help lead the viewer through the image and focus attention on important elements. Anything from paths, walls or patterns can be used as leading lines. Take a look at the example.

Leading lines do not necessarily have to be straight. In fact curved lines can be very attractive compositional features.


Including a ‘frame withing the frame’ is another effective way of portraying depth in a scene. Look for elements such as windows, arches or overhanging branches to frame the scene with. The ‘frame’ does not necessarily have to surround the entire scene to be effective.

The use of scenery viewed through arches was a common feature of Renaissance painting as way of portraying depth. Using a ‘frame within a frame’ presents a great opportunity to use your surroundings to be creative in your compositions.


There are times when placing a subject in the centre of the frame works really well. Symmetrical scenes are perfect for a centered composition. They look really well in square frames too.

This photo of the Count de Hoernle Amphiteater in the city of Boca Raton the perfect candidate for a centered composition. Architecture and roads often make great subjects for a centered compositions.

Scenes containing reflections are also a great opportunity to use symmetry in your composition. You can often combine several composition guidelines in a single photograph.

Count De Hoernle Amphitheater - Boca Raton


The rule of thirds is very simple. You divide the frame into 9 equal rectangles, 3 across and 3 down as illustrated below. Many camera manufacturers have actually included the capability to display this grid in live view mode. Check your camera’s manual to see how to turn on this feature.

In this photo, the horizon roughly along the bottom third of the frame and the biggest and closest trees along the line to the right. The photo wouldn’t have the same impact if the larger trees had been placed in the centre of the frame.

You should place the most important element(s) in your shot on one of the lines or where the lines meet. It works very well for landscapes as you can position the horizon on one of the horizontal lines that sit in the lower and upper part of the photograph while the vertical subjects like trees or mountains can be placed on one of the two vertical lines.



The focal length can be thought of how long a lens is. Long lenses, like a photographer uses at a football game, makes things appear close up. Short lenses make things look further away but give you a wide angle of view. Now, let’s get a little more technical.

The focal length of a lens is the distance between the optical center of the lens and the points where a clear image is formed. We measured the focal length of several magnifying glasses which are one piece, or “simple,” lenses. A camera lens is usually composed of several individual lenses and is called a compound lens. The focal length of modern camera lenses and telescopes is usually measured in millimeters.

Short focal length lenses gives you a wide view and are called wide angle lenses. Longer focal length lenses have a narrow view and make things appear closer. They are called telephoto lenses. In between are normal lenses which have an angle of view similar to the human eye. 35mm cameras use film that is 35mm wide.

Common wide angle focal lengths for 35mm cameras are 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm.

Common normal focal lengths for 35mm cameras are 50mm and 55mm.

Common telephoto lenses for 35mm cameras are 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm and 400mm.

Zoom lenses are popular today. A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths. The photographer changes the focal length with a button on the camera or a ring on the lens. Examples of common zoom lenses for 35mm cameras are 28mm to 80mm, 70mm to 210mm and 100mm to 300mm.


The aperture is made up of a set of expandable and contractable metal blades in the camera’s lens that form a hole. This hole is responsible for letting light onto the camera’s sensor. Opening that hole up wide lets the most amount of light onto the sensor while closing the hole down lets the least amount of light onto the sensor.

F/Stops are a ratio of two things: the diameter of the aperture in the lens and the focal length of the lens. For instance, if we had a lens at a 135mm focal length, adjusting the aperture to F/3.5 would mean the aperture (hole) is open 38.6mm (135/3.5 = 38.6). A 135mm lens at F/22 would mean that the aperture is open 6.1mm (135/22 = 6.1). Therefore, the higher the F/Stop (aperture value) the smaller the hole, while the lower the F/Stop the wider the hole.

Traditional apertures double or halve the light. As an example, F/2.0 is twice as bright as F/2.8. F/11 is twice as bright as F/16. The following sequence is the standard for aperture values:

F/1.4   F/ 2.0   F/ 2.8   F/ 4   F/ 5.6   F/ 8  F/ 11   F/ 16   F/ 22

As you look at the above F/Stop sequence, think wide –> narrow. An F/1.4 lens is regarded as a very bright or fast lens while an F/22 lens is regarded as a slow lens. 

Note: The aperture is the size of the hole that light passes through to hit the sensor. The shutter speed is the amount of time the aperture stays open.


Change the shutter speed to adjust how much light is allowed into the camera for a certain length of time. Camera’s shutter speeds are calculated in fractions of seconds, which are usually 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 1.

Calculating the correct shutter speed to use is a matter of understanding geometric sequence. As you increase the speed from 1/1000 toward 1 second, each increase multiplies the amount of light entering the lens by a factor of 2.




Wildlife photography is a genre of photography concerned with documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat. As well as requiring photography skills, wildlife photographers may need field craft skills.

Baby gator found in Wakodahatchee Wetlands

This is a very challenging type of photography, as it might be difficult to capture animals in their proper habitat. This style requires proper technical skills and it needs to be planned accordingly. In wildlife photography, you need to be absolutely comfortable with your camera’s settings. If you are not quick enough, you might miss the perfect shot.

The key to taking a good photograph is to go ahead and have fun while you shoot. Your pictures will speak for itself no matter which genre you choose.


Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. 

5:16 - Downtown Miami

A street photographer should not just look at the popular tourist spots, but he or she should try out some real-life scenes coupled with some behind the scene images. They must be observant about every little aspect around them. As soon as they see a story unfold, they should not hesitate to capture the moment.


Sports photography refers to the genre of photography that covers all types of sports. In the majority of cases, professional sports photography is a branch of photojournalism, while amateur sports photography, such as photos of children playing association football, is a branch of vernacular photography.

This category involves getting up-close to the action in a very fast-paced and action-packed setting. Sports events are captured with very long lenses as we usually see photographers during an event.

A Tip: Always use a high ISO. Increasing the ISO on your camera will enable you to shoot at a higher shutter speed; consequently giving you the perfect shot. Try to be original and get something different by getting different angle shots.


Portrait photography or portraiture in photography is a photograph of a person or group of people that captures the personality of the subject by using effective lighting, backdrops, and poses. A portrait picture might be artistic, or it might be clinical, as part of a medical study.

Capturing peoples’ moods and expressions is an intriguing subject for photographers. They can be close-up images, body portraits etc. Typically the face is the focus of this type of photography. While taking a portrait, the photographer should ensure that the subject’s face is sharp and focussed, especially his or her eyes. The subject’s pose should also be flattering.


Fine-art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as a photographer. Using photography as a medium to bring something to life that only lives in the artist’s mind. Simply capturing what you see in an artistic way is the art of photography and not creating fine art.

In terms of conceptual/ fine art photography, we can create our own fiction with characters in made-up environment. However, the photographer needs to have a vision of what their picture will look like, as this genre is all about an emotion, an idea or a message. The photographer tries to convey a message through his image.


Long-exposure, time-exposure, or slow-shutter photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to sharply capture the stationary elements of images while blurring, smearing, or obscuring the moving elements.

Flagler Memorial Bridge, West Palm Beach, FL

It’s a great way to capture how the world transforms after dark. This type of photography requires good knowledge of how we use light, shutter speed and aperture. These types of photos are interesting as the viewer gets to see some unusual aspects that cannot be seen by the naked eye. To takes such shots, it is imperative to be comfortable with our camera’s manual mode and implement the correct settings.


Landscape photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.

Emerald Nature of Florida

This is one of the most popular types of photography, as it can portray a scenery, or can even show an impact of environmental change. We all love to capture a beautiful landscape when we see one. However, we need to wait for the right light to capture that perfect moment.

Also, while shooting a landscape, if you want a sharp image, use a tripod which will help eliminate the camera shakes. Using a long shutter speed can give you the perfect shot. For example, if you are capturing the waves, it will turn to a smooth white and moving clouds will turn wispy.


Food photography is a still life photography genre used to create attractive still life photographs of food. It is a specialization of commercial photography, the products of which are used in advertisements, magazines, packaging, menus or cookbooks.

This type of photography is used by restaurants, websites or bloggers to entice customers to try and sell their products.

A Tip: One of the most crucial factor in food photography is to use natural light. Always remember to turn off the flash. It’s a big ‘No’ in this style of photography.  When you use flash, many unwanted elements get captured. For instance, your food might look greasy and the actual colors get washed out.


Fashion photography is a genre of photography which is devoted to displaying clothing and other fashion items. Fashion photography is most often conducted for advertisements or fashion magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, or Elle.

Typically used to sell something, this type of photography lures customers by glamorizing the product. They are generally very creative and visually very interesting and can be taken in any location like a studio, an apartment, a rundown building or anywhere outdoors.

A fashion photographer should always prepare in advance. In this genre of photography, the location, lighting, makeup, stylists and the model play a significant role. However, you should also be open to ideas and suggestions, as it involves a lot of team work.


Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life.

It is about a particular subject or a story that a photographer wants to highlight. They are all objective pictures and can be about a war, social issues, science and so on. When you are chronicling significant events, for instance, the life of a celebrity or a sportsman, plan to spend some time with the person; chat; listen and capture what comes naturally. Try and capture details and let your pictures tell a story. Do not try to shoot something that is not a part of his or her life.


Some contents in this page are curated/re-written from various popular websites including WikiPedia, ColesClassRoom and PhotographyLife. Most of the example photographs were taken by RMEHDEE.