An aperture is a hole. The larger the aperture, the larger the hole. Simple. 

Within photography, an aperture is how big the hole in the lens can go. The bigger/wider the aperture, the more light the lens lets in. Apertures are measured in f numbers or f stops. The lower the number the wider the aperture. f1.4 is a wider aperture than f8, for example.

A by-product of a wide aperture is a shallow depth of field.

Depth of field - Dof

You've no doubtfully seen those 'professional' looking photos which blurry backgrounds. That's depth of field in action. Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear sharp in a photo. 

A shallow depth of field will usually have a sharp, and in focus element, with a blurry background. 

A deep depth of field will tend to have the majority of the scene in the photo in sharp focus.

There are a few factors that affect depth of field; 

Lens length - A longer telephoto lens (85mm to 300mm for example) have an inherently shallower depth of field. Whereas a wider angle lens (12mm - 35mm) have deeper a depth of field, even if they are both shot at the same aperture.

Distance to the subject / subject distance to the background - Shooting at the minimum focus distance the lens permits will give a shallower depth of field and a blurrier background. Also, making sure the subject is a little distance from the background will create blurrier backgrounds. 

Aperture - Generally a wider aperture (f1.4 for example) will help create a shallow depth of field. A smaller aperture (f16 for example) will give a deeper depth of field.

Combine all three purposefully to become a depth of field ninja!


Time for (print/photos) TF(p)

TF literally means 'Time for'. Before the advent of digital portfolios TF would commonly be TFP (time for prints). TF is an exchange of time for photos between the model and photographer. Usually there is no money involved. 

TF is a brilliant way to try new techniques out, before using them on paying clients. 

Lens breathing

No, lens breathing doesn't mean your lens is alive or has a set of lungs. Lens breathing is one of those bloody annoying attributes some lenses have but you may not have noticed. When framing up a shot an focusing, changing the focus point may change the perspective. it appears as though you are zooming in or out slightly, even on a prime lens! That is lens breathing.

Prime lens

You've probably heard of a zoom lens and also know what they are. But what the heck is a prime lens?

A prime lens is still a lens, but they have a fixed focal length. 35mm and 50mm fixed focal lengths are perfect examples of prime lenses. There is no option to zoom.

Prime lenses generally give superior image quality over zoom lenses, and also have the widest maximum apertures

Viewfinder / evf viewfinder

The view finder is the part of the camera the photographer looks through to compose and focus their shot. The scene you can see is based on the lenses maximum wide aperture.

An EVF viewfinder is an Electronic View Finder. The camera electronically projects the scene that the lens can see onto a miniature screen. Most EVFs also display the scene based on camera settings in real time. Changes to camera settings will changes the view finder display too.



Straight Out Of Camera literally means a photo taken straight from the camera. Cameras may apply a slight edit to photos if shooting JPEGs.  

Diopter and diopter adjustment

The word diopter sounds so strange, doesn't it! Basically a diopter is a unit of measurement of the optical power of a lens. On a camera, you'll probably find a little adjustment dial right beside the viewfinder. This is the diopter adjustment dial.

The purpose of this dial is to be able to make adjustments to the power of the viewfinder, based on individual requirements. 

Diopter adjustment dial on a Nikon D700

Diopter adjustment dial

Lens creep

We all know a creep. We avoid them like the plague. Similarly, we avoid lenses with creep too, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Lens creep is the lens moving on it's own accord. 

This usually happens on lenses with an extending front barrel. With the lens angle at anything other than 90 degrees, the weight of the front element, or poor construction, gravity can physically move the front element, changing the lenses focal length. 

I've added a link to a LensBand below. These slide over your zoom ring and helps to reduce lens creep.

Hyperfocal distance

There's alot that go into the hyperfocal distance and how to calculate it etc. In short, the hyperfocal distance is the exact focal distance at which depth of field is maximised for a given aperture and focal-length combination.

This sounds like a mouthful, we know. But after learning about hyperfocal distance, you'll be able to estimate how much of a scene should be sharp and from what distances based on you lens and aperture choice. 

Hyperfocal distance: The closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp.

Hyperfocal near limit: The distance between the camera and the first element that is considered to be acceptably sharp, when focusing at the hyperfocal distance. 

As a quick example, lets say we have a 50mm lens at f1.8. Our subject is 2M away from us. 

Our Depth of field will be;

Near limit 1.92 m

Far limit 2.09 m

Total of 0.17 m in sharp focus.

Our hyperfocal distance will be;

Hyperfocal distance 46.82 m

Hyperfocal near limit 23.41 m


Lens hood

These are the plastic, twisty on things that attach to the front of your lens. Lens hoods come in multiple types, each with their own use. The most common is a petal shaped lens hood. (Also known as a flower hood).

Petal lens hoods are ideal for wide angle lenses. Due to their shape, they don't cause shadowing or vignetting over the lens itself. 

Petal hods on a Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000

A couple of cameras with petal hoods on them.

Aperture ring

The Aperture Ring is usually the first ring on a lens body. The aperture ring is usually labelled in one stop aperture increments. The aperture ring is built in such a way that it is mechanically linked to the aperture diaphragm, so as to control its size. 

Twisting the aperture ring changes the size of the aperture. Controlling the aperture in this way is most common in shooting video and older film era lenses.


Aperture rings

Mirror lock up / mirror up mode (mlu/M-up)

Mirror lock up is a process that involves flipping up the mirror before the shutter opens. This allows any vibrations to stop before taking the shot. Some cameras will use a two step process for taking a photo, where the first shutter button press lifts the mirror, and the second press exposes the sensor and takes the shot.

Each camera may have a different process for mirror lock up mode. Consult your camera manual to find out how.

Mirror lock up / mirror up mode (Mup) Nikon D700

M-up on a Nikon D700

Every camera may have a different process, but here's mirror lock up mode on my Nikon D700.

Shutter drag / Dragging the shutter

Shutter drag is slowing the shutter speed down to allow more ambient light to hit our sensor. Here's a couple of instances where this can be beneficial; an ocean. Dragging the shutter in this situation will allow more motion to be captured in our shot, making the water become more 'milky' and blurred. Nightclub/wedding receptions are another brilliant use of shutter drag. Dragging the shutter and moving the camera slightly, when using a flash in rear curtain mode, captures movement in the lights present and makes for some super interesting photos!

High speed sync (hss)

High speed sync is an ability for your DSLR to use a flash at shutter speeds faster than the camera's native sync. Most cameras have a native sync speed of either 1/200th or 1/250th of a second. Any shutter speed faster than that is beyond the camera's ability to sync the shutter with the flash, without shutter curtain bands appearing in the shot.

Sync speed

Sync speed is a flash photography terminology for the fastest shutter speeds in which the shutter curtains are completely open at the time of exposure (or when the flash fires). This is usually 1/200th or 1/250th. For shutter speeds above "sync speed", the shutter curtains are no longer fully open and shutter curtain banding appears in the shot. See also; High speed sync

AF (auto focus) assist light

On the front of your DSLR body, you'll find a tiny lamp. This is the AF (auto focus) assist light. As default, it usually comes on in low light to help the auto focus system focus on the point you have chosen. To turn this on or off, navigate to the auto focus section in your camera's menu system and select AF assist.

Why would you want to turn this off? It could distract / irritate your subject or draw attention to yourself in situations you'd rather be inconspicuous. Using the AF assist light could also slow your focusing down. 

Format card (formatting)

Formatting a memory card is the process of cleaning a flash device ready for storage. Erasing photos individually with the delete button leaves tiny traces of data which could corrupt any new photo data. With formatting, you are deleting all the existing data on the card, and creating a new file system.

Always back up your photos before formatting!


To format your card in camera, navigate to your menu system, then select format card. Alternatively, you may find two bin icons (red bin icons on Nikon) above or below selected buttons. Press and hold the two buttons until you see the format option flash. Release the buttons and the format will start. With camera bodies with dual cards slots, press and hold the format card buttons, then you can use the command dial to switch between cards to format.

Blown out

You'll hear alot of photographers talk about a blown out photo, or a blown out sky. This means that there is so much over exposure (brightness), that portions of the photo, (usually the highlights) have no detail in whatsoever. Turning the highlight warning on in your DSLR, will make these blown out areas flash when reviewing your photos on the back of the camera screen.