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Understanding Photographic Terms

What the heck is an F Stop? If you're new to the photography world, some of the terms can seem confusing. All this insider information is not as confusing as it first seems. You just need to learn a few of the basics, and you are on your way to taking better pictures. Here is a brief explanation of some of those terms, and how they affect your photographs. Ambient Light: The natural light that is in your scene. This is also sometimes referred to as available light.

Most photographers prefer to use ambient light over flash, or artificial light whenever possible. Most pro photographers will tell you that for outdoor work, the best possible light occurs twice a day- an hour before to an hour after sunrise and sunset. Aperture: The setting on your camera that controls the amount of light that enters through the lens and reaches your camera's sensor. Think of it like an opening you control on the end of your lens. The aperture is measured in f stops, such as f5.

6, f8 or f22. Apertures can be confusing in that the larger the opening, the smaller the f stop number. So in a low light situation you need to let a large amount of light into the camera, setting your camera at f5. If you are in a brightly lit scene, like a beach, or lots of snow on the ground, you would close down your lens to maybe f22. Small number, more light allowed into the camera, large number, less light. Burn: Mainly thought of as burning or transferring files to a disc, but in photographic terms it refers to lightening parts of your digital photograph with an image editing program. Buffer: Part of a memory chip in your camera that holds the digital information as it is being written to the memory card. CCD: Charged Couple Device, the sensor in your camera that captures the visual information and converts it into digital information. Contrast: The difference between the brightest part of your photograph and the darkest part.

The more extreme the two, the greater the contrast. Depth of Field: The amount of your photograph that is in clear focus. Depending on how you set your aperture, you can control if the entire image is in full focus, or just a selected portion. Digital zoom: A function of the camera where the zoom is created through a digital process as opposed to an optical zoom which is controlled by the camera lens. Most pros avoid using digital zoom, as the image produced tends to be noisy, showing a lot of grain, or fuzziness in the image. Dodging: A step used when editing your photos in a program such as Photoshop. Dodging allows you to lighten selective areas of your photograph. You may want to dodge a part of your image that is hidden in deep shade. Download: Electronically transferring your images from your camera to your computer. DPI: Dots per Inch.

A measurement of the resolution of your photo. The higher the DPI number, the greater the resolution of your photograph. Flash: The device included with your camera that adds light to a scene that is too dark to expose a proper picture without the help of artificial light. Fill Flash: A technique to use your flash to lighten deep shadows, usually caused by strong sunlight when shooting outdoors. Many photographers will use fill flash to brighten shadows when shooting close ups of plants or flowers outdoors in sunny conditions. Highlights: The brightest parts of your photograph. Histogram: A graphical chart that is produced on the LCD viewfinder of most higher end digital cameras showing a breakdown of the different light and dark areas of your photograph. Many pros judge the quality of their photographs from the histogram over simply looking at the photograph. Image Browser: A computer application that allows you to view small, thumbnail images of all the photographs stored on your computer. Image Editor: A computer program that allows you to digitally edit your photographs.

Image editing programs will do everything from exposure and color correcting your photographs, to blending multiple images together, or adding titles and special effects. The program used most by professionals is Adobe Photoshop®. A great program for amateur enthusiasts is Photoshop Elements®, a slightly stripped down version of the full program. ISO: A gage of setting how sensitive your camera is to light. Most digital cameras today will allow you to change the ISO from anywhere from a setting of 100 up to 1600. The lower you can keep the ISO, the better your images will look. As you increase the ISO, your images start to look more grainy. JPEG: A specific type of digitally stored image. For the geek, JPEG is short for Joint Photographic Experts Group.


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