The Noob Guide: Symbols and Meanings On Your Camera

There are lots of symbols on your camera that you or people you may know don’t know how to interpret. Part of this is from not reading your manual. Sadly, cameras are only going to get more complicated to offer you more options. I previously explained about the shooting modes on your camera and how to use them. In this posting, you’ll get a quick overview of the different symbols and meanings in lay man’s terms. Hit the jump for more.

Author’s Note: You can use the image above for reference.


What ISO is/means is essentially the brightness allowed in the photo. Here’s the break-down: ISO goes in ranges on point and shoots from 50-3200. The lower the number, the darker the image and the better quality. The higher the number, the brighter the image and the poorer the quality. As a general rule of thumb, use lower ISOs in bright light and higher ones in darker light.

The Flower and Mountain Symbol

These symbols stand for your focusing. Focusing tells you what in your image will be clear and what will be blurry. For example, if you want to take a picture of your kid, then you need to make sure your kid is in focus and not the tree behind him.

Flower = Macro (we’re going to call this close-up). Close up focusing is for when you want to bring your camera lens really close up to your lucky penny to snap a photo of it. Also good for taking pictures of insides of flowers or your dog’s nose.

Mountain = Infinity (we’re going to call it far away). This is for when you’re trekking out in the mountains and are too far away to take a picture of a mountain.

Usually, Auto Focus works totally fine more most applications.

The Lightning Bolt Symbol

This is your flash symbol. It tells you what type of flash it will allow. If it has the word auto or an “a” next to it, it means auto flash. This is good for general purposes.

If it has the word fill next to it, it means fill flash. This will be very, very bright on a point and shoot.

If there is a circle with a line through it, it means turn the flash off.

If there is an eye next to it, it means red-eye flash. It will compensate for red-eye.

The Circle With a Line Inside

Delay shooting, or lack there of is what this symbol means. Usually it will allow you to choose no delay (immediate shooting) two seconds (a 2 next to the symbol) or ten seconds (a 10 next to the symbol). These are great for when you have no one to take a picture of everyone.

The Play Button

This is your review button. Figure it this way: this is the same play button that you see on your DVR, DVD player, and computer. It serves the same purpose, it lets you play back your images. You can press it again to get out of playback or press your shutter button down. Some cameras make you switch a tab to get out of playback.

Three Stacked Rectangles

This is your shooting speed. There are different speeds. For example, one rectangle usually means one frame for every time the shutter button is held down. Three rectangles mean continuous shooting: so it will keep shooting as long as the shutter button is held down. Three rectangles with an H next to it means high speed. You’ll get smaller images, but you’ll be able to catch Superman flying at full speed away from Chuck Norris.

The Buttons Placed Around In Circular Fashion

You’ll most likely notice this. The camera manufacturers did this purposefully as each button serves a different purpose. Here it is: The left button makes you scroll left through the menus, the right scrolls to the right, up scrolls up, etc.

It’s that simple.

Any questions? Leave them below in the comments or email me at ChrisGampat[at] I’d be more than happy to answer them.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.