Photography Cheat Sheet: DSLR Terminology for Beginners

Still confused about the terms and phrases related to your new DSLR camera and photography itself? We have just the photography cheat sheet to help with that!

Whether you like it or not, taking photography seriously means learning a lot of technicalities and terminology that will help you better understand the tools and the process. In turn, you’ll be able to work with your gear more efficiently and take better photos. We know it can be overwhelming for beginners to memorize all of these at once, which is where these handy-dandy photography cheat sheets come in! For today, it’s all about the stuff related to DSLR photography.

The photography cheat sheet below was put together by the folks of Ultralinx to help beginners get a grip on some of the most common terms and phrases they’ll encounter with DSLR photography. A good number of these refer to camera controls, so it’s definitely recommended to keep a copy of this handy.

Of course, you can’t shoot with a DSLR without knowing what DSLR stands for — which is Digital Single-Lens Reflex (not Standard Lens Reflex, as actually indicated by the guide, but we’ll let that go). It means that your digital camera has one lens through which light will pass through to hit the sensor and make an exposure. Take away the “digital” bit and you have an SLR camera that uses film instead of a digital sensor. If you shoot with both long enough, you’ll be able to better understand how each of them functions.

Next comes three terms you’ll hear and see all the time: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These are camera settings that you use to make an exposure. The aperture, or the opening of the lens, determines the amount of light that gets inside the camera and is indicated by f-stops. The shutter speed refers to the length of time that the film or sensor is exposed to light to create an exposure. The ISO refers to how sensitive the sensor is; the higher it is, the more sensitive the sensor and thus the brighter the image looks, but it also adds noise (or grain when you’re shooting film). Together, these three settings are called the Exposure Triangle.

Bokeh and the depth of field are related to each other. The latter refers to how much of the scene will be in focus, while the former is the blur effect on the unfocused part of the image. The shallower the depth of field, the more prominent the bokeh will be.

Flash, remote, filter, and tripod are all tools that help to create the image you want. Use flash to add extra illumination to a low-light scene, and use a tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposures. A remote allows you to activate your camera’s shutter from a distance, and attaching filters to your camera lets you access advanced exposure controls. The meter helps your camera determine the best exposure values for the scene you want to capture, while HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is integrated into DSLRs to transmit clear digital videos.

Additional Cheat Sheet Reading: The DSLR for Dummies

There are many more photography terms, concepts, and technicalities that you’ll encounter as you get further along in the craft. But for now, you’ll do well to learn, understand, and work with what is in this photography cheat sheet. You’ll surely need more photography tips and tricks, so don’t forget to check out our cheat sheet collection so far!