Shutter Speed: The shutter speed is how long after you push the button that your lens allows light to pass through to the film
Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens through which light passes
Exposure: A combination of shutter speed and aperture
Focus: the clarity of your picture
There are several forms of cameras with varying forms of film. I will only cover the three major formats of film and what I feel to be the best brand of each format.
35 mm -- good for severe magnification (telephoto). The size of the film inhibits print quality. Should only be used by novices or when judged necessary by a professional. The best brands of 35mm camera are Canon (the high end of the EOS line) and Nikon.
Medium Format -- (for professionals) The film used in the medium format camera is about 3 times the size of 35mm film. This film is labeled 120 and 220 (twice as long as 120). This camera is used when the use of a large format camera would severely inhibit one's ability to get the photos needed (such as weddings, graduations, social events, etc). There are three sub-formats of medium format. These are 6cm x 4.5cm, 6cm x 6cm, and 6cm x 7cm. While the 645 is generally light weight, there are obvious reasons for using the 67. If you're not a professional, I advise that you not try using this format due to the expense of these cameras. In my opinion, the Mamiya 645 Pro is the best as of February 97.
Large Format -- (only for professional use - requires training) The film is 4 by 5 inches (some photographers still use 5x7 inch and/or 8x10 inch film). The camera consists of a rail, two frames (otherwise known as standards) with bellows between them, a lens board and lens on the front, and a ground glass focusing screen/film holder carrier on the back, allowing the photographer to view the image as it will appear on the film. The standards can tilt, swing, rise/fall, and slide. This allows for great manipulation of the image. Position of the image, perspective, and focus can be controlled this way. For more information about special focusing, write to me and ask me about the Scheimpflug principle. The best large format camera as of February 1997 is the Sinar X, running about five thousand new.
Black and White: This is a very versatile yet subjective film. For best results, the individual photographer must experiment with various combinations of film, developer, and agitation. The most common developer for black and white film is D-76.
Color Transparency (Chrome): I only know of one process for this film, E-6 *. This is a fantastic way to go in order to perfect your exposure. Remember, however, that when it is too light, it is overexposed, and when it is too dark, it is underexposed. This is due to it being a reversal film.
Color Negative (Print): This film uses the C-41 * process of development. It allows you to adjust the color and brightness in the printing process.
* For special effects, cross-processing may be used (ie: E6 may be used on negative film -or- C41 may be used on slide film). Cross-processing creates strange colors which you can find in some publications.
Depth of Field: This is the range of focus. It will vary greatly depending on the lens and aperture used. Now when we focus a camera, we focus on one spot. An area in front of and behind that spot will be in focus, the size of which will vary depending on the settings used. Everything else is out of focus. If taking a picture of a long flat sidewalk, shooting the length of it, most cameras cannot keep the entire sidewalk in focus because they cannot create a depth of field large enough. Special effects can be created by manipulating the depth of field.
Telephoto lens: With a 35mm camera, a telephoto lens is anything greater than 50mm. While being good for capturing distant subjects, it is also great for compressing distance (flattening the image). Caution must be used because a telephoto lens will reduce the available light and typically will not have the wider apertures (smaller F-stops). The relative depth of field will also be reduced. These lenses can also be difficult to keep steady and may require use of a tripod or monopod.
Thirds: A good rule of thumb is to break up your picture into thirds. If you haven't used this technique at all, it would be a good idea to practice it for awhile. After seeing the pros and cons of it, one can then better know when to break this little rule of photography.
Wide Angle Lens: With a 35mm camera, a wide angle lens is anything less than 50mm. Using a wide angle lens can add depth to your photos and/or distort objects that are closer to the lens (varying with the size of the lens). A wide angle lens will also allow for a greater depth of field (range of focus).