Crack the Code of Photography Jargon

If you're new to photography it can feel like a whole different world. Not only is there so much to learn creatively and technically but there is also a different language to learn. With the slang, professional terms and acronyms it can be hard to make sense of things. But, don't worry, with time you'll be speaking fluent photographer but for now we've created a list of some of the most common words and their definitions to help you crack the code of photography jargon. Think of it like a photographers dictionary!

photography photographer gift shop london uk understand photography jargon terms meanings

ACR: Adobe Camera Raw is an editing plug-in software for Photoshop which contains unprocessed picture data.

Al Servo: a form of focusing which tracks motion and is used for fast moving subjects or sports

Ambient / Available Light: the natural light that occurs in a room without adding to it with lights, flashes etc.

Aperture: the space in which light passes through your camera, which can be made smaller or large to control the amount that reaches your cameras sensor.

Aspect Ratio: the ratio of the width to the height of an image or screen.

Bokeh: the out of focus areas behind a subject, which can appear as small circles when a low aperture is used.

Bracketing: taking the same photo more than once using different settings for different exposures to ensure a high dynamic range (HDR*)

Bulb Mode: a mode on your camera that allows you to use a remote to keep the shutter open as long as you would like usually used for astrophotography.

CMOS: the powerful image sensor used in most digital cameras.

Camera Shake: unintentional blur seen in photos which is caused by slower shutter speed and the camera being moved during an exposure - this can be slight or drastic.

Chimping: a usually negative term used for photographers who are constantly looking at the back of their camera to check their shots instead of trusting their knowledge (the constant looking is said to resemble a monkey)

Chromatic Aberration: also known as colour fringing this can be seen as coloured lines outlining a subject which is caused by refraction of light usually due to low quality lenses. This can be corrected in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Clipped: this is when your photo has been under or overexposed beyond repair which can be monitored by your histogram*

Colour Temperature: how a light source or image appears relative to "cool" or blue light or "warm" yellow/orange light.

Cropped Sensor: a sensor smaller than a 35mm frame, usually found on cheaper entry-level cameras which affects resolution.

DX: the acronym for a cropped sensor - lenses can be DX specific

Diffuser: a device which spreads light to create a softer appearance and eliminating hard shadows.

Depth of field: the distance between the nearest and furthest subjects in a scene that appear in focus which is controlled by aperture. IE portraits usually have a low depth of field while landscape images have a high depth of field.

ETTL: used in flash photography a "pre-flash" is emitted just before you take your photo so that the camera can meter the flash and then determine how much is needed for the "real flash".

EV: standing for exposure value which is a number given to a combination of different settings that would achieve the same results. 

the acronym for a full frame sensor*

F Stop: the value given to an aperture opening usually ranging from F32 - F1.4

Fill Light: a soft light used to fill in shadows

Flash Sync: synchronizing the flash with the exact moment a photo is taken to gain proper exposure. 1/125 is usually the highest shutter you can use for flash photography in order to avoid a "black line".

Focal Length: the distance between the lens glass and camera sensor in mm. Large focal lengths mean your subject will appear closer and vice versa.

Full Frame: a sensor the same size or slightly larger than a 35mm camera 

Gobo: standing for go between a gobo is used to block light or create shadow

Golden Hour: also known as magic hour this is the time of day during sunset which gives you soft golden light ideal for portraits

Grey Card: a grey card is used to achieve perfect white balance*

HDR: standing for high dynamic range this process is used when combining photos with different exposure values to create a realistic look. IE exposing for the sky, your subject, and the foreground and then combing all three to create one image.

Hard Light: harsh or strong light which usually has sudden fall-off

Histogram: a diagram which shows you the tonal values of your image IE how bright, neutral or dark your photo is.

Hot Shoe: the metal part found on the top of your camera which a flash fits into.

Hyperfocal distance: the distance between a camera lens and the closest object which is in focus when the lens is focused at infinity.

ISO: standing for international standards organization this means the sensitivity of your cameras sensor which can be changed usually ranging from ISO 100 - 6400.

JPEG vs RAW: JPEG is the standard small file format usually used by beginners while RAW files are large files which capture a lot more information allowing for more powerful editing and a large dynamic range.

Kelvin: a unit of measurement for colour temperature of light sources.

LR: the acronym for Light Room, an adobe editing software.

Lens Flare: a scattered light that appears in a photo caused by bright light being reflected by the lens.

Lens Speed: refers to the maximum aperture diameter a lens is capable of - the lower the number the faster the lens - also known as fast glass.

Long Exposure: a method in which a slow shutter speed is used to create light streaks, blur motion or in night time photography. 

MUP: standing for mirror up mode, this helps reduce camera shake caused by the usual movement of the mirror to take a photo. 

Metering: used to determine the brightness of a scene in order to get correct exposure which is done by using a device called a light meter.

ND Filter: standing for neutral density filter this is a dark filter placed over a lens so that longer shutter speeds can be used to create a desired affect without over exposing.

Noise: also known as grain this is the specks found in images caused by a high ISO number

OCF: standing for off camera flash this refers to when a flash is used to light a scene not found directly on top of a camera IE a studio set up.

PS: standing for Photoshop, a powerful adobe editing software.

Prime Lens: a lens with a fixed focal length creating a higher quality lens.

SOOC: standing for straight out of camera this simply means a photo which has not been retouched or corrected in anyway.

Scrim: a translucent material used to block light in order to create a softer appearance.

Shutter Speed: how long your camera takes to create an exposure determined by a nominal value

Soft Light: light that gives a diffused appearance with no hard shadows.

Stop Down: increasing your f-stop to allow less light into your camera.

TTL: standing for through the lens metering this is when the camera meters a scene for you to create a properly exposed image.

Tilt Shift: tilting or moving a lens to create a blurred affect or to straighten parallel lines usually used by architecture photographers through a special lens.

White Balance: the process of removing colour casts to create a perfect white in an image or correcting a colour temperature.

Wide Open: refers to using the lowest f-stop number on your lens.

There you have it, our list of most common photography terms. Do you have anything to add? Let us know on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest! Happy Shooting xx

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