Commercial Photography

“Sorry for Flashing You” (and other photography jargon)

Read this:

“We’re shooting Grandma today. Our concern is that she may be too hot due to her white hair and skin tones. Close the barn doors and throw a grid on that. An over-exposed grandma will force us to burn her down later. Whoops – sorry grandma – didn’t mean to flash you yet. Alright, put three slaves behind the setup. She needs to be sharp, but the subjects in the back will be soft. This is likely to be cool, so you need to throw a warming gel on her. I know you said to use a fisheye, but this needs a super wide.”

It’s a bunch of nonsense, right?

Most people have no idea what is going on here. I’m sure you’re wondering who is going to kill and/or expose themselves to Grandma. No need to call the police. We’re talking about photographing Grandma.

Photography jargon is a little freaky and sometimes sounds predatory. John is always apologizing for flashing someone. He quickly learned that you don’t use the word “shoot” when photographing Air Force One and President Obama. The correct term is “click.”

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of photography terms to help you get through your next shoot.

Depth of Field: The amount of focus from the focus point to the foreground and background. Shallow depth of field is the term used for “fuzzy backgrounds.” The farther away the subject is from the background, the softer the background.

Rule of Thirds: A rule meant to be broken. Composition can be created in multiple ways, but the rule of thirds is designed to quickly create adequate composition. When composing an image, you can balance it in thirds – a landscape image could show two thirds of a sky with one third of land.

Low light: This can mean one of two environments:

  1. A dark environment like a theater or inside a building
  2. The outdoors near dusk or dawn

Ambient light: Light that is not being generated by the photographer (daylight, lamps, fluorescent, etc). It’s often synonymous with natural light (ambient light or purely daylight created by the sun).

Back lit: The main source of light comes from behind the subject casting the subject in a silhouette.

Blown out: There is so much light on the subject that you cannot see detail (i.e – too hot).

Focal Length: The millimeters of a lens.

Focal Point: Point of focus.

Strobe: Another word for flash. It is a term used for a larger flash unit.

Aperture/F-stop: Aperture is a mechanism that controls the volume of light that comes through the lens and hits the film surface. F-stop is a number that describes the size of the aperture.

Shutter speed: The length of time of which the shutter is open to expose the film surface to light.

ISO/ASA: Determines the light sensitivity of the film surface (i.e. – 100 ASA, 400 ISO).

White Balance: How the camera reads color temperature. It is measured in degrees of Kelvin. Tungsten is 3000K – 3800K. Daylight is 5000K – 6500K. Low light daylight is 7000K – 1000K.

RAW/JPEG/TIFF:  A digital term for how an image is saved. JPEG is the lowest quality for universal usage often used for internet usage and presentation. TIFF is the highest quality for universal usage and can save tons of content that is unseen. RAW is the actual information captured at the time the image was taken. It can be easily manipulated in post-production and is the most valuable format. If you find a photographer that doesn’t use RAW, don’t hire them. If you find a photographer that doesn’t understand RAW, run away from them.

Medium format: This describes the size of the sensor or film for the camera for image capture. It allows a photographer to capture an image size of 32-90 megapixels as opposed to 35mm cameras that only capture up to 36 megapixels.

Large format: A camera sensor that can capture an image size of up to 1000 megapixels. We use it for copying art and restoration images. It is the most superior format for digital resolution.

Macrophotography/Microphotography: Same term based on the lens manufacturer. It is a term used for close up photography.

Overexposure/Underexposure: The exposure is not perfect. Overexposure means there is too much light. Underexposure means there is not enough light.

See something not on the list? Want more information? Let us know. We’ll help you navigate through the crazy terminology photographers use daily.