15 Basic Photography Terms every Photographer Must Know
The first thing that intimidates a beginner photography is some words that sound alien and at times intimidating. This makes learning photography quite overwhelming. My initial few days were spent relying heavily on google to understand each word and am sure most beginners go through a similar situation.
We have listed out a few words as per their category we deem fit which should become a ready reckoner. This by no means a comprehensive list but certainly a list which will help you take the first steps in photography with confidence.
So let’s begin.
- Depth of Field (DOF)
The term DOF refers to the range in an image which is in sharp focus. The camera will focus on the subject and DOF will show how much of the area or zone of the scene of the image both in front and behind that of the main point in focus, is in sharp focus. In the above image the area behind the girl is out of focus and is called Shallow Depth of Field.
In the image below the complete image appears to be in sharp focus. This is called Deep (Large) Depth of Field.
- Aspect Ratio
This term refers to the dimension of any image. Aspect Ratio is the ratio of height to width of an image. For example, a 4:3 aspect ratio which is one of the most common aspect ratios represents an image which has 4 units of width and 3 units of height, making it a rectangular shape.
- File Format
File Format refers to the type of image that either the camera will use to record or a photographer will use to save. There are few more terms within this main term viz. JPEG, RAW, TIFF and PNG
Within the camera you have an option to choose from JPEG and RAW. While TIFF and PNG are used while saving an image. Let us understand them one by one:
JPEG: It stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”. It is the most common format of image. It is highly compressed and has a smaller size.
RAW: This is the format available in camera. It is uncompressed and unprocessed data straight from the sensor of the camera. It is not an image and requires specialized software to process it into a final usable image.
TIFF: This stands for “Tagged Image File Format.” It is an uncompressed but processed file which contains a lot of data. It’s mostly used by photographers when they want to use it for printing.
PNG: It stands for “Portable Graphics Format.” It is a widely used uncompressed raster image used over the internet. PNG is popular for uploading images on social media because it does not deteriorate with the social media file compression algorithms.
- White Balance
This is the most common word and still the most confused word even with experienced photographers. Our eyes easily and accurately adjust to the different colors but the camera is not able to do so. It always shows color bias towards a particular color depending upon the time of shooting. For example, it shows yellow bias during early morning Sunrise and Sunset shoot, thus making White appear like yellow.
White Balance is actually a setting in camera which you do to ensure all colors appear in balance thus showing White as White.
- Dynamic Range
The Dynamic Range in any image is the range between the lightest (brightest) area and the darkest area of a particular image. The wider the range, the higher the dynamic range.
Panning is a term which refers to the process of capturing a sense of motion in the background while keeping the main subject in sharp focus. The shutter speed is kept low and the camera is moved while the shutter the still open to ensure the main subject appears in sharp focus while the background gets blurred. This technique requires a lot of practice to get desired results.
Lens Related Terms
In simplest explanation, an aperture is the size of the opening in the lens through which light passes to create an image on the sensor. It can be related to the pupil of the eye. Larger the size of the opening, more light will enter and vice versa for smaller size.
- Focal Length
The first thing you want to know while purchasing a lens is its Focal Length. People initially may confuse it with a term depicting size of the lens. Yes, a focal length does impact the size of the lens but it is not the size.
Focal Length refers to the distance from the point of convergence of light inside the lens to the point on the sensor where they finally meet. Focal Length impacts the Angle of View of the camera and thus the final image.
Bokeh which is correctly pronounced as “Boh-ka” It refers to the aesthetic quality of blur achieved in any image when shooting with an open aperture setting. To be more accurate in explaining this word; Bokeh refers to the way a lens renders (treats) the points of light which are out of focus.
Camera Related Terms
- Shutter Speed
Shutter Speed is the term used to define the speed of shutter in the camera with which it opens and closes. A fast shutter speed will freeze the motion while a slow shutter speed will blur the movement. It is measured in fractions of 1 second e.g. 1/250 Shutter Speed means 250th part of 1 sec and so on.
ISO is one of the important control points in getting correct exposure; the other two being Aperture and shutter Speed. ISO refers to the sensitivity of a sensor to available light. Lower ISO value means less sensitive and higher ISO value means more sensitive. It is usually represented in multiples of 100 with 100 being the base ISO.
Higher ISO values tend to create something called Noise which many photographers usually do not like.
Viewfinder refers to the opening at the back of the camera through which you look through using one eye. This shows the way the image will look after clicking it.
- Burst Mode
Burst Mode refers to the max number of frames a camera can capture in a single press of the shutter button. This is a setting in the camera using which you can capture multiple shots in a single press of shutter helping you capture multitude of frozen actions of a fast moving subject.
- FPS (Frames Per Second)
FPS is a term referring to both still photography and videography. You must know that a video is nothing but a result of too many frames playing at a speed which your eyes are unable to isolate. It stands for the total number of images (frames) you can capture in one second. This value will vary from camera to camera and a camera with higher FPS is considered good for capturing action shots like in sports.
This is another word which is very widely used in photography. Metering refers to the entire process of measuring the actual amount of light entering the camera to create the final image. Metering is done using a “light meter” in the camera. Using different metering mode in the camera one can get an image as he conceptualized viz under-exposed or overexposed.
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