Glossary Of Photography Terms
Whether you’re a newbie photographer, someone who appreciates photography or a seasoned professional, these are many photographic terms that you would have heard that you might not understand. This glossary of photographic terms will help shed some light on the more common lingo used frequently on a shoot.
Aperture is the adjustment of light you let in through the camera lens, kind of like an adjustable window that controls the amount of light. A wider aperture will let in more light, while a smaller aperture lets in less. The measurement for aperture is calibrated in f-stops. The smaller the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture, while an f-stop of f/22 is a large aperture that will let in a lot of light.
The aspect ratio of a photograph is the ratio of height to width. A standard 8 x 10 photograph has the same aspect ratio as a photograph sized 4 x 5, but a 4 x 7 photograph is slightly wider in size (it has the same height of 4 but a different width of 7) and has a different aspect ratio.
Backlighting (as the name suggests) refers to light coming from behind the subject matter in a photograph. The light comes from behind the person or object and points towards the lens, backlighting them to create a silhouette or similar effect.
Contrast is the relation of light to dark in a composition. An image with high contrast will have visible differences in light and dark, whereas a photograph with minimal contrast will have little tonal differences.
Depth of Field
Depth of field refers to the subject matter in a photograph that is in focus. Often a standard camera will only focus on one point and the rest of the background at different depths will be out of focus. This is low or shallow depth of field. If, however, the main subject matter is in focus and so too are varying levels of the background, this has good or large depth of field. Large depth of field maintains the sharp focus at different depths of the photograph.
Exposure deals with light and determines how light or dark a photograph is. The levels of exposure range from underexposure to overexposure. A photograph that has been overly exposed and is lighter in quality than the subject matter will be overexposed. A dark photograph that has made use of little light is underexposed. Photographers profess that there is no right level of exposure and it is a completely personal choice. Exposure can be adjusted with shutter speed, ISO and aperture.
Focus is the sharpness of an image. If an image is out of focus it will appear blurry or with soft edges. A properly focused image will be sharp and clear. Certain elements can be focused on within an image composition leaving other elements of an image out of focus. This allows the main subject matter to come to the fore.
The focus range is the range at which a camera is able to focus. Some cameras cannot focus on things from a close distance, others can’t focus on objects in the far distance.
The f-stop is the measurement used for determining the appropriate aperture required for a photograph.
Frontlighting is the opposite of backlighting and refers to light shining directly onto the object, person or subject matter to illuminate them from the front.
ISO is used in conjunction with aperture and shutter speed to get the right focus for an image. It deals with the camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the higher the sensitivity and conversely, the higher the ISO, the lower the sensitivity. Higher ISO is ideal for shooting in conditions where there isn’t much natural light, but it can result in grainy results with less sharp resolution.
The lens is the part of the camera where the light enters through in order to capture the image.
The light meter is a tool used by photographers to measure the light reflected off the subject matter or in the vicinity. This measurement is then used to determine what exposure to set the camera at. A light meter can also be referred to as an exposure meter.
Manual operation of a camera is the opposite to automatic operation. Using automatic focus and settings is perfect for amateur photographers, but manual operation involves setting the ISO, aperture and shutter speed manually.
Metering is calculated using a built in light meter on a camera. It helps a photographer determine if an image is underexposed or overexposed. The photographer can then adjust the light levels accordingly. There are three main modes of metering:
1. Matrix metering – measures light over the entire image
2. Centre-weighted metering – measures light in the centre of the image
3. Spot metering – measures light where your focus point is
Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a principle in photography that divides each composition into nine blocks, thirds vertically and thirds horizontally. Where the lines intersect is a prominent position for the placement of the subject matter in order for it to be a more persuasive image.
The shutter release is the button that releases the shutter when taking a photograph.
The shutter opens and closes, letting light in when capturing an image. As you take a photograph, the shutter closes and captures the light. A slower shutter speed will let in more light and a faster shutter speed will let in less. The photographer will adjust this according to the amount of light needed for the exposure of the image. The downside of a slow shutter speed is that the camera needs to be dead still for the light to be captured without blurring the image. If the camera moves while the light is being captured, the image will be blurry.
Time lapse photography is when that rate at which frames are taken is slower than the rate at which they are played back. This makes the sequence of frames appear to be moving faster than they really are.
White balance allows a photographer to capture something that’s white in reality and have it appear white in the photograph and not blue or yellow. Sometimes different sources of light can create the illusion of white appearing a different colour. White balance restores this to normal. There are automatic white balance features on cameras that generally do the trick, but they can’t always be relied on and sometimes further manual intervention is required.
That’s all for now… we hope we’ve been of some help. Let us know which terms became more clear for you after reading this.