Getting into photography can be overwhelming in many ways. You need to understand your camera and the settings, you have to use your camera and take pictures, you start sharing images on social media, and then you have to understand all the terms and expressions that other beginners or professionals are using all the time. This article is intended to help you understand the most important terms and expressions within photography, and probably a couple of less important ones too.
Aperture – The easiest way to understand aperture is to think of it as an adjustable hole that lets light through your lens. The bigger the hole, the quicker the light passes through. A more narrow hole will require much more time for the light to pass. It also controls the depth of field.
Bracketing – You might have seen the term Auto Bracketing in your camera’s menu before. When you are photographing sceneries with big changes in light the camera has a hard time gathering the right amount of information in both highlights and shadows. Bracketing means taking multiple identical images to cover the entire Dynamic Range (see further below). Typically you capture one image where the foreground is properly exposed, another where the shadows are properly exposed and one exposure in between that we call a base exposure.
Blending – A technique used by many photographers to avoid overexposed or underexposed areas of an image. This is done in post production by blending multiple images together. A typical example is when you have a sky that is over exposed but a foreground that is properly exposed. You merge it with one or more identical images where the sky is correctly exposed, resulting in a properly exposed photo.
Bulb Mode – Most digital cameras limit the maximum shutter speed to 30 seconds. However, if you need an exposure of more than 30 seconds, you can use the Bulb Mode. Bulb Mode lets you take a picture as long as the remote button is pressed. It is recommended to have a remote shutter when using the Bulb Mode to avoid vibrations.
CPL – If you have thought about buying filters you might have heard the expression CPL. Circular Polarizer is a higher-end polarizer filter. The main use of this filter is to reduce glare and increase contrast. By using it during the day you will also get a bluer sky. Note that this filter is a little dark and may require a one stop longer shutter speed.
Clipping – Clipping is a word often used when talking about the histogram. Clipping simply means that there are areas of your image that are completely white or black and extending the furthest parts of the histogram.
Composition – Perhaps the most important element of photography, composition is essential to understand. Think of the composition as the viewer’s experience when viewing your image. Where do the eyes enter the picture? How are they led through the image? What story is told on the way? What subjects do you wish to enhance?
DoF – We briefly mentioned Depth of Field beneath Aperture. Depth of Field refers to the range of distance that looks sharp in an image. You can control the DoF by adjusting the aperture. A higher aperture number = higher clarity throughout the field. A lower number is sharp at the focal point but less so in front of and in back of it.
Dynamic Range – Dynamic Range is the difference between the lightest and darkest part of your image. Since the sky normally is brighter than the foreground, it is challenging to correctly expose the entire scene. The Dynamic Range of high-end cameras is constantly improving, meaning that you can (in post production) bring out more details in the shadows without decreasing the quality. A common way to handle the Dynamic Range is to take multiple images (bracketing) or use a Graduated Filter.
Exposure – Exposure is the unit of measurement for the total amount of light reaching the sensor.
ND – ND stands for Neutral Density. This is a type of filter allowing you to use a longer exposure. This piece of glass that you place in front of your lens is available in different degrees of darkness, referred to as stops. The brightest versions, often the cheapest, allow a small change in the shutter time while the darker versions allow a bigger change.
GND – GND or Graduated Neutral Density is another type of filter, similar to ND as we talked about above. The difference between GND and ND filters is that only parts of the GND filter are darkened, while the rest is clear. This filter is most often used to avoid a blown out sky by darkening it, giving a correctly exposed image.
Rule of Thirds – Rule of Thirds is perhaps the most famous rule in the world of photography, regardless of genre. This is a compositional rule whose purpose is to improve the viewer’s experience of the image making it more pleasant to view.
Perspective – Perspective means perspective just like in any other situation of life. Basically, it means from what level you capture the image – high or low.
RAW – RAW is the file format that in my opinion every photographer should use. Most photographers do photograph in RAW, but many beginners are afraid to do so or are ignorant of its benefits. RAW files contain more information than JPEG files and allow you to process the images without doing as much harm to the files. For further reading about RAW files I suggest you take a look at this article from SLR Lounge.
HDR – HDR or High Dynamic Range is a technique used to capture the entire Dynamic Range of a scene. The technique is based on photographing multiple exposures and then manually or automatically blending these images using software.
JPEG – or Joint Photographic Experts Group is the most commonly used file format. While it is able to reduce the file size it also loses a fair amount of detail.
Processing / Post Production – What most photographers do when they are done capturing a image. Post production is, for many, essential to improve the quality of your image. For an introduction to the two most-used softwares for post production take a look at “Photoshop or Lightroom?”
Photoshopped – A term often used in a negative context to describe an image that is heavily edited. Typically this term is used when the image is processed beyond reality and looks unreal.
This list is constantly developing as new terms and expressions arrive. I will also continue to write more detailed articles on each of these terms that will be linked in the headers. What is the expression you have had the hardest time remembering and understanding?