When you’re a beginner in photography, there can be many terms and expressions that you may have never heard of. Or you are writing a detailed piece of photography coursework and need those extra keywords to help with your marks.
These photography related keywords can help you improve your skills and is definitely vital in becoming a better photographer.
Feel free to come back once you have read this page, especially if you’re researching a photographic technique and need to find a definition.
So these are the 50+ photographic keywords every beginner photographer should know
Aperture: Simply it is the size of the opening of the lens. This can determine the exposure of an image and is measured in f-stops.
AE: Automatic Exposure.
Ambient light: Is the light that is already present in the scene you are shooting. It can also be known as ‘natural light’ and is commonly the name for the light.
Aperture Priority Mode: Also abbreviated to A or AV on your camera, Aperture Priority Mode is the setting on your camera that will control the f-number while the camera selects a shutter speed to match the light conditions. Therefore this is a semi-automatic mode and is a mode most photographers use.
B&W: Black and white.
Bokeh: Is produced by blurring the background of an image and is popular in portraits as it forces you to focus on the subject.
BULB: Normally found in the Manual Mode setting. Bulb mode means the camera will keep taking an image until you tell it to stop, usually used for long exposures. This can be by holding your finger over the button or using a remote for your camera.
Burning: Decreases the exposure of an area within your photo. This technique is used within Photoshop and darkroom prints. It’s also the opposite of dodging where it increases the exposure of the selected areas.
Camera Angle: Is the specific location at which the camera is located so it can take the shot.
Camera Obscura: Is a technique where light from a scene outside is projected onto a wall or canvas. This then allows the artist to trace the image with a high amount of accuracy.
Camera Raw: Also known as RAW, is an image file that contains a minimal amount of processed data from the scene. Many photographers favour this image format over JPEG as it allows more control at the editing stage.
Cloning: Is a digital processing tool that allows you to copy part of an image to another part. This means you can remove part of an image that is unwanted.
Composition: Is the placement of relative subjects and elements within an image or scene to create a pleasing feel.
Contact Sheet: Used primarily in film cameras, is a sheet of all the frames and is used as a proof print. However, it is now also used with digital images to showcase work to a client from the shoot.
Contrast: Is the difference between the light and dark areas within your images. High contrast means the blacks are darker and whites are brighter, vice versa.
Cropping: When you make an image smaller by removing the outer parts it is referred to as cropping.
Depth of Field: Abbreviated to DOF, is the distance between the closest and farthest subjects in a scene that look noticeably sharp in an image.
Double-Exposure: Superimposing two or more images on top of each other creating a unique image.
DSLR: Digital Single-Lens Reflex
Exposure: Is the amount of light entering the camera’s sensor. Too much light and the image is overexposed and not enough light and it’s underexposed.
Exposure Compensation: Normally the +/- button on the camera and is where the photographer can control whether you want the image over or underexposed. This can help with sunsets or photographing snow where you want to underexpose and overexpose respectively.
f-Stop: Or f-number is the aperture size or aperture stop in a number that controls the size of the lens opening. Therefore controlling the amount of light entering the camera.
Feathering: A digital editing technique, blurring and smoothing out edges within the image.
Focal Point: Is a way to describe the main part of the image or a point of interest within the image.
Glass: Refers to a camera lens.
Golden Hour: The hour during sunrise and sunset where you get the best light for your image.
Graduated Filter: Normally known as a graduated neutral-density filter, it is a dark filter which is split halfway allowing the sky and ground to be exposed the same.
Histogram: Is a graph that shows the tonal values within the image, allowing the photographer to pick out which areas are too dark and too bright.
ISO: The sensitivity of a camera sensor is determined by the cameras ISO setting. Lower ISO settings are usually used for bright settings and higher ISO’s are used in darker surroundings.
JPEG: An image format (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and is the most common default setting for cameras and phones.
Macro: Photographing objects that are extremely small. Normally macro photographers would use a lens with a 1:1 ratio, which is the size of the subject on the sensor.
Midtone: Or middle tone, describes the middle tones between two colours. For example, grey is the midtone of black and white.
Monochrome: Is defined as an image that is made up of one hue or colour. Most black and white images are made up of black, white and grey.
ND: Neutral Density.
Panning: Moving the camera, usually on a tripod, with a long shutter speed to blur the background.
Rule of Thirds: A compositional technique where you place the main subject or horizon off from the centre. If you imagine a 3×3 grid placed over the image you can place the subjects on the intersecting points which create a more pleasing image. Check out this post for more compositional techniques.
Saturation: Can provide a colour boost to your image by allowing you to change selective colours within the image. Monochrome images are 100% desaturated as there is no colour.
Sharpening: Sharpening defines the edges within an image and can be used to correct the blur within the image.
Shutter Priority: Sometimes S or SV on your camera dial is the mode for which you can change the shutter speed, as the camera matches the correct aperture for the right exposure.
Shutter Speed: The length of time the camera shutter is open for, therefore controlling the amount of time light is entering the camera’s sensor. Long exposures use longer shutter speeds and sport/action photographers use quick shutter speeds to freeze the subject.
Telephoto Lens: Long lenses, typically used by wildlife and sports photographers.
Time Lapse Photography: Is a type of photography where a camera captures many images over a set amount of time, to create a video where time is moving faster.
Ultraviolet filter: Protects your camera lens from UV light and scratches.
Viewfinder: The photographer looks through the camera’s viewfinder to focus and frame the shot.
Vignetting: Is common in camera lenses and means the darkening of the image corners compared to the centre.
VR: Vibration Reduction, image stabilization technology used within lenses.
Warm Colours: Normally associated with sunsets and is the reds and yellows within the image.
Watermark: Is typically the photographer’s logo or name imprinted onto an image to protect the photographer’s image.
White Balance: (WB) is used to regulate colours to match the actual light in the scene from fluorescent lighting, sunlight and bulbs and takes into account the colour temperature within the image.
Wide-Angle Lens: The focal length of a lens which is classically smaller than a normal lens, it is normally used by landscape photographers to capture wide scenes.
If you have any other ideas for keywords please leave them in the comments below and I’ll add them in the future.
If you’re studying photography I highly recommend you check our worksheets on Photography Analysis!
Included in these worksheets are, 3 pages of Photography Keywords and Terms, The Photography Analysis Worksheet and examples of my own analysis work!
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