Photography is so much more than just clicking the shutter at the right moment! Geekflare explains some commonly used photography terms that you often hear but are too afraid to ask.
Professional photography can quickly become overwhelming, especially when you have just begun and you keep hearing photography terms without knowing their actual significance. Learning these elementary terms is the key to building a solid foundation for your photography career ahead. Moreover, knowing these terms lets you know the capabilities and caveats of cameras and other photographic gear.
Learning professional photography involves knowing about hundreds of photography terms but knowing the below 15 will get you a good start and make you comfortable conversing with your photography peers. So, let’s hop onto some common photography terminology without further ado!
Professional photography terminology includes three pillar settings that a photographer needs to master; aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. The literal meaning of aperture is a small hole or opening. Interestingly, the aperture in professional photography is not very different from its literal sense; it is a small hole that lets light fall on the camera lens.
A camera lens behaves significantly differently when subjected to varying amounts of light and professional photographers are excellent at using this to their advantage. You should find the aperture measurements in terms of f-stops (for example, f/1.8 or f/2.8) in your photographic gear. The smaller is the denominator in the aperture measurement; the larger is the lens’s aperture and vice versa.
Going with this logic, a lens with an f/1.4 aperture will capture more light in a shot than another lens with an f/22 aperture.
As a general rule of thumb, lenses with extensive aperture have a smaller depth of field and don’t really focus on anything in the shot. However, photographs from these lenses are the brightest. On the other hand, lenses with tiny apertures have a large field depth and focus on everything in the foreground and background, but the image is extremely dark.
Aspect Ratio is not entirely a photography term as it holds good for both photos and video. If you have ever watched a YouTube video on a modern smartphone, you must have noticed that you miss out on some part of the video if you stretch it to the entire screen.
However, you won’t find this problem while running the same video on a TV, Laptop, or an old smartphone. So, why is it that the same video runs seamlessly on some devices but needs some chopping on others?
This phenomenon is due to the different aspect ratios of a modern bezel-less smartphone. Aspect ratio is nothing but the ratio of height to width of a photo or video content.
As a modern smartphone has a different aspect ratio (ranging between 18:9 and 19.5:9) than a usual video content (16:9), your smartphone trims the part that goes beyond the boundaries of its screen while stretching out a video. The same goes for photos, too; pictures with different aspect ratios will be broader or taller according to their ratios.
Depth of Field
The photography term, depth of field, refers to the part of an image that a camera focuses on. While capturing an image, a camera tries to focus on a subject and make it look as sharp as possible, but there’s some space in front and behind the subject that stays sharp, and this space is precisely the depth of field.
Professional photographers play with a lens’s depth of field to capture images in different conditions. A shallow depth of field is perfect for clicking portrait images with the bokeh effect, and a considerable depth of field helps capture landscape shots.
Exposure is a photography term that helps quantify the brightness or darkness of an image. The light was an essential factor when people used photographic films to develop the clicked pictures back in the day.
Images that were overexposed to light came out brighter than usual and vice versa. With time, the term exposure became a synonym for an image’s brightness, irrespective of the process of clicking and processing the image. You can control an image’s exposure by tweaking camera settings like aperture, ISO, and more.
The photography term, the focal length, is a measurement of the separation between the lens and the image it projects on the photographic film. The term might seem complicated at first, but it is just a quantifier of the magnification the lens may produce in most cases.
A wide-angle lens is perfect for capturing landscapes and images with numerous subjects, which means the lens should be able to make zoomed-out images. That’s why wide-angle lenses come with a 16-35 mm focal length, contrary to the 300 mm lenses used in capturing detailed telephoto shots.
As a general rule of thumb, a lens with a larger number before the ‘mm’ mark will produce a more zoomed-in image and vice versa.
Our eyes have the natural gift of magnificently processing high-contrast visuals. We can look at subjects on a bright sunny day and still see the details of both dark and bright parts with equal clarity.
Cameras, however, aren’t that great at reproducing the same detail while capturing images with differently lit subjects. Cameras have to choose between a bright or a dark subject while capturing such photos, and the result is often disappointing.
Clicking HDR or ‘high dynamic range images is the standard way of fixing this problem in modern photography. The camera clicks multiple shots with different exposure settings, and the image processor then binds all the images into one by taking the best parts from each photo.
ISO is probably one of the most essential photography terms that professional photographer uses to their benefit. As mentioned above, it is one of the three pillars of photography, along with shutter speed and aperture.
A professional photographer needs to click consistent images in dark and bright backgrounds with similar quality. However, a camera behaves significantly differently in both these environments depending on the camera settings. Especially the image brightness takes a massive hit using similar stages in bright and dark conditions.
Maintaining the perfect exposure is essential for consistent images, and ISO plays a vital role in the process. ISO settings directly affect an image’s brightness; different ISO settings let you take pictures with varying brightness levels. The base ISO setting is around ISO 100 for most cameras, and the images in this setting have the best image quality. You can expect the best details from your camera, but the image will be dark. The base ISO setting is your best choice if you are in a brightly lit environment and getting good photos is your only priority.
As you increase your ISO settings, the image brightness shoots up, and so does the noise and graininess in the image. An image with ISO 3200 will let you click a reasonably bright image even under dark conditions, but you cannot expect the image to be of the best quality.
Remember how you needed to hold your camera firmly before capturing an image with an old smartphone, or the picture would become shaky! That’s because the smartphone cameras didn’t come with Image Stabilization back in the day. Modern cameras come with lens and sensor-based image stabilization for the best images, even in fast-paced environments.
The photography term Image Stabilization is a camera feature that lets you click a steady image either by physically moving the camera lens or the camera sensor. The sensor or lens moves in the opposite direction to your hand movement along the three axes.
Doing this essentially cancels out the hand movement, and the sensor or lens stays at the same place where it was in the first place. However, this method has its limitations, too, as the sensor or lens can only move to a specific limit, after which the images will get blurry with hand movement.
Image Stabilization helps in clicking images in a fast-paced environment and increases the low light capabilities of a camera. Clicking low-light photos require the camera to get as much light as possible from the same angle. Even slight hand movements can result in shaky images, but cameras with image stabilization can compensate for some amount of hand movement and click better low light photos.
Let’s talk about the last of the three pillar photography terms; shutter speed. Shutter speed is the time your camera sensor takes to capture light. The shutter speed should be somewhere between a 1/100th to 1/4000th of a second for most day-to-day shots.
Increasing or decreasing the shutter speed can significantly affect all the image parameters; however, shutter speed predominantly affects the exposure and motion blur in an image. An increased shutter speed allows the camera to capture more light as the sensor gets more of the falling light. That’s why a longer shutter speed is perfect for clicking low light photos without increasing the ISO much.
Another significant effect of a longer shutter speed is motion blur. The more you let the camera gather light from the surrounding, the more susceptible the camera is to moving subjects. Any movement in the surrounding will make certain parts of the image blurry and add a beautiful motion blur effect to the scene.
However, a photographer must know their surrounding before setting the shutter speed. Using longer shutter speeds in sports can result in significantly blurred images; that’s why it is better to use a shorter shutter speed like 1/500th or 1/2000th of a second. On the other hand, using a longer shutter speed while capturing still objects such as the night sky is always a good idea.
As mentioned above, a usual shot has a shutter speed of 1/100th to 1/4000th of a second, but when you increase the shutter speed to a few seconds or more, it becomes the photography term, long exposure shot. Using long exposure shots is particularly helpful in clicking environments with mostly still subjects with a few moving ones. The long exposure automatically blurs the moving objects, creating an effect that resembles moving objects in a still image. Photographers usually use long exposure shots to click waterfalls, oceans, clouds, night sky, and more.
The process of clicking an image varies significantly with subjects; you might need a wide-angle lens for clicking a landscape. Similarly, you need to go close to the subject while clicking something like a flower, bug, or small thing. Clicking such close-up shots is often referred to as Macro photography.
Technically speaking, clicking an image with a one-to-one magnification (subject appears of the same size as it is in real life) or more is macro photography. That said, lens makers even produce a lens with half the one-to-one magnification and term them macro lenses.
Macro photography is one of the few genres of photography that doesn’t require you to travel to exotic destinations or look for a perfect background. Your backyard or a nearby garden can very well be the destination for your next macro magic.
Even if you don’t have sound knowledge about photography terminology, you can probably guess what noise is by its name. In general terms, we use noise to signify any sort of randomness in the environment. The same holds for the photography world, too, where noise is the synonym of visual randomness. A lowly lit background is noisier as less light falls on the camera sensor. This phenomenon, in turn, results in the dark and discolored pixels in the final image, which we perceive as noise.
You can also increase the noise in your images while shooting at higher ISO settings. The sensor tries to gather as much light as possible, but the error in post-processing becomes noise in the final image. Similarly, using a particularly low ISO setting is also a way to visualize noise. However, as a photographer, you should look forward to decreasing the noise rather than increasing it in your clicks.
There are plenty of noise reduction software that can reduce noise in the post-processing of your images. While these software work fine, they can sometimes alter the original appearance or parts of it to make it look unpleasant. As a photographer, you should aim to reduce as much noise in the initial shot as possible.
Rule of Thirds
You must have seen the option to enable a 3X3 grid on any modern camera. This 3X3 grid helps photographers manage their image composition according to the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds states that a photographer should aim to keep their subject at any of the four intersection points present in the center of the grid. Subsequently, you should keep the horizon along the top or bottom line.
While the rule of thirds helps you build an idea of maintaining a good image composition while in their initial photography days, I wouldn’t suggest you take it as a rigid rule. It would be best if you instead treated the rule of thirds as your training wheels while you learn your basics in the field of photography. But you should also be ready to remove these training wheels and develop your unique style of composing the image rather than clinging to the rule of thirds.
Time Lapse is the method of capturing a background multiple times without changing the settings. The idea here is to show the change in the background after each passing time interval. The process of clicking a time-lapse is a relatively easy one; you, as a photographer, place your camera at a spot that perfectly captures the surrounding. Next up, you either need to set up a timer that clicks images at regular intervals for a while or do the same manually.
Time lapses look best when you merge the photographs clicked during the different time intervals and make them a slide show. However, you can also opt for a better route, record a timelapse video, and speed it up to reduce it into a 5 to 10-second clip. A timelapse video shows much better transitions between various moments in the video and certainly looks better than a slideshow of timelapse photos.
Nature has gifted us, humans, with some excellent visual capabilities in the form of our eyes. We have phenomenal low light capabilities and the ability to adjust the eyes according to the brightness in the background. Even the most innovative cameras cannot perfectly replicate the awesomeness of the human eye. That’s why camera manufacturers add options to adjust settings like white balance manually.
The photography term, white balance is a camera setting that lets you adjust the color temperatures of your shots. For those who don’t know, color temperature is a way of defining the color composition of an image; a warmer image has more of an orangish tone to it, and a cooler image has a more blueish tone. Adjusting the white balance lets you alter this color temperature and make it warmer or cooler according to your requirements.
Best cameras for photography professionals
Now that we have gone through some basic photography terminology, you must have realized that having excellent photographic gear is a crucial part of practicing the art of photography. A good camera gives you tons of pre and post-image settings to significantly boost your captures. Moreover, a good camera becomes even more critical for beginners as quality cameras can automatically adjust their settings in different conditions. This helps in simplifying the complexity of getting the right image settings.
Here are some of the DSLR cameras that magnificently justify their price point:
Canon EOS Rebel T7
If you are a beginner wanting to buy your first DSLR, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 might be perfect. The T7 brings a distinctive feature set in an affordable price range of just under $500. Canon’s camera UI has always been a significant selling point due to being easy to use, and the T7 is no different. You get a separate on/off switch and the suitable old four-way controller to navigate through T7’s settings.
Coming to its image quality, the T7 can produce some fantastic shots with its Auto and Standard presets too. Not to mention, its image quality is amongst the best cameras in its class. The ability to click good shots without much tinkering makes it beginner-friendly.
However, you should avoid the T7 if you need a DSLR with excellent video capturing qualities. Rebel T7 doesn’t support 4K video recording and has an overall sluggish continuous shooting ability. Moreover, expecting a touch screen and excellent build quality won’t be fair considering the DSLR’s price.
Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 4K Digital Camera
Panasonic’s LUMIX FZ80 is a fantastic buy for beginner photographers that want a reliable and portable camera for sports and wildlife photography. Interestingly, the FZ80 performs significantly well in areas where the T7 struggles; slow continuous shots and no 4K video options.
The FZ80 has one of the best burst rates in the segment, which lets you click some phenomenal and reliable photos in a short duration. The autofocus on the camera is pretty decent considering its price range, but it is the Post Focus and Focus Shaking features that make your shots shine. The zoom range on this camera is also one of its many selling points.
Now coming to the areas where the camera struggles, low light photography isn’t the FZ80’s strong point. You can see noise and graininess in the low light images, which isn’t something you expect from a professional-grade camera.
Moreover, this camera isn’t very portable due to its bulky size. Also, the viewfinder on the FZ80 feels cheap even after being an electronic one due to the small size and low resolution.
Nikon Coolpix B500
The Nikon Coolpix B500 is a budget offering from Nikon in their bridge camera segment. The camera offers a 16-megapixel sensor with a decent 40x optical zoom which you can further extend up to 80x with the digital zoom option.
This entry-level DSLR from Nikon is best for casual photographers that want better images than their smartphone or handheld camera without tinkering much with the settings. As a matter of fact, the Coolpix B500 doesn’t support manual control; you can only toggle between the existing modes for image capturing.
The Nikon shooter has a notable feature, the SnapBridge, that makes it easy to transfer recent images from the camera to a smartphone. The SnapBridge technology maintains a constant connection between your smartphone and the B500 using their respective Bluetooth.
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Coming to its image quality, you can expect a decent image quality from the B500, provided you click the shots in average to good lighting conditions. You cannot say the same for its low-light performance. Moreover, the 40x optical zoom is a valuable addition, especially when you want to click a far-off subject.
OLYMPUS Tough TG-6
You already know what to expect from a camera with ‘Tough’ in its name. In fact, the Olympus Tough TG-6 won’t let you down with its robust build and the solid camera experience it brings to the table. You can throw everything at this camera (both literally and physically), and the TG-6 won’t show a sign of damage.
Coming to its image quality, the TG-6 is one of the best waterproof shooters and is continuing the legacy of its predecessor, the TG-5. The camera features a 12MP, 1/ 2.3-inch sensor, which might seem like a downgrade from the 16MP sensor on the TG-4, but the images play out better than all its predecessors. Underwater photography is a significant selling point for the TG-6, and there’s usually lesser light down there. That’s the reason this camera has some impressive low-light capabilities.
TG-6 is also great at recording high-resolution videos at excellent frame rates; it supports 1080p at 120 fps and goes all the way to 480fps at 360p resolution. You can also record 4K videos on this camera; however, the frame rate gets locked at a maximum of 30fps.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H300
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC comes with a 20 MP CCD sensor coupled with a 35x optical zoom. For those who don’t know, a charge-coupled device (CCD) is a complex electronic component that can capture more light without increasing the sensor size. This highly affordable SLR-style camera from Sony is an absolute beauty considering its price and the image quality it offers.
The H300 is an affordability-focused camera; however, Sony does its best to give you as many features as it should. It gives you both manual and auto modes for images that are rare at this price point. You also get some fantastic modes like Panorama and Scene mode, which are great use under the right circumstances.
The battery capacity on this camera is a slight issue as you might need to carry your adapter everywhere while traveling with this camera. Moreover, the slow burst rate might become an issue, but you cannot nitpick much in this price range.
Photography is an art, and learning its basics is the first step any photographer should take before developing their proficiency in the field. The above article lists some basic photography terms that you, as a budding photographer, might be afraid to ask your peers. The article also contains some of the best cameras that you should definitely consider as a beginner.
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