Article Written by Robyn Larkin on September 8, 2015

The Language of Photography

Learning to Speak Photography Jargon

To all you beginners out there, when it comes to understanding the language of photography we know how difficult it can be, especially when it comes to reading the “helpful” manual that comes with your camera for the first time. If you’re just starting out and need some basic explanations on photo jargon, you’ve definitely come to the right place.


ISO: ISO (International Standards Organization) represents the sensitivity of your camera’s digital sensor to light. The higher the ISO the easier it will be to shoot in a low light environment. The lower the number, the less sensitive. The higher the number, the more sensitive your camera will be to light.

Aperture: The aperture is the opening in your lens that allows light to pass through to the digital sensor or film (depending on your camera). Aperture works similar to the pupil in a humans eye. Pupils will shrink and dilate depending on the level of light within their surroundings.

Resolution: The resolution of a camera is the dimensions to which your camera is capable of capturing. A cameras resolution is measured in megapixels for Example. A camera with a resolution of 5472 x 3648 would be classed as a 20 megapixel camera.

Bulb: Bulb is represented by the “B” symbol in your camera settings. This is where the cameras shutter remains opened as long as the trigger is pressed down.

Exposure: The exposure is changed using the ISO, aperture and Shutter speed settings. When you change these settings it controls the total amount of light that reaches the digital sensor.

Bracketing: Bracketing can be defined as a series of images that are taken at different levels of exposure. This is controlled by the setting on your camera that says AEB (auto exposure bracketing).

DSLR: Any digital camera that has interchangeable lenses where the image is viewed by a prism and mirror. A digital single lens reflex camera will show you on your view finder exactly what your lens sees as the photograph is taken directly through the lens.

Shutter Speed: A camera’s shutter speed is how long the shutter is opened for during an exposure. A faster shutter speed will take a still image where as a slower shutter speed will blur everything in the image that is in motion. For Example. A shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second will freeze objects where as a shutter speed of 1/2 of a second will blur objects in motion.

Light Meter: A light meter is a device that measures the amount of light that is hitting a subject.

Ambient Light: Ambient light is defined as the light that is already present in the surroundings of which the image will be taken without adding any modified lighting such as an external flash.

Key Light: Key light is the main light source for the image. This could be a studio strobe external flash or any other intense source of light.

Reflector: A reflector is a device that is used to reflect light toward the subject of the image. Reflectors can be purchased especially, or a white piece of cardboard will also do the trick.

Fill Light: Fill light is the light used to fill in the shadows to whatever is desired.

Flash Sync: Flash sync is the the synchronization of an electronic flash and shutter speed.

Remote Flash Trigger: A remote flash trigger is a device used to fire speedlights off camera.

Gobo: Gobo is something that is used to block out stray light from falling on the subject of the photograph.

Lens Flare: A lens flare occurs when a light source such as the sun, hits the lens directly causing a flare of light across the image. Some photographers will incorporate a lens flare into their images.

ACR: Adobe Camera Raw

Blown Out: Having extreme highlights in white areas of a photograph that are so bright that there is no detail.

Camera Shake: Camera shake is when an image turns out blurry due to an insufficiency of a fast enough shutter speed while the camera is being held.

Shutter Lag: The time between when you press the trigger to when the shutter opens. In DSLR’s the lag is minimal but can be experienced and is virtually unnoticeable.

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