The 10 Photography Terms You Need to Learn Right Now

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The 10 Photography Terms You Need to Learn Right Now

Once you enter the world of photography, you will start hearing a whole new vocabulary.  Here are ten terms you will regularly hear when reading and talking about photography.  Study up, cuz’ you’ll want to know when and how to use them…  You know, so that you can sound like one of the “cool kids.”

Photography Term #1


You will often see the letters SOOC when you’re in a Photography Facebook Group or surfing forums.  Photographers who are showing photos or talking about editing will often refer to an image as SOOC.  These letters are an acronym for “Straight Out Of Camera,” meaning the picture you are looking at was taken directly from the camera and has had no editing whatsoever.  Most often, SOOC refers to RAW photos.

Photography Term #2


The term RAW refers to a type of file that your camera saves.  An image saved as complete and with unprocessed data from the image sensor is called a RAW file.  When you initially look at a RAW file, it will look flat and rather dull.  That’s because it is chock full of information, but the camera has not tweaked any of that information to produce the color mix you desire.  This is where the artistry of photography comes in.

Think of a RAW file like a RAW vegetable.  You can enjoy it straight out of the camera for what it is, but it will likely be much more delicious once you’ve cleaned it up and cooked it to your particular recipe.  Your recipe is your style of editing.  If you want to step up your photography to the next level, you will most definitely want to master editing RAW files.  If you want to fill your brain with fun information about RAW format files, click HERE.

Photography Term #3


Unlike a RAW file, a JPG file is smaller because your camera compresses and partially processes the photo’s information, or data, before saving it.  Your camera will also automatically apply some features, such as white balance, to the file before saving it.  Because your camera compresses the data, the actual file’s quality is smaller and contains less information.  With less information at hand, your editing possibilities are much more limited than with a RAW file.  If you want to fill your brain with fun information about JPG files, click HERE.

Related:  Everything You Need to Know About When and How to Creatively Use White Balance

Photography Term #4

Exposure Triangle

You will undoubtedly hear this term when you are first starting in photography.  The Exposure Triangle refers to your camera’s three settings that create your photos:  Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  These three settings work in unison to give you just the right exposure for your image:  not too dark and not too light.  If you change one of the three, you will likely need to change one or both others to compensate.

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Photography Term #5


The term Aperture refers to the diameter amount that the lens on your camera will open.  Think of it like the pupil of your eye; the larger the opening, the more light the lens allows into your camera to reach the sensor.  Your lens has sole control over your aperture.  The camera body has no control over the aperture.

Of course, you probably already know that different settings call for different amounts of light to produce the correct exposure for your photo.  There are a couple of bonus terms that you will want to remember when you’re talking about Aperture:  When you want to let more light in, you want your aperture to be open wider.  When you want less light, then you want a narrower aperture.

And finally, before we wrap up talking about aperture, we need a little note about f-stop.  The f-stop number is a way to measure aperture.  This part can get a bit confusing but stay with me.  I promise this will be simple once you get it mastered.  The bigger the f-stop number, the smaller the opening.  So when you have your aperture all the way open and the most light you can get is coming in, you will be shooting wide open and at the smallest number possible for that particular lens.

In conclusion, f/1.8 is wider than f/15.  In this case, if f/1.8 is the smallest number possible, then I’m shooting wide open and letting the most light possible into my camera with this lens.  (It’s okay if you need to reread this part.  It took me a while to get my brain wrapped around it, too!)

Keep Reading, Keep Learning!

When you’re ready to learn more about Aperture, be sure and visit Photography Facts – The 5 Things You Need-to-Know about Aperture.  After you finish there, take it to the next step and learn How To Use Aperture To Produce Epic Starbursts in Your Photos.

Photography Term #6

Shutter Speed

The term Shutter Speed refers to the length of time that your camera shutter is open.  The longer the shutter is open, the more light reaches the sensor.  The lens completely controls the aperture.  Your camera body is entirely responsible for setting the shutter speed.

Photography Term #7


The term ISO, pronounced ‘eye-sew,’ stands for International Standards Organization.  Even after many years of studying photography, I still had to look up what those letters stand for to write this article.  Knowing what they stand for is far less important than knowing what the heck to do with ISO when taking photos.  In short, ISO refers to the standardized industry scale for measuring how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to the light that hits it.

We measure ISO in numbers, and most cameras begin around 100, indicating the least sensitivity.  The higher the number, the more sensitive your sensor becomes to the light.  ISO is a great feature to help you in lower-light situations.  Nowadays, almost all DSLR cameras will allow you some control over your ISO, but be sure you take some time to learn about when it’s best to crank that ISO high up or when to keep it as low as possible.  Mastering when and how to use ISO will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.

Photography Term #8

Fast Lens

You may hear experienced photographers throw around the term “fast lens.”  A fast lens is one that has a very large aperture.  As you know from reading about aperture above, the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture.  The bigger the aperture, the more light can get to the sensor, thus allowing a faster shutter speed, hence a “fast” lens.

Photography Term #9


This photography term is pretty simple.  OCF is an acronym for Off-Camera Flash.  Most cameras have a built-in pop-up flash unit, but sometimes we need to add a little extra light to our scene.  Enter OCF.  You can pick up one of these handy little units HERE.  Also referred to as a Speedlight, this useful tool can either be mounted directly onto the top of your camera or placed on a stand nearby and used with a radio trigger like THIS to bring in a pop of light from whatever direction suits you.

Photography Term #10

Long vs. Wide

A long lens is one that reaches a long way to get a nice, close-up image.  In other words, a big zoom lens.  A wide lens allows you to take in a very wide view from side-to-side.  The bigger the number in mm equals the bigger the zoom.  For example, a 200mm lens would be great to get a nice closeup of that squirrel across the yard without spooking him.  A 24mm lens would give you a lovely landscape shot of your whole yard with the squirrel as part of the scenery.  Here’s a great example.  When I attend my son’s soccer games, I bring both lenses.  Some of my favorite images are the long shots of the kids’ great facial expressions up close.  I also like to capture some wide shots of the field, showing the action across the entire scene.

My favorite two long lenses are the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 G2 and my Tamron 150-600 f/2.8 G2.  The 70-200 is amazing for portrait works like what is featured here:  How to Get the Most of a Location for Private Senior Portraits.  I always love the 150-600 for nature and wildlife as featured here:  When Dreams Come True: Photographing Bald Eagles in the Wild.

My favorite wide lens is the Tamron 15-30 2.8 G2 model.  It is amazing for landscape shots and real estate photos.  I also use it when I need to capture a large group of people in one shot, as shown here:  Use these 10 Prompts instead of Poses for Amazing Group Photos.

As always, if you have any questions about any of the terms talked about here, please message me!  I love to hear from my readers!

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2 thoughts on “The 10 Photography Terms You Need to Learn Right Now”

  1. Great post about photography terms! These are really important to know – especially if you’re a beginner! It took me years to figure these out!

    • Thank you, Alyssa! It took me a while to get the “lingo” down, also! I’m still picking up new terms now and then. Perhaps I need another list of 10!


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