10 Photography Terms You Need to Learn Right Now

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

1 - SOOC

You will often see the letters SOOC when you’re in Facebook Groups or surfing forums.  Photographers who are showing photos or talking about editing will often refer to a photo 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.

2 - RAW

This term refers to a type of file that you can produce in your camera.  A RAW file is a photo saved as complete and unprocessed data from the image sensor of your camera.  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 none of it has been tweaked to produce the color mix that you desire.  This is where the artistry of photography comes in.  Think of a RAW file like a RAW vegetable.  It can be enjoyed straight out of the camera for what it is, but it will likely be much more delicious once it’s cleaned up and cooked up to your particular recipe.  Your recipe would be 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_image_format)

3 - JPG

Unlike a RAW file, a JPG file is smaller because the information in the photo is compressed and partially processed in camera before being saved.  Your camera will also automatically apply some features, such as white balance, to the file before saving.  Because the information is compressed, the quality of the actual file is not only smaller, but also 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.

4 - Exposure Triangle

You will undoubtedly hear this term when you are first starting out in photography.  The Exposure Triangle refers to the Aperture, the Shutter Speed, and the ISO.  These three settings work in unison to give you just the right exposure for your photo:  not too dark and not too light.  If one of the three is changed, one or both of the other will likely need to be changed to compensate.

5 - Aperture

This term refers to the diameter amount that the lens on your camera will open.  Think of it like the pupil of your eye, the bigger the opening, the more light that comes into the camera and hits the sensor.  Aperture is controlled completely within the lens, not the camera body.

Of course, you probably already know that different settings call for different amounts of light in order 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 possible light into my camera with this lens.  (It’s okay if you need to read this part again.  It took me a while to get my brain wrapped around it, too!)

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

6 - Shutter Speed

This term refers to the length of time that your camera shutter is open.  The longer the shutter speed is open, the more light reaches the sensor.  Unlike aperture, which is controlled by the lens, shutter speed is handled completely from within the camera body.

7 - ISO

This term, pronounced ‘eye-sew’, stands for International Standards Organization.  In my many years of studying photography, I actually had to look up what those letters stand for to write this article.  Clearly, 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.  ISO is measured 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.  This 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.  This will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.

8 - Fast Lens

You may hear this term thrown around if you’re in the company of other experienced photographers.  A “fast” lens is one that has a very large aperture.  As you know from reading about “Aperture” above, then you know the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture.  The bigger the aperture, the more light that can get to the sensor, thus allowing a faster shutter speed, hence a “fast” lens.

9 - OCF

This one is pretty simple.  OCF is an acronym for Off Camera Flash.  Most cameras have a built-in popup flash unit, but sometimes we need to add a little light to our setting.  Enter OCF.  You can pick up one of these little babies HERE.  Also referred to as a Speedlight, this handy tool can be used either 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.

10 - Long vs. Wide

A long lens is one that reaches a loooong way to get a nice, closeup image.  In other words, a big zoom lens.  A wide lens is one that 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.  I bring both lenses with me to my son’s soccer games.  I like to catch some long shots of the kids’ great facial expressions up close.  I also like to catch some wide shots of the field, showing the action across the entire scene.

See my current (not my dream lens, but it works fine til I upgrade) long lens HERE.

See my favorite wide lens HERE.

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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  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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