Photography Lingo Explained

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Lingo.

It always helps to speak the lingo doesn’t it? You know the one – you’re busy chatting away and all of a sudden someone drops an acronym into conversation. An acronym with a meaning you are totally clueless about. What do you do?

There seem to be three options. Do you ask? Do you ignore the fact it was mentioned? Or do you nod along and pretend that you know exactly what they’re talking about?

This post is hopefully going to help you understand some of the lingo we hear a lot around photography. We’re going to be talking White Balance, RAW or JPEG, Mega Pixels, Lenses and ISO. Five things it helps to understand if you’re getting into photography or if you’re constantly finding yourself just nodding along when someone drops in a technical term.

1. WHAT IS WHITE BALANCE?

Adjusting the white balance, is a process of removing unrealistic colours or colour casts from your images. This way objects which appear white in real life will appear white in your photos. Have you ever taken a picture of food indoors at night then looked at the picture and it seems blue or orange in colour? This is because the light source you’re using has a natural colour to it. For example, a picture taken in the shade will come out slightly bluer than a picture taken in the daylight.

Often the auto white balance on your camera is good enough when taking pictures. However, you can change your white balance in camera if you notice there is a colour cast. The most common white balances you can select in camera are: Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloud, Flash and Shade.

If you find your white balance isn’t looking right once you’ve uploaded your images then it is also possible to edit your white balance in post processing like this image below (check out our last photography workshop post on post processing if you’re unsure about this). If you’re shooting JPEG it’s best to ensure your white balance is right in camera. We’ll come onto RAW and JPEG in a minute.

White Balance

2. WHAT ARE RAW AND JPEG?

There are many different types of files. JPEG files are the ones we see most commonly. These are small more compressed files that most compact cameras and phones will shoot in. RAW is just a different file format to shoot in.

The difference between RAW and JPEG is that when shooting in RAW, which is an option on most DSLR’s, the RAW file is a much larger file that contains a lot more information and allows for more flexible editing. The RAW file will record all the details for exposure, white balance and more, whereas JPEG’s are smaller, compressed files. Having a RAW file is like having a digital negative that can be altered in more detail at a later date. The images below show just how much detail you can pull back in a RAW file.

You do have to have certain software to edit RAW files, however cameras such as Canon or Nikon usually come with free RAW file processing software.

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3. WHAT ARE MEGA PIXELS?

Megapixel means one million pixels. The more pixels that are in a picture, the more detailed that picture should be.

A common mistake when buying a new camera is that people simply look for the most mega pixels, thinking that the more mega pixels you have the better the camera will be, whereas the sensor size is just as important as the mega pixels.

Most DSLR cameras are rarely sold with less than 8 megapixels. The image below was taken on a 21 mega pixel camera, you can see when zooming in to 100% the quality is still incredible. So, when buying a new camera, whatever is in your budget get the largest sensor and the most mega pixels you can to ensure you’re getting the highest image quality.

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4. WHY DO I NEED MORE THAN ONE LENS?

The reason you might need different lenses really depends on your budget, your hobbies and the situation you will be taking photographs in. Most cameras come with a pre-packed (stock) lens which is fine for beginners.

However, when you find that the stock lens doesn’t meet your needs (if you enjoy taking landscape photographs, for example), then you may want to purchase a wide angle lens or, for food photography, you may require a macro lens.

There are many different lenses with different purposes: wide angle, tele photo, prime, macro and fish eye. The reason behind investing in a specific lens really depends on what you’re aiming to achieve. The landscape image below was taken on a wide angle lens. It takes a while to build up a collection of lenses and they’re not the cheapest, so give it time before you invest in something new.

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5. WHAT IS ISO?

ISO is one of those little technical terms that is usually mentioned alongside “aperture” and “shutter speed”. But what is ISO?

ISO is simply how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. For example, in daylight you should never need to go over an ISO of 400. Whereas at night, when there is little light, you might have to push your ISO up to around 1600.

There are disadvantages of having the ISO higher. Often with a higher ISO the image can be more noisy, so when looking at an image closely it would appear grainy and it can smudge or lose the details. Take a look at the amount of noise in the image below taken at 12,800 ISO, it’s only when you zoom in you notice it.

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There you go. Five little bits of photography lingo explained.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know then feel free to leave your question below for us and we’ll try answer them.

By Becky Arber – Becky started blogging in 2009, as a way to stay in touch with family and friends scattered all over the world. A busy mum of one, Becky is a lover of life, optimism and all things yellow. She blogs at Ar-Blog, a photography focused family blog.

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK's largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK's best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.

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