How To Decipher Photography Lingo And Why Brides Need To

The lingo of any photographer can be very difficult for the average person to understand. There are numbers and so many technical terms. Language that can send the head spinning. But it is good to know some of these terms and what they mean, especially when you are sitting down to interview wedding photographers. You want to make sure they are using some of the best technology and that they know what they are talking about. Plus, photographers always get a kick out of talking technical.


  • Photography – the word photography comes from two old Greek words “phos” meaning light and “graph” meaning to draw.  So photograph literally means to draw with light, or a drawing made with light.  So photography is the art of drawing with light. Just fun info!
  • DSLR – digital single lens reflex camera. Any digital camera with interchangeable lenses where the image is viewed using a mirror and prism, and the image is taken directly through that lens. What you see in your viewfinder is what the lens sees. If a photographer is shooting with film (SLR) it does not make he/she a bad photographer, just a little old school. However, I think digital gives us a lot of options, a faster turn-around time and a lot more fun in post-processing.

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  • Camera resolution – expressed in megapixels is the dimensions your camera’s sensor is capable of capturing. For example Canon’s new 6D has a resolution of 5472 x 3648 which equals 19,961,856, which they’ve rounded off to 20 megapixels. This is not the only factor in image quality, but generally the large the number, the larger prints you can produce from it without loss of quality. If you are familiar with the different DSLR camera’s out there then you can easily find out if your photographer is shooting with a top-of-the-line quality camera. If you are not familiar with theses cameras, check out  for a list of camera and their specs. Most Canon and Nikon D Series cameras are high-quality and shoot with a high resolution.
  • File format: jpeg vs RAW – most DSLR’s have the ability to shoot both formats. If you choose JPEG, the camera will shoot a RAW file, process it using the picture style you’ve selected in your menu, save it as a JPEG and discard the RAW version. If shot in RAW the resulting file will be larger, carry more information (but the same pixel resolution, see above) and require software to process. It gives you the photographer more control over the final look of your image. I only shoot in RAW. I would rather get as much info as possible in camera, and then compress the file in Photoshop after I have edited it. If you wedding photographer is not shooting in RAW I would ask he/she why not and request that they do (of find another photographer). RAW takes up a lot of memory but if you are a regular wedding photographer you should have multiple memory cards anyway
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  • Camera modes – manual: full manual the user is setting the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Shutter priority (Tv on a Canon or S on a Nikon) the user is selecting ISO and shutter speed, the camera is then choosing the aperture to make a correct exposure. Aperture priority (Av for Canon users, A for Nikon) the photographer selects the ISO and aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed. One is not better then the other, just used for different reasons and differently for different photographers. For example, I shoot in Aperture Priority when I am shooting in natural light. Not because I don’t know how to set my camera in manual but because I am working quickly and if my camera can help me out by doing some thinking for me I am happy to take it. Of course, you still have to manage your settings so your camera doesn’t make decisions you don’t want. When I am using my flashes, I am always in manual. I want to be in full control. My flashes are also in manual so I can make decisions for them.

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  • Fast glass – refers to a lens with a very large maximum aperture such as f1.8 or f1.2. “Fast” as in, it allows you to shoot at a fast shutter speed due to the large aperture. These lens are great for low-light situations as well as very shallow depth for portraits or detail shots (photo above is a example of shallow depth).
  • Bokeh – correctly pronounced as “bo-ke” like the ke in kettle. It is used to described the out of focus blurred bits in the background when “fast glass” is used. Most often bokeh occurs where small light sources are in the background, far in the distance. This is a fun way to make lights and the background very architectural and interesting.
  • Lens flare – occurs when the light source hits the lens directly, it can manifest as a hazy looking image or artifacts such as circles of light. Some photographers actually desire lens flare and position their camera to create it and use it as a compositional element (see image below)

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  • Golden hour – also called “magic hour” is the hour right before sunset or right after sunrise. The sun is low on the horizon and it is an optimal time for photography. This isn’t always possible when planning out your wedding day but if you know to ask your photographer for a photo at the Golden Hour I am sure he/she can make one or two happen.


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