How to speak “Photographer”


I have been guilty as anyone out there in writing and talking in industry-focused photography language. Terms like Bokeh, and “full frame”, and noise, get thrown around by myself and other professional photographer and it can make it very confusing. So here are a few photography terms to know when shopping for a photographer.

Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor: this refers to the size of the sensor in the camera. A Full Frame sensor is the digital equivalent of the 35mm film size. When shooting, full frame sensors gather more light so work better in low light situations and have better depth of field performance. Both are acceptable at your wedding, or event.

“Noise”: when taking a photo, whether on film or a digital sensor, you will have some element of grainy-ness in the photo. Depending on the sensitivity to light in which the shot was taken at, called ISO, the grainy elements might be so fine that you can barely see them on a Retina display when magnified 100x or it might be as high as to render the picture nearly un-usable. Below is a photo taken in semi-darkness at a basketball game on an iPhone vs. a photo I took in similar light conditions:

A high noise picture of myself and my friend Stephanie. Notice the lack of smooth colors and almost peppery black grain throughout the shadowy areas.

Low noise picture, still shot in a dark area. This was shot at a lower ISO, with my Canon 5D Mark III and has lower noise even when shot at a much darker environment than my other photo. See the difference?

Bokeh and Depth of Field: This is a phenomenon of all lens based photos. The lens will focus on a specific area, but in the background there will be a creamy out of focus area. Depth of field, refers to the amount of area in focus. Bokeh refers to the out of focus area itself. Notice the extremely creamy out of focus area in the photo below:

In the background you can see some of the guests, and yet with how creamy and smooth it is, the detail falls away, and it calls into attention the subject of the photo.

Aperture: In this case an aperture is one of the key parts to any photo. A good lens on an okay camera body will always trump an okay lens on a great body. In this case you might see an F-Stop rating such as F4 or F2.8. Like in golf, a smaller rating wins in this case. The lower the F number, the more light it brings in, and the shallower the depth of field and therefore the more bokeh it will render.

Diffused Flash/Bounce Flash: A flash as we have all seen with a camera on our cell has a habit of washing out photos. This leads to hard, harsh whites and reflections. To combat this you will often see a photographer put a white piece of plastic on the top of their flash unit. This is a diffuser that separates the frequencies of the light leading to a soft light. Another technique is to “Bounce” the light, which is typically done in smaller events. This allows the light to reflect from an above ceiling to be smoothed out as it reflects down. This might also help you understand why the photographer at the reception of the last wedding you were at wasn’t pointing the flash at the bride and groom. I use both techniques personally. This was taken today in the studio using the diffuser:

You’ll notice there are no harsh lights, and the color remains smooth across the photo.

Hopefully this will help you as you’re shopping around for a photographer. Finding the right photographer for your unique occasion can be difficult and that is why I’m here to help! Contact me to get a second opinion.

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