Photography Terms — A Definitive Guide

Every photography term you need to know if you’re going to pursue a career as a photographer.

photography terms

Photography is an industry full of art, creativity, design, and culture—it’s no wonder there are so many photography terms to describe the various elements of this beautifully complex profession. Photographers in particular have to be trained and ready for anything when they step into a photo shoot. They act as the leaders of the shoot and must be on top of their game in order to get the right shot. If you don’t know all the photography terms applicable to the field, you’ll appear to be an amateur.

A photographer’s sharpness on the job is measured by more than just providing directions and working towards a creative vision. Also important is the photographer’s grasp of photography terms, including a vast array of words and phrases. It’s paramount to master these terms because they will help you in directing a shoot, and also help you feel at ease within the photography community. Read on to learn the photography terms you need to know to pursue a career in the field.

Here Are All The Main Photography Terms


Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. The opening of the lens determines the camera’s exposure, which impacts how light or the dark the photo will be. A wide open aperture will let more light in, causing the image to be brighter, whereas a small aperture will only let a bit of light in, causing the image to be darker.


Bokeh is best described as the visual quality of the areas of a photographic image that are out-of-focus. Photographers usually use this effect in the background of a photo. This effect is created by wide apertures.

Burst Mode

In Burst Mode, the camera will continue to take photos as long as the photographer holds the button down. This mode is ideal for capturing many pictures in a matter of seconds.

Chromatic Aberration

This phenomena occurs when the color wavelengths of an image doesn’t focus on a common plane. This tends to happen with less expensive lenses.


A Composition includes all of the graphic elements, tones, lights, angles, subject matter of a particular photo.

Depth Of Field

This term signifies to what degree the image is out of focus. This depth field will vary based on the photograph and how much of the image is sharp.


A diffuser is a device that scatters light in some way. This usually gives the product of soft light. Soft light occurs when a light source is larger than the subject.


This term refers to the lightness or darkness of the image. A dark photo is considered underexposed, while a light photo is considered overexposed.

File Format

This is how a camera will record the image taken. The way the image is saved impacts how suitable it is for editing.

Focal Length

In photography terms, this describes the distance between the lens and the image on the film. Essentially, the Focal Length is how close up or zoomed in an image will appear.

Flash Sync

The Flash Sync determines when the flash is going to go off. While it usually occurs before the photo is taken, a photographer can manipulate the timing of the flash.


This is a measure of the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number, the more sensitive the camera is to light.

Long Exposure

This is when an image is exposed to a long shutter speed and can be useful in shooting still objects in low light.

Manual Mode

This mode allows the photographer to set the exposure instead of the camera doing it automatically. In this mode the photographer can choose the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Shutter Speed

This is part of the camera that opens and closes, allowing light in and the photo to be taken. The shutter speed is how long the shutter stays open (usually only a fraction of a second). The longer the shutter is open, the more light is let in.


A viewfinder is the hole a photographer looks through to take a photo.

If you have additional photography terms to add to this list, please mention them in the comments below.


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