Don’t you just love how us photographers speak in another language? I like it call it photospeak myself. What are all these crazy terms and why should you care? Well, it’s all part of making an informed decision. The investment in professional photography isn’t cheap (yes, there is a difference between a professional photographer and a national chain studio – say Sears, JcPenney, Target, etc), so knowing what you are getting and that your photographer knows what they are doing is pretty doggone important. After all, these are your memories we’re talking about.
I could talk terms all day . . . . there are quite a few, but this will just cover some basic terminology that will help you understand what the heck a photographer is talking about.
DSLR — Digital Single-Lens Reflex. These are the cameras that most professional photographers carry. I won’t get into the technicality of what it is . . . . But why do you care what your photographer uses? Well, some of the reasons you want a professional photographer to use a DSLR:
- They have bigger sensors than a point and shoot camera. Bigger sensor = more data. More data = higher quality image.
- Interchangable lenses. The ability to change the lens on a camera means more versatility.
- Manual mode. In manual mode, the photographer has the ability to control all the settings on the camera (more below). Some point and shoot cameras do have this feature, but in combination with the other stuff, the DSLR still wins.
- The ability to use an off camera flash. Flashes on top of the camera can give harsh light and shadows – not always what you are looking for. Lighting is uber important in photos.
RAW — this sounds like a wrestling show on TV, but really it’s a image file format (well sort of). Its the data that your camera collects from the sensor when you take a photo . . . . all of it, without any processing or compression from the camera. When a photographer “shoots in RAW” they have the ability to control the final photo much more than if they were to shoot in JPEG (see below). This gives the client better images. The downside, is that RAW images take up a lot of hard drive space (more information – bigger file) and require a special program in order to even be able to see them. All RAW images have to be processed and converted before you, the client, can get your final image (but it is sooooo worth it in terms of quality). Editing RAW images does not cause deterioration of the images – no data is lost.
JPEG — this is the other side of the coin. Most people know basically what this is, but the details usually are a little fuzzy. Most DSLR cameras have the ability to shoot in both RAW and JPEG. JPEG looks better straight out of the camera, which sounds ideal, but that’s because the camera has decided on settings, contrast, color balance. The camera’s firmware decides how to process the image as it is taken and throws out the excess data, this results in a smaller file. JPEGs can be edited, but at a cost. The more you edit a JPEG the more data you lose, which will deteriorate the image.
MANUAL/AUTO — Sounds simple . . . . really is. In Auto mode, the camera’s firmware decide what the settings should be (which isn’t always correct). In Manual, the photographer chooses the settings (usually with much better results). Auto can work, but Manual mode is consistently better.
AVAILABLE LIGHT/NATURAL LIGHT — Fairly straightforward. Some photographers don’t use extra lights, they take their photos in the available light . . . . . whatever is available, this could be a lamp, a flashlight or sunlight, etc. . Natural light is similar, but usually refers to sunlight or natural light.
ON-LOCATION/IN STUDIO – On location is wherever you want it to be. That could be a park, the beach, your house. The photographer comes to you or you meet in an agreed upon location. In studio refers to a photographer’s studio, either a business location or an in home studio. If a photographer is doing an in studio portrait of you . .. .you go to wherever they are. This usually involves backdrops and special lighting.
There you have it, a very basic bit of information about the terms commonly used by pro photographers. Want to know more? Let me know and I will do my best to shed some light on it. Till next time,