5 Photography Terms Every Aspiring Photographer Should Learn to Boost Their Career

In photography, as in any industry, you must be on top of your game to succeed. If you’re a professional photographer or someone just starting out in the field, it’s crucial to learn as many photography terms as possible.

Not only will this help you better understand articles and tutorials, but you’ll also be able to communicate more effectively with clients, editors, and other photographers. Understanding the nuances that exist and knowing the ins and outs can make or break your career.

In today’s post, we’ll go over five key photography terms that every aspiring photographer should know.

man working on photography project

What Does Composition Mean in Photography?

First and foremost, let’s start with composition. Composition isn’t unique to photography but applies to all forms of visual art. In basic terms, the composition of an image is the placement or arrangement of visual elements in relation to one another.

In photography terms, composition is vital to creating a well-balanced, eye-catching photo. Think of it this way – a photographer is like a conductor, and each element in the photo is like an instrument in an orchestra. The photographer’s job is to arrange all the visual elements, so they work together to create a harmonious image.

There are countless ways to compose a photograph, but some basic guidelines can help you get started. The main elements of composition are:

  • Lines: Lines can lead the eye through the image and create a sense of movement. They can be literal lines, like those created by a road or horizon. Implied lines are those made by the edge of a table or the curve of a river.
  • Shape: Shapes can also create movement and direct the eye. They can be geometric shapes, like squares and circles, or organic shapes, like clouds or mountains.
  • Texture: The surface quality of an object is its texture. Texture can add depth and interest to an image. You can also use it to give the illusion of movement.
  • Form: Form is the three-dimensional quality of an object. In photography terms, It refers to an object’s height, width, and depth.
  • Pattern: Pattern is the repetition of lines, shapes, or colors. It can add interest and visual rhythm to an image. For example, a brick wall is a type of pattern. 
  • Color: Color is one of the essential elements of composition. You can play on colors to create mood, contrast, and harmony.
  • Value: Value is the darkness or lightness of a color, and is used to create depth and contrast.
  • Space: Space is the area around, above, and below an object. It’s what creates a sense of balance and harmony. There is both positive and negative space. Positive space is the main subject of an image, while negative space is the empty space around it.

As you can see, there are many different elements to consider when composing a photograph. If that wasn’t enough, there are also principles of composition, which are guidelines for arranging design elements. The most important principles of composition are:

  • Balance: Balance is the distribution of visual weight within an image. An image can be symmetrical, where the elements are evenly distributed on either side of the center, or asymmetrical, where the elements are not evenly distributed.
  • Contrast: Contrast is the difference between light and dark or between colors. High contrast creates a strong visual impact, while low contrast is more subtle.
  • Emphasis: Emphasis is the act of drawing attention to one particular element in an image. This is usually done by making that element larger, darker, or brighter than the other elements.
  • Movement: Movement can be created by lines, shapes, or colors. It can make an image dynamic and exciting or create a sense of calm and serenity.
  • Unity: Unity is the overall feeling of harmony in an image. All the elements should work together to create a cohesive whole.

These concepts all come together through a series of composition rules and techniques that have developed over the years. The rule of thirds is probably the most widely used, so we’ll cover it below.

What is Bracketing in Photography?

Sometimes, a single photo isn’t enough to capture the perfect image. This is where bracketing comes in. In photography terms, bracketing is the practice of taking multiple pictures of the same scene or subject but with different exposure settings.

For example, you may take one photo at the correct exposure, one underexposed, and one overexposed. Doing so increases your chances of getting at least one perfectly exposed picture. Alternatively, you can combine all three shots in post-processing to create a single, well-exposed image.

long exposure photography

You can also use bracketing for other settings, such as white balance and focus. White balance bracketing takes photos with different white balance settings to find the perfect color cast. Focus bracketing is taking pictures of the same subject at different focus points.

When bracketing, it’s essential to use a tripod so that the composition stays the same. If you handhold the camera, the photo may be slightly different each time, making post-processing more difficult. You should also have plenty of memory space, as bracketing can quickly fill your memory card!

What is the Rule of Thirds?

As mentioned above, the rule of thirds is a composition technique that can create balance and visual interest in your photos. The basic idea is to divide your image into nine equal sections using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Then, place the main subject of your photo at the intersection of these lines.

Compared to placing the subject in the center of the photo, this technique can create a more pleasing and visually exciting composition. The eye naturally draws to these intersections, so placing the main subject there develops a sense of balance.

Of course, the rule of thirds is just a guideline. You don’t always have to follow it strictly, and there are times when placing the subject in the center can work well. It’s also far from the only technique available.

The Golden Ratio is similar to the rule of thirds but has few tweaks. It is based on a ratio of 1:1.6 or one unit to 1.6 units. Along with the Fibonacci spiral, the Golden Ratio is found throughout nature and has been used by artists for centuries.

What is F-Stop in Photography?

Lighting is one of the most critical elements in photography. Photographers can use it to create different moods and atmospheres, which can drastically change a photo’s look. One way to control lighting is using a camera’s aperture or f-stop. The f-stop is the opening in the lens that allows light to pass through.

Usually expressed in fractions such as 1/4 or 1/8, the lower the number, the wider the aperture. More light enters the camera, resulting in a brighter photo. You can also use a wider aperture to create a shallow depth of field. This is when the background is blurred, and the subject is in sharp focus.

A higher f-stop number results in a smaller aperture, which lets in less light. Thus, the photo will be darker. You can also use it to create a deep field depth, where the foreground and background are in sharp focus.

The aperture size also affects the amount of detail visible in a photo. A large aperture (low f stop number) creates a dreamy, ethereal look by softening the details, while a small aperture (high f stop number) makes the details sharper and more defined.

Which you choose depends on the look you’re going for and the type of photo you’re taking. Portraits, for example, often benefit from a shallow depth of field, while landscape photos usually look best with a deep depth of field.

What are Leading Lines?

When taking a photograph, there is usually a primary subject or point of interest that you want the viewer to focus on. Help lead the viewer’s eye to this subject by using leading lines. Leading lines are simply any line that leads from the foreground into the photo’s background.

They can be created by various things, such as roads, fences, rivers, or power lines. The key is to use them in a way that leads the eye towards the main subject. For example, you could use a road to lead the eye towards a mountain in the distance.

One of the best ways to find leading lines is to look for them while you’re out shooting. Train your own eyes to pick them out, and you’ll start seeing them everywhere. Once you find some, experiment with different compositions to see what looks best.

Keep in mind that leading lines don’t always have to be straight. Many lines curve or move diagonally. The important thing is that they lead the eye in a specific direction.

Learn More With CreativeLive

We’ve only scratched the surface of what you need to know as an aspiring photographer. There’s an endless list of photography terms and concepts that can be explored. If you’re serious about taking your photography to the next level, check out CreativeLive’s extensive collection of courses taught by world-renowned photographers. You’ll learn everything from how to take stunning portraits to how to start your own photography business.

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