How to Talk Like a Professional Photographer

by Valerie Johnston | April 30, 2013

Have you ever spent much time around professional photographers? If you have, you know they have their own language that can leave the layman feeling out of the loop. If you plan on becoming a pro, then you simply must learn to talk like a pro. Do not worry though. Professional photographer speak is much easier to learn than French! Below are some key phrases that belong to professional photographers specifically. In the world of digital photography, if you throw out these phrases here and there, you will surely sound like a pro yourself.

"This Lighting is Perfect for Drama"

Anytime you can work in a comment about lighting, the better. Pro photographers simply live for lighting, and the more you talk about it, the better you will sound. It really does not even matter what you say about the lighting. In digital photography, even the simplest lighting comment can make you sound like a pro. A few phrases to consider include:

  • "I would really prefer subtle lighting for an image like that."
  • "Your lighting on this picture is unbelievable!"
  • "Natural lighting is definitely the best way to go."
  • "Who doesn’t love buttery light?" This refers to a soft yellow light easy to capture at dawn or sunset.

"It's soft"

Soft photos refer to images that are very slightly out of focus. It is not enough to appear blurry. Instead, it is just out of focus enough to be annoying. Many amazing photos are never seen because they are a little "soft"

"What are you shooting at?"

To a layman, that sentence makes little sense, but if you ask a pro photographer, they will respond immediately if they are in the middle of taking photos. This question is simply asking what camera settings the photographer is currently using for a particular session. You ask it and the photographer might respond, "I'm at f2.8 ISO 100...shooting at 250th of a second".

"I will fix that in post" or "I can edit that out"

Any professional photographer knows the importance of editing software. While the phrase "Photoshop it" has become popular among non-professional photographers, a pro would simply refer to the process as editing since it can involve any number of editing tools.

"This Shot is Way too Magenta" (or Cyan, or Yellow)

Showing that you recognize color problems is a big step toward sounding like a pro at digital photography. Most images need some level of color correction, and poorer quality cameras will almost always create images that are too magenta or cyan...That can have to do with the white balance or just the way the camera sensor is designed. Some of this can be corrected in post processing (ie Photoshop or Lightroom), but it is always nice to get the white balance correct when you take the photo.

"I Prefer to Shoot Wide Open" or "I Love 2.8" or "That is Beautiful Bokeh"

These both refer to aperture or f/stop. Aperture is a very important tool in controlling depth of field, and any pro in the world of digital photography knows how to use aperture. Whether you prefer wide open apertures or shorter depths of field, bringing it up is a good way to sound like a pro. Using a short depth of field will result in bokeh, which is a blurred light in the background.

"That Picture is Tack Sharp"

Anything that is sharp as a tack is pretty sharp for sure. When a photo is tack sharp, it is considered to be as in focus as possible.

"I Will Never Get Anything Done if I Keep Chimping"

This interesting little phrase refers to looking at the preview picture every time you take a picture. Most professional photographers consider this an action of an amateur, but only the pros know the phrase.

"I Only Shoot RAW" or "I Only Use Prime Lenses"

Commenting on something you do because it is a professional trait can definitely show your pro knowledge. Very rarely do amateurs shoot their images in RAW (preferring the simplicity of JPEG) or even know what prime lenses are.

You can learn pro photographer speak and you do not even have to buy translation software! With a little study, you can learn the lingo and sound like a pro too.

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A good time to break the rule of thirds and place your subject in the middle of the frame is when you have symmetry on the left and right side of the center of the photo.


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