Demystifying modern photography jargon

Making Pictures With Professional Photographer John Enman

This week I have been thinking about how photography has changed over the years since I first picked up a camera and how the new jargon used by photographers completely confuses some new people.

I recently got a call from what sounded like a young voice, asking if I could tell her if the camera she just received from a relative was an “LR”.

Fortunately, I knew what she meant and after asking her about the camera replied to her that, “Yes, it is an SLR”.

Another just this week was from a photographer complaining that, “My camera isn’t working.  I think there is something wrong with the chip.”

As he handed me his camera I worried that somehow the camera’s main computer wasn’t working,  until I turned it on and realized he was actually talking about the camera’s memory card, or the small image storage hard-drive we insert in the camera.

I am sure most readers know that SLR stands for single lens reflex.  Reflex refers to the word reflection that one sees after bouncing off a mirror in the optical path between the lens and the photographer’s eye.

A digital version of the SLR logically is referred to as a DSLR or digital single lens reflex.

I have also heard the word “chip” being used for the word sensor.

The sensor is a device in the camera that is struck by light (replacing film) when the picture is taken and millions of pixels convert the light into electrons.

Pixel means picture elements, and one megapixel is equal to one million pixels.

As long as I am writing about cameras and what helps them produce pictures, I should mention that if a camera makes JPG files that means joint photographic group, and if the camera makes RAW images (it’s not an acronym like JPG) it is using an image format that has no in-camera processing like JPG and needs a post processing program to make images.

For older readers who used to refer to a film’s speed as 50 or 400, what you were really referring to was a film’s sensitivity to light.

For years the film box said 400 ASA, or 400 American Standards Association.

Then in the late 1970s, I believe it changed to a more international designation of light sensitivity: ISO or International Standards Organization, the designation our modern cameras use.

When a photographer chooses an ISO that is too high for a particular camera the image might show noise, which means some pixels in your digital image were misinterpreted. Which can appear as random groups of red, green or blue pixels.

It might also be referred to as being pixelated.

When we used to push film higher than its capability we called it grain.

I will finish with a word that is constantly being written in camera reviews, resolution.

Resolution is the sensor’s ability to distinguish fine spatial detail. Camera resolution is measured in megapixels. The higher the resolution, the more image data the camera can gather.

I could just have posted several pages of terminology, however, the list is long and I am not sure how much photographers care about words they don’t regularly use when discussing their passion with other photographers.

I included some that I regularly explain to photographers that come to my shop.

These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. I sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment. Call me at 250-371-3069.