Deal 10: A hot topic, at a hot price!
Editor’s note: Due to technical issues we’ve lost the images on this article. Our sincerest apologies. For am more updated version try Deciphering Photo Jargon – Learn to Speak “Photographer”
When I first started reading up on photography, there were quite a few words I would notice at least once a day and think…’huh?’ Of course, I’m a technology baby and grew up on Google.
It’s not hard to find any info you want on the internet within a nanosecond, although it’s also easy to find wrong information in cyberspace and wind up looking like a real idiot when you try to use the info you found on the internet only to be completely wrong! Here are a few trendy terms you might be hearing and the truth about what they really mean.
1. “Bokeh” – Definition: ‘Bokeh’ is a Japanese term which means ‘blur’ or ‘haze’. There is an argument out there about whether it is actually Japanese or not.
Often used to describe photography which has a blur in the background and especially those round blobs of light.
It’s difficult to say how to actually pronounce ‘bokeh’. Personally, I say it in a way that rhymes with ‘polka’ but others claim that it’s pronounced ‘boke’ which rhymes with ‘broke’.
There are many groups on Flickr which specialize in photos with bokeh and photographers who pride themselves on producing beautiful imagery with bokeh which isn’t rendered in Photoshop (you can fake bokeh using brushes or texture layers but shhhh don’t tell anyone I told you!)
A great essay on bokeh can be found here.
2. “Ethereal” – Many photographers or avid viewers of photography have a strong preference leaning towards photography with ethereal qualities.
The definition of ethereal is “of or relating to the regions beyond the earth”. An alternative definition: “marked by unusual delicacy or refinement”.
Photography which has ethereal traits tends to be dreamy or surreal.
This beautiful photograph is by photographer Shana Rae.
I often use her textures to achieve the same beautiful ethereal results. You can find them here.
3. “Vintage” – Vintage is a pretty straightforward term. It would encompass photography which has an old feel in the subject, colours or textures.
A vintage feel can be achieved using many types of presets for Lightroom or textures and actions for Photoshop.
This photo is from photographer Rebecca Lily. She makes beautiful Lightroom presets for a vintage feel.
4. “Monochrome” – Just another word for ‘grayscale’ or ‘black and white’. I have been sitting here for ages writing a detailed explanation about how monochrome is different shades of the same colour and how that doesn’t make sense because black and white is NOT different shades of the same colour and then just confused myself beyond belief!
So all we really need to know is that it’s another way of saying black and white. It could also apply to sepia or a blue tinted photo – just as long as the photos is all different shades of the same colour.
A little tip for you Lightroom users: when viewing a photo in the editing mode, typing ‘v’ will show you your image in grayscale and then typing it again will bring you back to colour. Just something I figured out while writing this. That tip is FREE!
Gee, I wish I could think of anything else – I’m on a roll! Please comment with other terms you’ve heard and I’ll do my best to shed light!
September 18, 2009 12:32 pm
monochrome photo means a photograph having any particular Hue. Black means no light, i.e. no colour, and, white has all colours. So monochromatic photo should have only one Hue of colour, may be bright or saturated. Black and white photograph cannot be a monochrome photograph. It is only Black and White.
by Chandrashekhar Bapat.
September 17, 2009 05:34 am
@Vincent: Wow I'd love to know about those things, too! :) Go for it, I'm listening!
September 16, 2009 05:59 pm
Plenty of folks have covered the bokeh issue and their pronunciation hints are spot on. I'll try to add rather than repeat. The reason it has an "h" on the end when rendered in the roman alphabet is to tip people off that it should be a soft short vowel E sound, and not a long E sound.
(Protip: Any time you see a Japanese word ending in H, it's a pronunciation hint for us foreigners and not actually present in the Japanese.)
Also the word "blur" in English can be used quite a variety of ways. "It's too early in the morning and my head is a blur," is certainly only a very loose connection to, "this picture is blurry," but perhaps somewhat better connected to, "the old man's brain was blurred by senility." The Japanese word "bokeh" also hits every one of these meanings, so in many respects it's one of those rare cross-language exact matches. To actually form verbs vs adjectives vs whatever one must conjugate differently, but "bokeh" still forms the root in every case.
That said, you don't have to believe me. Here's a link to the translation via my favorite Japanese-English dictionary:
-Gavin in Kumamoto, Japan
September 16, 2009 05:53 pm
I think words I would like to add to this (great) list are:
- IR photography
- Long exposure photography
- Macro photography
- Stereo 3D photography.
Actually all the things I like to do :D
September 16, 2009 08:51 am
Cross processing is a film photography term. You take a particular kind of film and process it using chemicals and technique for another kind of film. If done right it can have impressive effects (I assume if you do it wrong it just doesn't work).
Imagine if you changed the filename of your .jpg to .gif and all of a sudden everything increased in contrast.
I haven't done any film processing myself, but I'd like to...
September 16, 2009 06:41 am
Awesome! Thanks so much!
September 16, 2009 05:57 am
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it is a very hot topic right now. Basically the human eye can see far more dynamic range (the brightness between pure white and pure black) than a single exposure on a camera can. So you basically take multiple exposures of the same image and then "blend them" together to get a more dynamic range of colors and exposure.
When done right it looks gorgeous.
When done using an artistic flare, it gives the photo a hyper-real look that can be very pleasing.
When taken to the extreme, I have heard it called "clown vomit" due to the insane saturation and color.
Take a look around the net, and even here in DPS including the forums and you will find all different examples of HDR. My thought? It's art. Do what you want. If it looks good to you then who cares what others say? But everyone's a critic eh? :) And even I have looked at so called "clown vomit" and said "eeeeeeyow...enough already!" since they tend to be the most shared online.
But have I done it myself? Absolutely!
Anyway, yeah...just go take a look around. Plenty of info to be found on the net. And if it's for you or it's something that makes you go "huh...interesting" then give it a try!!!
September 16, 2009 05:07 am
How about HDR? I see it all over the place here . . . I get that it is several layers of differing exposure settings, but what do the letters stand for? What is the "purpose?"
September 16, 2009 03:02 am
"bokeh" is pronounced "bo-ke" as in "bow" and "kelp". Bo-ke.
It IS Japanese. We use the term boke to mean both someone that is an idiot...and for something that is out of focus. "Bokeru" means to go out of focus. Now, whether or not the original Japanese word came from some other language? I have no idea. But the original word itself is standard everyday Japanese :)
September 16, 2009 02:40 am
I thought this was an odd post. The headline is an over promise. "Coming to terms - Words you need to know" had me expecting a whole bunch of words, not just four.
Plus the terms seem quite random and unrelated. Bokeh and Monochrome are technical while Ethereal and Vintage speak to style. I would find a more comprehensive and focused vocabulary list more useful.
September 16, 2009 01:59 am
What about cross processing?
September 16, 2009 01:53 am
I don't want to seem a stick in the mud here, and I really REALLY don't want nor like to disagree with your descriptions, and i know that you are just trying to keep it simple...but Monochrome is not "just another way of saying black and white".
A Black and White which is just shades of gray could be considered as a monochrome...if you consider gray a hue, and I do because as a photographer I am dealing with light, not paint... but Monochrome is not just black and white.
Websters (as always) defines it the best:
": a painting, drawing, or photograph in a singlehue"
Hue could be an color on the color wheel red, blue, violet, yellow, etc. Sepia toning for instance is monochrome because there isn't any black or white left after the filter or chemicals are applied. It is all different tones of a single hue of some variation of orange. But it could just as easily be blue.
Incidentally, and slightly OT, unless you use a dedicated black and white printer that uses black and white paper, and chemicals (there are some out there), you will never get a true black and white image, because the printer will tone it in a way to make it appear black and white when they almost always a dark dark purple or blue, because they use color paper and chemicals. Try putting a black and white print up on a solid black or white matte board. Only then will you notice the colors that are in your black and white prints because your eye has a true black or white to compare it to.
Anyhew that's IMHO. :)
September 16, 2009 12:14 am
Speaking from within the camera sales world, on the 'macro' talk, macro lenses are usually supposed to have a reproduction ration of 1:4 or better. That means if something is 1" in real life it needs to be at least .25" on the imaging material (film, sensor) to be a macro. 1:1 is sometimes called "true" macro because it reproduces things the same size they were. Obviously crop factor affects how large the subject ends up looking, a grasshopper for example will fill almost all of a crop-frame, but might not quite fill a full-frame. But, it's what the /lens/ can muster up that decides if it's macro, and that's all down to those reproduction ratios.
Micro, any time we encounter it around here, is just Nikon's term for what everyone else calls macro. They're probably a bit more accurate with that.
Close-up photography is just as it sounds, getting up close. With any lens, the closer you focus the greater the magnification ratio gets. So, by getting close you can attempt to get macro work, but unless the reproduction ratio gets high enough it's not quite macro.
September 15, 2009 11:32 pm
soft focus would be interesting
September 15, 2009 10:33 pm
You can't add a word without an explanation of it! Unless you're asking for one?
You might need to be more descriptive - soft lighting, soft focus, soft in the head...
September 15, 2009 10:30 pm
I'd add "soft" to the list.
September 15, 2009 10:26 pm
@ Eric Mesa
And then of course you get engineers who think that macro should be kept for its original meaning - large things. I think micro also should be kept for SI unit use (eg a microgram is a millionth of a gram, a microsecond is a millionth of a second). While I'm at it, can I also say that the tool called micrometer should be renamed, and that cents should be replaced by tens of millidollars.
But language is as language does. If people use macro to mean close focus, maybe that's what it means now. Though there will always be the technicians for whom the jargon is useful and important.
September 15, 2009 10:18 pm
Lens manufacturers like to stretch the true a bit and any lens that focuses closer than normal they call a macro. The truth of the matter is that on a 35mm film camera if the bug or w/e you're photographing is recorded as the same size as real life, it's macro. So 1:16 - 1:6 is not officially macro. It's just close focus. I don't have a source for this definition, I've just read it in a million magazines and websites. But, then again, even Canon screws around with this. The 50mm f2.8 macro lens is not a true macro because the best it gets is 1:2.
September 15, 2009 10:14 pm
@Jared - Nah, the correct way of seeing it is just that white is a really light shade of black. Or maybe black is just really dark white.
@Eric Mesa - Do you have some sort of source for those definitions? Its a pretty messy topic - it'd be nice to have the right of it. Macro focus mode turns up on a lot of compact cameras and the term is thrown around a heap.
I've got an 80 - 200 mm lens, but if you twist the bottom it flips around to "macro" mode with ratios 1:6 to 1:16. I haven't used it really, its a K mount with no brand, just "made in Korea" stamped on it.
September 15, 2009 10:06 pm
Wow thanks for all the great comments and further definitions you're surely a clever lot! :) As you can see, there are a plethora of other photography terms to be defined but I was mainly focusing on terms which deal with photographic styles, not technical stuff but you all seem to be tackling that bit just fine! :)
September 15, 2009 09:48 pm
macro is when the subject you photograph is reproduced at 1:1 size on a 35mm-size sensor. Kinda, it's a little off with digital photography, but that's pretty much what it means
micro is when you are magnifying the subject like a MICROscope
close up is when you're really close, but not macro
September 15, 2009 07:26 pm
Thank you so much for this useful article. :)
September 15, 2009 04:00 pm
Sure black and white is different shades of the same color, that color is gray.
September 15, 2009 03:38 pm
Great resources linked in this post!
September 15, 2009 03:31 pm
Thanks for sharing the terms and the links. I want to give the vintage look a try.
September 15, 2009 02:37 pm
Monochrome is not limited to black and white. It refers to images composed of a single color or hue. Here's a nice monochrome image featuring a bluish color: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photodocgvsu/3121940695/
September 15, 2009 02:08 pm
What's the difference between the terms - Macro, Micro and Close-up photography?
September 15, 2009 02:02 pm
Here's a couple more for ya:
Vignette (pronunciation: VIN-yett) is one that has a couple meanings.
In filmmaking, it's a short bit focusing around a particular subject.
In still photography, along with artificial aging/sepia toning, can make a photo look old, because old cameras typically had lenses that would severely darken the corners of photos.
Aperture (probably Lightroom, too) can add artificial vignetting, which can draw the viewer's eye to the center of a picture.
I have a Canon 24-105 lens which shows pretty heavy vignetting at 24 mm with the aperture wide open. Stop it down a couple steps, and it goes away. Sometimes it's an irritant, other times a jewel. :-)
Here's the other that many people seem to have a hard time getting their head around:
Depth-of-field: The area that is rendered in focus, measured from the distance from the lens to the subject, in a particular picture.
Depth-of-field is affected by the aperture setting of the lens. Small f-stop numbers/widest open setting (example: f1.4 or f2.8) will create a shallow depth-of-field, useful for portrait photography where you want to throw the background out of focus to accentuate the focused subject, usually a person.
High f-stop numbers/small aperture openings (example: f11, f18) increase the depth-of-field distance. In other words, more of the items in the picture will be in focus as measured by their distance from the lens. Large depth-of field is desirable in landscape photography, where you typically want everything to be in focus, from the grass right in front of the camera to the mountain range in the distance.
Depth-of-field, when manipulated judiciously, can be used as an artistic tool to draw the viewer's eye to a particular area of a photo as well.
Depth-of-field is usually abbreviated as "DoF" or sometimes just "dof" or simply"df".
September 15, 2009 01:49 pm
Oh, and it is pronounced as boke - so like how you would pronounce the letter "k", but with "bo" in front.
September 15, 2009 01:48 pm
I can attest that bokeh is indeed a Japanese word. It's a conjugation of the verb bokeru, which means "to fade (color)". So, it's a perfect description. ^_^
September 15, 2009 01:17 pm
Bokeh is pronounced in two syllables, the first sounding like 'bow' (as in bow and arrows) and the second is pronounced as a sort of mix between 'eh' and 'ay', like what Canadian people put at the end of sentences eh? That is, if it's Japanese.
September 15, 2009 01:03 pm
Nice article and great links! Thanks a lot!
September 15, 2009 12:58 pm
"bokeh" is not Japanese, but "boke" is. It's pronounced so that it somewhat rhymes with "okay". Probably derived from the Japanese word "bokeru", which means "to be blurry". So boke would just be "blur".
September 15, 2009 12:22 pm
Thanks for the article especially about Bokeh. The essay was interesting, too. As a beginner I do have a question and need some clarification....is the act of creating a Bokeh image the same as using creative depth of field when a foreground object is in focus and the background "thrown out of focus?" Does it mean the same?
September 15, 2009 12:03 pm
Great article. Thanks for sharing.
The reason you couldn't describe monochrome as different shades of the same colour is that black and white are not technically colours, they are tones.
So, to make a colour more saturated, you add black. To make it less saturated, you add white.
In that regard, "monochrome" simply means dominated entirely by different tones of the same colour.
Hope that helps. )
Keep up the great work.
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