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Coming to Terms – Words You Need to Know

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.

I often use vintage presets I got for free here and textures from {Florabella}.

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!

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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