The A-Z of Photography Slang

I will teach you today the A-Z of photography slang. Are you often confused by some of the things your photographer friends say? Below is a compiled collection of common photography slang and obscure camera acronyms to help lift the veil on their mystery. This is by no means a complete list.

The A-Z of Photography Slang


Artifact - A loose term to describe an element that degrades picture quality. Anything from the blockiness that can occur when pictures are heavily compressed as JPEGs, to the distortion to pictures that occurs with heavy manipulation – even the effect you see with lens flare.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


ATGNI - All The Gear, No Idea. A photographer who has lots of camera equipment but doesn’t know what half of it does. A bit of an Uncle Bob, in fact (see below for Uncle Bob).
Via: digitalcameraworld.com
BIF - A rare acronym that you’ll only see floating around bird photography forums. There’s a clue right there: BIF stands for Bird in Flight, and is usually brought up during lengthy technical discussions about autofocus point selection and focus modes.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


Bigma - The Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 lens earned the nickname ‘Bigma’ thanks to its considerable 10x zoom range and considerable proportions.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


Blown out - Bright areas in a photo that are overexposed are said to be blown out. They won’t hold any detail and will be bleached white.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Bokeh - Technically, bokeh is “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light,” but photographers usually only use the term to describe the appealing polygonal or round out-of-focus light created by wide-open glass.
Via: businessinsider.com

Chimping - While there’s little harm in taking a test exposure and reviewing it on the camera’s LCD screen, be wary of photographers who check every single exposure. They’re chimping, and the habit will make them miss more than the occasional shot.
Via: businessinsider.com


Clipping - This is what happens to the histogram when you grossly overexpose or underexpose a picture (find out how to read a histogram). In an overexposed shot, the histogram will usually be bunched up on the right and parts of it will be ‘clipped’ off by the edge of the graph. If the histogram is bunched up on the left and clipped by the opposite side of the graph, this usually indicates an underexposed photo.
Via: businessinsider.com

CTO - CTO is an abbreviation for “color temperature orange.” It’s the color of gel that comes with nearly all hot-shoe flashes, and its standard purpose is to color-correct the flash to match incandescent lighting.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


DoF - An acronym for Depth of Field, or the zone of perceived sharpness in a picture that extends out from the point of focus towards the camera, and beyond it, towards the horizon.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Double truck - Magazines pay freelance photographers based on the printed size of an image. A double truck earns the most because it covers an entire two-page spread.
Via: businessinsider.com

Dragging shutter - When a slow shutter speed is used along with a flash, it’s referred to as “dragging the shutter.” The benefit is that it creates a natural-looking image by allowing ambient light into the background, while the flash lights the subject.
Via: businessinsider.com

Dust bunnies - DSLR sensors get dirty, especially when changing lenses outside in poor weather conditions. The resulting dust bunnies on the sensor turn into dark splotchy marks on every photo, which then must be digitally removed.
Via: businessinsider.com


Fast glass - Photographers say “glass” instead of “lens.” Fast glass refers to any lenses with an f/2.8 or wider aperture. When these lenses are shot at their widest aperture, they’re “wide open.”
Via: businessinsider.com



Fill-in - A blip of flash to brighten up the shadows in a daylight picture is known as fill or fill-in flash. Set the flash to Slow Sync mode, and the camera will take care of this for you, automatically balancing the ambient light and flash.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Flare - Flare is a (usually unwanted) effect of having bright light sources in the frame, or just out of the frame. When the light source is in the frame, bright/coloured artifacts can be seen in the image. When the light source is just out of the frame but hitting the front element of the lens, it can make the picture appear hazy and washed out. Shielding the front of the lens with a lens hood or your hand can prevent this.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Gobo - The acronym for “goes between optics,” a gobo is any object used to control the shape of light from its source. In Hot Shoe DiariesJoe McNally describes how to use a number of different gobos, including soft boxes, barn doors, umbrellas, and gaffer tape.
Via: businessinsider.com

Grip and grin - The bane of event photographers, grip and grin photography is as uninspiring as it gets. It’s literally as simple as having your subjects squeeze close together and smile for the camera.
Grip and rip / Spray and pray.

Both of these terms refer to the act of setting the camera to its highest continuous drive mode and keeping the shutter button held down to try and capture a fleeting moment. The theory is that the more frames you fill, the more chance there is of at least one of them being acceptably composed and sharp.
Via: businessinsider.com

Halos - A term used to describe the glow that’s created around the edges of objects when they’ve been over-sharpened in Photoshop or other similar photo editing software.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


Long Tom - Rarely used by anyone other than the old guard of the photography world, ‘Long Tom’ can be used interchangeably for ‘telephoto lens’. The term is a direct reference to the Long Tom, a field gun used by the US Army during World World II.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Noise - Picture noise is the digital equivalent of film grain, although nowhere near as appealing (learn how to reduce noise at high ISO settings). Pictures become speckled and gritty as you increase the ISO sensitivity on the camera (because you’re essentially ‘turning up the volume’ on the light that’s being captured).
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Nifty fifty - A 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 of faster is known as a ‘nifty fifty’. Lenses in this range are fast, lightweight and frequently optically superb. But the best bit is the price. The f/1.8 and f/1.4 50mm lenses are often the best value bits of glass you can buy.

Photography Magic hour/Golden hour - A term tossed about by earnest landscape photographers that refers to the time after dawn and before dusk where the sun tends to be at its warmest and most interesting. Shooting landscapes in this golden light gives pictures soul, man… (for more on how to use natural light, check out our guide See the light like a pro: everything you were afraid to ask about natural light).
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Pixel peeper - Often found in online photography forums discussing the benefits of a FX camera sensor, rather than behind the lens making images, a pixel peeper is the Photoshop geek who opens an image file and immediately zooms into 600% to determine the image quality.
Via: businessinsider.com

Pap/Papping - Easy one this – Pap is the shortened version of Paparazzo and Papping is what they get up to.

Prime - A lens with a fixed focal length (such as 20mm, 50mm, 80mm). Zoom lenses cover a range of focal lengths (such as 80-200mm).


OOF - Out of Focus. An acronym often seen in online picture critiques As in “I like the way you’ve made the grass OOF”.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Racked out - A zoom lens is racked out at its longest focal length.
Via: businessinsider.com

RTFM - As in “What does X button do? How do activate Y mode? Where do I find Z function in the menu?” “RTFM!”

Often spat in the direction of people who repeatedly ask questions about their camera functions on internet forums, RTFM stands for Read The Frikkin’ Manual.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Shutterbug - An American term for a photographer who eats, drinks and sleeps photography. Shutterbugs carry a camera with them at all times and shoot absolutely everything without mercy.
Via: businessinsider.com

Shutter nutter - The British version of shutterbug. Shutter nutters are slightly less refined than shutterbugs, however, and can often be found at cruising camera trade shows, repeatedly photographing ‘booth babes’.

Soft focus  - This term is pure photographer BS. It’s usually used to describe an image that isn’t sharp but is submitted to a client out of necessity.
Via: businessinsider.com

Stop - A stop is a measure of exposure, usually referred to as ‘EV’ (Exposure Value) in cameras. The aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings on a camera can all be measured in stops, although the actual figures used are different across all three. Each stop represents a doubling or halving of exposure.

Tog - The abbreviated form of ‘Photographer’ has become the Marmite of photography slang. You either love it or loathe it. It makes us feel slightly nauseous.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com


Touching up/retouching - The process of enhancing a picture in image editing software. This term is often used to describe the process of whitening eyes and teeth, and improving skin tone on a portrait, although the idea of ‘touching up a model’ is a little unsavory…
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Uncle Bob - The name that wedding photographers give to a wedding guest who comes armed with a big DSLR, big lenses and expensive flash gun. Often used derogatorily, as in “A right Uncle Bob was always getting in my way.”
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

UWA - Acronym for Ultra Wide Angle lens.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Wide open - When a lens is set at its smallest f-number, such as f/2.8 or f/4, it’s being used ‘wide open’. At this point, the aperture (the hole in the lens) is at its maximum, letting in as much light as possible. Wide apertures mean shorter shutter speeds are required to take a picture, so lenses are often used wide open to take pictures of sport and action.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

Zeroed - Zeroing a camera is as easy as returning it to its default settings — lowering its ISO, resetting the WB, and dialing in neutral exposure compensation. It’s a good habit to do at the end of every shoot, so that the camera is ready to go for the next session.
Via: businessinsider.com


Zoom creep - Not a dirty old man with a long lens, but rather what happens if you point a superzoom lens up or down, and the zoom position slowly shifts.
Via: digitalcameraworld.com

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