Photography Vocabulary

I have put together a list of photography vocabulary for ESL teachers and students at intermediate to proficiency level English. The vocabulary and the definitions both provide a wealth of specific words on this topic.

This photography vocabulary can also be combined with my photography lesson, which features an amazing slide show based on the BBC production of the Human Planet. If you are a teacher you will find it here, and if you are a student you will find it here.

If you would like a printable copy of this vocabulary to use in your classes, or for your own reference, you will find the download button at the bottom of this page.

Types of Photography

landscape photography photography that shows different spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, and often including urban, industrial, macro and nature photography
portraiture photography of a person or group of people that displays the expression, personality, and mood of the subject. The focus of the photograph is usually the person's face, although the entire body and the background may be included.
monochrome photographs that are black and white or sepia. Sepia tones have a hue that resemble the effect of aging in old photographs (different shades of brown).
macrophotography close-up photography, usually of very small subjects. Normally the size of the subject on the negative is greater than life size. However in modern use it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size.
aerial photography the taking of photographs of the ground from an elevated position. Normally the camera is not supported by a ground-based structure.
stock photography the supply of photographs licensed for specific uses

Photography Vocabulary - Equipment

darkroom a room that can be made completely dark to allow the processing of light sensitive photographic materials
SLR camera single-lens reflex camera is a camera that typically uses a mirror and prism system that allows the photographer to view through the lens and therefore see exactly what will be captured
a point and shoot also called a compact camera, there are no additional manual settings or options. The camera focus, flash and all settings are automatically set by the camera allowing users to simply point the camera at the subject and press the shutter button.
negative film for 135mm film cameras comes in long narrow strips of chemical-coated plastic or cellulose acetate. After each image is captured by the camera onto the film strip, the film strip is advanced so that the next image is projected onto unexposed film. When the film is developed, it is a long strip of small negative images.
negative image a total inversion of a positive image, in which light areas appear dark and vice versa
tripod used to stabilize and elevate a camera, a flash unit, or other photographic equipment. It has three legs and a mounting head to attach the camera
viewfinder what the photographer looks through to compose and to focus the picture

Photography Vocabulary - Terms

rule of thirds

exposure the total amount of light allowed to fall on the photographic medium (photographic film or image sensor) during the process of taking a photograph
shutter speed the effective length of time a camera's shutter is open i.e. the exposure time
aperture a hole or an opening through which light travels. In photography, the aperture is the opening that determines the angle of the rays that come to a focus on the image plane
rule of thirds guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections
time-lapse photography a technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured is much lower than that used to view the sequence. When played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster e.g. an image of a scene may be captured once every second, then played back at 30 frames per second

Photography Vocabulary - Verbs

to take a photo we don't normally say 'make' a photo, we say 'take' a photo!
to develop a photo creating a 'real' touch and feel photo onto photographic paper from the negative
to frame the shot to carefully compose the photo through the viewfinder
to crop it to trim the photo to the required size and composition (usually electronically)
to capture it to catch it in everlasting form

Downloadable Vocabulary List

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