32 things photographers say… and what they really mean

Photography has a language all of its own; a rich mix of camera jargon, lens acronyms and technical buzzwords that can be an utterly baffling sea of noise to beginners. But, with the internet and all, it doesn’t take long to know your f-stops from your fill-flash, and be able to separate HDR, DOF and TTL.

Forget photography slang terms and DSLR doublespeak, though. It’s the other things that photographers say – or rather don’t say – that are often more confusing. When a fellow photographer says that they’re ‘completely self-taught’ what are they actually trying to tell us?

If they describe themselves as a ‘fine-art’ landscape photographer, what are they really trying to say? Some of the things that spill from the mouths of photographers are loaded with double meaning…

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of things that photographers say, and provided translations of their true meanings. Just remember that our tongues were firmly in our cheeks when we put this together…

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When photographers say…
What are you shooting?
They actually mean…
Hello there! This is me, trying to break the ice.

When photographers say…
I work primarily with natural light.
They actually mean…
My flash exposures are awful. Seriously, they’re awful.

When photographers say…
I only carry out minimal post-processing.
They actually mean…
Photoshop confuses the heck out of me. I mean, I can shuffle the Unsharp Mask sliders left and right a bit, but I really have no idea what I’m doing.

When photographers say…
I love the way that you’ve processed your photos.
They actually mean…
I’d love to copy that look – can you tell me how you did it?

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When photographers say…
What I try to evoke through my photography is the feeling I experienced at the time of pressing the shutter.
They actually mean…
I see stuff and then take pictures of it.

When photographers say…
I try to capture a fleeting moment in time in my images.
They actually mean…
I see stuff and then take pictures of it. Or rather, I don’t see stuff as I tend to shoot at the fastest frame rate and HOPE TO GOD I get something.

When photographers say…
I prefer to work in the black and white medium.
They actually mean…
Man, I love the way I can rescue my bad exposures with a black and white conversion. Hopefully my burnt-out highlights and clipped shadows won’t be quite so obvious now.

When photographers say…
I love taking pictures of ordinary people.
They actually mean…
I can’t light a portrait to save my life – but craggy old folk or homeless people in unflattering light? Bingo!

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When photographers say…
There are so many alternatives to Photoshop out there!
They actually mean…
I can’t afford Photoshop.

When photographers say…
I’m thinking of switching to just shooting primes.
They actually mean…
Serious photographers use primes, right? I definitely want to be one of those.

When photographers say…
I’m a reportage-style wedding photographer
They actually mean…
Having to herd wedding guests into shape for a formal group portrait – let alone talk to them – absolutely terrifies me. The widest focal length you’ll catch me with at a wedding is the short end of a 70-200mm zoom. And don’t even get me started on off-camera lighting…

When photographers say…
(To a model) Just sit/stand how you feel comfortable
They actually mean…
Honestly, love, I really have no clue how to pose you for this picture.

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When photographers say…
I’m completely self-taught
They actually mean…
Hell, if you don’t think my pictures are any good now, you should have seen them a few years ago, before I read a photography magazine!

When photographers say…
For me, photography is about more than just taking pictures – it’s about telling stories.
They actually mean…
Yeah, those photos on my Flickr are supposed to be as blurred and badly composed as one of your dad’s Polaroids from the 70s – they’re documentary style, see?

When photographers say…
To be honest, my camera is just a tool
They actually mean…
To be really honest, I don’t know what half the stuff on my DSLR does. There’s only one tool in this picture-taking partnership, and it’s not the camera…

When photographers say…
I’m thinking of going full-frame
They actually mean…
I believe that a full-frame camera will instantly allow me to make professional-looking pictures. I know, tell me about it! That’s what I’m telling my wife/husband/partner, anyway.

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When photographers say…
I’m out of memory!
They actually mean…
Look, everyone! Look at how much of an enthusiast I am – I’ve filled 16GB in an hour!

When photographers say…
I’m beginning to use my iPhone more and more
They actually mean…
I’m starting to regret how much I’ve blown on lenses that I can’t face lugging around any longer.

When photographers say…
Honestly, I can do 99% of my work with an f/4 lens – I can’t see any advantage in getting the f/2.8 version.
They actually mean…
I wish I could afford the faster, f/2.8 version.

When photographers say…
I need a faster lens.
They actually mean…
I want a new toy.

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When photographers say…
I’m thinking of changing systems
They actually mean…
I’m convinced that my current, high-quality gear is the real reason I’m not fulfilling my creative vision. Besides, I’ve read that the other system will give me a half-stop ISO advantage, and that really will make all the difference to someone like me who doesn’t make a living from photography.

When photographers say…
The light’s just not right
They actually mean…
I’m all out of ideas. I don’t know what to take pictures of in this light.

When photographers say…
It’s what’s behind the camera that counts.
They actually mean…
I need a new camera.

When photographers say…
I started to take photography seriously three years ago.
They actually mean…
I bought my first DSLR three years ago.

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When photographers say…
What ISO are you on?
They actually mean…
My pictures are coming out blurred – throw me a bone!

When photographers say…
What settings are you using?
They actually mean…
I’m not confident with this expensive camera – these dials and menus might as well all be in Latin. You look like a real photographer, and I’d like to take EXACTLY the same picture as the one that you’re taking right now.

When photographers say…
I’m a fine-art landscape photographer.
They actually mean…
My back-order for a Lee Big Stopper has been fulfilled!

When photographers say…
I specialise in landscapes, travel, macro and portraits.
They actually mean…
I’ll shoot anything.

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When photographers say…
You’ve got some great bokeh there.
They actually mean…
I’m more at ease talking about the mechanics of photography than entering into a discussion of the artistic merits of your picture. Hey, did I mention that it looks really sharp? What lens did you use?

When photographers say…
I’ll fix that later.
They actually mean…
I’d rather spend hours touching up this photo than finding a better angle that doesn’t include that barbed-wire fence.

When photographers say…
I try to get everything right in-camera.
They actually mean…
I try to get everything right in-camera, but often fail and have to do a patch-up job in Photoshop.

When photographers say…
I miss film.
They actually mean…
Everyone’s a photographer these days! And generally, they’re really good…

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