Watch: Photography Terms That Don't Make Any Damn Sense

A look at some of the most frustratingly confusing terminology in image making.

Why do we call lenses that let in more light "fast?" "Stops" are a doubling or halving of light and don't actually stop anything? International Organization of Standardization = ISO...not IOS? WHY!!?? 

Yeah, a lot of the terminology used in photography and cinematography is just bonkers and doesn't make a whole lot of rational sense—which is kind of the case with a lot of professional terminologies—and if you're confused, amused, or angered by these strange, sometimes misleading terms, you should check out this video by photographers Tony and Chelsea Northrup and laugh—or rage—or flood the comments with your nerdery and accurate explanations. 

"Depth of Field...what kind of fancy ass person made this term?"

To my fellow nerds, I get it. These terms make a lot more sense when you look at the linguistical and technical origins of their baptismal names. But to my fellow priests of reason, I friggin' get it! These terms confused the absolute hell out of me when I first started. I literally couldn't grasp how a lens with an f1.4 aperture let in more light than one with an f2.8. Bigger numbers should equal bigger aperture, right!? Am I crazy!? 

"But V, it's a dimensionless number that is a quantitative measure of lens speed." Yeah thanks, Wikipedia. That means nothing to me. And "bokeh!?" What in the hell does that m—oh—it literally means "blur" in Japanese. Perfection.     

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Your Comment


lol, yeah, not everything seems to make sense, but at least it is used by everyone around the world.
Imagine there would be a logical system or measurements where weight, length, volume and even the temperature of water are connected in a simple way and 3 countries in the world would resist to use it. That would be even stranger ;-)

February 5, 2018 at 3:51AM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

High frame rate on this video is unique looking. Can't put my finger on it, but it made me feel anxious.

February 7, 2018 at 1:19PM

Garrett Evans
Relevant Video Design

I've found that 60P is optimized for trade show promotional videos or showcasing extremely detailed footage of products. Sometimes it will also be the best option for instructional videos. Most of the time it's too much, especially when viewing close-ups of vloggers with a white backdrop.

February 7, 2018 at 1:44PM

Marc B
Shooter & Editor

These people are idiots.
Way to go, NFS, keep dumbing down the craft of Cinematography.

February 9, 2018 at 6:28PM

Steven Cohen, SOC
Camera Operator

Aperture. Bigger numbers mean less light. I can live with that. But...

I use a full frame film lens (ie a Helios 44 or suchlike) on a crop sensor camera. It says F2 so I must be shooting at F2, the focal length has changed due to crop factor.

I then swap my adaptor for a focal reducer. I lose the crop factor and gain an extra stop in aperture by squeezing all the full frame light onto my crop sensor. So my F2 lens is now F1.4. That's what the Internet tells me. Is it? Or was I at an apparent F2.8 to begin with? Or F stops only have a very relative effect in similar circumstances?

February 16, 2018 at 1:05PM, Edited February 16, 1:05PM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord