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A Short Photographic Translation Guidebook

August 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment




As a photographic artist, I’m guilty of what many professionals do when you interact with them: I use “photo slang” and technical terms that aren’t always clear to those outside our vocation. That’s not friendly or service-oriented, and if I’ve done that with you, please accept my apologies. It’s not conscious – everyone in imaging-making tends to do it because “insiders” share a common language. I’m betting you do the same when conversing with others involved in your vocations and avocations.


But, apologies don’t solve anything. So, for those who contract or work with image makers, or if you’re new to the field, here’s a short conversational guide to common expressions, and what they mean, divided into two categories.


Image Quality and Retouching

“These images have a light, dreamy quality.”


“These images are slightly out of focus.”


“I used dark, low-key exposure [or “bright, high-key exposure] to enhance the mood.”


“I don’t know how to use a light meter.”


“Loss of skin detail is normal when finishing this type of image.”


“The retoucher doesn’t know how to retouch skin.”


“We retouch just enough to reveal a subject’s true beauty.”


“We make everyone look at least ten years younger.”


“You’ll love these – and I barely had to retouch anything.”


“One hour each in Photoshop.”


“You’ll love these – and I only had to do basic retouching.”


Three hours each in Photoshop.”


“You’ll love these, but I had to do a bit more than usual in Photoshop.”


(to female subject)) “I composited Jennifer Aniston’s face onto yours.”



“Among the hundreds of images we shot, I narrowed it down to these top 20.”


“My hard drive crashed without a backup, but I recovered 20.”



“Ideally, let's start with a call time of 7 a.m.”


“We start charging you at 7 a.m., whether you’re there or not.”


“Secure that stinger near craft services with some C-47s while I calculate the depth of field.”


“Keep people from tripping on that extension cord next to the refreshments with some clothes pins while I make sure the image is sharp, but don’t say it that way or the client may think he can do this stuff himself.”


“The model has perfect skin, so we don’t need a makeup artist.”


“The budget was so low something had to go, so no makeup artist. And, there’s no craft services either.”


(To another photographer): “I’d love to have your help on set.”


“You can be my VAL (Voice Activated Light stand),” i.e., “I figure you have a general idea of which way to point a light you’re holding.”


(To a photo intern): “I’d love to have your help on set.”


“You can be my HLS (Human Light Stand),” i.e., “I will point the light and you will hold it.”


(To a model’s unemployed boyfriend who came along to “help.”): “I’d love to have your help on set.”


“You can be my HSB (Human Sand Bag),” i.e. “Sit in that chair and make sure it doesn’t blow away.”





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