We see hundreds of photographs every day. Whether it’s on social media or in advertisements; photos are a huge part of our lives. They allow us to document special moments, educate about current events and communicate emotions. Photos have started revolutions and helped to overthrow dictators. They also allow us to relive our favorite memories and see people who may no longer be with us. It is useful to be able to describe the technical aspects of a photograph.
Foreground v Background
When you want to describe something in a photograph, you may need to indicate if it is in the foreground or the background. The foreground the part of the image that is closer to you, and the background is the the part that is far away.
“In the foreground there are four men walking.”
“In the background there is a long street with cars parked on the sides of the road.”
The Beatles’ Road Into History on Abbey Road, Iain Macmillan
Color or Greyscale/Black&White
Most photos are taken either in Color or in Greyscale (also known as “black and white”). In the past, it was only possible to make photos in greyscale. Today, whether a photo is in color or greyscale is an artistic choice.
“This photo of the Hindenburg disaster is in greyscale.”
“Today most photos are taken in color.”
The Hindenburg Disaster, Sam Shere 1937
Landscape (horizontal) or Portrait (vertical)
The terms “portrait” and “landscape” can describe the subject of a photo: “portrait” meaning that it is a photo of a person and “landscape” meaning it is a photo of a natural scene. However, these terms can also be used to describe the orientation of a photo. A photo take horizontally is in “landscape orientation” and a photo taken vertically is in “portrait orientation”.
“This photo is in portrait orientation.”
“If you take a photo of a mountain, it will probably be in landscape orientation.”
Dorothea Lange | Migrant Mother | 1936
Natural or Artificial Lighting
Lighting is the most important factor in photography! “Photography” literally means “the study of light”. So the type of light the photographer uses is very important and can change the mood and quality of the photo. A photographer may use “natural light,” meaning light from the sun, or “The photographer used artificial lighting.”
“Landscape photos are almost always made with natural light.”
Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite, California. Ansel Adams. 1960