When I first got started in photography, many years ago, I found learning the basic language very challenging. It was as if the field were a high priesthood, with thick impenetrable walls of jargon and complex concepts. There were a lot of beginners' books, but they often failed to stake out that useful middle ground between spoonfeeding and academic abstraction. I wanted to go out and take photos, but I also wanted to know the language to describe what I was doing.
The Photographer’s Dictionary by NK Guy
And so that’s what my new print title is all about. The Photographer’s Dictionary: An A-Z of Technical Terms Explained defines a useful set of around 300 contemporary photographic terms. From the traditional basics like aperture and shutter speed, to more advanced topics such as colour temperature and circle of confusion, to digital concepts like chimping and virtual memory - it’s all here.
Each term gets a healthy chunk of space allocated to it - from half a page to double-page spreads - and most terms are illustrated with original photographs or diagrams. The emphasis is on digital, but fear not - film is covered as well! An important aspect of the book to me is to talk about the whole historical context of photography, not just the latest digital developments.
Each definition is more than just a simple dictionary entry, but a full writeup describing the background to the word and, most importantly, what practical relationship it has to a photographer. The book isn’t just about the abstract whats - it's about the concrete whys and hows, too! It’s really more of a mini encyclopaedia than it is a simple dictionary.
So if you’re a beginner or advanced amateur photographer wanting to get the most out of your gear, this is an essential resource.
The PhotoNotes dictionary
If you’re familiar with PhotoNotes, the site you’re on now, you know of the searchable cross-referenced photography dictionary that I host here. And the obvious question is - how does the book differ?
They’re actually quite different. The PhotoNotes dictionary is a detailed compendium of common - and not so common - terms. Each term is defined in a fairly economical and terse fashion. There isn’t a lot of room to go into historical details or why each term is particularly relevant to photographers. And of course the online dictionary has no illustrations, whereas I’ve filled the book with photos.
Where to buy the Dictionary
The book is published by UK-based publisher RotoVision, and should be available in bookshops across Britain and North America. It was released in October 2008 in the UK and November 2008 in North America.
It’s also available online from Amazon UK, Amazon USA and Amazon Canada.
- NK Guy, PhotoNotes.org.
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