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Last updated: 2005-06-18

Compiled and written by Philbert Ono

What's this? List of photography-related words in English and Japanese. The Main List has 1100+ words (click on the alphabet links). Many of the words are also categorized in separate lists (General, Camera, etc.). Meanwhile, the J-E List is a separate Japanese-to-English list of essential words not included in the Main List. And Signs is a photo gallery of Japanese signs explained in English.

Note: If the Japanese term contains an English word, the English word is spelled in normal English in the romanization. This is for easier recognition and maybe easier pronunciation and understanding. If the Japanese term is identical to the Engiish, a left arrow <- is displayed (you still have to pronounce it in the Japanese katakana way). Macrons are provided to indicate long vowel sounds. Credits here.

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Japanese-English Words
Maru, sankaku, batsu See Remarks. Maru, sankaku, batsu

These three symbols are commonly used in tables showing specifications, etc. The circle means "Yes," "Compatible," or "Provided/Exists." The triangle means "Maybe" or "Compatible under certain conditions." And the X mark says "No," "Incompatible," or "Not provided."

For example, if the table shows a list of features of different cameras, a circle would indicate that the feature is provided, and the X mark would indicate that it is not provided. For Westerners, it can be confusing because the X mark (or checkmark) is often used to indicate "Yes" or "Provided," while in Japan, the X mark means the opposite. It almost always has a negative meaning ("no"). Unfortunately, many camera manual writers and translators in Japan do not realize this and will use these symbols in English and other foreign languages without explaining them.

The triangle is typically used to indicate partial compatibility. For example, if the table shows which attached lenses will not obstruct the built-in flash coverage, a triangle might mean that the lens will not obstruct the flash only if the hood is removed.

55-fun shiage 55-min. photos 55分Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgフン仕上Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgシア Film development and prints ready in 55 min. There's a ubiquitous chain store advertising this. "1-hour photo" is no longer the buzz word.
aki-bare clear autumn day 秋晴れ In Japan, the summer haze disappears when it gets cooler and dryer, making the sky look very clear and very blue.
APS-C size

Film sizes
APS-C size is much smaller than the full-frame 35mm format. This is why the lens crop factor is 1.5x or 1.6x. However, it is much larger than 1/1.8-inch sensors common in compact digicams.

APS-C size APS-Cサイズ Although the APS film format is on its way to oblivion, we still often hear "APS-C size" in Japan because many D-SLRs have an imaging sensor close to the APS-C size. These sensors are called "APS-C-size sensors" even though most people don't know how big that is. APS-C is one of the three picture sizes provided by APS film which is smaller than 35mm film. The C (Classic) size measures 16.7 x 25 mm with an aspect ratio of 2:3 similar to 35mm film. The H size is slightly wider, and the P size is for panoramic photos.
Av aperture-priority AE Av Abbreviation for "Aperture value. " Commonly used on camera dials, especially Canon. Nikon just uses "A." When it's "AV," it can mean audio-visual or porno video, depending on the context.
bakachon camera el cheapo compact camera バカチョンカメラ Common term, but a few people mistakenly believe that it is derogatory to Koreans even though it was not originally coined to be derogatory. The word "baka" means fool, and by coincidence, "chon" can be slang for Korean. In this case, however, "chon" refers to the sound of pressing the shutter button. Hence, "even a fool can use the camera just by pressing the button." That "bakachon" might be derogatory is beyond the imagination of most Japanese who say this word. And I have not seen any historical evidence or documents proving that it is derogatory. With the spread of digital cameras, this term will probably die anyway.
baryta paper fiber-based paper バライタ紙 Baryta is a chemical compound applied to B/W photo paper. This contrasts with RC (resin-coated) paper.
bōhan camera security camera 防犯カメラ To discourage robberies at banks and convenience stores, you may see a sign saying that the security camera is operating.
camera kozō camera-wielding imp, young wannabe male photographer カメラ小僧 The word "kozō" lietrally means young monk which implies an apprentice or unpolished person.
camera-tsuki keitai denwa
camera phone カメラ付き携帯電話
*国内で"camera-equipped cell phone"と直訳されることもよくあるけど、欧米では"camera phone"と定着している。
People in Japan might call it "camera-equipped cell phone" which is a literal translation of the Japanese. Since their introduction in June 2001, camera phones have become wildly popular and most cell phones sold in Japan today are camera phones. Sales of single-use cameras have slumped as a result.
costume player コスプレー Short for "costume player." Teenagers who dress up in various costumes based on any character from anime, manga, video games, etc.
cost performance price/performance ratio コストパーフォマンス  
deji-kame digital camera デジカメ Abbreviated as "digicam."
Development, printing, and enlargement DPE It usually refers to a neigborhood photofinisher. Never a pro lab.
dōji print film processing with prints 同時プリント Applies to negative film only.
Friday sareru caught by Friday magazine Fridayされる You get caught by paparazzi and an embarrassing photo and article is published in the gossip tabloid Friday. Also called "Focus sareru" before Focus magazine folded.
fūzoku shashin vintage photos of daily life 風俗写真 For vintage photographs (late 19th and early 20th c.), these are photos depicting people doing daily activities like picking tea leaves, selling flowers, etc. They are never landscapes. The word "fūzoku" used in a modern context usually refers to sex establishments.
guts pose pumpng fist(s) in the air or raising fist(s) in triumph ガッツポーズ Very common term especially by commentators during sports programs on TV. Sports photographers often aim to capture this pose made by athlete(s).
Hai cheese! Say cheese! はい、チーズ!
Hai pōzu! Give me a pose! はい、ポーズッ!
hea-meeku hairstyle and make-up ヘアメーク They never say "make-up" in Japanese. It's always "meeku" or "keshō" (cosmetics).
-hon Counter for film rolls "Hon" (or pon) is the counter for cylindrical things like pencils and film rolls.
One - ippon
Two - nihon
Three - sanbon
Four - yonhon
Five - gohon
Six - roppon
Seven - nanahon
Eight - happon
Nine - kyūhon
Ten - jūppon
horizonto backdrop paper/cloth ホリゾント In a photo studio.
idol shashinshu pop idol photo book アイドル写真集 Perhaps unique to Japan where a genre of photo books is dedicated to pop idols. Often contains bikini poses or nudes.
iei shashin portrait of a person, now deceased, used at funerals 遺影Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgサツエイ写真Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgシャシン At Japanese funerals, a picture of the deceased is displayed on the altar. The picture frame is usually black and there might be a black ribbon adorning the top of the picture. The portrait may also be displayed on the household Buddhist altar.
juchū seisan special order (the product is manufactured only when a special order is placed) 受注生産 Very large and expensive lenses are usually manufactured only when a special order is placed for it. A similar word is tokuchū (特注)which means custom order. The product is customized according to the customer's specifications.
kento-shi ケント紙 Workable paper used for light diffusion, etc., for studio photography.
ki'nen shashin commemorative photo (literally) 記念写真
*本当はこれの英語はありません。「記念写真を撮ろう」と言っても英語では単に"Let's take a picture"だけになる。 「記念」という言葉と発想はない。
This is one of the most common photography words in Japan. You hear it all the time. There's no real English equivalent, and some people might debate over its meaning. It almost always show a person(s) you know and it's usually posed. They include family, friends, and yourself. It is a visual keepsake to record good memories. The picture answers the who, what, and where questions on a personal level such as travel photos, a meeting with the mayor, or at a friend's birthday party. It can be a casual snapshot or formal portrait. The Japanese often say "Ki'nen shashin o torxoo!" (Let's take a commemorative photo!).
ko-gal high school girl コギャル "Ko" comes from kōkōsei (high school student) and "gal" is girl. Ko-gals are always associated with a school uniform consisting of a miniskirt and "loose socks." They have been a popular photographic subject as well as avid shutterbugs themselves with single-use cameras and now camera phones.
kōshiki shashin official photo (or portrait) 公式写真 This can be a photo of a celebrity released by his/her official agent as opposed to one taken by an irrelevant person.
kumi shashin multiple photos in a series 組写真 We often see this word in photo contest rules where they may or may not allow multiple photos to be entered (as opposed to a single photo). Kumi shashin is usually 2 to 5 pictures in a series expressing a certain theme.
kura-kame classic camera クラカメ Common abbreviation for "classic camera."
L-ban 3 x 5 in. print L判 In Japan, this is the standard print size. We do not have 4 x 6 in. like in the US.
lens shutter camera compact camera レンズシャッターカメラ This term is often used by camera market analysts to refer to cameras which have the shutter built-in inside the lens. This includes compact cameras (point and shoot), but not large-format cameras whose lenses have a built-in shutter. Meanwhile, SLRs are called "focal-plane cameras."
-mai counter for photos 〜枚 "Mai" is the counter for flat things like paper sheets and photographs.
One - ichimai
Two - nimai
Three - sanmai
Four - yonmai
Five - gomai
Six - rokumai
Seven - nanamai
Eight - hachimai
Nine - kyūmai
Ten - jūmai
mesen direction of eyes 目線Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgメセン Photographers often ask the model for her "mesen" which means to look directly at the camera.
mi-hiraki no shashin double-page photo spread 見開きの写真 Could be a magazine article or pictorial.
montage shashin literally "montage photo," mainly refers to a composite photo of a wanted criminal suspect モンタージュ写真 You may hear this word on the news. By using a database of actual photos of various parts of the human face provided by many people (usually members of the police force), a photo of similar-looking eyes, nose, mouth, etc., are combined to create a photo likeness of the criminal suspect. However, it is more common now to create a police sketch instead. This is called nigao-e 似顔絵 or sketched likeness.
naka ichinichi/futsuka/mikka period of 2/3/4 days 中1日/2日/3日 This is a common expression at the photo lab when it refers to when your prints will be ready. When they tell you "naka ichinichi," (literally "1 day inside"), it means this: You drop off your film today, wait one whole day, then pick it up the following day which is actually 2 days from now. Thus, it can be confusing when it sounds like "1 day," but it will actually take 2 days.
Just remember that the "inside" 1 day (or 2 days, 3 days) is the number of whole days "enclosed" by the day you drop off the film and the day you go and pick it up.
For example, if today is the 1st and you go to drop off the film at the lab, and they say "naka futsuka" ("2 days inside"), the 2 days refer to the 2nd and 3rd. This means it will be ready on the 4th. But to make simpler, just ask "What day?" (nan-nichi) and "what time?" (nanji).

Out of focus at center, between two people

中抜け This is an out-of-focus shot of two people in a picture. The camera has just one AF frame (at the center) so it autofocuses at the center of the two people who are slightly apart. The result shows a sharp background but the two people are out of focus. This focusing error is somewhat rare now since the latest cameras have left and right focusing points that can cover such subjects.
nama shashin real photo (as opposed to a printed one) 生写真 This term is usually intended to make the distinction between a real glossy photo vs. a printed (offset) photo.
nengō Japanese era name (i.e. Meiji, Showa, Heisei) 年号(明治、大正、昭和、平成) Dates in Japan may follow the traditional Japanese eras named after the emperor's reign (currently called Heisei). To find out what year is Heisei 10 is, just add 88. So it is '98 (1998). See the year conversion table.
Nihon bijin
Beautiful Japanese woman 日本美人 This is a postcard and vintage photo collecting category showing a Japanese woman in kimono.
Nikon In Japan, Nikon is pronounced nee-KON, not nai-KON. ニコン Be aware of how this brand/company name is pronounced in Japan.
omiai shashin formal matchmaking photo お見合写真 To show what a potential marriage partner looks like. If he or she is good looking enough and both parties agree, a face-to-face meeting might be arranged. The photograph is usually taken at a portrait studio with the person in formal wear and put in a cardboard mount. The word "omiai" means arranged matchmaking (for marriage), and "omiai kekkon" means arranged marriage.
onnanoko shashin photos by young women 女の子写真 In the early 1990s, taking pictures with a single-use camera or small compact camera was very popular among teens and young women. They took casual snapshots of friends, pets, nude self-portraits, and whatever that caught their fancy. They were called "onnanoko shashin."
open price/kakaku retail price decided by the retailer (instead of the manufacturer)


Instead of stating a list price, many computer and camera manufacturers say only "open price" (or open kakaku) in product brochures, etc. This means we have to ask the store to find out how much it costs. This system was first introduced by Apple Computer in Japan in 1992 with their Macintosh Performa computers. It can be an inconvenient system for consumers wanting to know at least a ballpark figure for the price. The fact is, computer prices and digital camera prices tend to decrease significantlyy as the months pass. The discount might be too different (over 15% cheaper) from the retail price. Therefore, to avoid having too much of a gap between the retail and street price, the retail price is not revealed.
pachi-pachi toru click away or photograph like crazy パチパチ撮る "Pachi-pachi" is the sound of the shutter.
passport size same size as a passport


Term made popular by Sony ads for a video camera having the same height and width as a Japanese passport. (The thickness of course was much greater than the passport thickness.)
Peace! (with peace sign)
Print Club
Peace! ピース! For some reason, many Japanese children and adults make the Victory or Peace sign with their fingers when posing for a picture. This has been going on for generations. Just say, "No peace sign!"
photo salon photo gallery フォトサロン Many camera and film makers call their photo galleries a "photo salon."
point card discount card ポイントカード Almost all camera shops offer a discount card they call a "point card." When you make a purchase, a certain percentage of the total is credited toward a later purchase. More here...
Pola Polaroid shot ポラ When taking a test shot with Polaroid-type instant film (does not have to be made by Polaroid), "Polaroid" is commonly abbreviated as simply "Pola." Let's take a Polaroid test shot: Pola o torō. ポラを撮ろう。
Print Club

Print Club

Print Club (photo stickers) プリントクラブ "Print Club" is actually a trademark of the company which invented Print Club booths. They produce small photo stickers (about 2.5 x 2 cm, slightly smaller than a postage stamp) featuring a large variety of superimposed frames complimenting the subject's faces. It became hugely popular in the mid-1990s. Most Japanese call it "purikura" and use it as a generic term to refer to all photo stickers. More here...
private shashin private-life photos プライベート写真 Photos of your private life. Paparazzi and magazines can get sued for publishing such photos of celebrities without permission.
promide pop idol photos プロマイド Popular name for pop idol photos sold by a company called Marubell in Asakusa, Tokyo.
purikura photo stickers プリクラ Abbreviation for Print Club (see).
rakugaki shashin graffiti photos 落書き写真

Teenagers use permanent ink pens to mark photographs with words and pictures. Popular in the mid-1990s.

Rangaku Dutch studies 蘭学Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgランガク Refers to the scholarly movement of studying the Dutch language and Western technologies through the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki during the feudal period of isolation in the 17th to 19th centuries. The first camera technologies (such as the camera obscura and daguerreotype) were imported through this connection.
roke-han location hunting/search ロケハン Scout different places to find a good spot for a photo or movie shoot.
sakuhin art work 作品 Refers to any kind of art work (especially for an exhibition), including photographs. Very common word.
satsuei-kai group photo shoot with a model 撮影会 Mostly middle-aged men gather to shoot a young female model often in miniskirt, swimsuit, kimono, or even nude. Usually camera clubs organize these shoots or it may be part of a festival or event (camera show, etc.).
Seijin no Hi Coming-of-Age Day 成人の日 This is a national holiday in Japan in mid-January. Men and women who turn 20 wear kimono and attend Seijin-shiki ceremonies at local public halls. It is a busy time for portrait studios because many of the women (but not so many men) go to have their kimono portraits taken. They also go to shrines to pray.
shashin photograph 写真 The first Japanese photo word to learn. This is a noun only. If you want to say "take a photo," say "shashin o toru."
shashin dake no kekkon-shiki wedding photo without the wedding ceremony 写真だけの結婚式 To avoid paying the high cost of weddings, some Japanese newlywed couples do not hold a wedding ceremony and reception. Instead, they just go to a portrait studio and wear a wedding kimono to have a picture taken. Much cheaper that way.
shashin jimusho photo office 写真事務所 Many freelance photographers write this term under their name on their business cards and letterheads regardless of whether they are a company or not. And regardless of whether they actually have a real office or not. The term is a useful way of indicating that the person is self-employed and available for hire.
shashin nikki photo diary 写真日記 Popular genre among teenagers and young women from the 1990s who used compact cameras and single-use cameras to record everyday activities and friends.
Shashin no Hi Photography Day 写真の日 In 1951, June 1 was designated as Photography Day because it was thought that on June 1, 1841, pioneering photographer UENO Shunnojo was the first to take a picture in Japan. It was of Lord Nariakira Shimazu with a daguerreotype camera imported from Holland. However, this was later found to be untrue. But the Photography Day designation continued on. In Tokyo from 1996, the annual June 1 Photography Day activities were expanded to become the Month of Photography every May-June. Various photo exhibitions and seminars are organized by the Photographic Society of Japan and other organizations in Tokyo.
shashin shūkan-shi weekly photo tabloid magazine 写真週刊誌 These are weekly gossip magazines such as Friday and Spa! Paparazzi make their living from such magazines.
shashin-kan portrait studio 写真館 Not to be confused with photo studio. A shashin-kan is where people go to have formal portraits taken. While a photo studio is where pro photographers shoot commercial work.
shichi-go-san shichi-go-san (literally "7-5-3") 七五三 This is a Shinto-based, coming-of-age day on Nov. 15 for 7-year-old girls, 5-year-old boys, and 3-year-old girls. Although this is not a national holiday, many parents dress up their coming-of-age children in kimono and visit Shinto shrines for prayers around Nov. 15. It is also a busy time for portrait studios because many parents also go to have family and child portraits taken before going to the shrine.
shira-dama white lenses (Canon) 白玉 Canon started to painted its large lenses white to help them stay cooler under the sun. Their nickname "shira-dama" is now connotated with high-quality telephoto lens.
shōmei shashin ID photo 証明写真 Common for passports and driver's licenses. This term is often seen on photo booths. Image here
shutchō satsuei location shooting 出張撮影 A service offered by portrait studios. The photographer can be hired to shoot outside the portrait studio for school events, portraits at home, etc.
shutter chance prime time to take a photo シャッターチャンス
*Photo opは、例えば記者会見中の写真撮影の時間のことです。決まった時間帯での撮影。 写真撮影を許してくれる時間とか。シャッターチャンスとちょっと違う。
Another very common word in Japanese. "Photo op" might be the closest English term, but it is not entirely accurate. "Shutter chance" actually refers to any window of time (even 1 or 2 sec.) when you can take a good shot of someone or something. It's often for an informal occasion unlike a formal photo op. For example, when a dancer passes by you in a samba parade.
shōzōken portrait rights 肖像権 This is the rights to your likeness. You often hear this word when you read about photographic copyrights in Japan.
sotsugyō album school yearbook 卒業アルバム Literally means, "graduation album." Japan does not have the custom of having the yearbook signed by classmates and teachers. Due to the fixation on high school girls in Japan, high school yearbooks have become a premium commodity.
speed shashin photo booth スピード写真 Usually refers to photo booths for taking ID photos.
speed shiage speedy photo processing (55 min. or less) スピード仕上げ You will often see this at camera shops, photo labs, and photo booths.
trimming crop トリミング
"Trimming" is another English word used incorrectly in Japan. In English, trimming means to cut the picture with scissors/knife. And crop means to exclude unwanted parts of the picture during the enlargement. Some digital camera menus will have the "trimming" feature.
Tv shutter speed-priority AE Tv Abbreviation for Time value. Commonly used on camera dials, especially Canon. Nikon uses "S."
two shot photo of a couple ツーショット Photo of a couple. The Japanese often say, "let's take a two shot!" It means he/she wants to take a picture with you, just the two of you.


Brand name of FujiFilm's single-use camera Compiled by Philbert Ono at photojpn.orgウツルンです FujiFilm was the first to market a single-use camera. "Utsurundesu" means "it takes pictures." However, it never became a generic term for such cameras. Most consumers say "tsukai-sute" (disposable camera) instead. Other film makers have their own cutsey names for their single-use cameras.
VTR videotaped footage VTR In Japan, "VTR" refers to videotaped footage (like on the TV news), and not to the videotape recorder. A TV newscaster will often say, "VTR dōzo" (here's the video) right before the footage is shown.
Yokohama Shashin Yokohama Photos 横浜写真 A category of vintage Japanese photographs created in Yokohama during the late 19th c. and early 20th c. They were usually hand-tinted showing famous views, women in kimono, rickshaws, and other stereotypical poses and activities. They were made for foreign tourists visiting the port town of Yokohama.
yoku toreta shashin photo that looks good よく撮れた写真 If this is said to a woman, it implies that she is photogenic. If it is said to the photographer, it means the photo was taken at a good moment or was composed well, implying that the photographer is good.
zoom bairitsu zoom ratio ズーム倍率 The zoom camera specs often mention this. 35-70mm zoom lens would have a 2x zoom ratio.

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