Glossary of photographic terms

Glossary of photographic terms

A book with a glossary of photographic terms. Only some text is in focus.

Like many other things in life, photography is full of terms and phrases that can time to understand. I’ve prepared this glossary to help photographers learn more about some of the things they may hear or read.

If I’ve missed something or it’s not quite clear as to what the term means, please let me know by filling in the form at the bottom of this page.

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AA Filter

See Anti-aliasing filter.


A distortion of image quality or colour rendition in a photographic image caused by optical limitations of the lens used for image capture. Aberrations commonly show up in the form of halation around high-contrast portions of the image, or “smearing” of colour toward the edges of the frame. Aspheric lens surfaces and advanced lens coatings are often used in more expensive or complex lenses as a means of reducing aberrations.

Absolute resolution

Image resolution as expressed in horizontal and vertical pixel count (e.g., 1600 x 1200 pixels is the absolute resolution, and is also expressed as 2.1 megapixels (MP), having more than 2,000,000 pixels on its sensor).


An image that is created apart from the standard structure of reality, recognizable by its emphasis on line, colour and geometrical form.

Adobe RGB (Adobe RGB 1998)

A colour space that gives us a wider range of colours than the sRGB colour space.

AF Servo

See Continuous focus.


The effect where smooth curves and lines that run diagonally across the screen of a low-resolution digital file take on a jagged.

Ambient light

The existing light in a scene. May be sunlight or man made. Not artificially added by the photographer.

See also Artificial light.

Angle of incidence

The angle at which light strikes the surface of a subject. The law states that the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence.

See Angle of reflection

Angle of reflection

The angle at which light is reflected off a surface. The law states that the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence.

See also Angle of incidence.

Angle of view (AOV)

Expressed in degrees, angle of view is maximum angle (horizontal, vertical, or diagonally) a lens can tale in at a given focal length and sensor size.

For the same sensor size, a lens at 100 mm will have a narrower angle of view than a lens at 18 mm.


A process by which the edge of an object is smoothed out in a digital image to reduce the “stair-case” effect.

Anti-aliasing filter

A digital camera sensor may have difficulty separating light frequencies when the subject has close patterns such as a striped jumper. The result is that the image will have what is called moire. An anti-aliasing filter is designed to very slightly blur the detail and change the frequency of the pattern that is being passed through the lens to the sensor. Older cameras need an anti-aliasing filter to be added to the lens. Modern digital cameras have an anti-aliasing filter included in the sensor electronics.


See Image stabilization.


The hole inside a lens that controls the amount of light that passes through to the film plane or imaging sensor.

Aperture preview

A camera feature that shows how the image of a scene will look once the photograph is taken.

Aperture priority

A camera mode where the photographer sets the desired lens aperture and the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to give the best possible exposure.

See also Shutter priority.

Apochromatic (APO)

A lens that causes all visible light wavelengths to focus on the sensor or film plane. Any lens without this correction will tend to maintain focus with red, green and blue wavelengths on different planes.

APS-C (APSC) sensor

A term given to an imaging sensor of a particular size. Cameras that use an APS-C sensor are also referred to as cropped sensor cameras as the sensor size is smaller than the sensor in a full-frame camera. They also have a reduced effective field of view from your lenses meaning they are slightly more telephoto than a full-frame camera. The name is derived from the APS (Advanced Photo System) film format that was introduced in 1996 for the amateur point-and-shoot market.

APS-H (APSH) sensor

A term given to an imaging sensor of a particular size. These sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors but larger than APS-C sensors. These sensors are used on a limited range of Canon and Leica cameras.


Any unwanted change to an image caused by the lens or by post-processing of the digital file. Some software applications give you the tools to reduce or eliminate artefacts during post processing.

See also Chromatic aberration.

Artificial light

Lighting created by the photographer or that is not naturally present within a scene.

See also Ambient light.


An abbreviation of the American Standards Association, ASA is the term used to describe the light-sensitivity levels of film and camera imaging sensors.

See ISO.

Aspect ratio

Describes the proportional relationship between the width and height of an image. It is written as formula of width to height, such as 3:2. Aspect ratio has nothing to do with the actual quality or size of the image. Many digital cameras offer the option of switching between 4:3, 3:2, or 16:9.

Aspherical lens

A type of lens that changes shape across its surface as opposed to one that is smooth and continuous. The lens will deviate a little from exactly a spherical shape, and stays predominantly aberration free.

Aspherical surface

An Aspherical lens surface possesses more than one radius of curvature, which allows for the correction of lens aberrations that are common in simpler lens designs. Sharper definition toward the edges of an image is the most common benefit of a lens containing aspheric elements.


An acronym “All the gear, no idea.” A comment about amateur photographers who have no idea what they’re doing, but maintain proper gear.

Auto bracketing

When a camera is set to automatically bracket multiple exposures for multiple images by pressing the shutter a single time.

See Bracketing.

Auto exposure (AE) Lock

Enables you to lock the current exposure reading and re-frame the shot using the same setting. A half-press of the shutter is normally required to activate this function, fully pressing only when you want to capture the image.

Auto focus (AF)

All digital cameras and most modern SLR lenses have the option of autofocus. The lens automatically focuses on a subject, the difference is that an SLR also has the option to focus manually.

Auto ISO

A feature that allows the camera to choose optimal ISO depending on the situation. When there is enough light to use ISO 100, the camera will do so, but when there is less light the camera will adjust accordingly to to avoid unintended blur.

See also ISO.

Auto White Balance (AWB)

A function by which the camera senses the colour temperature provided by ambient light and automatically adjusts colour balance to a neutral setting.

Automatic aperture

An automatic aperture remains fully open until the shutter is pressed, which then allows the aperture to close to a size predetermined by a light meter within the camera. All point & shoot cameras maintain an automatic aperture.

Automatic exposure (AE)

A camera feature that will use an internal light meter to automatically adjust aperture and shutter speed and achieve what it regards as a perfect exposure.

Average metering

Takes all of the light values for a given scene—highlights, shadows, and mid-tones—and averages them together to establish an overall exposure. Average metering is best used for front-lit subjects under average lighting conditions. Backlit subjects tend to be silhouetted when metered in average mode.


Back lit

Meaning the subject is lit from behind which can cause uneven exposure. Also used for portrait photography, special effects and bringing catchlights to hair.


The part of a scene that appears to be the furthest distance from the viewer, and normally behind the subject.


The illumination behind a colour LCD display on digital cameras. Can also refer to the light behind a subject within a setting.

Backlight control

An override of the camera’s auto-exposure setting that increases the exposure by between one and two stops. Use this mode to prevent a silhouette when taking photos while the light is behind the subject.


Refers to suspended particles in water that are illuminated by an underwater flash caused them to reflect light and become circles of confusion.

See also Circle of confusion.


A safety measure that involves copying an image, file, folder or an entire hard drive to be stored in the event that the original files or data is lost. This can also be used as a noun to refer to the hard drive where the data is stored.


The harmony of a scene. A balanced composition involves cohesive placement of shape, size and colour.


When graduated colours are broken into larger blocks of a single colour, the smoothness of the colour gradation is reduced.

Bare bulb

A source of electronic flash that is direct and free of any reflection or diffusion.

Barn doors

A light-blocking device that attaches to studio lights and swivel on hinges to allow the photographer to control both the direction and width of the light source.

Barrel distortion

An optical distortion resulting in the image bowing out toward the edges of the image. Barrel distortion is usually associated with less expensive wide-angle lenses and digital cameras, and is most apparent in architectural photographs or images containing lines that run parallel to each other in the horizontal or vertical plane.

See also Pincushion distortion.

Batch edit

Editing a large quantity of photos at one time. This is done by applying the same edits and style to multiple photos from a single folder.

Binary digit (Bit)

A bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit of digital information. Eight bits equals one byte. Digital images are often described by the number of bits used to represent each pixel, i.e., a 1-bit image is monochrome; an 8-bit image supports 256 colours or graceless; while 24 or 32-bit images support an even greater range of colour.

The smallest unit of digital information, eight bits is equal to one byte. An image can be described by the number of bits representing a single pixel. The more bits available, the greater range of colour the image will have (i.e. 1-bit = monochrome; 8 bit= 256 colours or grayscale; 24 & 32 bit = even greater range).

Bit depth

The number of bits used to represent a single pixel in a digital image.


The edges of a piece of paper by which photographic print has no visible border or defined margin area.

Blocked shadows

The loss of shadow detail within an image. An image that has been underexposed or contains a lower resolution will often cause this result.


The appearance of a bright or coloured halo around brighter areas of digital image files. Blooming is caused when a portion of the imaging sensor in a digital camera is exposed to too much light, causing signal “leaks” to the neighbouring pixels.

A bright or coloured halo seen in brighter areas of a digital image. This effect can be caused when the camera’s sensor is exposed to too much light.

See Chromatic Aberration.

Blow up

Another term for a print or photographic enlargement, usually considered to be anything larger than 8″x10″.

Blown out

An effect caused by overexposure, and results in a complete loss of the highlight details in a photograph.


Denotes movement within a photograph that is either caused by the subject or by camera movement. Blur can also be added to digital files in post processing with image-editing software.


An English transliteration of a Japanese word that means “haze” or “blur.” Pronounced boh-keh, it refers to the out-of-focus areas in a photograph with limited depth of field, particularly around, but not limited to, the highlight areas. Bokeh appears as little circles in the unsharp areas. Depending upon the shape of the opening formed by the blades of the lens’s aperture, the circles appear either more or less circular.


A photograph printed without the border often found around the edge.

Bounce flash

Light that is reflected off of a surface before it reaches the subject. Reflectors, ceilings and bounce cards are often used as surfaces for reflection.


Taking multiple images of the same scene at different exposures. Increments in exposure often range from 1/3 stop to a full stop.


The value of a pixel in a digital image in reference to lightness. A black pixel is represented as “0” while a white pixel is represented as “256.”

Broad lighting

When the main light illuminates the subject from the same side as the camera.

Buffer memory

A buffer memory is a temporary “holding area” for image data waiting to be processed in a camera. Buffers enable a camera to continue capturing new image files without having to shut down while previous image files are processed. Printers also make use of buffers, which allow you to queue up several pictures at a time while the printer outputs previously queued-up image files.

Built-In light meter

An in-camera exposure meter that measures the light reflected in the present scene.

Bulb mode (B)

A setting on the shutter speed dial which indicates that the shutter will remain open as long as the release button is held. This is often used with a cable release so that the shutter may stay open for extended periods of time.


In the darkroom, it refers to providing extra exposure to a specific part of the print to darken that area while blocking the rest of the print from light. Digitally, this term refers to a tool in Photoshop that performs the same action by applying a brush that darkens specific parts of an image.

See also Dodging.

Burst mode

A mode on the camera that allows for taking continuous photos with a single press of the shutter release. Many of today’s SLRs reach 14 frames per second.

Burst rate

The number of consecutive images a digital camera can capture continuously before filling the memory buffer or memory card. To capture a burst of images, the camera must first be locked into “Burst” mode or “Continuous” mode.

Butterfly lighting

When the main light is placed high and directly centre above a subject’s face casting a butterfly-like shadow.


Cable release

A cable with a push-button that sends the camera a signal to open the shutter. The shutter then stays open as long as the cable release button is depressed. This is used predominantly in night time photography allowing cameras to capture more light.


A photo taken without the (apparent) knowledge of the subject.


The amount of storage space available on a hard-drive or media card.

Card reader/writer

A device that allows you to transfer data directly from a camera’s removable memory card to the computer, without being compelled to connect the camera to the computer.


The reflection of light that can be seen in the eyes of a subject.


A type of metering mode in which the light reflected in the centre of the frame is measured to give the most influence on the proper exposure for a photograph.


A single piece of colour information stored with an image. True colour comes in 3 channels, red, green and blue.

Charge-coupled device (CCD)

A semiconductor device (computer chip) that converts optical images into electronic signals. CCDs contain rows and columns of ultra small, light-sensitive mechanisms (pixels) that generate electronic pulses when electronically charged and exposed to light. These pulses work in conjunction with millions of surrounding pixels to collectively produce a photographic image. CCDs and CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) sensors are the dominant technologies for digital imaging.


Looking at pictures on the back of the camera as soon as they’ve been taken.


The colour of an image element or pixel. The hue values of the pixel, plus the saturation determines the chroma.

Chromatic aberration

Also know as colour fringing, this is a particular type of image artefact. This effect happens when the wavelengths of colour aren’t focusing on the same focal plane. The signs of chromatic aberration include purple edge around areas of high contrast.

See also Artefact.

Camera Image File Format (CIFF)

A digital camera image format developed by Canon for RAW images.  Released in 1997 this format is not longer used and has been superseded by Canon’s CR2 file format.

See also RAW file format.

Circle of confusion

Discs of light in an image formed due to points of light being within the area of bokeh.

See also Bokeh.


A result of over/under exposing a photo so much that there is loss of information in the highlights or shadows of the histogram.


The colours cyan, magenta, and yellow that are combined to create any other colour in the visible light spectrum. CMY is used in printing and has less dense blacks than CMYK.

CMYK colour (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

A colour space that is used for professional or commercial printing. CMYK is the standard colour space used for inkjet, laser, dye-sublimation and wax thermal printers.


A piece of hardware designed to analyse the colour characteristics of a swatch of colour.

Colour balance

The manner in which film reproduces a scene under different types of lighting. Also, a tool in Photoshop used to adjust colour by manipulating RGB channels.

Colour calibration

A process by which the image source (digital camera or scanner), monitor and output (printer) are calibrated to use the same or similar colour standard, i.e., Adobe RGB, sRGB, etc). This is to make sure that the colour accuracy of the printed image matches the image viewed on the monitor.

Colour cast

An unwanted tint of a specific colour that is “cast” across the image. Can be caused by fluorescent or tungsten lighting or as the result of using a filter. It can be corrected with image editing software.

Colour correction

Altering the colours in an image in order to print or display it as intended. This is normally performed by utilizing post-processing programs programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

Colour depth

Also know as bit depth, this is the number of unique colours represented in a specific image or software. This directly relates to the number of bits used for each pixel. The larger the colour depth, the more colours will be available.

Colour management

A system for coordinating the calibration of colour spaces within digital cameras, scanners, monitors and printers to ensure that the image on the screen has the same values as the image in print.

Colour palette

The set of colours available for a specific image. Computers often have a colour space that contains up to 16 million different colours, but image editing requires that a colour space be chosen for the image, normally this range is up to 256 colours.

See also Colour space.

Colour space

The range of colours that can be reproduced on a computer monitor or printer.

See also Gamut, sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), ProPhoto.

Colour temperature

The light spectrum is defined through colour temperature. The spectrum is measured by degrees of Kelvin (K). The lower the colour temperature the “cooler” or bluer a photo will be, and the higher it is the “warmer” or orange it will be. Normal daylight is approximately 5600 K.

Compact flash (CF)

A popular flash memory storage device, which is available in a number of storage capacities. Once a dominant format for in-camera data storage, CF cards have replaced by the smaller SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

Complementary colour

When a primary or secondary colour is in opposition to each other on a colour wheel (ex. red and green are complementary colours). When dealing with light in terms of photography, complementary colours include blue & yellow, green & magenta and red & cyan.

Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)

A type of imaging sensor that is capture light and converts it into electrical signals. The technology has improved and become cost effective that most cameras use this type of sensor.

See also CCD.

Composite photographs

A single image made by combining pictures from different sources into one.


The specific arrangement or combination of elements within a scene.


Reducing the size of an image file through image editing software. “Lossy” images will lose detail after compression while “Lossless” images will maintain all the qualities of the image.

Conflicting shadows

Shadows that point in the direction of each other as well as main light in a studio lighting set-up.

Contact sheet

A contact print made from several negatives or RAW files at one time, usually an entire roll or whatever number of frames will fit on the paper.

Continuous focus

A mode that automatically adjusts keeps a subject in focus as it moves within the frame. Shutter response times are usually faster in this mode.

See also AF Servo


The range of difference between highlights and shadow areas in an image. Contrast can be natural (direct vs. diffuse light) or adjusted in a variety of image editing programs.

Creative modes

These are built in settings that can adjust settings so that the correct exposure is used to capture an image but allow the photographer creative input to achieve the image they want. The creative modes are aperture priority, shutter priority, program, and manual.

See also Scene modes.

Crop factor

A number used to multiply a lens’ actual focal length to express how much of an apparent increase you can expect in the effective focal length of any traditional 35mm SLR lens you use on a DSLR with a crop sensor. Standard crop sensors are 1.3x, 1.5x or 1.8x the normal focal length of a lens.

Crop sensor

See APS-C.


Trimming the edges of an image to improve compositional quality. The final image is a reduced size of the original composition, image editing programs have cropping as a tool.


The RAW CCD file format used by Canon Digital Cameras. Comes from Canon RAW.

Cyc wall

A curved, normally seamless wall that is used as a backdrop for studio photography.


Dark current

See Noise.


A room that is completely dark, with no light allowed into the room. The purpose of this room is for light-sensitive materials such as film to be handled without fear of their exposure to light.

Dedicated Flash

An electronic flash that automatically reads the camera’s exposure values allowing for full automatic use of the flash. This means that the flash will read the scene, the camera’s settings and then flash the appropriate power.


Image sharpness as defined by clarity of detail.


How opaque or purely black an area of a negative, transparency or print is. The darker or more black the image is, the less light will be allowed to travel through it.

Depth of field (DOF)

The relative distance of the area in front of and behind the subject of an image that is in focus.

Depth of field scale

A scale on the lens barrel with the markings of f/stops and distances, which shows the distance range that is in focus for a chosen f/stop.

Depth of focus

The area in a camera body behind the lens where the sensor or film placed to produce an in-focus image.


A redistribution of light’s energy when passing through the edge of an opaque object.

Diffused Light

Light that is scattered and spread out as opposed to direct light. Diffused light is softer than direct light, with shadows that are less sharply-defined. A good example would be an overcast day where the sun is completely blocked by clouds.

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

The process of managing tasks and making conclusions regarding the import, export, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets such as image files.

Digital Negative (DNG)

A publicly available raw image format owned by Adobe and used for digital photography. It’s based on the TIFF/EP standard format and incorporates the use of metadata.

Digital single lens reflex (DSLR)

A single lens reflex (SLR) camera that captures digital images.

Digital zoom

Takes the central portion of a digital image and crops it making it larger in the view finder. The image is displayed at a lower resolution and creates lower resolution image files.

See also Optical zoom.

Dioptre adjustment

A knob used to adjust the clarity in the viewfinder of a camera. This feature adjusts for the discrepancy in human eyesight.


The misrepresentation of the size of proportion of the subject within a scene. This can be due to the use of a wide angle or fish eye lens.


Creating the illusion of new colours and shades by varying the pattern of dots. Dithering can be found in newspapers and is also known as halftoning.


Lightening a portion of the image using a tool in Photoshop or by blocking the light during the exposure of a print.

See also Burning.

Dots per inch (DPI)

A term used to describe the resolution of a printed image. The higher the DPI, the finer the printed output will appear. Often confused with Pixels per inch.

See Pixels per inch.


The name given to the ring-shaped bokeh produced by a mirror lens.


The transference of image data from a camera to a computer. Can be performed through USB, Firmware or wirelessly.

Dust bunnies

Dots of sensor dust that show up on images in the exact same place. SLRs have interchangeable lenses will allow for the sensor to be exposed to air during switching, giving dust the opportunity to get in.

Dye Sublimation

A printing method where waxy ink is heated to temperatures high enough for the ink to vaporize and bond with a special receiver paper, resulting in images with continuous tone colour. The word sublimation is used because the dye goes straight from being a solid to a gas and completely skips the liquid stage. Dye-sublimation prints are also known as dye-subs.

Dye-sublimation printer

Also know as “dye-sub” printers, are a type of digital photo printer. Unlike inkjet printers, which spray fine droplets of ink on the print surface, dye-sub printers employ a cellophane ribbon that momentarily vaporizes when heated to extremely high temperatures, while being transferred to the print surface.

Essentially a three-colour process (cyan, magenta, yellow, and a protective over-coating), dye-sub printers are popular in commercial print shops for their ability to output durable, high-quality photographic prints quickly and relatively inexpensively.

Typically used to print on fabrics.

Dynamic range

The range of brightness and tonality reproduced in a digital or film photographic image. Wider dynamic range means there is a greater tonal values (and detail) between the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights.


Effective Pixels

The measurement of the number of pixels that are actually recorded by a sensor. This can be different to the size of the sensor. This discrepancy is due to the fact that digital imaging sensors have to dedicate a certain percentage of available pixels to establish a black reference point.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

A small screen used to display, through the viewfinder, the scene view captured by the lens.


A light projection device used to project an enlarged image through a lens onto photographic paper. A film negative is placed between the lens and the paper allowing for only specific areas of light to reach the paper.

Equivalent Exposures

By choosing an ISO speed, the light meter will yield settings for both the aperture and shutter speed. Equivalent exposures can be achieved by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture in equal increments.

Evaluative Through the Lens (E-TTL)

An exposure system that calculates exposure by briefly flashing before the image is taken.

Exposure Value (EV)

The ability to override the auto exposure system to under or overexpose the image. This is done by using the Manual function on a digital camera to choose your own settings.

Exchangeable Image File (EXIF)

Commonly used header format for storing metadata (e.g. camera/lens/exposure information, time/date/, etc.) within digital image files.


Saving an image to a particular file format. Typically done to save a RAW image to a format you can use in other applications.


The result of light hitting film or digital sensor. The exposure is the the image taking into account the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Exposure bracketing

The process of taking a photo, then also taking photos at both a higher and lower exposure value. This technique is used to ensure quality by having a multitude of exposures to choose from.

Exposure compensation

Overriding the camera’s suggested exposure settings.

Exposure indicator

A display showing the amount by which a photograph recorded at the current aperture and shutter speed will deviate from the suggested exposure selected by the camera.



A number used to describe the size of the opening or aperture of a lens. F-stops are defined numerically: f/1.4, f/5.6, f/22, etc. The larger the aperture, the smaller the number and the more light allowed through the lens.

See also Aperture.


A decrease in the intensity of light as it spreads out from the source.

Fast lens

A lens with an aperture that opens particularly wide, making it able to gather more light than a slower lens at its widest aperture. Examples of fast lenses include f/2.8 or wider.


A collection of information like data, text or images which can be located on a CD, DVD or hard drive.

File format

The type of file that is saved to a digital memory card or other storage device. Typical file formats that can be created by a camera include JPEG and RAW.


Generally made of glass or resin, they are used in front of a lens. They modify the light entering the lens. They can be used to create effects such as softening the image, colouring the light or they can change the quality of the light such as polarity or lowering the amount of light hitting the sensor or film.


In digital cameras, the firmware is the software that lets the user control the features of the camera.


Describes an extreme wide-angle lens that has an angle of view exceeding 100 – sometimes more than 180 – and that renders a scene as highly distorted.

Fixed aperture

A lens aperture that cannot be changed.

Fixed focal length lens

See Prime lens.


When light strikes the inside of the lens, a reflection can be seen in the image alongside a reduction in contrast and visible light shooting from its source.


A brief, sudden burst of bright light or the unit used to create artificial light.

Flash exposure compensation

A feature that allows the photographer to add exposure compensation to the flash output power. Flash Exposure Compensation can be + (plus) or – (minus) in increments of 1/3 EV. (Exposure values)

Flash memory

This is the equivalent of film for digital cameras, except it is a reusable memory source with an infinitely larger capacity for memory.

Flash meter

An exposure meter designed to measure light from an electronic flash.

Flash sync

The fastest shutter speed a camera can “sync” with electronic flash. When the camera is at too high of a shutter, only parts of the image will receive light causing large rectangles of pure black in the photo.

See also High speed sync.


A term used to indicate an image has low contrast (i.e. a “flat” image).

Flat lighting

Illumination of a scene or subject that provides little contrast on the subject or scene. Flat light can be seen on cloudy days and in front of softboxes.

Focal length

The distance between the focal point of a lens and the film plane. This refers to the relative size of the lens (i.e. 24mm, 50mm, 85mm).

Focal length magnification

Also known as Magnification Factor or Crop Factor, this term is used to describe the angle of view (AOV) of a lens used on a digital camera with interchangeable lens’. It typically describes how the focal length changes when a lens is attached to a cropped sensor camera body.

Focal point

The centre of focus in an image. The focus normally refers to the subject or primary part of the photograph.


A point at which converging rays of light meet after being refracted or reflected. An “in focus” image is something that is sharp and well defined.

Focus assist

Cameras with this send out a light, either normal or infra-red to light up the subject to assist with the autofocus in low light or darkness.

Focus lock

A feature on a digital camera that allows the photographer to stay focused on an object, allowing for all objects at the same distance to be photographed.

Focusing screen

An element between the mirror and pentaprism in a single-lens-reflex camera. The mirror reflects the image from the lens upward onto the screen. The areas of the image that are in focus are sharply defined on the screen, while the areas that are out of focus appear blurred. The photographer views the image passing through the screen in the viewfinder window.


The area of a scene that is closer than the subject.


The shape and size of film – normally used in reference to small, medium and large format films and the photography equipment employed in handling each different film format.

Four thirds (4/3)

A digital camera format designed around a sensor that is half the size of full-frame (35mm) imaging sensors.

The sensors in Four Third and Micro Four Third are identical, but the lens for each system are not interchangeable.

See also Micro four thirds.


Refers to the boundaries or sides within which an image or the viewfinder has been contained.

Frames per second (fps)

The number of pictures that a camera is able to take in a second. A point-and-shoot camera typically shoots one or two pictures per second. Higher-end camera can have as 14 or more frames per second.


A common problem with less expensive lenses involves the “bleeding” of colour along the edges of contrasty images. Fringing often shows up blurring from cyan, yellow and magenta.

See also Chromatic aberration.

Full-frame camera

A full-frame digital camera that has a sensor the same size as a frame of traditional 35mm film.



Gamma refers to the brightness of a display device such as computer monitor. It is the relationship between a pixel’s numerical value and its actual luminance. In other words, each pixel in a image has brightness level value, called luminance. This value is between 0 to 1, where 0 means complete darkness (black), and 1 is brightest (white). Gamma describes the difference between what is and what should be.

See also Gamma correction.

Gamma correction

Gamma correction changes the display device to match the actual brightness level to what is should be. Images displayed on a device which isn’t properly corrected can look either bleached out, or too dark.

Problems arise when the display brightness is adjusted without gamma correction. Two things can happen. The images looks too dark or light on another device screen or prints will be too dark or light.

See also Colour calibration.


The range of colours available in an image. Gamut usually describes printer capabilities in reproducing colours accurately and vibrantly.


Any coloured translucent material that is used to colour a light. Materials are usually made from gelatin, glass or plastic.


Recording the GPS coordinates of the location where a photograph was captured and storing this in the photographs Metadata.

Gigabyte (GB)

A measure of file space consisting of one billion bytes (a thousand megabytes). The actual value is 1,073,741,824 bytes (1024 megabytes).


A nickname for lenses, often used by professional photographers once they realize the quality of a lens is more important than the quality of a camera.

Global positioning system (GPS)

A technology for establishing the location of earth-based objects, using coordinates obtained by orbiting satellites.

See also Geotagging.

Glossy print

A shiny-surfaced print of an image.

Golden hour

The time an hour or less before the sun goes down and around fifteen minutes after the sun has set. The sun produces a beautiful effect on the skin as well as a glowing flat light.


An abbreviation of ‘Graduated’ that is used to describe a type of filter that fades from dark to clear.


A smooth transition between a tonal range. Can include transition from black to white, one colour to another or colour to no colour.

Grey card

A card that is uniformly gravy on one side. The gravy side reflects precisely 18% of the white light that strikes it. It is used to calibrate a light meter and determine a scene’s optimal exposure value.

Grey level

The brightness level of a pixel determining its lightness from white to black. Represented as a value from 0 to 255, 0 equalling black, 255 equalling white.

Grey scale

An image containing purely shades of gravy. Also known as a black and white photograph.

Grip and rip

See Spray and pray.

Guide number

A number used in electronic flash specifications to indicate how powerful a flash is and how large an area it can illuminate.



A reproduction of an image through a special screen made up of different sized dots. Used to simulate a continuous tone image.


The glow that’s created around the edges of objects when they have too much clarity or sharpness.


A part of the camera body shaped to be gripped with a hand. In some cameras, it may also provide extra space for batteries to be housed.

Hard drive (HD)

A large-capacity storage unit for memory that can be housed in an external casing or home computer.

Hardware calibration

A method of calibrating a digital camera, scanner, printer or monitor using specialized hardware such as colorimeters, densitometers, and spectrometers.


A digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) that can also capture high-definition video. Many current DSLRs are also HDSLRs, making the terms almost interchangeable.


Photograph of a person’s head and shoulders. Can be used for things such as promoting the person or business or identification cards..

High dynamic range (HDR)

A technique that enables a photographer to capture a wider range of normal exposure in all areas of a scene. This is done by taking the same photo at different exposures and combining them in an image editing program.

High key

An image that is predominantly made up of lighter tones, and has relatively few mid-tones or shadows.

See also Low key.

High speed sync (HSS)

A feature of camera flash units that creates pulses light at a very fast rate. This eliminates the black bars or gradients caused by shadows from the shutter curtains.

See also Flash sync.


The specific bright area or range of bright areas within a photograph.


A visual representation of the exposure values of a digital image. Histograms are most commonly illustrated in graph form by displaying the light values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights as vertical peaks and valleys along a horizontal plane. When viewing a histogram, the shadows are represented on the left side of the graph, highlights on the right side, and midtones in the central portion of the graph.

Hot shoe

A “live” accessory shoe, usually located on the top of the camera housing where you can mount an electronic flash, wireless transmitter, external microphones or other accessories.


The attribute of a colour within the colour wheel (Red, Green, Blue etc.)


Image Browser

An application that enables you to view digital photos. Some browsers also allow you to rename files, convert photos from one file format to another and add text descriptions.

Image Editor

A computer program that enables you to adjust a photo to improve or change its appearance.

Image Quality (IQ)

A characteristic of an image that measures the perceived image degradation (typically, compared to an ideal or perfect image). Factors that affect quality include brightness and evenness of illumination, contrast, resolution, geometry, colour fidelity and colour discrimination of an observed image.

Image Resolution

Number of pixels in the length of image (i.e. pixels per inch, pixels per millimetre, or pixels wide, etc.).

Image Sensor

Records the scene being photographed similar to a traditional camera. Unlike film, the image sensor sends the image to a memory card.

Image Stabilization (IS)

A method of reducing the effects of camera movement. It can be achieved either in the lens or the camera body.


Illumination produced from typical household bulbs (tungsten bulbs). The light produced has a yellow-white balance with temperature ranging from 2500K to 3200K.

Incident Light

Light falling on a surface – not the light reflected from it. Incident light rays are those that strike an object.


The beginning of the farthest distance of which the lens can focus.

Infra-Red (IR)

A beam of light that is invisible to humans. Is used to either control a device without wires as well as in camera auto focusing systems.


The preparation of the contents of a memory card to enable digital image data recording. Also known as “formatting.”


A printing method in which the printer sprays micro-jets of ionized ink at a sheet of paper in droplet sizes as small as 2 picoliters. Magnetized plates in the ink’s path direct the ink onto the paper in the desired shapes and patterns to make an image.


Printing method that involves the spraying micro-jets of ionized ink on a sheet of paper in droplet sizes.

Interchangeable Lens

A removable lens, typically found on SLR cameras.


This is the term used to describe an image sensor that gathers its data by first processing the odd lines, and then processing the even lines.

Interlaced Scan

Video capture technique that entails imagery consisting of two fields of data that are captured a frame apart and played back in a way that reproduces motion naturally and flicker-free.

International Colour Consortium profile (ICC profile)

A colour-management standard for specifying the colour attributes of digital imaging devices such as scanners, digital cameras, monitors, and printers. This standard is used so that accurate colour consistency is maintained from the point of capture through to the printed image or digital file.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Film speed rating expressed as a number indicating an image sensor’s (or film’s) sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive and faster the sensor (or film) is. Although traditional cameras don’t have a specific ISO rating, digital cameras do as a way to calibrate their sensitivity to light. ISO is equivalent to the older ASA.

The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor is to light and the larger presence grain within the image.

Most digital cameras have native (basic) ISO ratings of about 100, but can be “extended” far beyond this base rating in order to capture sharp imagery under lower lighting conditions. When shooting at extended ISO levels, image quality begins to suffer in terms of sharpness levels, noise, contrast, and added “graininess.”

See also Noise.


Photo interpolation is where the number of pixels that make up a digital image are increased to enlarge it. This normally decreases the quality of the image but can be enhanced by a program or plug-in.


A tool used for time-lapse photography that allows a photographer to capture images at preset intervals.

Inverse Square Law

An equation that relates the intensity of a light source to the illumination it produces at a given distance. Light diminishes over distance in accordance with the Inverse square law, which states that doubling the flash-to-subject distance reduces the light falling on the subject to one-quarter.



Term for the stair-stepped appearance of curved or angled lines in a digital image file. The smaller the pixels and/or the greater their number, the less apparent are the “jaggies.” Jaggies are most common in photographs captured at lower resolving powers and Hello Kitty-type digital cameras.

Nickname for the smooth edges of lines that experience the “stair-step” effect in a low resolution photo.

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)

The de facto standard for image compression in digital imaging devices. JPEG is a “lossy” compression format, capable of reducing a digital image file to about 5% of its normal size. The resulting decompression of the file can cause “blockiness,” “jaggies,” or “pixelization” in certain digital images. The greater the compression levels, the more of a chance pixelization or “blockiness” will occur. The greater the pixel count, the less of a chance pixelization will occur.

The standard image file for digital cameras. JPEG is a “lossy”‘ compression format and results in pixelation at low resolutions.


The file extension for JPEG.


The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.



The measurement of degrees when referring to colour temperature.

Key light

The principal source of light in a scene with artificial light. The key light is generally the brightest and has the most overall effect on the subject.


A type of distortion that occurs when a projected image (from a projector) is not directed perpendicular to the screen.


A side or back light often near lens height used to rim faces and model profile shots. Used to provide an additional highlight or accent to the subject.

Kilobyte (KB)

1,024 bytes, written kB, is used to refer to the size of an image file. This relates to the amount of information, or image data, the file contains.


LAB colour

A non-linear colour space that describes a colour using 3 axes. Each colour being an LAB value. L for brightness, A the red/green value and B the blue yellow value. It is the most accurate way of representing all perceptible colours as well as those outside of human perception. Despite this, it is not commonly used.

Lag time

For DSLR’s, this is the time between when the shutter button is pressed and the image is captured.

For mirrorless system cameras, it is the time taken for the image captured by the sensor to display on the LCD viewfinder.

The less expensive the camera, the longer the lag time.


A picture of the land and its surrounding natural features from a single viewpoint.

The orientation of the image with the longest edges running horizontally.

Large format

A film format that holds individual frames of film that are 4″ X 5″ or larger.

Latent image

An invisible image that is recorded on film and must be made visible by development.

Leading lines

Lines that direct the viewer’s attention to an image’s centre of interest or a specific location within a photograph.


A single piece of glass combined with one or more curved surfaces used to change the convergence of light rays. A camera lens is the vehicle by which the image sensor sees an image.

Lens coating

A coating that reduces light reflection and increases transmitted light.

Lens flare

The light scattered in lens systems through generally unwanted image formation mechanisms, such as internal reflection and scattering from material inhomogeneities in the lens. These mechanisms differ from the intended image formation mechanism that depends on refraction of the image rays.

Lens hood

An accessory that attaches like a collar to the front of a lens and prevents light from striking the surface of the lens.

Light bucket

A nickname for a fast lens.

Light emitting diode (LED)

The small red, green and yellow indicator lights used on most cameras, power supplies and electronic devices.

Light meter

A device used to measure available light and determine the proper exposure for a given scene. The reading tells the photographer which shutter speed and aperture settings to apply.

Light painting

The photographer ‘paints’ a subject with a light source such as a torch while the camera shutter is open for an extended period of time.

See also Long exposure.

Light tent

A tent-like structure made of translucent fabric that diffuses the light coming from outside the tent so that a highly reflective object placed inside the tent can be photographed without seeing any reflections.

Light trail

A line resulting from movement of a point of light (or camera movement) during a long exposure. Star trails are one example.

Liquid crystal display (LCD)

Found on the rear of digital cameras and allows the photographer to preview or review photographers as well as control various aspects of the camera.

LCD screens, usually found on the rear of digital cameras, allow you to preview and review photographs you are about to take or have taken. LCDs utilize two sheets of polarizing material with a liquid crystal solution between them. An electric current passed through the liquid causes the crystals to align so light cannot pass through them. Each crystal, therefore, is like a shutter, either allowing light to pass through or blocking the light and producing an image in colour or monochrome.


A type of rechargeable battery that was originally developed for use with camcorders and is now used as a power source for most digital still cameras and camcorders.

A type of rechargeable battery prevalent in digital cameras and camcorders.

Live view

The photographer can see what the lens is seeing, but on the camera’s LCD instead of the viewfinder. The term is not exactly live but gives the effect that it is.

Long exposure

A long exposure is an image that has been exposed for a long time or uses a long shutter speed. This technique is useful for shooting still objects in low light (used often by landscape photographers), or rendering moving objects into an artistic blur.


A compression technique which lessens file size but allows the image to retain all of its data making them identical in appearance.


A data-compression technique that can reduce the detail of a digital image file. Most video compression techniques utilize lossy compression.

Data-compression that reduces the detail of a digital image file. An example would be JPEG.

See also Lossless.

Low key

Describes an image with mostly dark values and few highlights.

See also High key.

Low-pass filter

Used with digital imaging, low-pass filters are integrated into many digital sensors to suppress aliasing and moiré.

A filter used in digital imaging to suppress colour ghosting alongside the effects of infrared light.


The intensity or brightness released from a light source.


Machine gunner

A photographer who takes more shots than need to. Machine gunners shoot on continuos and have many duplicates.

Macro lens

A lens with the ability to focus extremely close on small objects.


Close-up photography where the subject is captured at the same or larger than actual size.

Manual focus

A feature of a camera lens where the user can control the focus adjust by hand.

Manual mode

A camera mode that allows the photographer to over-ride automatic exposure settings and determine shutter speed and aperture themselves.

Marching ants

The dotted lines that flicker around areas that have been selected in Photoshop.


When using image editing software, a mask is a way of protecting specific areas of the image, just as you would use masking tape when painting your house. This is used to adjust specific parts of the image while keeping the rest of the photo unaffected.

Matrix Metering

Takes the total image area and breaks it into sections, then analyses light in each section and determines proper exposure for the lighting situation.

See also Metering mode.

Maximum Aperture

The widest opening in aperture a lens can afford such as 1.4 or 1.2

Medium Format

A type of film that is larger than 35mm, but smaller than 4″x5″ large format. Typical medium format film would be a “120 roll” which equates to 6×6 cm when developed into negatives.

Megabyte (Mb)

1,024 Kilobytes (Kb). Refer to the size of files or the amount of information that can be stored on storage media.


A megapixel contains 1,000,000 pixels and is the unit of measure used to describe the size of the sensor in a digital camera.


The camera’s file-storage medium. Digital cameras employ flash memory, which doesn’t need power to maintain storage once it is saved.

Memory card

A removable storage device used in digital cameras to store captured images. There are several different types of memory cards available including Compact Flash, SmartMedia, SD/SDHC/SDXC, XD and Memory Stick.

Memory stick

See USB flash drive.


In photography it is information that describes the image file in which it is stored or attached. Typical metadata can include the camera settings that were used to capture the image, the date and time the image was captured. Metadata can be added to an image during post-production such as keywords, copyright information.

Metering mode

This is the mode the photographer chooses so the camera can calculate the exposure from the reflected light. The camera can use this information to change the settings or can simply display the resulting exposure information to the photographer.

Microphone (Mic)

Digital cameras that can record audio have a built-in microphone. Some digital cameras also feature an external mic input port, which allow for the use of dedicated microphones during video recording.

Micro four thirds

A variation of the four thirds format but uses the same sensor size. A mirrorless camera system even smaller than standard Four Thirds format cameras. Micro Four Thirds optics lens’ cannot be used on standard Four Thirds camera bodies, due to their smaller lens mounts.


The area of an image or a scene that displays average or “middle” tonal values.

Minimum aperture

The smallest opening a lens affords. An extremely sharp image with a small aperture would be f/64.

Model release

A contract in which a model consents to the use of his or her images by the photographer or a third party.

Modelling light

A tungsten light built into a studio flash that remains on when the flash is in standby mode, allowing the photographer to attain focus prior to the flash going off.


Patterns formed in portions of a photographic image as a result of confusion between a pattern within the photographic scene and the pattern of pixels within the sensor. Moiré can often be eliminated, or greatly reduced, by moving either closer to or farther from your subject. Higher-resolution imaging sensors tend to be less prone to issues with moiré, which is a form of aliasing.


A single-color image. A black and white or sepia-toned image is considered to be monochrome.


A one-legged support for a camera, designed similarly to a tripod. Often used as support when shooting events that require a large lens to “stop action” such as sporting events or concerts.

Movie Mode

Camera mode that captures movies or video.

Multi-Pattern Metering

Measures many different zones in the frame to give an optimum exposure evaluation.

Multiple exposure

When more than one exposure is exposed on the same frame. Called a “Double-exposure” when two exposures appear together in a single frame.

Multi-Point Focusing

An autofocus system that uses several different points of the image to determine the correct focus.

Multi-Zone Focusing

The camera automatically determines which zone or area within the scene (centre, left, right, upper or lower) is appropriate for performing auto focus.


Narrow Lighting

Occurs when the main light completely illuminates only the side of the subject’s face that is turned away from the camera. This can also be called “short lighting”

Natural Light

See “Ambient Light”

Neutral Density Filter

A filter used in front of the lens that absorbs all visible wavelengths and significantly reduces the amount of light that reaches the sensor.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCad) battery

A type of rechargeable battery. The NiCad battery was one of the first successful rechargeable batteries used in small electronics, such as digital cameras.

Nifty fifty

A 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 or faster. Lenses in this range are fast, lightweight. The “nifty” feature is the price. The f/1.8 and f/1.4 50mm lenses are often the best value for glass you can buy.

Nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery

A commonly used rechargeable battery. A NiMH battery can hold two to three times the capacity of an equivalent size nickel-cadmium battery.

Nodal point

The point of a lens where all of the light rays converge.


In a digital image, noise is unwanted artefacts across the image. There are typically two causes of noise. Long exposure where the sensor heats up causing extra electronic to be included in the photons the sensor is capturing and high ISO sensitivity.

The smaller a sensor, the more susceptible it is to noise.

See also Long exposure.

See also ISO.

Noise reduction

A process where the noise present in a digital image is reduced or eliminated. The process can be done in camera or by using image processing software.

See Noise.


See Lossless.

Normal Lens

Lens with a focal length approximately equal to the diagonal of the film format or of a digital camera’s image sensor. A scene viewed through a normal lens appears to have the same perspective as the way your eye sees it. Most 35mm cameras normal lenses have a focal length of approximately 50 mm.



An optical system containing a combination of lenses that converge light rays from an object and form an image on the focal plane. A photographic lens is an objective.

Off camera flash

An electronic flash unit that is not built into the camera body. They can be temporarily fitted to the camera body using a hotshoe or positioned elsewhere.


In image post-processing, this is the density of an image. Changing the opacity changes how much of the underlying layer is visible. Can also apply to darkroom processing of a a negative.

Open up

A term used to indicate that an aperture size should be increased or shutter speed reduced to allow more light to reach the film or image sensor.

Optical resolution

The physical resolution at which a device can capture an image. The term is used most frequently in reference to optical scanners and digital cameras.

Optical viewfinder

A viewfinder that is used to compose the photograph.

Optical zoom

Changes the magnification of images with the actual optical glass before the images reach the film or imaging sensor.

See also Digital zoom.

ORF (Olympus RAW Format)

The un-processed image format created by Olympus.

Orientation sensor

A sensor in a digital camera that can tell when the photographer turns the camera to portrait orientation to take a vertical shot. This is registered for auto-rotation when viewing images in playback.

Out of focus (OOF)

An acronym that refers to a soft photo.


Where too much light has been recorded on the film or the digital sensor when taking a picture. The effect is an image that is lighter than was intended. Depending on the degree to which an image is overexposed and the file format used to record the image, it may be corrected in post processing.

See also Underexposed.



See Colour palette.

Pancake lens

A very flat, thin lens with a very short barrel.


Taking a photograph while keeping a moving subject in the frame.


An image that is at least twice as wide as it is high. These images can be created in one of three ways.

  1. Using a specialised panoramic camera.
  2. Taking multiple photographs along a horizontal plane and stitching them together in software.
  3. Cropping a normal photograph.


Photographer who take candid, surreptitious or surprise photographs, but not posed pictures, of celebrities and their families, often for publication in tabloids and magazines.


Describes the difference between the image as seen through the viewfinder or on an LCD screen and the image as recorded by the sensor.

A simple example of parallax can be seen on a needle style speedometer gauge of a motor vehicle. . When you look a the need from directly in front, the speed may show exactly 60; but when viewed from the passenger seat the needle may appear to show a different speed, due to the angle of viewing.

PC sync

See Synch cord.


Perspective is an element of photography determined by the angle of view from which the image is captured.


Greek term for “light,” used to describe a single image.


A photograph that has been spoiled by the unexpected appearance of an unintended subject in the camera’s field of view as the picture was taken.


A software program created by Adobe for digital image manipulation.

Pincushion distortion

An optical distortion resulting in the image bowing in towards the centre of the image. Pincushion distortion is usually associated with less expensive wide-angle lenses and digital cameras, and is most apparent in architectural photographs or images containing lines that run parallel to each other in the horizontal or vertical plane.

See also Barrel distortion.


Short for picture element, pixels are the tiny components that do one of two things. They capture the digital image data recorded by your camera. They recreate the images on a display device.

The more pixels there are, the higher the screen or image resolution will be.

Pixel peeper

Someone who spends too much time looking at images files fully zoomed in on their computer and reads noise and resolution ‘at the pixel level’ rather than looking at the picture as a whole.


The breakup of a low-resolution digital image caused by having too few pixels. The pixels within a photograph become more noticeable and can no longer blend together to form a smooth image.

Point and shoot

Automatic cameras that simplify taking pictures by only requiring the user to press the shutter button.

Point of view

A technique for creating more interesting photos by moving around the subject or changing your position relative to the subject.

Polarized light

Light that is reflected or transmitted through certain media so that all vibrations are restricted to a single plane.

Polarizing filter

An adjustable filter, with two rings that change the filter’s effectiveness. The outer ring absorbs glare and darkens blue skies when rotated appropriately.


A picture of a person that captures their likeness.

The orientation of an image where the longest edge is vertical.


The assumed position of the subject in relation to the camera. Pose includes variations in posture and placement of head, hands, feet, etc.

Pixels per inch (PPI)

A measure of resolution in relation to an image displayed on a screen.

See also Dots per inch.


A low-power flash that emits light before the main flash to automatically set the exposure and white balance.

Preview button

A button on a camera body that shows a preview of how the depth-of-field will look before the shutter release button is pressed.

Prime lens

A fixed focal length lens that remains constant with no ability to zoom. Prime lenses are often of higher optical quality because they have a wider minimum aperture.


A photographic image printed either from a digital file or a negative. Can be printed on a variety of media including paper, wood, glass, metal, and textiles.

Programmed AE

A mode where the camera evaluates the scene and sets the shutter speed and aperture to values which will give a correct exposure. Programmed AE differs from Auto mode in that the photographer can change the exposure settings  for more artistic control over the final image.


A sample image printed as a test to make sure that the monitor and printer are calibrated correctly. It can also be a small, low resolution digital file where a client can select a limited number of images.

Prophoto RGB

A colour space developed by Kodak with photographic output in mind. It has an  especially large gamut.

See Gamut.

Photoshop document (PSD)

An image file type created in Adobe PhotoShop. A PSD file lets the user save a picture they are working on with all of the image-editing data intact.


Racking focus

Racking focus is the technique of directing the attention of the viewer of video footage by shifting the focus of the lens from a subject in the foreground to a subject in the background, or vice versa.


The viewfinder on most small cameras that is a separate viewing device and independent of the lens. It can be found on Diana cameras and Polaroids and is often above the lens or to the left or right.

RAW file format

This image format is the unedited image as captured by the camera’s sensor. All the information captured is stored in a RAW file which means more editing flexibility such as brightening dark areas or changing colour temperature. RAW files are specific each camera make and model. They also need to be converted to another formats such as jpg or png for use on websites. Not all cameras support RAW file format.


The eyes of someone in a photograph are red. This is caused by light from a flash striking the rear portion of the eye and illuminating the blood vessels. Can be corrected while the photo is taken or in post-processing.

See Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction

A way of reducing or eliminating red-eye  by using a pre-flash prior to taking the photograph.

A feature in software to correct red-eye in the photograph.


A specific type of shiny or white material used to reflect light in a specific direction.

Reflex camera

A camera that utilizes a mirror system to reflect light into a visible screen. The scene in the camera’s viewfinder is the same image that is being seen through the lens.

Rembrandt lighting

A lighting technique used in studio portrait photography that requires minimal use of lighting equipment but gives a natural and compelling look to the subject.

Remote capture

The ability to signal the camera shutter to fire from a distance using a cable release or wireless trigger system.


The final step of an image transformation when a new image has been refreshed on a computer screen.


Occurs when an image editing program is used to change an image’s size. Increasing an image’s size requires the addition of new pixels and decreasing size removes pixels.

Resin coated paper

Usually used in high volume, low cost photographic printing services, this is paper has a plastic, ink receptive layer over the top of wood fibre paper.


To take an image and adjust the size specifications, often when preparing it for print. Most editing programs offer a resize option labelled as “cropping.”


The number of pixels used to capture or display an image. The higher the resolution the larger the print that can be made. High resolution is not an indicator of image quality.


To improve an image’s appearance by physically or digitally altering a print or image file.

RGB Colour (Red Green Blue)

A colour space comprised of 256 variations of colour that is used in digital cameras and image editing software.

See also Colour space.

Rim Lighting

When the key light is behind the subject so that the subject’s face is located completely in shadow. The subject also has a rim of light emphasizing the contour of their head.

Ring Flash

A circular-shaped electronic flash fitted around a lens that is used in close-up photography because the subject is often shadowless and maintains uniform frontal lighting.

Rule of Thirds

A concept for photographic composition where the scene is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically.



A light is used in a darkroom to view light-sensitive material in dim conditions without ruining the print.


The depth of the colour within an image. The deeper the level of colour the more saturated a photo is. Less saturation gives a more muted look to the colour palette.


Describes the size of a subject relative to its surroundings or immediate environment.

Scene Modes

Camera modes that lets a user select from pre-programmed options. Scene modes can include Sports, Portrait, and Macro.

See also Creative modes.

Secure digital (SD) card

A memory card format often found in mobile phones and modern digital cameras. Cards can be in a number of formats including SDHC and SDXC memory cards.

Selective focus

A tool employed using shallow depth of field, so that the subject is isolated from its surroundings because the surroundings are not in focus.

Self timer

A preset time delay (i.e. 2 or 10 seconds) before the shutter fires automatically. Photographers use this technique to avoid camera shake as well as put themselves in a photograph when using a tripod.


A photographic self-portrait usually taken at arm’s length, or one’s own reflection photographed in a mirror. This style of photography is amateur and is very prevalent in contemporary society due to the technology associated with camera phones.


A brownish effect seen in photos from the 19th century that is now an option in image editing software.


The darkest part of the scene within an image, predominantly a range of black tonal values.

Shadow detail

The detail that is visible within the darkest parts of an image.


An image’s degree of clarity in terms of focus and contrast.

Sheet film

A piece of film sized for one exposure in a view camera.


A mechanism in the camera that controls the amount of light that reaches the film or sensor.

Shutter count

The number of times the shutter has opened in its lifetime. Professional cameras are rated for 200,000 actuations with a single shutter.

Shutter lag

The time between when the shutter is pressed and when the image is captured. Point and Shoot cameras have a longer shutter lag time because it must calculate exposure before taking the picture.

Shutter priority

A creative mode in which the shutter speed is set by the photographer and camera sets the aperture based on the exposure reading.

See also Aperture priority.

Shutter release

A button on the camera body that is pressed to take the picture.

Shutter speed

The length of time the shutter remains open when the shutter release is activated, most commonly expressed in fractions or multiples of a second.


A dark image outlined against a lighter background. This occurs when the photographer is capturing an image with the light source facing them.

Slow sync

A flash mode in some digital cameras that opens the shutter for a longer period of time than normal. This technique is used for proper illumination of both the background and foreground.

Single Lens Reflex (SLR)

A film camera that has a prism and mechanical mirror system to project the image to a viewfinder.


A flash memory card that consists of a thin piece of plastic with laminated memory on the surface and a gold contact strip to connect to the camera. SmartMedia cards are available in various sizes.


An informal photograph taken quickly by a hand-held camera.

Soft focus

A soft look achieved bending light and dispersing highlights so that the image still remains in focus but gives the subject a soft look.


A type of photographic lighting device that creates soft or “flat” lighting. All the various soft light types create even and diffused light by directing light through some diffusing material.


A small electronic flash unit with it’s own power source that can be fitted to the hotshoe of a camera, held by hand, mounted on a light stand or free standing on  a table top.

See Off camera flash.

Spot metering

A metering mode that measures reflected light. Depending on the camera, approximately 5% of the centre of the frame is used to measure the light.

See also Metering mode.

Spray and pray

Setting the camera to its highest continuous drive mode and holding the shutter down with the hopes of catching the image stopped in action and in focus.


A colour space that provides a smaller range of colours than the RGB colour space. This colour space used by many devices because it can be reproduced on inexpensive screens.

See also Colour space.


Combining a series of images to create a larger image or a panoramic photo. To do this you need image editing software.

Stock photography

Photographs that are supplied through licensing and intended for specific use. Stock photos can be found in mass amounts on various websites such as Getty Images.


A form of measurement when referring to aperture. Stops in order – 1.8, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 64

Stopping down

Stopping down indicates that the photographer is increasing the f-stop number, therefore decreasing the size of the aperture and making the image sharper.

Storage Card

See Memory card.

Street photography

A form of photography that features humans within public places.


A room specially equipped for photography, often with a blank backdrop and a variety of lighting equipment.

Synch cord

An electrical cord connecting a camera to an electronic flash that is used to permit synchronized flash.


T (Time)

A shutter speed mode used for extended time exposures. The shutter opens when the release is pressed and closes when it is pressed again.

Tagged-image file format (TIFF)

A flexible image format widely used in the publishing, graphics and photography industries. While originally developed by a committee of several organisations, the format is currently owned by Adobe.


A secondary lens mounted between a camera body and the main lens that is used to increase the focal length. This gives lens the ability to zoom in on a subject further than it normally can. Some teleconverters are built into the lens body and can be switched on when needed.

Telephoto lens

A lens with a long focal length and narrow angle of view that exhibits shallow depth of field through its magnification of focal length. While there is not standard definition of what makes a lens a telephoto lens, as a guide a lens with a focal length of 135-300+ mm could be considered a telephoto lens.

Test Shots

A series of images photographed at the beginning of a shoot, often with a stand-in rather than the actual model. These images are taken to allow the photographer to determine proper exposure, depth of field and lighting for a photo shoot.


The visual quality of the surface of an object revealed through variances in shape, tone and colour depth. Lighting has the most influence over how texture will look in an image.

Through the lens (TTL)

A metering system that determines the proper exposure based on measuring the light that strikes the imaging sensor (or film plane) after passing through the camera’s lens. TTL readings are usually more accurate than handheld meter readings since all exposure factors, including filtration and any optical peculiarities, are taken into account when determining the final exposure. Many dedicated camera flashes also utilize TTL metering to determine the proper flash exposure.

A metering system that determines the proper exposure based on a reading through the lens and onto the image sensor. These are the most accurate of exposure readings and normally filter out any peculiarities.


Small, contact sheet-sized image files used to reference or edit digital images. The images that appear on a camera’s LCD are thumbnail images of the larger file.

Small images that appear in an image browser or on the LCD of a digital camera.

Tilt shift lens

A lens that allows the photographer to control the appearance of perspective by adjusting the lens’ relationship to the image sensor. This type of lens gives effects similar to a view camera

Time Lapse

Photographs captured over time intervals such as seconds, minutes, days, weeks or years.


A series of photographs captured over a period of time. These images can be captured in variable or set time intervals over the course of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc.

Although several more advanced cameras offer the option of custom function time-lapse imaging, most cameras require optional hard-wired or remotely operated triggering devices to capture time-lapse imagery.

Tonal range

A term used to describe the quality of colour and tone ranging from an image’s shadow details through the brightest highlight details, including all of the transitions in between these extreme points. Tonal range can also be described in terms of “gamut.”

Tonal range

The quality of colour and tone within an image ranging from the darkest to brightest area and everything in between.


The degree of lightness, darkness, or colour variation in an image. Can also be known as “value.”

Tone curve

A graph used in image editing software to display the value within the photo. The tone curve is adjustable in terms of both light and colour.


A pole that has a base of three legs that provides support to a camera when filming or taking photos in low light. This prevents camera shake and allows photographers to take long exposures, e.g.: night photography.

True colour

Colour in a digital image that has a depth of 24-bits per pixel and a total of 16.7 million colours.

Tungsten light

A type of artificial lighting.



A lighting accessory that resembles a rain umbrella. IT is used to soften the light from a flash by either reflecting the light toward the subject or diffusing the light as it passes through to the subject.

Uncle Bob

The name that wedding photographers give to a wedding guest who comes armed with a big DSLR and accessories. Uncle Bob can often be found in the photographer’s way or in the photograph unnecessarily.


Where not enough light has been recorded on the film or the digital sensor when taking a picture. The effect is an image that is darker than was intended. Depending on the degree to which an image is underexposed and the file format used to record the image, it may be corrected in post processing.

See also Overexposed.

Unsharp masking

When detail and sharpness of an image is increased via image editing software.


To transfer information from one device to another. Photographers often upload their images from camera to computer, and then subsequently upload the images from the computer to a hard drive for storage.

USB flash drive

Also called a thumb drive, this is a removable storage device that follows one of a number of USB standards.


Vibration reduction

See Image stabilization.

Video mode

The ability of a digital camera to capture video by keeping the shutter open rather than opening and closing when capturing an image.

Video out

Some digital cameras have the ability to output images on television screens and computer monitors by connecting them with a cord and using either NTSC or PAL format.

View camera

A large format film camera that produces an individual image. This camera can only take one image at a time with a sheet of film needed for each image.


What the photographer looks through to compose a photograph. Viewfinders can be glass (Rangefinder) or an LCD screen that views the live image. They can show a live image through the use of prisms and mirrors or can be a small LCD screen.


The darkening of the edges of a photographic image. There are two causes of vignetting.

Using a lens that is not able to evenly distribute light to the corners of the frame.

Added as a creative element using software. The intent is to direct the viewer’s eye back to the centre of the frame.



In digital photography, a watermark is an image or text incorporated into the image.

White balance

Various lighting can cause a colour cast or tint which the human eye compensates for allowing us to see ‘normal’ colour. However, this colour is visible in digital images. White balance is the ability to remove the colour cast by adding the opposite colour to the image. This can be done either in camera or using image processing software.

See also Auto white balance.

See also Colour temperature.

Wide-angle lens

A lens with an angle of view that is wider than that of a normal lens, or that of the human eye. A wide-angle lens has a focal length shorter than the focal length of a normal lens and sometimes has distortions at the end of the image. Standard-wide angle lenses are 28-35mm while super-wide is anything wider than 28mm.


xD Cards

A small, narrow-profile memory card format developed by Olympus and Fujifilm, Introduced in 2002, they were overtaken by the SD memory card format. They are no longer used.

See also Memory card.



The action of varying the focal length of a zoom lens to enlarge (zoom in) or reduce (zoom out) the image.

Zoom creep

A lens’ tendency to extend or shorten the focal length without the photographer’s intent. This is due to an upward or downward tilt of the lens.

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