1080p– A format for recording full HD video with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, offered on many current digital cameras.

10-bit video– Most video in consumer cameras uses 8-bit capture (just as JPEG images from cameras are 8-bit), but more advanced video cameras may offer 10-bit capture, which gives more editing leeway later on in post production. Read more: Video jargon explained

110– Cartridge-based film format used in pocket cameras. Immensely popular in the 1970s, the plastic cartridge contained 16mm film which gave either 12 or 24 exposures. See 110 cameras: the rise and fall of little film format.

35mm Equivalent. The field of view of a particular lens and film/sensor size combo compared to the field of view on a traditional 35mm “full frame” camera.

35mm. The film gauge that became the dominant film format in film photography. The name “35mm” refers to the width of the film strip from edge to edge. While frames were recorded vertically on the film in filmmaking, Leica pioneered the use of the film horizontally for still photography, with each frame measuring 24x36mm. Kodak named the format 135 film in 1934, and 35mm film rolls (also known as cassettes or cartridges) became the dominant standard for consumer photography for decades — passing 120 film in popularity in the late 1960s — before the introduction of digital photography. Full frame sensors in digital cameras are based on the 24×36mm frame size of 35mm film, and these sensors are the standard by which the “crop factor” of all other sensor formats is measured.

360 camera– A camera with two back to back 180+ degree fisheye lenses that can capture a full spherical view of the world around the camera. Read more: What is a 360 camera and how do you use them?

4K video– Video with a horizontal resolution of around 4,000 pixels, including 4K UHD (3,840 pixels wide) and C4K (4,096 pixels wide). Read more: What is 4K?

500 Rule. A guideline for determining the maximum shutter speed you can use to capture sharp stars without producing star trails in your night sky photography. The 500 rule states that you should divide 500 by the focal length of your lens to get the maximum shutter speed in seconds. For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens, the maximum shutter speed would be 500 / 50 = 10 seconds.

5G– 5G simply means the fifth generation of standards for mobile networks. Using higher frequencies with much shorter wavelengths than 4G, 5G networks can far exceed fibre-optic networks, but wirelessly. Read more: What is 5G?

720p– A high-definition video recording format with a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, offered as option on many digital cameras.

8K– 8K video is a high-resolution video standard for video with a horizontal resolution of around 8,000 pixels. It doubles the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K video and is to 4K what 4K is to full HD. Read more: What is 8K?

Aberration – Aberration is an optical imperfection that occurs in camera lenses. This happens when light enters the lens and is imperfectly translated to the camera’s sensor. There are a variety of types of aberration. The most common is chromatic aberration.

Aberration– An optical fault in a lens that creates a less-than-perfect image. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Absolute Resolution – Absolute resolution is the full size of the image sensor in a camera. It is conveyed as a dimensional count of the sensor in pixels. For example, a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has an absolute resolution of 6720 x 4480 pixels. This is also measured in the number of megapixels a sensor contains. In the case of the 5D Mark IV sensor, it has 31.7 megapixels. The actual area of the sensor that an image is formed with and translated to the A-D Converter is often less than the absolute resolution of a sensor.

Abstract– In photography, this term refers to images that concentrate on aspects of a subject such as shape, form, color and texture, instead of a straightforward representation– of a subject.

Acquire – This term is often used concerning the importation of image files into post-processing software. Image acquisition happens in a variety of ways depending on the software or app being used.

Active Area – The active area of a sensor consists of the pixels that capture photons. This can vary depending on the mode the camera is set to. Even when set to the highest resolution setting, the active area is often less than the Absolute Resolution of a sensor. Many cameras provide options to capture images in a variety of formats. For example, when set to capture a square image, the active area will be a square measurement based on the shortest side of the camera sensor.

Active Autofocus. An autofocus system in which the camera emits a red beam that bounces off the subject, returns to the camera, and is detected in order to determine the distance from the camera to the subject. The camera then uses this reading to precisely adjust focus and lock it onto the subject.

A-D Converter (or ADC) – This is a chip in digital cameras with the function of converting light photons into electrons. The camera’s sensor collects photons when you press the shutter release. The A-D converter transforms these into electrical signals used to create a digital image file.

Adams, Ansel– Adams (1902-1984) was an influential American photographer, acclaimed for– his black-and-white landscapes of the American West, and particularly Yosemite National Park. Together with Fred Archer, he formulated the Zone System as a way to determine the optimum exposure for a negative.

Adjustment layer– This is a layer containing an image adjustment or effect instead of image content. Like a red Cellophane overlay on a print, an adjustment layer will alter the appearance of layers below it, but not actually alter their content, making adjustment layers a cornerstone of reversible, ‘non-destructive’ editing. The adjustment can be altered, hidden or removed at any point. When you add an adjustment layer, a mask is also automatically created, so that the effect can be applied to a lesser extent (or not at all) in particular areas of the image.

Adobe Camera Raw– A plugin included with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements that enables users to process and edit raw files. Adobe Camera Raw is frequently updated to support the newest camera models. Read more: What is Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)?

Adobe Camera Raw. Also known as ACR, it is an Adobe Photoshop plug-in that lets you import, process, and enhance raw photographs without going through Adobe Lightroom.

Adobe RGB – A color space using RGB primary colors designed to include most colors CMYK printers use. Adobe developed this in 1998 (it’s sometimes still referred to as Adobe RBG 1998).

Adobe. An American software company based in San Jose, California. Many of its flagship products, including the image editing software Adobe Photoshop, are widely used by photographers, videographers, and creatives across a wide range of industries.

AE– An abbreviation for automatic exposure. This camera feature enables the user to determine the shutter speed and aperture for an image, usually via a TTL (through-the-lens) exposure meter.

AE Lock. Autoexposure lock is a camera function that allows the users to lock the current exposure settings. This enables the photographer to shoot photos without the camera recalculating the necessary settings for optimal exposure before every shot.

AEL– Automatic exposure lock. This is a push-button control that enables you to select the part of the scene from which the camera takes its meter reading, and then lock this setting while the image is re-framed for better composition. The button can also be used for focusing.

AF illuminator– This is a system used by some cameras and flashguns to assist autofocus operation in poor light. A pattern of red light is projected on to the subject, which aids the contrast-detection autofocus to adjust the lens correctly.

AF Lock. Autofocus lock is a camera feature that allows a photographer to freeze the current focus point of the lens, enabling them to shoot a photo at any time independent of whether the camera determines it has achieved correct focus.

AF Servo – Using this auto-focus mode a camera will continuously focus while the shutter button is partly depressed. It is most commonly used when photographing moving subjects.

AF– Stands for autofocus, a function first introduced on cameras in the late 1970s,– in which the lens is adjusted automatically to bring the designated part of the image into sharp focus. Many modern lenses for digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras have AF, which is achieved via one or more sensors and a motor either integrated in the lens itself or the camera body. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

AF-S– This stands for ‘autofocus-silent’, and refers to Nikon lenses that use a silent motor to control the autofocus system. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

AI– AI stands for Artificail Intelligence, ‘deep learning’ or ‘machine learning’ computer technology that can be used for everything from camera control and automation to ‘intelligent’ photo editing, and by AI image generators.

AL– See aspherical lens.

Albumen print– A type of photographic print, invented in 1850 by Frenchman Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard (1802-1872). It consists of a sheet of paper coated in egg white (albumen) and salt, then dipped in a light-sensitive silver nitrate solution. The paper, when dried, is overlaid with a glass negative and exposed to the sun. The albumen print was widely used until the late 19th century.

Aliasing – Aliasing is the jagged look of low-resolution lines that run diagonally across an image. Anti-aliasing tools are available in some image-processing software.

All-I vs Long GOP– Two ways of compressing video footage. All-I compresses each frame individually so that each one is a complete image, while Long GOP keeps only ‘key frames’ in their entirety and simply records any changes in the intermediate frames. All-I is best for quality and editing later. Read more: Video jargon explained

Alternative processes– This term refers to a range of photographic processes, mostly dating from the late 19th and early 20th century, which devotees continue to use for their unique qualities. They include the daguerreotype, gum bichromate, cyanotype, salt print, bromoil, platinum and palladian processes.

Ambient Light – Also known as Available Light. It’s the light that exists without the photographer having added it. During the day, the sun is always ambient light. Any electric or any other light source not introduced by the photographer is ambient light.

Ambient light– The existing light in a particular scene, which may be sunlight, moonlight or an artificial light already providing illumination. It excludes any light source added by the photographer, such as flash or studio lighting. Read more: What is ambient light?

Ambient Light. Any light in a scene that the photographer did not introduce artificially. This can include both natural light from the Sun as well as artificial light already illuminating a location.

Anamorphic lens– A lens which squashes a scene horizontally to fit in the sensor area so that the image can be opened out again later to capture a scene much wider than the sensor could do normally. Anamorphic lenses were used widely in filmmaking and are making a comeback in the digital era. Read more: Best anamorphic lenses

Angle of View (AOV) – Also known as Field of View. This is how much of a scene a camera can photograph. It varies depending on the lens and the size of the camera’s sensor. Shorter focal length lenses have a wider angle of view than lenses of longer focal lengths.

Angle of View (AOV). Another term for field of view.

Angle of view– A measurement of how much a lens can see of a scene from a particular position, usually measured in degrees. The longer the focal length of the lens, the narrower the angle of view. Zoom lenses have adjustable angles of view.

Anti-aliasing– A method of smoothing diagonal or curved lines in digital images to avoid a ‘staircase’ or ‘stepped’ appearance (also called ‘jaggies’), caused by the fact that the– pixels making up an image are discrete blocks of color. Read more: What is an anti-aliasing filter or low pass filter on a camera sensor?

Aperture – The aperture of a lens is an adjustable hole used to regulate the amount of light that passed through the lens. Aperture is one of three parts of the exposure triangle that control light reaching the camera’s sensor and affecting it to make images. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO need to be controlled together to manage correct exposures. The aperture has a strong influence on the depth of field. Wider apertures create images with a shallower depth of field. Narrow apertures produce more depth of field in photos. The widest aperture is always included with lens information. For example, 50mm f/1.4, or 18mm-105mm f/3.5-6.3. The aperture measurement is provided as an f-stop number. The size of the opening is indicated by the calculation of the lens focal length and the f-number. So, for example, a 50mm lens at f/2 has an aperture opening of 25mm. The aperture is an important and common part of photography terminology that you can learn more about by reading this article.

Aperture Aperture is the opening through which light passes through the lens to enter the camera. Its size can be modified to control how much light reaches the sensor or negative film. The diameter of the aperture, also known as the F-stop, affects the exposure and depth of field.

Aperture Priority – Aperture priority is an exposure mode setting on cameras. It is the most popular auto-exposure mode. In aperture priority mode the photographer maintains control over the aperture setting while the camera sets the shutter speed to balance the exposure. How this happens depends on the information the camera’s light meter provides. Aperture priority is very popular because it allows people to capture generically well-exposed photographs while maintaining some level of control over the depth of field. The aperture priority setting on the mode dial of a camera is usually labeled ‘A’ or ‘Av’ (on Canon cameras). For more information about how to use the aperture priority mode, and other camera exposure modes, please refer to this article.

Aperture priority– Semi-automatic exposure system, where the aperture is set by the photographer. The shutter speed is then set by the camera to suit the light level reading taken by the camera’s own meter.

Aperture Priority. A camera exposure mode in which the photographer sets the aperture and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed in order to achieve optimal exposure based on lighting conditions detected by the built-in light meter.

Aperture priority: A setting on cameras usually abbreviated as A or Av. Allows the photographer to set a specific aperture or f-number, and the camera will automatically choose a shutter speed and ISO to match. Useful for keeping a specific depth of field while shooting.

Aperture– The opening in the lens that restricts how much light reaches the image sensor. In all but the most basic cameras, the size of the aperture is adjustable. The aperture setting used has an important role to play in both exposure and depth of field. Read more: What is aperture on a camera? | What is depth of field?

Aperture. The opening of the diaphragm within a lens that light passes through on its way into a camera. This is one of the fundamental settings for controlling exposure and a component of the Exposure Triangle. Usually measured and expressed as a number known as the f-number of f-stop.

Aperture: The part of the camera that opens to let light in. The f-stop or f-number is the measurement of how open or closed the aperture is.

APEX. Short for Additive System of Photographic Exposure. A system for simple exposure computation first proposed in the 1960 ASA standard regarding monochrome film speed. While APEX failed to become a fundamental standard in the camera industry, its use of Av and Tv to refer to aperture and shutter speed live on in modern cameras.

APO– Abbreviation of apochromatic. This is used, for example, to describe Sigma lenses that use super-low dispersion (SLD) lens elements to reduce chromatic aberration.

APS– The initials of the Advanced Photo System, a short-lived film photography format introduced by Kodak and other manufacturers in 1996. The 24mm film– was housed in a drop-in cartridge, and could be shot in three different formats.– It was mainly used in compact cameras, but also a small number of SLRs.

APS-C (APSC) – APS stands for Advanced Photo System. The ‘C’ stands for Classic. This size of an image sensor is a 3:2 ratio, which is the same as a full-frame sensor ratio. APS was a film format introduced for a short period of time in the 1990s before digital cameras were popular. There are two other APS sensor sizes. The exact APS-C size varies depending on the manufacturer of the camera. APS-C sensors are used in most DSLR cameras that do not have full-frame sensors. They are also known as crop sensors, along with various other sensor sizes that are small than full-frame. The crop factor of an APS-C sensor is 1.5x.

APS-C– This refers to the size of sensor used in some digital cameras, measuring around 22.5x15mm, and with a 3:2 aspect ratio. It gets its name and dimensions from the defunct APS (Advanced Photo System) film format, used in its Classic (C) aspect ratio. Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?

APS-C. Advanced Photo System type-C is a format for digital image sensors that is roughly the same dimensions as the Advanced Photo System (APS) film negative in its Classic (C) format. It measures 25.1×16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2. Commonly found in digital cameras, the format is smaller than standard 35mm film, so it is known as a “cropped frame” sensor, usually with a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x.

APS-H (APSH) – This is a similar-sized sensor to the APS-C but has a crop factor of 1.3x. It is used in only a few Canon and Leica cameras.

APS-H. Advanced Photo System type-H is a format for digital sensors that is based on the dimensions of Advanced Photo System (APS) film negative in its High Definition (H) format. It measures 30.2×16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 16:9. Not commonly found in modern digital cameras, APS-H has a crop factor of about 1.25x or 1.3x compared to standard 35mm film.

Arca-Swiss plate– A quick-release system adopted by many tripod heads, that allows L-mounts and tripod plates to be used on tripods made by a wide variety of manufacturers. The system is not quite universal though, as some makers stick to their own plate designs that are not cross-compatible.

Archival – Typically this term is used together when talking about an archival print or photograph. This is a photographic image that’s made to last a long time. The term can also be applied to film processing which has an emphasis on longevity.

Archival. The quality and ability of a photo to remain unchanged in appearance for an extended period of time. Can refer to data storage technologies for digital images or paper, ink, and storage qualities for photographic prints.

Artefacts– Flaws in an image caused by limitations in the recording or manipulation process. Examples include color and tonal banding, random blotches or a mottled, grainy appearance.

Artifact – Artifacts appear in images as a result of compression or interpolation. Artifacts form and appear in different ways depending on the subject material of a photograph and how the compression is applied. Artifacting can occur in camera and during post-processing with software or apps.

AS and Asp– Abbreviations for aspherical. See aspherical lens.

ASA – ASA stands for American Standards Association, which explains nothing of its meaning in photography or anything else. It is represented by a number that indicates the light sensitivity of the film and sometimes digital image sensors. It has largely now been replaced by the term ISO (another acronym that is equally unhelpful.)

ASA– A method of measuring and specifying film speed, or a film’s sensitivity to light, as devised by the American Standards Association in 1943. It was replaced by– the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) film speed system in– the 1980s.

ASA. Short for American Standards Association. The standards body that defined the ASA system for rating the speed sensitivity of photographic emulsions. The private non-profit organization has since been renamed to American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In 1974, ASA and DIN were combined into the ISO standards used by photographers today.

Aspect Ratio – Aspect ratio is how wide and how tall an image or sensor is. To find the ratio you divide the width and height by their common factor. 36mm x 24mm is the size of a full-frame sensor. These numbers have a common factor of 12, so you use this number to divide each to come up with the aspect ratio of 3:2.

Aspect ratio Aspect ratio defines the relationship between an image’s lengths, represented as width:height. It is predetermined by the dimensions of the camera’s sensor, but can be altered in post processing. The most common aspect ratios are 3:2 (full-frame, mirrorless, 35mm film) and 4:3 (most DSLRs). Recently, 4:5 has gained popularity due to Instagram’s vertical cropping.

Aspect ratio– The relationship between the width and height of a picture, which describe the proportions of an image format or a photograph. The aspect ratio of most D-SLRs is 3:2, while on most other digital cameras, it’s 4:3. Read more: What are aspect ratios?

Aspect Ratio. The ratio of an image’s width compared to its height. Typically expressed as the two numbers separated by a colon. Common aspect ratios found in film and digital photography include 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 5:3, 5:4, and 1:1.

Aspect ratio: An image’s ratio of width and height. Common aspect ratios for consumer cameras are 3:2 and 4:3. Smartphones usually take pictures with an aspect ratio of approximately 4:3.

Aspherical Lens – An aspherical lens has aspheric, rather the spheric, surfaces. Their curvature radius varies from the center of the lens to its edge. This type of lens can provide more optical functionality than spherical lenses can. Benefits of aspherical lenses include sharper focusing and larger aperture sizes. They also tend to make auto-focusing in low-light situations easier.

Aspherical lens– A lens element that has a surface that isn’t perfectly spherical. All camera lenses are made up of a number of individual lenses or elements. Many of these elements are spherical, as if cut from a sphere. Aspherical elements are less rounded and are used in wide-angle and wide-apertured lenses to help provide distortion-free images. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Aspherical Lens. A type of optical lens in which the surface curves are not portions of a sphere. Compared to a traditional non-aspheric lens, the more complex shape of aspherical lenses allows light rays to more precisely converge onto a single focal point, reducing various types of optical aberrations. Typically found in higher-end camera lenses geared toward professional photographers.

Astrophotography– Photography achieved by attaching a camera to a telescope, and concerned with recording images of astronomical objects in the night sky such as stars, planets, comets, and the moon. Astrophotography can also be used to record astronomical objects invisible to the human eye by using long exposures. Read more: What is astrophotography and what camera equipment do you need?

Astrophotography. Astronomical photography has to do with shooting photos of the night sky or anything found within it, including space objects and events. Advancements in camera, computing, and telescopic technologies and the accompanying reduction in prices have opened the door to astronomical photos that were impossible just years ago, leading to an explosion in highly-detailed space photos from amateur astronomers and photographers.

AT-X– Stands for Advanced Technology Extra – the branding used on Tokina lenses.

Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) – Auto exposure bracketing or AEB is a term that is used to signify a process where the camera automatically takes two or more exposures but with different exposure values. This method is generally used when the photographer isn’t quite sure what the correct exposure for a scene is.

Auto White Balance (AWB) – Auto White Balance is a camera setting that adjusts the image so white looks white and other colors appear realistic. White balance can also be adjusted manually. The white balance controls in a camera exist to remove unrealistic color casts caused by variance in light temperature. Light can be cool and bluish. Warm, with a yellow or orange appearance. Or it can be quite neutral. Set to Auto White Balance your camera filters out any color temperature that causes white elements to appear other than white. In situations where there are lights of varying color temperatures, it may not be possible for the camera to correctly adjust. This can occur indoors where there are different types of electric lighting with bulbs that emit both cool light and warm light. Most of the time Auto White Balance functions acceptably well. With RAW files it’s easy to adjust the white balance during post-production if it is not to your liking.

Auto-bracketing– A feature on some cameras that enables you to automatically shoot a sequence of shots of the same scene at slightly different shutter speeds (or aperture settings) from the ‘correct exposure’. This feature can be used if there’s some doubt that the meter reading is accurate for a particular subject. It can also be used to shoot a sequence that’s combined into one high dynamic range image. See HDR. Other autobracketing features available on some cameras include automatic flash, ISO or white balance bracketing. Read more: What is bracketing and when would you use it?

Autochrome– The name of the first color photography process, invented by French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, and patented in 1903. A glass plate was coated in microscopic grains of potato starch, colored red, green and blue, overlaid with a black-and-white silver halide emulsion. The process was widely used until Kodachrome and Agfacolor films were introduced in the 1930s.

Autofocus – Autofocus is a system that’s in most modern cameras. It became more common in the 1980s and since then autofocus systems in cameras continue to become more and more complex. The camera has sensors that measure the distance of a subject from the camera. Tiny electronic motors in the lens and/or camera body then adust the lens optics to bring the subject into focus. There are various options on cameras as to how to set up and use the autofocus system. It can be almost completely automated, so the camera decides what is most important to focus on. Or it can be user-controlled so the sensors will determine the distance of where the photographer chooses.

Auto-focus and manual focus: Auto-focus is when the camera trains itself on a subject. Modern camera software can usually recognize common subjects like human faces and will make sure they are not blurred. Most of the time, photographers can control or manipulate autofocus themselves. Manual focus is when a photographer has to physically move the lens by hand to ensure subjects are not blurred.

Autofocus. A system in a camera that automatically focuses a lens on a selected point or area within a scene. Achieved actively (e.g. with sound or light), passively (e.g. with phase or contract detection), or in a hybrid way through a variety of means, but generally involving a sensor, controller, and motor.

Available light– See ambient light.

Avedon, Richard– Avedon (1923-2004) was one of America’s most famous fashion and portrait photographers. He was the chief photographer for Harper’s Bazaar magazine in the 1940s and Vogue from the 1960s. His portraits are famous for their intimacy as well as their stark and minimalist quality.

Average Metering – Average metering refers to a mode setting of in-camera exposure meters. It’s often given different names by camera manufacturers. In Nikon, average metering is called Matrix metering. In Canon cameras, it’s known as Evaluative metering. Olympus uses the photography term Digital ESP to name its average metering mode. No matter what it’s called on your camera, it has the function of taking light readings from multiple parts of the frame, averaging the value, and presenting an overall exposure value. In many cameras, this is the default exposure meter mode. Most cameras have a selection of various metering modes.

AWB– Automatic white balance. This is a system that automatically adjusts the color balance of an image, according to the color temperature of the light source, to make it look as natural as possible to the human eye.


B (Bulb)– A shutter speed setting that enables you to keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is held down, usually with a remote release. It’s used for long exposures of up to several minutes. Read more: What is your camera’s Bulb (B) setting and what is it for?

Back Button Focus – Back button focus is a technique used to operate a camera’s autofocus system using a button on the back of the camera body rather than the shutter release button. By default on most, if not all, cameras, auto-focusing is initiated when the shutter release button is partially depressed. By configuring your camera through the menu system you can set it to only focus when an assigned button, usually on the rear of the camera, is pressed. The auto-focus function of the shutter button can be disabled. This allows you to separate the auto-focus and shutter release functions.

Back Button Focus. A camera technique in which the autofocus function is moved from the shutter button to a button on the back of the camera. This gives the photographer more control over the photography process as different fingers will be responsible for exposing photos and autofocusing.

Background – Background, as a photography term, refers to the area behind the main subject or foreground of the photograph.

Background. Any part of a scene that is behind the main subject, located at a farther distance than the subject from the camera. The background provides context for the location of a photo, but it can also be blurred using a shallow depth of field to force a viewer to focus on the subject, something often done in portrait photography.

Backlight. When the primary light source, whether natural or artificial, is located behind the subject or in the background of a scene. The resulting look is often dramatic and may involve a glowing edge around the subject and/or the subject rendered as a silhouette (if the backlight is at least 16 times more intense than the key light).

Backlighting – Backlighting illuminates a subject from behind. It is sometimes referred to as ‘kicker’ or ‘rim’ lighting. Because the light is behind a subject and facing the camera, extra care must be taken when setting the exposure. Backlighting a subject means it is very easy to end up with an underexposed subject when the meter reads directly from the light source.

Backlighting– An image is backlit when the light source is on the far side of the subject in relation to the camera. It means that there’s more light coming from behind the subject than is directly on the subject itself. It’s often used to separate the subject from the background to make a subject more dramatic, or to make a silhouette or rim-lighting effect.

Backup– A copy of a digital file that’s kept in case of damage to, or loss of, the original– digital image.

Ball head– A type of tripod head in which the head mount, which holds the camera, is attached to a ball-and-socket joint. When the socket is tightened using the ball lock knob, it locks the head in place.

Barn doors– Four hinged doors fixed on the front of studio lights. The doors are used to modify the shape and direction of the light.

Barnack, Oskar– Barnack (1879-1936), an optical engineer and industrial designer, is known as ‘the father of 35mm photography’ for his work as the head of development at the Leitz camera company. He designed the first Leica camera, which went on sale in 1925, and introduced the 24 x36mm format (now known as 35mm) for still photography.

Barrel Distortion – Barrel distortion causes straight lines in photographs to appear as though they are bent. A  photo of a grid pattern with barrel distortion looks like the lines bend inwards, giving a barrel-shaped impression. Barrel Distortion is commonly seen in low-quality wide-angle lenses. It is most apparent in photos that contain strong, straight lines in the composition, such as in a lot of architectural photography.

Barrel distortion– Barrel distortion is a lens fault or aberration that causes straight, parallel lines in an image to bow outward, and is seen when shooting with wide-angle lenses. The wider the lens, the greater the distortion. The appearance is similar to the effect you’d see if an image was wrapped around a barrel. It can be corrected using post-capture software. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Barrel Distortion. A type of distortion in which straight lines in a scene appear to bend outward away from the center of the image as if you are looking at the outside of a barrel. This effect can often be seen when using wide-angle lenses.

Basic photography terms.

Basic photography terms.

Batch Scan – Batch scanning refers to the process of scanning multiple images in one session without making adjustments to settings between scans. This can be applied to scanning prints or film. This practice is most effective when there are no significant color, light, or contrast variations in the selected images.

Beauty dish– A studio lighting device used to give a flattering effect in portrait and fashion photography. It consists of a large circular dish-shaped reflector, usually around 40-50cm in diameter, with a light source in the centre. The light usually has an opaque cover so that only the diffused light reflected from the dish reaches the subject.

Bellows– A concertinaed tube made of flexible, light-proof material that separates a lens from the camera body. Bellows were first used on very early cameras in the mid-19th century, and are still used on large-format equipment today. They allow the plane of focus to be adjusted via a swing and tilt mechanism. Bellows are also used instead of extension rings on SLR cameras for making more finely adjustable macro images. Read more: What is macro photography?

Bit – One bit of digital information is the smallest unit measurable. Eight bits is equal to one byte. They are the basic building blocks of information used in all computer technology. In digital photography, bit depth is used to indicate the color value in images. For example, an 8-bit image has 256 available colors. Bit stands for ‘binary device’. In digital photography, it has a value of either 0 (which is black) or 1 (which is white). The combinations of 1s and 0s determine what color is.

Bit depth– The number of bits used to record the color of a single pixel. Digital cameras usually use at least eight bits for each of the red, green, and blue channels, providing a 24-bit depth, and a possible 16,700,000 colors. Many digital SLRs offer higher bit depths when set to record in the raw shooting mode.

Bit– The basic unit from which any digital piece of data is made. Each bit has a value of either 0 or 1. The sizes of digital files are usually counted in bytes, which are each made up of eight bits.

Bitmap – A bitmap is a digital image format with the file extension of .bmp. It’s sometimes called a ‘raster image’, and is not to be confused with a rasta image. A bitmap is literally a map of bits (units of digital information) that form an image when rendered on a digital display, like a phone or computer monitor.

Bitrate– The speed at which data is captured during video recording and a rough but useful guide to the quality of the captured footage. High bitrates need more powerful cameras and more storage capacity, but produce better quality video with fewer compression artefacts. Read more: Video jargon explained

Black trinity– A derogatory name given by fashion and portrait photographer Norman Parkinson (1913-1990) to three photographers who emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s: David Bailey (born 1938), Brian Duffy (1933-2010), and Terence Donovan (1936-1996). This trio worked in a more relaxed and spontaneous style, and became the leading fashion and portrait photographers of the period.

Blending mode– Blending modes determine how the pixels in a layer interact with the underlying pixels on other layers instead of simply covering them. Some blending modes are much more useful for photo editing than others. Multiply is used to darken an image, and Screen to lighten it; Overlay and Soft Light boost contrast.

Blocked Shadows – Blocked shadows refer to dark areas in a digital image that contains no detail. This is usually because that part of the photo is underexposed and the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor is not broad enough to record detail in those places. Lower quality sensors present this problem more so than higher quality ones.

Blooming – Blooming happens in an image when a camera’s sensor does not properly manage very bright areas well. It appears as halo-like brightness or color around affected areas. It looks similar to chromatic aberration.

Blown Out (blowout) – A blown-out area in a photograph contains no detail because it is too bright and has been overexposed. As with blocked shadows, blowout occurs more commonly on lower-quality sensors that have a more limited dynamic range.

Blown out– Bright areas in a photo that are over-exposed are said to be blown out.– They don’t hold any detail and will be bleached white.

Blown-Out Highlights. When overexposure occurs in the brightest parts of a photo, causing details in those areas to be forever lost due to most or all the pixels rendering as pure white. This is also known as clipping.

Blue Hour – Blue hour happens in the morning and evening when the sun is between about 4 and 8 degrees below the horizon. It’s given this name because at these times daylight appears bluish and cool. Blue hour usually lasts less than an hour. How long it lasts depends on the season and proximity to the equator. Further away it’s more likely to last longer.

Blue hour Blue hour is the short period of time before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is just below the horizon. Indirect sunlight is evenly diffused and takes on a blue shade. The duration on the blue hour varies depending on the location, but generally lasts less than an hour.

Blue Hour. The brief period of time immediately before sunrise or after sunset in which the Sun is still below the horizon, causing the sky to have a bluish color cast. Like golden hour, blue hour provides a soft and pleasant quality of light that is valued by photographers and other artists.

BMP – .bmp is the file extension of bitmap files.

Bokeh – Bokeh is the quality of the blur in the out-of-focus parts of a picture. It is a Japanese word meaning ‘blur’. In photography, it’s used not so much about the blur, as it is about the quality of the blur. Lenses render the look of bokeh in particular ways. This can vary with different focal lengths and with lenses of the same focal length produced by different manufacturers.

Bokeh Bokeh is an optical phenomenon that makes bright out-of-focus elements aesthetically pleasing. Using a fast lens at its wider aperture turns a busy background into a blurred, homogenic canvas where light appears as soft shapes. The form of these points of lights is determined by the number of blades in the diaphragm – the higher the number, the more circular these elements will appear.

Bokeh– Derived from the Japanese word for ‘blur’, this term is used to describe the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of a picture, or the lens creating them. Smooth, circular out-of-focus highlights are a feature of ‘good bokeh.’ Read more: What is bokeh?

Bokeh. The aesthetic quality of the blur, most famously circular and caused by light sources, found in the out-of-focus areas of photos that are generally captured with a shallower depth of field. Different lenses produce different bokeh that is subjectively more or less pleasing than others, and high-end lenses with large maximum apertures are often praised for their bokeh quality. Bokeh is often found in portraits shot with a narrow depth of field in order to draw focus to the subject and eliminate distracting backgrounds.

Bokeh: The Japanese word for haze or blur. Refers to intentional background blur, popular in portraits.

Bounce flash– Indirect flash-lighting technique, where the flashgun is angled to bounce off a wall, ceiling, or other reflector. This scatters the illumination, creating a softer lighting effect.

Bounding box– In Photoshop, a rectangular border around a selected part of an image that can be dragged to transform, rotate, scale or move a picture element.

Bracketing (or Exposure Bracketing) – Bracketing is a technique used when a photographer is not sure if the exposure settings they have chosen will produce the best results. First, an exposure is made according to the meter reading. Then two or more further exposures are made of the same composition. Some are underexposed and some are overexposed. This provides a photographer with more choice when they are post-processing their images. The HDR (high dynamic range) technique relies on exposure bracketing and the use of a tripod so each exposure is of precisely the same composition. Many cameras have an auto-bracketing feature where the camera will take multiple exposures at different settings based on the initial exposure.

Bracketing– A system for increasing the chances of getting the correct exposure by taking a sequence of pictures with a slightly different exposure setting for each. See auto-bracketing. Read more: What is bracketing and when would you use it?

Bracketing Bracketing is the action of capturing the same shot using different exposure values to make sure the whole scene is exposed properly. Bracketing can be done manually or using the auto exposure bracketing (AEB) function. In most cameras, AEB allows photographers to select the exposure compensation for the additional shots, which are taken automatically as you press the shutter release. For most compositions, a 1/3 exposure compensation is the way to go.

Bracketing. A technique in which a photographer captures multiple photos of exactly the same scene with different camera settings. The frames could, for example, use different exposure, aperture, focus, flash, ISO, white balance, and more. Some cameras may have auto-bracketing features for some settings. The photographer can choose the best photo from the resulting set or combine (or stack) them for various purposes (such as focus stacking in macro photography).

Brady, Mathew– Mathew Brady (1822-1896) was a pioneering American photographer, famous for his photographs of the American Civil War and his portraits of prominent Americans, including Abraham Lincoln.

Brandt, Bill– Bill Brandt (1904-1983) was an important British photographer who began his career documenting the British class system in the 1930s. He went on to photograph London in the war years before bringing his unique style to landscapes, portraiture and finally abstract nudes.

Brenizer Method. Also referred to as a “bokeh panorama,” this is a technique popularized by wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer that involves shooting multiple “zoomed-in” photos of a wider scene using a fast normal-to-telephoto lens. By stitching together the photos into a single wide-angle panorama with a shallow depth of field, a photographer can mimic the look of large-format photography.

Bridge cameraA camera that is claimed to bridge the gap between compacts and DSLRs. They are similar in appearance and handling to small DSLRs, but they have a fixed, usually ‘superzoom’ lens, with some models offering up to a 125x optical zoom. Instead of a DSLR’s optical viewfinder, they have an electronic viewfinder. Read more: What is a bridge camera?

Brightness range– This is the difference between the brightness of the brightest part of the subject and the brightness of the darkest part of the subject. Also known as Subject Brightness Range (SBR).

Broad Lighting – Broad lighting is a portrait lighting technique. With this style of lighting, the subject’s face is not facing the camera but turned to one side. The key light illuminates the side of the face the camera can see more of or the broad side of the subject’s face. It is not considered to be particularly flattering because it can make a person’s face look wider.

Bromoil– A photographic process in which prints made on silver bromide paper are chemically bleached and hardened before an oil pigment is applied. It was popular among Pictorialist photographers from its invention in 1907 until the 1930s.

Brownie– The name of a series of simple box cameras made by the Eastman Kodak company. The first Brownie went on sale in 1900, and was intended to make photography simpler and more affordable for everyone. The cameras were named after the cartoon characters created by illustrator Palmer Cox.

BSI– Stands for Back Side Illuminated. Technology used on modern camera sensors where the circuitry is positioned to deliver higher sensitivity, less noise and better all round image quality. Read more: What is a BSI sensor?

Buffer Memory – Buffer memory is RAM in a camera that holds image files as they are being transferred to removable memory cards or other storage devices. The Buffer memory varies in size from camera to camera. Once the buffer is full, the camera will no longer be able to take more photos until the information contained in the buffer is transferred. This typically happens when using burst mode to take many photos in a short period of time.

Buffer– Temporary memory used by a digital SLR or mirrorless camera. The size of the buffer in a camera helps dictate the maximum burst rate, and the number of shots per burst. In general, the bigger the buffer, the longer the burst. Read more: What are burst modes & continuous shooting?

Buffer. The internal memory (RAM) of a camera that temporarily stores captured image data before the photo is saved to a memory card. The storage capacity of the buffer plays a role in how many photos can be captured in a burst before the camera needs to slow down and clear space in the buffer to make room for a new photo.

Bulb (Bulb Mode) – The bulb is a shutter speed setting that is unlimited. It’s generally used for making exposure of a longer duration than the camera has a controlled shutter speed setting for. It’s most commonly used at night and in other situations where there is very little ambient light.

Bulb Bulb is a camera setting that holds the shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is pressed. In some cases, the shutter release needs to be pressed once to open the shutter and once to close it, rather than remaining pushed down. This mode allows photographers to capture longer exposures than the ones offered by the camera (usually up to 30”).

Bulb Mode. A camera mode that exposes a photograph for as long as the shutter button is depressed. Most cameras have a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds, but Bulb mode can be used to capture ultra-long exposure photos with as long of an exposure as the photographer desires.

Burn tool– A tool that can be used to darken parts of an image selectively during digital image manipulation. The tool gets its name (and its hand-shaped icon) from ‘burning-in’, a traditional darkroom process in which parts of a print could be made darker by giving some areas of a print more exposure than others. Also, see Dodge tool. Read more: What is dodging and burning?

Burst Mode – Burst mode is a camera setting that allows for the shutter to open and close taking consecutive photographs as long as the shutter button is depressed. Many cameras have two burst modes, low-speed and high-speed. Burst mode is also called continuous mode. Speeds vary from camera to camera. This mode is helpful when photographing action.

Burst Mode. Also known as continuous shooting mode, this is a camera feature that allows multiple photos to be captured in rapid succession, generally by holding down the shutter button. Cameras advertise a maximum frame-per-second (FPS) rate a camera can achieve in burst mode, and the burst rate is the number of frames that can be initially captured at the maximum FPS before the internal buffer fills up and the rate slows down.

Burst Rate – The burst rate is how many images a camera can record before the buffer is full. This varies within a camera depending on the type of file being recorded. The burst rate for .jpg files will be higher than for RAW files because jpegs are much smaller and transfer out of the buffer to the storage card more quickly.

Burst rate Burst rate is the number of consecutive shots a camera can take in continuous shooting mode. When using this mode, images are stored in a high-speed buffer memory before being transferred to the memory card. Once the buffer is full, the camera will reduce the FPS to give it enough time to free space. Burst rate can be affected by image formats, as it depends on the file size, as well as by the speed of the memory card used.

Burst rate– The continuous shooting speed of a digital camera, which enables a sequence of images to be taken in rapid succession, measured in frames per second (fps). The rate can only be sustained for a certain number of shots. Read more: What are burst modes & continuous shooting?

Burst Rate. The number of frames that a camera can capture before the buffer is filled. The number of frames captured per second will then slow down to the rate at which the camera can process each photo in the buffer and move it to the memory card, freeing up space for a newly captured photo.

Butterfly Lighting – Butterfly lighting is a technique where the key light is placed above the subject and directly in front of them a little. The shadow formed under a person’s nose when photographed with this style of lighting is said to represent the shape of a butterfly, hence the name. It is a flattering form of lighting that is sometimes also called Paramount lighting because it was used extensively when photographing movie stars.

Butterfly lighting– A technique for lighting portraits achieved by pointing the flash down towards the front of the face and creating a distinctive butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose.– A reflector is used to soften the shadow. This technique is also known as ‘Paramount lighting’ after the movie studio’s glamorous portraits from the 1930s.

Byte– The standard unit for measuring the memory capacity of digital storage devices. Each byte can have one of 256 different values, and is equal to eight bits. Also, see bit and bit depth.


Cable releaseA mechanical or electronic device for firing a camera from a short distance away, without physically pressing the shutter release. It’s often used as a way to minimise vibration when using a slow shutter speed and a camera support, such as a tripod.

Cable Release. A cable that plugs into a camera on one end and which has a shutter button on the other. It is used to remotely trigger the shutter of the camera without the photographer having to touch the camera itself, eliminating the issue of vibrations that reduce image sharpness. Useful when shooting long exposure photos, particularly in bulb mode.

Calibrator– A device used to standardize the color and brightness of a computer monitor so that images can be accurately adjusted.

Calotype– One of the earliest photographic processes, announced by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) in 1841, in which a negative image was recorded on a sheet of translucent paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals. The earliest surviving example is an image of a window at Lacock Abbey, made in 1835. Using the process, multiple positive images could subsequently be produced by contact-printing the negative.

Camera Body – The camera body is the main part of the camera, not including the lens or other accessories.

Camera Body. Refers to the main physical device that is used to capture photos. While it can have a built-in lens, it generally refers to a camera itself without an attached lens. While camera bodies were purely mechanical devices in earlier periods of photography and during the age of photographic film, modern digital camera bodies also contain high-tech electronics, digital displays, and silicon image sensors.

Camera body: The main part of the digital camera that includes the sensors, electronics, software, etc. The thing you’re holding when you take pictures. Usually, the body does not include the lenses.

Camera Modes – Camera modes control various aspects of the camera. Modes are most commonly associated with exposure. There are also modes for focus and metering. Some modes allow you to use your camera automatically like you might use your phone to take photos. Other modes allow for some or total manual control of the camera.

Camera Obscura. Latin for “dark chamber,” this was originally a dark room that had a hole or lens that allowed light from the outside world to be projected onto an inner wall or surface. While the color and perspective of the outdoor scene are the same in the projected image, the image itself is inverted upside-down and reversed left and right. The term camera obscura is also used to refer to smaller constructed spaces or boxes that operate with the same principle. By adding a light-sensitive surface to a camera obscura, a photo can be made using the projection, thereby turning the camera obscura into a camera.

Camera Sensor – The camera sensor, or image sensor, captures light to make an image. It does this by converting light waves into electrical signals. The quality of camera sensors varies greatly. Quality is closely related to the size of the sensor. A physically larger sensor produces higher quality digital images than very small sensors found in phones and compact cameras. Sensors are measured by dimension and by pixels. This is usually expressed in terms of megapixels, or how many millions of pixels a sensor has. Sensors with larger dimensions have larger pixels than smaller dimensioned sensors with the same number of pixels. The two main types of image sensors used in digital cameras are CMIOS  (Complementary Metal-Oxid Semiconductor) and CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). Digital cameras are often divided into two categories based on their sensors: Full frame or crop sensors.

Camera Shake – Camera shake is the term used to describe the blur that occurs when a slow shutter speed is used and the camera is moved during the exposure. This results in the whole image being blurred. The type of blur this creates looks different than blur caused by a moving subject or areas of a photograph that are not in focus. Choosing a suitable shutter speed and holding your camera correctly helps to avoid camera shake.

Camera shake– Blurring of the image caused by movement of the camera during the exposure. Handheld cameras are prone to camera shake, and the fastest available shutter speed needs to be used to reduce or eliminate the problem. Read more: What is camera shake and why does it happen?

Camera Shake. The unintentional movement of a camera during the exposure of a photograph, generally resulting in a photo that is less sharp and more blurry than desired. This can be caused by unsteady hands when shooting handheld, the force of pressing the shutter button, or environmental causes such as wind blowing a tripod-mounted camera. The combination of using a remote shutter release and a sturdy tripod can greatly reduce or eliminate camera shake.

Camera trapA remotely activated camera used for documenting the behavior of wild animals in a natural environment without the photographer being present. The camera’s shutter is usually triggered when an animal’s movement is detected by an infrared or motion sensor.

Camera. A device that is capable of capturing an optical image on a light-sensitive surface. A camera (from “camera obscūra”, Latin for “dark chamber”) is at its core a light-sealed box that takes in light as its input and produces a photograph as its output. Light may enter the camera through anything from a pinhole to an expensive lens made of metal, plastic, and/or glass. The light-sensitive surface may be anything from a coated metal sheet to photographic film to a digital sensor. The art of photography is the practice of using a camera to create photographs.

Cameron, Julia Margaret– Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a British photographer who made portraits of some of the major figures of the Victorian period as well as her relatives and friends. She was one of the first people to see photography as an artistic medium open to interpretation, rather than simply a mechanical process for recording reality. Her portraits often make a creative use of soft focus.

Candid – Candid photography is pictures of life as it happens with no interaction with the photographer, other than that they are there with their camera. In candid photos of people, they are unaware that they are being photographed. This style of photography is often practiced by photographers who are too shy to interact with their subjects.

Candid A candid is a portrait taken while the subject is not posing. This can be achieved either by capturing a subject unaware of the photographer’s presence or by introducing motion and surprising the model during a photoshoot. This kind of portrait photography is highly popular in street photography and is becoming more relevant in formal environments such as weddings.

Candid Photograph. Any photograph captured without the subject(s) in the frame posing for the image. A photographer aiming to create photos in this style will generally capture unplanned moments in life as it occurs without stopping or directing the people being photographed. Subjects may or may not be aware of the photos being made.

Canvas– A Photoshop term for the overall dimensions of the image file you are using. Like the canvas used for a painting, the Canvas may be the same size as the actual size of the picture, or it may be larger.

Canvas Size– The Canvas Size control enables you to increase the size of the canvas without affecting the pixels that make up the image itself. It can be used to add a border to a photo, for example, or to add a blank area into which more sky can be cloned.

Card Reader – An electronic device is used to transfer photos from memory cards to another device, typically a computer or tablet.

Cartier-Bresson, Henri– Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is regarded as one of the most influential reportage and street photographers. He was one of the co-founders of the Magnum Photos agency in 1947. He was one of the first to exploit the advantages of the Leica 35mm camera, and used it to capture brilliantly timed and composed images throughout his long career.

Cartridge film– A type of photographic film housed in a plastic cassette. Because it’s light-tight, film can be loaded into a camera in daylight. 126 cartridge film was introduced by Kodak in 1963, followed by 110 film in 1972. Two later formats, Disc film and APS film, used their own specially designed cartridges.

Catch light– A white highlight in the eye of the subject, which is a reflection of the light source. The shape, size and intensity of the highlight, as well as the number of highlights, will vary depending on the lighting setup.

Catchlight. A light source that appears as a specular highlight in a subject’s eyes. Photographers commonly use a light’s positions and settings for this end result, transforming eyes from having a flat and lifeless appearance to having a glint that adds a spark of life.

CCD (Charge Coupled Device)– A type of imaging sensor commonly used in digital cameras, and an alternative to the CMOS sensor. See CMOS.

CCD (Couple-Charged Device) – A CCD is one of two main types of camera sensors. These consist of an integrated circuit formed on a silicon surface and form light-sensitive elements called pixels.

CCD Sensor. A charge-coupled device sensor is one of the two major types of semiconductor image sensors, with the other being CMOS. Advantages typically include a global shutter (all pixels are exposed at the same time), high resolution/sensitivity (due to pixels not having to share space with the amplifiers), and high-quality/low-noise. Disadvantages include high power consumption and high cost (a special manufacturing process is needed).

Centre-weighted– A type of built-in light metering system, provided as an option on some cameras. Centre-weighted meters measure light intensity across the entire image area,– but bias the average in favor of light measured towards the centre of the– frame. The system isn’t foolproof; it’s easier to predict when it will make an inappropriate reading than more sophisticated metering systems.

CFexpress– A new memory card format designed for speed, capacity and robustness and now used widely on cameras design for sports photography and professional video capture. Read more: What is CFexpress?

Channel mixer– A feature in Photoshop that enables you to adjust the red, green and blue channels to increase or decrease color saturation, or to convert an image to monochrome.

Chiaroscuro– A term that originated in Renaissance art. It refers to a style of image that features a strong contrast between the light and dark areas of the picture.

Chimping – Chimping is a derogatory term used to describe what most photographers do after taking a photo. They review the photograph they have just taken. The term comes from the supposed sounds made as the photographer reviews their photos. Apparently, some sound like chimpanzees.

Chimping Chimping means to constantly check the camera display after every single shot. The term comes from the similarity between the “oooh, oooh!” sounds photographers take to make while chimping and the sound of a chimpanzee. This action is commonly seen as a major amateur mistake as many shot opportunities can be lost while overchecking each image.

Chimping– This is a short form of ‘checking image preview’. It refers to the act of looking too frequently at your camera’s LCD, rather than concentrating on the subject.

Chimping. The colloquial term used to refer to the act of bringing a camera — generally a DSLR — away from the eye after every exposure to review the resulting photo immediately on the rear display. Although the term is often used in a derogatory sense, frequently reviewing photos after they are captured to check things like settings, exposure, and composition. Mirrorless cameras allow photos to be reviewed immediately within the electronic viewfinder itself, eliminating the need to “chimp.”

Chromatic Aberration – Chromatic aberration is a visual defect in photos caused by light wavelengths not focusing correctly as they reach the image sensor. It mainly occurs in areas of high contrast in images and produces a purple colored fringe. It’s often also called ‘purple fringing’ or ‘color fringing’. This occurs more frequently towards the edges of images and is more prevalent in older and cheaper lenses.

Chromatic aberration– A lens fault common in telephoto lenses in which different colors of white light are focused at slightly different distances, creating ugly colored haloes around the edges of a photographic subject. Software can remove or reduce the effect. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Chromatic Aberration Also called “color fringing,” this is a color distortion that occurs when a lens fails to focus all colors to the same point. It appears as an outline or fridge of color in areas of an image where there is high contrast between light and dark objects.

Chromatic aberration Chromatic aberration is a common optical problem in lenses where colors are not focused on the same convergence point in the focal plane. As a result, the image shows fringes of different wavelength colors around the edges where bright and dark sections meet. In black and white photography, chromatic aberration results in significant blur in the picture.

Chromatic aberrationAlso known as color fringing or purple fringing. A ghostly effect when a lens is not able to bring all wavelengths of a color to the correct point. Usually indicates older, low-quality photography. Similar to a glitch effect, it can be added intentionally to give photos a retro quality.

Chromogenic film– A fine-grain photographic film that produces black-and-white images, but is processed using C41 color chemistry.

Cinemagraph Coined by photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck in 2011, this is a still photo that contains looping movement in a particular minor portion of the image. The result is what looks like a still photograph that has subtle motion that helps bring it to life. The name refers to the combination of a moving picture (cinema) with a still picture (photograph).

Circular polarizerA type of polarizing filter. Circular polarizers can be used with modern cameras without interfering with the operation of exposure metering and autofocus systems, unlike older and cheaper linear polarizers. Read more: What is a circular polarizer and when would you use one?

Circular Polarizer Filter Abbreviated CP or CPL, this is a type of filter that attaches to a lens and cuts down on glare and reflections. Photographers may employ it when shooting things like water, glass, foliage, and cloudy skies. The front part of the filter can be rotated to control the polarization effect.

Clipping– Clipping occurs when the dark parts of an image become pure black or the light parts become pure white, so that image detail is lost in these areas. On a histogram, a clipped shadow or highlight is indicated by the graph being ‘cut off’ on the left-hand (shadows) or right-hand (highlights) side.

Clipping The loss of information that occurs when highlights are overexposed or shadows are underexposed in a photo, resulting in regions that are captured as pure white or pure black, respectively, without any detail. Histograms can be used in cameras and software to identify and avoid clipping. Photo processing and editing programs also commonly have clipping indicators to help photographers easily identify areas where information is being discarded.

Clone Stamp– An image-editing tool that enables you to replace an area of the image with pixels taken from elsewhere in the image (or even another image). It’s commonly used for removing blemishes and other unwanted objects from a picture.

Close-up lensA filter-like accessory that fits on the front of the camera lens to magnify the image. This low-cost and lightweight macro accessory can be used on most types of cameras and lenses. Close-up lenses come in a variety of different strengths, usually measured in dioptres. Read more: What is macro photography?

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) – CMOS sensors are one of the two primary types of imaging sensors found in digital cameras. Its purpose is to convert photons into electrical signals for digital image processing.

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)– This is a type of imaging sensor used in digital cameras. Located at the focal plane, it converts the focused image into an electrical signal. It’s similar in function– to the CCD sensor.

CMOS Sensor A complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor sensor is the dominant type of image sensor found in modern digital cameras (the other being CCD). Advantages include readout speed, low power consumption, and low cost (it uses traditional chipmaking processes). Disadvantages include rolling shutter (pixels are exposed line by line) and lower sensitivity (each pixel site shares space with an amplifier).

CMYK Color – This is the color mode used in commercial, off-set printing. It is an alternative set of colors than used with digital photography displayed in cameras or other electronic devices. The colors are: Cyan (C) Magenta (M) Yellow (Y) Black (K) The K is for the key. In the printing process, the plate for black is the ‘key’ plate and is used as a base to align the plates for other colors. These colors are known as ‘subtractive’ colors. When these colors are added to white, as in the printing process, other colors are removed from the visual spectrum.

CMYK– Cyan, magenta, yellow and black (or ‘key’), the four primary inks used in commercial color printing. CMYK also refers to the printing process itself.

Cold Shoe. A bracket designed to hold a camera flash or other accessory. While a hot shoe has electrical contacts that allow a camera to communicate with the accessory (e.g. fire a flash unit), a cold shoe does not contain electronics and therefore is used solely for mounting an accessory and holding it in place.

Collodion process– This is an early technique for making photographic prints, invented by Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) in 1851, which used collodion (cellulose nitrate) to stick light-sensitive chemicals on the surface of a glass plate. The plate was exposed, developed and fixed while still wet. The process produced good results and was used widely until around 1880.

Color Calibration – This is the process of matching the colors seen on digital devices so no matter what you view an image on it will always appear to have the same colors. It requires a color base standard, like Adobe RGB or sRGB, to be chosen and each device to be adjusted to all colors appear the same. The lack of calibration across devices is why colors might look great on one monitor and terrible on another.

Color channels– Every color you see on a screen is created by a specific mix of red, green and blue light, and every printed color by a specific formula of ink colors. In Photoshop, the component colors can be represented and seen as separate color channels – RGB for most digital photos. See Channel mixer for more on this.

Color Depth – Color depth is also known as bit depth. It’s used to indicate the number of bits that make up colors in digital images or in individual pixels.

Color filter array (CFA)– The pattern for red, green, and blue filters used over the photo sites in an imaging sensor. Usually, half the photo sites in a digital camera (which define pixels) have green filters, a quarter have red filters, and quarter have blue filters.

Color Management – A color management system coordinates and controls the color spaces in digital imaging devices.

Color management– An overall system that tries to ensure that the colors of an image are displayed and output in exactly the same way, whatever the device being used.

Color negative film– Film on which all original colors are recorded as their complementary colors. When the image is printed on photographic paper, the colors are again reversed to their original hue. Color negatives have an orange tint or mask, which helps to control contrast and improves the reproduction quality.

Color Palette – A Color Palette is the variety of colors available on a device or in software that can be rendered on a display. Each color palette is dependent on the color depth of a digital image. The greater the depth, the broaden the range of the color pallet.

Color profile– Description of how a camera, printer, monitor or other device displays or records color. It provides a universal way in which different devices can produce similar-looking results. This is sometimes known as an ICC profile, because the standards are set down by the ICC (International Color Consortium).

Color reversal film– Film processed to produce a color positive image on its transparent base. Traditionally, images are mounted in card or plastic mounts. Also commonly known as slide or transparency film.

Color Space – This is a specific range of colors. The most commonly used in digital photography are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB.

Color space– The theoretical definition of the range of colors that can be displayed by a device.

Color Temperature – Color temperature is basically the color of light and how different colors appear. The Color temperature is measured using the Kelvin scale. It’s typically referred to as neutral, cool, or warm.

Color temperature– All light sources have a characteristic color temperature: artificial (tungsten-filament) lights are warmer (more orange) than daylight, which is warm near dawn, turns cooler (more blue) during the day, then warms again at nightfall. Our eyes adjust for color temperature much of the time without our realizing it, so that color look pretty consistent. Digital cameras can make electronic adjustments using a white balance system to neutralize colors. When they get it wrong (or you use the wrong white balance setting on your camera), a color cast results. Read more: What is white balance?

Combination printing– The use of two or more negatives to make one print. The technique was first used– in the mid-19th century to overcome exposure limitations in early photographic processes, although photographers such as Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-1875) could use dozens of images to make one epic scene.

Compact– A type of camera with a shutter mechanism built in to the lens. Compact cameras are generally point-and-shoot designs that are easy to carry around. Most digital compacts have built-in zoom lenses.

Compact Camera. Another name for the point-and-shoot camera.

Compact Flash Card (CF Card) – A type of solid state memory storage used in digital cameras.

CompactFlash– This is a type of removable memory card used in older digital SLRs.

Complementary colors– Also known as ‘opposite colors’, these are pairs of colors that create a strong contrast. On the traditional color wheel they are red/green, yellow/violet and blue/orange, while the CMYK and RGB models use red/cyan, green/magenta and blue/yellow.

Composite A composite is a picture created by combining multiple images into a single one. The most common uses of this practice include removing unwanted elements, creating surreal images, and generating time-lapse style compositions. To create a composite photo, photographers usually layer the images one on top of the another and mask out the undesirable parts.

Composite Image – A composite, or composite image, is made up of more than one photograph.

Composite Photograph. A photo that is the result of combining two or more different photos into a single image that is blended in some way. Creating a realistic and/or seamless composite generally requires a great deal of both skill and time.

Composition – Composition in photography is basically what a photographer chooses to include in the frame when they take a photo. How each element in the frame is positioned in relation to one another determines whether or not the composition is good or bad. There are many different rules of composition used in photography that have been derived from or directly copied from painters. These can be contentious as, like with many other aspects of photography, what is determined as good or bad are up to personal taste.

Composition Composition is the manner in which elements are positioned within a photo. It is considered one of the most important components of an image, as it allows the photographer to guide the viewer’s eye across the image towards the main subject. There are numerous photography composition rules that are proven to be successful.

Composition. How the visual elements in a photo are arranged within the frame. Paying careful attention to how a subject and scene are framed allows the photographer to capture an image that can do things such as direct the viewers’ eyes, be more visually appealing, tell a story, elicit a feeling or emotion, and more. There are various “rules of thumb” that aid beginning photographers in creating good compositions.

CompositionHow different elements of an image are arranged within the frame. Photographers can control composition by moving the camera, adjusting the focus, or cropping images in post-production. The rule of thirds is an example of a photo composition technique.

Compression – Compression can refer to two different aspects of photography. Lens compression and image compression. Lens compression creates the appearance that elements that are at different distances from the camera appear closer together than they are. This happens when using a telephoto lens. Image compression happens when an image is saved in a lossy format, such as .jpg. The file is compressed as it is saved and a certain amount of the data is discarded, resulting in smaller file sizes.

Compression– The process of reducing the sizes of files such as digital images, so that they use less storage capacity and are faster to upload and download. See lossless compression and lossy compression.

Computational Photography. The use of algorithms, AI, and computer processing to enhance or manipulate images, producing results that go beyond what traditional photography can create with light, lenses, sensors, and physics. Computational photography has become increasingly important in the age of smartphone cameras due to the size constraints of the lenses and sensors, though its technologies are being applied to standalone cameras as well.

Contact print/sheet– Contact prints are photographic images made by laying one or more film negatives on a sheet of photographic paper, usually under a sheet of glass, and exposing it to light. In the traditional wet darkroom, a contact sheet is usually the first stage of printing an image.

Continuous autofocus– This is an autofocus setting in which the focus is constantly adjusted until the shutter is actually fired. It’s especially useful for moving subjects such as in wildlife or sports/action photography, where it would be unhelpful for the focus distance to be locked as soon as it’s initially found. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

Continuous Focus – This is an autofocus mode in cameras. In this more, so long as the focus button is pressed, the camera’s autofocus system will continuously refocus if the subject or the camera move. Different camera manufacturers call continuous focus by a variety of names. Canon cameras call it AI Servo. In Nikon and Sony cameras it’s called AF-C. Olympus calls it C-AF.

Continuous lighting– Lighting that remains on throughout a photo shoot, as opposed to the brief burst of illumination given by flash or strobe lighting.

Continuous Shooting. Another name for burst mode.

Contrast – The contrast in photography is basically the scale of difference between the brightest and the darkest parts of an image.

Contrast Contrast defines the range of tonal difference between the shadows and lights of an image. As the contrast becomes higher it emphasizes these variations, resulting in stronger textures and colors. Pictures with lower contrast may be perceived as dull, as a smaller difference between lights and shadows results in a muted appearance.

Contrast Detection Autofocus. A common camera autofocus method that uses the contrast between edges in a scene to achieve sharp focus. Since the contrast of two side-by-side pixels should increase if focus increases, the camera simply adjusts the lens’s focus back and forth until maximal contrast is settled upon.

Contrast range– A measurement of the difference in brightness between the very darkest– and lightest parts of an image. See brightness range.

Contrast. The difference between a certain aspect of elements in a photo. This could be the tonal contrast between the lightest tones and the darkest tones in an image, or it could be the color contrast between opposing colors in the frame.

Contrast-detection autofocus– See passive autofocus. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

Contre-jour– In French, literally ‘against the light’. Another name for backlighting.

Converging verticals– A term used to describe the effect of parallel lines getting closer together, particularly the two sides of a building, or a section of a building, when shooting from a low angle of view. The phenomena occurs when the camera is tilted up or down to fit the entire building in the picture. Read more: What are converging verticals, and how can you fix them? 

Copyright – Copyright of a photograph belongs to the photographer who created the image. This means that you own the image and it cannot be reproduced or have derivative works made without your express permission. It does not require any special permission, paperwork, or registration under US copyright law. This may differ in other countries.

Copyright Infringement. When a copyrighted photograph or any other creative work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a new derivative work without the permission of the owner of the copyright. In the photo industry, this is often when a photographer’s photo is published online or used for commercial purposes such as advertising without that photographer’s permission.

Copyright. The legal ownership of a creative work. A form of intellectual property that gives the creator the exclusive right, for the duration of the copyright, to copy and distribute the work they have created. A photographer automatically owns the copyright immediately after they shoot a photo, but there are advantages to officially registering your works with the US Copyright Office.

Crop Factor – Crop Factor refers to the size of a camera sensor that is smaller than a full-frame sensor. A full-frame sensor is 36mm x 24mm, the same size as one frame of 35mm film. It is important in photography because of how the field of view of any given focal length lens renders depending on the sensor size, or crop factor.

Crop factor Crop factor is the proportion of a camera sensor size to a 35mm film frame or digital full-frame sensor. Different brands work with different crop factors. For example, Canon offers 1.3x (APS-H) and 1.6x (APS-C), while Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and Pentax use a 1.5x ratio (ASP-C). A camera’s crop factor determines a lens’ effective focal length, which allows photographers to easily understand the field of view they will get in comparison to other bodies.

Crop factor– Sensors of several different sizes are– used in digital SLRs, and this size affects the angle of view offered by a particular lens. The smaller the sensor, the narrower the angle of view. The ‘crop factor’ is to convert the actual focal length of a lens to the effective focal length . The crop factor for Micro Four Thirds models is 2x; the crop factor for most popular digital SLRs (DX and APS-C) is 1.5x or 1.6x. Full-frame digital SLRs need no focal length conversion, so they have a crop factor of 1x. Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?

Crop Factor. The ratio of a digital camera’s sensor size relative to the “full frame” size (36×24mm) popularized by 35mm film. For example, a smaller APS-C format image sensor typically has a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x. This is also known as the focal length multiplier since multiplying a lens’s focal length by a smaller sensor’s crop factor will result in a focal length with an equivalent field of view on a full-frame sensor. For example, a 50mm lens on a 1.6x crop sensor will have a field of view equivalent to an 80mm lens on full frame.

Crop factor: The ratio of the camera sensor size to what the lens can see. Modern DSLR cameras often have multiple sensors of varying sizes to control for distortions that come from crop factor.

Crop Sensor. Any digital sensor that is smaller than 35mm full frame, which is considered to be the reference size when discussing image sensors. Crop sensors have a crop factor depending on the ratio between their size and full frame.

Crop– To remove unwanted parts of an image.

Cropping. The act of removing unwanted outer edge portions of a photo to create a resulting photo that represents a subsection of the full, original image. Unlike resizing a photo, which changes the number of pixels while keeping the original composition, cropping trims parts of a photo — typically unnecessary areas — and creates a new composition. This can be done to change the aspect ratio, better focus on a subject, and/or draw the viewers’ eyes to a particular portion of the frame.

Cross Processing. Intentionally processing one type of photographic film in a chemical solution that is intended for another type — in other words, using the “wrong” developer. This can result in unpredictable shifts in the color and contrast of the photo that can be desirable for artistic purposes.

Cross-processing– Sometimes called ‘X-Pro’, in film photography this refers to processing color negative film in reversal film (E6) chemicals, or color reversal film in negative film (C41) chemicals. The resulting color shifts gave images a distinctive look. The technique was once especially popular in fashion photography. A similar appearance can be created in Photoshop by boosting contrast and tweaking color channels. Read more: What is cross processing, and how does it work?

Crushed Shadows. When underexposure occurs in the darkest parts of a photo, causing details in those areas to be forever lost due to most or all the pixels rendering as pure black. This is also known as clipping.

CSC (Compact System Camera)– These are cameras with no mirror mechanism, and are therefore smaller and lighter than D-SLRs, but still offer similar controls, high-quality images and interchangeable lenses. Depending on the model, there’s either an electronic viewfinder or no viewfinder and only the LCD screen. CSCs are also referred to as mirrorless cameras.

Curves– This powerful Photoshop feature enables you to adjust the exposure and contrast of an image. By altering the shape of the curve, different areas of tone can be lightened or darkened by varying amounts. By altering the curves for each of the different color channels, the color balance of the image can also be altered to create special effects, or simply to correct for unwanted color casts. Elements’ version of Curves, called Adjust Color Curves, is more limited than Photoshop’s Curves.

Cyanotype– A printing process that creates a distinctive cyan-blue print, discovered in 1842 by scientist Sir John Herschel (1792-1871). It was first used in photography by Anna Atkins (1799-1871), who produced a book of cyanotype photograms made using seaweed in 1843.


D– A type of Tokina lens that’s compatible with full-frame SLRs.

DA– Stands for Digital Auto, which features on a range of Pentax lenses that (unlike some earlier ranges) don’t have a manual aperture ring. They have a ‘Quick Shift’ mechanism that enables you to override focus manually, even when the lens is set– to autofocus.

DA*– The premium lens range from Pentax, which combines weatherproofing with– the advantages of the DA range.

Daguerre, Louis– Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) was an artist and inventor who devised one of the earliest photographic processes, the daguerreotype, announced in 1839. It was made by coating a silver-plated copper sheet with light-sensitive silver iodide,– and exposing it in a camera to create a positive image. See Who invented the camera?

Daguerreotype. The first publicly available photography process as well as the physical photo plates created through the process. Invented by French photographer Louis Daguerre and introduced in 1839, the daguerreotype became a dominant photography process in the mid-1800s.

Dark cloth– A sheet of black material, mainly used in large-format photography. It covers the photographer’s head and the camera, and allows the relatively dim image on– the ground-glass screen to be seen more clearly when composing and focusing an image.

Darkroom– A light-tight room for processing and printing traditional photographs. Negatives are loaded into the processing tank in complete darkness, while a red/orange safe light can be used at the printing stage.

Darkroom. A completely light-sealed room used by film photographers to handle light-sensitive photography materials and to do things such as make photographic prints. The room is typically illuminated with a safelight, which emits light at wavelengths that are visible to the human eye but photosensitive materials are not sensitive to.

DC– This features on the range of Sigma lenses that are designed specifically for use with crop-factor SLRs, and which can’t be used with full-frame models.

Decisive moment– The split-second when all the elements of a photograph simultaneously come together. The decisive moment is associated with Henri Cartier-Bresson, who described photography as “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

Dedicated flashgun– A type of flashgun that’s designed to provide direct one-way or two-way communication with the camera. The amount of dedication varies enormously depending on the flashgun and camera. Increased dedication tends to provide– a more accurate flash metering, as well as making the flash system easier to use successfully.

Deep Learning AF– A Canon autofocus technology used in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III to recognise and track subjects. Read more: What is Deep Learning AF?

Depth of Field (DoF) – The depth of field in a photograph is a measurement of how much of the image is in acceptably sharp focus. This is affected by a number of factors that a photographer has control over. Aperture is a key element in controlling the depth of field in a photograph. The wider the aperture used, the shallower the depth of field is. Distance between the camera and subject and the subject and background also affects depth of field.

Depth of Field (DoF). The distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a photo that are in focus by being acceptably sharp. A shallow depth of field can result in considerable blurring in front of and behind the subject that is focused on, while a wide/deep depth of field can render more (or all) of a scene in sharp focus.

Depth of field– A measure of how much of a picture is in focus, from the nearest point in the scene– to the camera that looks sharp, to the furthermost point that looks sharp. Depth of field is dependent on the aperture used, the distance that the lens is focused at,– and the focal length of the lens. Read more: What is depth of field?

Depth of field preview– A device, usually a button, found on some digital SLRs that enables you to see the viewfinder image at the actual aperture you’ll be using for the exposure. This gives a visual indication as to how much depth of field there is, and which parts of the resulting picture will be sharp or blurred. This is necessary because the viewfinder normally only shows the image as it would appear if the widest aperture available were used.

Depth of field scale– A scale found on some lens barrels that can be used to work out the depth of field for particular apertures, and that can be used for manual focus adjustments to maximize or minimize the depth of field.

Depth of fieldThe difference between the closest and farthest in-focus objects in a photo. A shallow depth of field means that relatively close background objects become blurry. A deep depth of field means that faraway background objects are still in focus.

Depth program– A program exposure mode in which the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically in order to provide the maximum depth of field, while maintaining a shutter speed that’s fast enough for hand-held photography. With some cameras, the different subject distances measured by the multipoint autofocus system are also taken into account, and the focus is adjusted to suit.

Developer– A mixture of chemicals used to convert or amplify a latent image on a photographic film or print to make it visible. It’s made permanent using fixer.

DFA– This features on the range of Pentax lenses that will work with full-frame 35mm film cameras as well as crop-factor digital SLRs.

DG– This refers to the Sigma lens range suitable for full-frame SLRs (but that can also be used on crop-factor models).

Di II– Tamron’s second-generation Digitally Integrated lenses are designed for use on popular crop-factor SLRs, and are not suitable for full-frame models.

Di III– Tamron’s third-generation Digitally Integrated lenses, designed for use on full-frame mirrorless cameras.

Di– Tamron’s ‘Digitally Integrated’ lenses have a full-size image circle, so they are suitable for full-frame and crop-factor SLRs.

Dialog– A window that pops open when you select certain commands, usually to give you the opportunity to configure settings or enter further preferences. In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, menu commands that will open a dialog for further instructions before applying their effect are usually indicated by an ellipsis (…) after the name, such as File>Save As… Those without this, such as File>Save, will work immediately, with no dialog.

Diaphragm– Another term for the aperture. These are the adjustable blades that regulate how much light enters the lens and reaches the sensor.

Diaphragm Diaphragm is the mechanical device inside a camera lens that controls the aperture. Modern DSLR cameras use what is known as an “iris diaphragm,” which is made of overlapping blades that can be modified to increase or decrease the size of the aperture.

Diaphragm. The component in a camera lens that uses a configuration of overlapping metal blades, called the iris, to enlarge or shrink the size of the opening in the middle, called the aperture, in order to let more or less light pass through the lens to the sensor or film. By adjusting the diaphragm, a photographer controls the aperture and therefore the depth of field of the resulting photo.

Differential focusing– Controlling depth of field to ensure that one element in the picture is sharp, while others are as out of focus as possible.

Diffraction – Diffraction of light happens when it passes through a narrow aperture opening. Smaller apertures are associated with having more of a photo in focus. Diffraction can be a problem with narrower aperture settings causing blurring.

Diffraction– Scattering of light caused by deflection at the edges of an opaque object. Diffraction causes slight fuzziness in the image when the narrowest apertures are used.

Diffused Light. A soft light that is filtered or scattered by something, causing it to be non-directional with more even illumination and softer shadows. Natural light from the sun may be diffused by clouds, for example. Artificial lighting can be diffused by directing the light through a modifier such as a softbox. This type of lighting is often preferred in portraits due to the more flattering look of softer shadows and facial features.

Diffuser– Any material that scatters the light as it passes through it, softening the illumination and making shadows less distinct. Diffusers are commonly used with artificial light sources such as strobes and flashguns. On sunny days, clouds act as natural diffusers.

Diffuser. Any semi-translucent material that diffuses light, scattering the rays to create a softer quality. Typically placed between the light source and the subject, diffusers can be made of both hard and soft materials. They can also be both commercially produced or homemade with things found around the house or studio.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) – DAM refers to a photographer’s digital workflow. It’s the process of importing, cataloging, arranging, deleting, and exporting digital images.

Digital Asset Management (DAM). Software that allows photographers to safely and efficiently store, organize, and share digital media files such as photos and videos. Photos can be tagged, grouped, filtered, and searched through. Some apps, such as Adobe Lightroom, provide both image editing features as well as digital asset management.

Digital Negative (DNG) – DNG is an image format developed by Adobe and publicly available.

Digital Photography. The creation of photos using electronic photodetectors, typically silicon semiconductor image sensors, in a camera to capture light rays focused by a lens rather than photographic film or photosensitive chemicals. The captured images are typically digitized and stored on a memory card or onboard storage of the camera before it is viewed on a digital display, edited with software, and/or shared through the Internet. Digital cameras (and particularly smartphones) have revolutionized photography by making shooting and sharing photos fast, cheap, and ubiquitous.

Digital Single-lens Reflex (DSLR) Camera. A camera that combines a traditional single-lens reflex (SLR) design with a digital imaging sensor. In an SLR camera, light passing through the lens is directed upward into a prism and then through the viewfinder into the photographer’s eye. When the shutter button is pressed, the mirror flips out of the way, allowing the light to pass onto the shutter and sensor system for a photo to be exposed.

Digital Zoom – Digital zoom is an in-camera function where the central portion of an image is cropped into. This has the effect of making the middle look larger, similar to using a zoom lens, (which produces an optical zoom.) With a digital zoom, the image resolution is lowered and quality suffers. Zooming with telephoto lenses does not produce the same quality loss in a photo.

Dioptre– Optical measurement used to describe the light-bending power of a lens. The dioptre value of a lens is equal to the number of times that its focal length will divide into 1000mm. Dioptres are used to measure the magnification of close-up lenses, and of viewfinder lenses.

Dioptric correction– The facility provided on some digital cameras for adjusting the viewfinder to suit the user’s eyesight. Limited adjustment is built-in, and some cameras permit further modification with the use of additional dioptre lenses.

Disc film– An ill-fated film format introduced by Kodak in 1982. The disc-shaped film, housed in a plastic cartridge, contained 15 negatives measuring 11×8 mm. After each exposure, the disc rotated to the next frame. Poor image quality made it unpopular, and it– was discontinued in 1999.

Distortion – Distortion in photography is where an image is altered from how the subject originally appeared. This problem is often related to lens distortion, but can also occur through high ISO use and poor post-processing of digital images. In very hot climates heat distortion can also be a problem in photographs.

Distortion. When lines or objects in a photo appear curved or deformed in some way, usually as a result of the lens. Types of distortions include optical (e.g. barrel, pincushion, and mustache) and perspective.

DNG (Digital Negative)– DNG is a raw file format invented by Adobe and used by some camera manufacturers. An advantage of DNG is that, unlike other raw formats, it isn’t specific to just one camera manufacturer or model, and it isn’t just a read-only format – you can save your files in DNG format too. A free DNG converter application available from Adobe enables you to convert any raw file into a DNG.

DO– Diffractive Optics is used on a handful of Canon telephoto lenses. The technology enables these long lenses to be made smaller and lighter than equivalents using conventional optical designs.

Dodge tool– A way of lightening selected areas of the image during digital manipulation. The tool gets its name (and its spoon-shaped icon) from the traditional darkroom technique of ‘dodging’, where parts of a print are shielded from exposure and therefore given less light than other parts. See also Burn tool. Read more: What is dodging and burning?

DOF DOF, which stands for Depth of Field, is the distance between the closest and farthest object within the focused zone of an image. It is determined by focal distance, aperture, and distance to the subject. The higher these numbers are, the more shallow the DOF will be.

Dots Per Inch (DPI) – Printed photographs are often measured using the number of dots per inch a printer produces to render an image. Dots per inch (DPI) is commonly used to indicate image quality or resolution in digital photography.

Dots Per Inch (DPI). The resolution of a printed photo. Refers to how many printed dots are found within a line spanning one inch (2.54cm) of a print. The higher the density of dots, the higher the resolution of the image.

Doughnuts– The name given to the ring-shaped bokeh created by the unique construction of a mirror lens.

DPI– Dots per inch. Strictly speaking, a measure of the density of dots of ink that a printer lays down on paper. Compare image resolution (density of pixels) of a print or on-screen image at a certain size, measured in pixels per inch.

DPOF– (Digital Print Order Format)– A facility available on some digital cameras that enables users to mark the images from which they wish to have prints made.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Camera- A DSLR camera is a digital camera with a single lens that uses a mirror to reflect light via a prism to the viewfinder. When the shutter release is pressed to take a photo, the mirror moves to allow light to pass through the shutter as it opens, creating an image with the sensor. A DSLR camera has an optical viewfinder that allows the user to view directly through the camera lens.

DSLR– (digital single lens reflex)– See single-lens reflex.

DSLR: DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. A DSLR camera combines the optics of a traditional single lens reflex camera with a digital sensor.

DT– A Sony lens with a smaller image circle, designed for use on crop-factor cameras.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF– A Canon autofocus technology that splits the photosites on the sensor into two halves so that they can be used for faster and more efficient on-sensor ‘phase-detection’ autofocus. Read more: What is Dual pixel AF and why is it important?

Duotone– A duotone image is one made from two inks (usually black and another color),– and is often used in printed books to increase the tonal range of an image.– It’s also used by some fine-art photographers to add subtle color to black-and-white photographs. A similar appearance can be achieved in Photoshop by converting a color image to greyscale, then choosing Image>Mode>Duotone.

Dust Spots. Unwanted dark spots that show up in digital photos and are caused by dust particles on the imaging sensor. These spots are more likely to be visible when shooting a solid color scene (e.g. the sky) with a small aperture (i.e. a higher f-number). Some cameras have built-in sensor dust removal features, while other cameras will require photographers or repair technicians to manually blow or wipe the dust from the sensor.

DX– Tokina’s and Nikon’s way of marking lenses that are only suitable for crop-factor (or APS-C) digital SLRs.

Dye Sublimation – Dye sublimation is a form of digital printing that can produce high-quality, durable prints relatively inexpensively.

Dynamic Range – Dynamic range is the ratio between the lightest and darkest tones captured by a camera in a single exposure. Higher-quality digital image sensors produce a wider dynamic range.

Dynamic range– A term used to describe the range between the lightest and darkest points in a photograph. The range that can be recorded by a digital camera is relatively small compared with the range that the human eye can perceive. Read more about Dynamic range

Dynamic range Dynamic range is the range of luminance of an image between its highest and lowest light intensities, usually pure white and pure black. The dynamic range of a digital sensor is slightly narrower than that of film photography, and both of them are significantly limited in comparison to what the human eye can perceive. Scenes with a wider dynamic range than that of the camera sensor will result in images that are either overexposed or underexposed.

Dynamic Range. The contrast ratio between the darkest and brightest tones in a photo or scene. The greater a camera’s dynamic range, the greater its ability to capture a scene with both dark shadows and brilliant highlights without clipping, or losing detail in those areas by rendering them as pure black or white, respectively.

Dynamic range: The difference between the darkest and lightest tones in an image — the range of dark and light that a camera is capable of. Darkest and lightest hues are very rarely pure black or pure white. Cameras usually have a lower dynamic range than the human eye.


Eastman, George– George Eastman (1854-1932) was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He patented the first paper negative roll film in 1884 before establishing Eastman Kodak in 1892, which went on to become one of the world’s largest photographic companies. The popular Kodak ‘Brownie’ series was launched in 1900, with the famous slogan, ‘You push the button, we do the rest’. See The name behind Kodak: George Eastman

ED– A lens featuring Extra-low Dispersion glass in one or more of its elements, to help correct chromatic aberration. This abbreviation is used by Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus and others.

Edgerton, Harold Eugene– Harold Eugene Edgerton (1903-1990) was a professor of electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who conducted innovative experiments with high-speed flash photography. He developed a flash tube that fired for one-millionth of a second, recording for the first time subjects such as a bullet piercing an apple.

Edition Number – This is a set of two numbers on a printed image notifying the number of the print in a series and how many prints are in the series.

EF– Stands for Electro Focus. This is the name of the lens mount Canon introduced on its first autofocus SLR cameras in 1987. EF lenses can be used on all Canon SLRs.

Effective Pixels – Effective pixels are how many pixels on a camera’s sensor are actually used to make a digital image. This is the same as the Active Area of a camera sensor. All sensors include additional pixels that are used as a reference point for black and not included in the image area.

Effects filter– See filter.

EFL– (effective focal length)– A measure for comparing the angle of view and magnification of different lenses and lens settings, whatever the size of imaging chip being used. The actual focal length is converted to the equivalent focal length that would give the same angle of view on– a camera using 35mm. See focal length.

EF-S– Stands for Electro Focus Short back focus, a lens mount introduced by Canon in 2003. EF-S lenses have a small image circle so they are only suitable for use on crop-factor SLRs. A modified mount means that they can’t physically be fitted onto incompatible (i.e. full-frame) Canon models.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) – An electronic viewfinder displays a digital rendering of what the camera’s lens is pointing at. This type of viewfinder is used in mirrorless cameras.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). A type of camera viewfinder that uses a small electronic display to help photographers compose photos, adjust settings, and review images. While the downside is that photographers are not looking at the real world through viewfinder optics, the electronic viewfinder’s advantages over the optical viewfinder include real-time exposure previews and useful information overlays.

Element– An individual optical lens. Most photographic lenses are constructed using a number of lens elements, placed parallel to each other along a single axis. Some are placed together in groups.

Enlarger– A projector used in a traditional wet darkroom. Negatives are placed in the carrier, and a light inside the enlarger head projects the magnified image onto a sheet of photographic paper on the baseboard. When the exposure is complete, the photograph is developed and fixed.

Enlarger. Also called a projection printer, this is a darkroom device that allows photographers to produce a photographic print that is larger in physical dimensions than the original film negative or transparency by projecting the image downward onto photo-sensitive paper below.

Environmental portrait– A portrait shot in a subject’s home or work environment in such a way that it gives an insight into the subject’s character. The American photographer Arnold Newman (1918-2006) is considered the father of environmental portraiture.

E-TTL. Evaluative though-the-lens. Automatic flash metering that fires a pre-flash, measures the resulting light that comes into the camera, and then uses that information to calculate the proper flash exposure time.

ETTL. Exposing to the left. Underexposing a photo so that the histogram is pushed toward the left in an effort to avoid clipped shadows. This technique was commonly used in film photography due to negative film having greater recovery potential in highlights than in shadows. With digital photography, however, there is more latitude in the shadows and photographers typically expose to the right (ETTR).

ETTR. Expose to the right. Overexposing a photo so that the histogram is pushed toward the right in an effort to avoid blown highlights. This technique is commonly used in digital photography due to the greater recovery potential in shadows than in highlights. With negative film, however, there is more latitude in the highlights and photographers typically expose to the left (ETTL).

EV (exposure value)– The scale used to denote the exposure required without the need to specify– either shutter speed or aperture. A particular EV setting has its own set pairs of possible shutter speed and aperture. Exposure values are often quoted in combination with an ISO speed to denote a specific light level. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important? | What is EV (exposure value) in photography?

EV compensation EV compensation, or exposure value compensation, allows photographers to modify the exposure on automatic and semi-automatic modes. Generally, the values can be changed through 1/3, 1/3, or full stop increments.

  1. EV. Exposure value. A number that represents an equivalent exposure based on a combination of shutter speed and aperture. Combinations that produce the same exposure of a scene will have the same EV. Each 1 EV change corresponds to a power-of-2 exposure step, or stop, so increasing by 1 EV doubles the exposure, and decreasing by 1 EV halves the exposure.

Evaluative metering– A metering system used on many cameras, in which light readings are– taken from a number of different areas, or zones, across the image. These– readings are then compared to data programmed into the camera, so it can work out an appropriate exposure setting. Information from the multipoint autofocus system is also used, to ascertain the likely position of the subject. This ‘intelligent’ metering system can avoid many of the failings of simpler systems. However, it’s impossible to second-guess, so it can be difficult to predict the occasions where it will get the exposure wrong. It’s also known as matrix metering.

EVF (electronic viewfinder)– An eye-level LCD screen, as found on hybrid cameras, bridge cameras, camcorders, and some compacts. The image seen by the lens is electronically projected onto the screen.

EX– Sigma’s designation for its premium lens range.

Exhibition. When photographs and other artworks are displayed in a public place such as a museum, art gallery, or photo club so that the public can view them in person. Exhibits are generally on display for a limited amount of time, after which they are replaced by new artworks, but there are also permanent exhibitions.

EXIF (exchangeable image file)– Camera settings recorded by many digital cameras as part of the image file. This data automatically notes a wide range of information about the picture, including the date and time it was recorded, aperture, shutter speed, model of camera, whether flash was used, number of pixels used, metering mode, exposure mode, exposure compensation used and zoom setting. The information can then subsequently be read by suitable software. To access this information in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, go to File>File Info. Read more: What is EXIF data, and is it useful for your photography?

EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) Data – EXIF data is generated by digital cameras and software to add information about how a photo was made to the image file. It contains data about the camera, lens, settings, date, etc.

EXIF. Exchangeable Image File Format. Officially stylized as Exif (without all caps), this is the dominant metadata standard that specifies formats for information recorded when photos or other types of media are captured by a digital camera. Supported by virtually all camera manufacturers, metadata included in Exif include things like camera settings when a photo is captured (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, focal length, etc.), technical metrics of an image, date/time/location info, thumbnail previews, copyright details, and more.

Export – In photography terms, exporting an image is what happens to it once it has been edited and is then saved in a different file format than its original state. Sometimes the term is used for simply saving an image also.

Exposure – Exposure is the amount of light a camera sensor captures when the shutter release button is pressed. The amount of light is controlled by the size of the aperture in the lens and how long the shutter is open for. The responsiveness of the sensor also has an influence on the exposure appearance. ISO controls this. If too much light affects the sensor the image will be overexposed and appear very bright. When not enough light affects the sensor the image will be dark and underexposed.

Exposure Bracketing The capturing of multiple photos of the same scene with the only difference being varying exposure settings. This can be used to ensure that one of the exposures is optimal, or the multiple exposures can be combined in post-processing to create a high dynamic range (HDR) photo since the images span a wider dynamic range than a single exposure can.

Exposure compensation– A control for manually overriding the built-in exposure meter of a camera to provide more or less light to the sensor. Read more: What is exposure compensation?

Exposure Compensation. A camera feature that allows photographers to override the exposure calculated by the built-in light meter by increasing or decreasing the exposure value (EV). Often used when the scene is dominated either by light tones (e.g. a snowy landscape) that can normally lead to underexposed photos or by dark tones (e.g. a close-up ninja portrait) that can normally result in overexposed photos.

Exposure Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor and it determines how light or dark an image is. The exposure of an image is determined by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Exposure Meter – An exposure meter, or light meter, is a device used to measure the amount of light before taking a photograph. All modern cameras have built-in light meters that measure reflected light. When a camera is set to any auto-exposure mode the light meter will read the light when the shutter button is partially depressed. The camera will then adjust the exposure settings so the correct amount of light will enter the camera, according to the camera’s pre-programmed algorithms. When using a camera in manual mode, a photographer must read the information provided by a graphic display the light meter displays in the viewfinder or on the monitor. The exposure controls must then be adjusted manually according to how the photographer interprets the information the light meter provides. Hand-held exposure meters can also be used to measure the amount of light. These provide the added option of being able to read incident light.

Exposure– The total amount of light used to create an image. The term is also used to describe a single shutter cycle, that is, the process of the camera’s shutter opening, closing and resetting. Read more: What is exposure?

Exposure Triangle – The exposure triangle is the relationship and function between the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These three controls are adjusted to allow the right amount of light to enter the camera and affect the sensor.

Exposure Triangle. A visual representation of the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in creating a photographic exposure.

Exposure triangle: The combination of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, which determines the time and intensity of light being let into the camera. Different exposures in film and digital images alike are achieved by adjusting these exposure settings.

Exposure Value (EV) Compensation – Exposure value compensation is the measurement of an amount of exposure variance that can be dialed into a camera to increase or decrease the exposure. It is commonly used in automatic and semiautomatic camera modes to override the camera’s choice of exposure.

Exposure. The amount of light per unit area recorded by photographic film or a digital image sensor as a result of the combination of aperture, shutter speed, and light in the scene. Different camera settings can have equivalent exposures. The term is also used generally to refer to a single open-and-close cycle of the shutter in the creation of a photograph, though more than one exposure can be combined to create a “multiple exposure” photo.

Extension tube– An accessory used in macro and close-up photography that fits between the D-SLR body and the lens. The extra extension between the lens and sensor enables the lens to focus closer and to provide a higher image magnification than would otherwise be possible. Extension tubes are usually sold in sets of three, and are used singly or in combination to provide a total of seven different magnifications. Read more: What is macro photography?

Extension Tube. A lens add-on that increases the distance between the lens and the imaging plane (e.g. film or sensor) in the camera. Lacking any glass elements, the hollow tube reduces minimum focus distance and increases magnification, allowing non-macro lenses to be used for close-up macro photography.

Eye relief– A measurement of the optimum viewing distance between the photographer’s eye and the camera’s viewfinder.

Eyedropper– A Photoshop tool used to sample the color of an area, typically changing the foreground color to the same shade. It can also be used in some adjustment tools for setting exposure or color balance, by clicking a particular area of tone as a reference point.

Eyepiece correction– See dioptric correction.


f/X.X– The f-stop number is the size of the lens’s maximum aperture, measured as a fraction of the focal length of the lens. On some zoom lenses there may be two apertures quoted: f/4-5.6, for example. This means that the maximum aperture of the lens gets narrower as the lens is zoomed in. The maximum aperture on the lens barrel may also be expressed as a ratio, such as 1:4-5.6.

FA– A Pentax lens that’s compatible with full-frame SLRs, and that features an old-fashioned aperture ring.

False color– A color shown in a digital image that’s different from the actual subject color, and that often appears together with a moiré pattern. See moiré pattern.

Fast Glass – Fast glass is a slang term for lenses that have a wide maximum aperture that can allow for the use of a faster shutter speed.

Fast ISO setting– An ISO setting that makes the sensor more sensitive to light than usual, and thus requires less exposure than usual. Fast settings are useful in low-light situations where long shutter speeds are not suitable. A drawback is that grain-like noise within the image becomes more pronounced as the ISO speed is increased. Read more: What is noise in digital images, and when does it become a problem?

Fast lens– A lens that has a wider maximum aperture than is usual for that particular focal length or zoom range, allowing a shorter shutter speed. Fast lenses are not only useful in low light; they can be invaluable for throwing backgrounds out of focus to a greater extent than usual.

Fast shutter speed– Relative term for an exposure that is shorter than average, usually set to avoid the blur that would otherwise be created by movement of the subject. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important?

Feathering– A way of softening the edges of an area that you’ve selected to work on in Photoshop. It adds a transition zone of transparent pixels, which enables any background to partially show through (like with the edges of a feather). It’s used so that the join between manipulated and non-manipulated areas is rendered less obvious.

Fenton, Roger– Roger Fenton (1819-1869) was a British photographic pioneer who took some of the earliest war photographs on the battlefields of the Crimean War in 1854.– He was also the founder and first secretary of The Photographic Society, later renamed to The Royal Photographic Society.

Field of View (FOV) – Field of view is how much is visible and can be captured on the camera sensor or film. The relationship between the focal length of a lens and the size of the camera’s sensor affects the field of view.

Field of View (FOV). The portion of the world that is visible through and capturable by a camera. When expressed as an angle (of the view cone), this is also referred to as the angle of view (AOV). Field of view depends on the focal length of the lens and the size of the sensor/film.

File Format – File format in photography terms refers to the type of image file. These include many RAW file formats, TIFF, jpeg, PSD, PNG, and many other formats.

File format– The way in which a digital image is stored. When you’ve finished editing your images, you usually get a choice of formats to use while saving. Common file types include JPEG, TIFF, PNG and PSD.

Fill Light – A fill light is any other light used when taking a photo other than the key, or main, light. It can be ambient light or an introduced light source such as a flash or LED. It can be used to soften hard shadows in dramatic lighting setups and help create more of a three-dimensional appearance to the depth of a photograph.

Fill light– In studio lighting, a fill light is used to give more detail to dark or shadow areas, and reduce contrast.

Fill Light. A secondary light source in photography used to lighten shadows and reduce contrast in an image. It is typically placed on the opposite side of a subject from a main light.

Fill-in flash– Flash used as a secondary light source. A fill-flash feature is an option on many cameras with a built-in flash unit. With it you can soften shadows on foreground subjects, helping to avoid problems with backlighting. Fill-in flash can also be used to enhance the colors and contrast of foreground subjects in dull lighting conditions. Read more: What is flash, and is it still useful for photography?

FilmIn photography, film is a transparent plastic perforated strip or sheet that acts as a base for microscopic, light-sensitive silver halide crystals coated on one side with a gelatin emulsion. Black-and-white film has a single layer of silver salts, while color film has a minimum of three layers of dye (blue, green and red), which sensitive the salts to different colors, as the scene being photographed dictates.

Film Photography. The practice of creating photographs on light-sensitive film as the medium by which images are recorded. After the light-sensitive chemicals in the thin emulsion of film are exposed to light, a latent image is recorded to the film. This latent image is then turned into a visible image by developing/processing the film through a series of chemical baths. Film photography was the dominant medium for many years before the rise of digital photography.

Film Simulations– Camera modes or photo editing software settings that attempt to recreate the look of analog films. Read more: What are Fujifilm film simulations?

Film. Often referred to as photographic film or camera film, this is a strip or sheet of a transparent material coated with a light-sensitive emulsion on one side. After being exposed to light through a camera lens, a latent image is recorded to the emulsion invisibly. This image can then be revealed by developing the film with specific chemicals that makes the latent image visible on the film and then fixes it in place by removing the light-sensitive nature of the film. This image, whether a negative or positive image and whether color or black-and-white, can then be printed onto a different medium, projected, or digitized, among other things.

Filter– A general term used within Photoshop for a wide range of artistic effects and– other utilities. Many are special effects, such as those that add grain and texture– to an image. Others, such as the sharpening filters, are more utilitarian.– Also, see optical filter.

Filters – A filter in photography is a high-quality optical glass or resin device placed between the light source and the sensor (or film). Most commonly they are attached to the front of camera lenses. Alternatively, they can be inserted into special slots in some lenses and other types can be placed immediately in front of a light source. Filters have the function of altering the path of light waves entering the lens for a large variety of purposes. Most commonly, lens filters such as UV and Skylight varieties can help protect the front element of a lens from becoming damaged. A filter is much easier to remove and replace than the front element of a lens. They are also a lot cheaper.

FireWire– A method of transferring data such as digital images or video between devices. FireWire 400 was first introduced by Apple in the 1990s. The last widely-used  version was FireWire 800. A FireWire 400 cable can be connected to a FireWire 800 socket using an additional adaptor.

Firmware – Firmware is software in a camera that enables the functionality of the hardware.

Firmware update– A firmware update is like a free operating system update for your camera, typically fixing bugs or adding new features. You can download and install these updates yourself. Read more: What are firmware updates?

Fisheye lensAn ultra-wide-angle lens that distorts the image in order to maximize the field of view. On 35mm cameras, the term refers to lenses with focal lengths of around 8-15mm. Read more: What is a fisheye lens and when would you use one?

Fisheye Lens. A type of ultra-wide-angle camera lens that produces a distorted, non-rectilinear convex image with a field of view that is typically somewhere between 100° and 280°. Objects close to the center of the frame will appear unnaturally large while things found at the edges of the frame are reduced in scale. The distortion is similar to what one sees when looking through a security peephole in a door.

Fixed focal length lens– A lens that doesn’t have a variable focal length, and that has a single angle of view.

Fixer– A chemical mixture used in the wet darkroom to stabilise negatives and prints after development and make them insensitive to light.

Flag. An object or tool that blocks light in order to cast a shadow, create negative fill, or reduce/eliminate lens flare. Commonly black in color and rectangular in shape.

Flare– Stray, non-image-forming light that reaches the sensor, creating unwanted highlights or softening the image. Lens coatings and hoods are designed to minimise flare. However, flare can still prove a problem when shooting towards a bright light source.

Flash– A burst of artificial light used to provide all or some of the illumination for an image. Most cameras have built-in flash units, while some allow a separate flash unit to be attached via the hotshoe, or used off-camera. In studio work, large standalone flash units or strobes use mains power, and are triggered by a flash sync cable or radio signal. Flash durations are usually between 1/200 sec to 1/4,0000 sec and have a color temperature of around 5,500-6,000K. Read more: What is flash, and is it still useful for photography?

Flash Sync (Synchronization) – Flash sync describes the properties of how a camera and flash work together. It’s also the port where you would plug an external flash cable into a camera. To use a flash it must synchronize with the shutter opening. If the flash is not synced or poorly synced it will result in photos that are underexposed or partially obscured by one of the shutter blinds. Many cameras allow you to sync the flash with the opening or the closing of the shutter. This produces a different type of photo, depending on the shutter speed used and any movement.

Flash synchronization– A process that ensures that the peak output from the flash tube coincides with the shutter being fully open. On digital SLRs with focal plane shutters, full synchronization is only possible at certain shutter speeds.

Flash. A device that creates a short burst of light to provide artificial illumination for a scene. The purpose can be to help a camera properly expose a low-light environment, create a custom lighting scenario, freeze a moving subject, or fill in harsh shadows when dealing with strong lighting. Flashes can be built directly into cameras or found as standalone devices, and they range in size from a tiny unit found on a compact camera to a sizable strobe found in a studio.

Flat Light – Flat light is soft and dull and produces little or no shadows in a photograph. Because of this, there’s often very little sense of depth in photos with flat light. Slightly before sunrise and a little after sunset natural light is considered to be flat.

Flattening– A Photoshop term for merging all the visible layers to the background layer, reducing the file size.

Fluorescent light– The lighting produced by strip light tubes. The color balance can vary enormously, depending on the type of tube, and manual white balance settings therefore often offer several fluorescent settings. Daylight-balanced fluorescent tubes are used in some studio lighting systems.

F-number. Also known as focal ratio, f-ratio, or f-stop, this is the number that specifies a lens’ aperture. It is the ratio of focal length to effective aperture diameter. A low f-number denotes a larger aperture size that allows more light to reach the camera’s film or sensor. Lenses generally feature a standard f-stop scale that follows the powers of the square root of two: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, f/45, f/64, and so on. Each f-number in this sequence is one stop away from the ones before and after.

FO– Stands for Focus-One-touch mechanism, on Tokina lenses. It enables you to switch between autofocus and manual focus by snapping the focus ring backwards and forwards.

Focal Length – Focal length is one of the basic descriptions of a camera lens. The focal length is represented in millimeters. The widest aperture is also part of the description of a lens. The focal length of a lens is the distance between the point where light converges in the lens and the camera sensor or film. In practical terms, the focal length of a lens indicates how much you can see through the lens. The lower the focal length number, the wider the field of view is. Zoom lenses are labeled with two focal length numbers indicating the widest and longest extremes the zoom range has.

Focal length Focal length is the distance in millimeters between the center of a lens and the camera sensor. It determines the angle of view as well as the magnification of the subject. Focal length is the measure used to categorize the different type of lenses: wide angle (<35mm), standard (35mm – 70mm), medium telephoto (70mm – 135mm) and telephoto (>135mm).

Focal Length Magnifier – The description of the angle of view of a lens on a crop sensor camera in relation to the same focal length being used on a full-frame camera body.

Focal length– Optical term describing the distance between the optical centre of a lens and its focal point. In practice, the focal length is a measure of the magnification and angle of view of a given lens or zoom setting. It’s usually measured in millimetres. However, its usefulness as a way of comparing different lenses is diminished by the fact that the exact focal length required to give a particular angle of view will depend on the size of the imaging chip used by the camera in question. Read more: What is focal length?

Focal Length. The distance, in millimeters, between the optical center of the camera lens and the sensor or film recording the image. A shorter focal length provides a wider field of view (i.e. wide angle) and lower magnification while a longer focal length leads to a narrower field of view (i.e. telephoto) and higher magnification.

Focal length: The distance (usually measured in millimeters) between the optical center of a camera lens and the camera sensor (sometimes called the image sensor).

Focal Plane Shutter (FPS). A type of shutter that sits right in front of a camera’s focal plane.

Focal plane shutter– A shutter mechanism that sits just in front of the image sensor, in the lens’s focal plane. It consists of two light-tight curtains that, when using fast shutter speeds, travel across the focal plane with a thin slit between them. Light passes through this slit to expose the image sensor or film. Using shutter speeds lower than the flash sync speed, one curtain crosses the focal plane to expose the whole sensor or frame of film, followed separately by the second curtain. This type of shutter is commonly used on DSLR cameras. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important?

Focal plane– The flat surface upon which the image is focused in a camera. This is the plane where the photo sites of the CCD or CMOS image sensor are positioned.

Focus – Focus in photography terms is the point at which a photograph is the sharpest. This happens when the camera lens is adjusted correctly on the point at which the photographer has decided is most relevant.

Focus peaking– An electronic visual aid in which the parts of an image in sharp focus are highlighted on a Live View screen, or electronic viewfinder. Read more: What is focus peaking?

Focus Point. The point within the frame on which a camera’s autofocus feature attempts to bring into sharpest focus. A camera will attempt to make the plane of focus intersect the exact location in a scene or subject highlighted by the focus point.

Focus Stacking – Focus stacking is done by combining two or more photographs of the same composition where the focus point in each image is slightly different. The effect is to generate a composite image that has more depth of field than could be captured in a single exposure.

Focus Stacking. Capturing multiple digital photos at different focus distances and then combining them into a single image with a greater depth of field than is possible with a single exposure. This technique is commonly used in macro and landscape photography.

Focus. The plane in three-dimensional space on objects will be rendered as sharp in a photograph. Adjusting focus of a lens moves this plane forward (toward the camera) and backward (away toward the background).

Focusing screen– The surface upon which the viewfinder image of a digital SLR is projected. Its textured surface is designed to accentuate the degree by which the image is sharp or not, thereby providing assistance when you’re focusing.

Forced Perspective. A creative technique in which objects or subjects in the frame are made to appear smaller, larger, closer, or farther than they are in real life. This is done by using careful positioning and framing to create an optical illusion with the space between subjects.

Foreground. The portion of a scene that is closest to the camera. This region often sets the stage for what is seen at further points in the middleground or background.

Format– In film photography, ‘format’ refers to a photographic film size and its associated camera systems. Miniature Format is 35mm or smaller, Medium Format is any film size higher than 35mm, but lower than 4×5, while Large Format is anything 4×5 inches or larger.

Four Thirds system– A standard image sensor format introduced by Olympus and Kodak in 2002. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio (the sensor size is usually 18 x 13.5mm), while other DSLR and mirrorless systems use a larger sensor with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?

Four Thirds. A camera system standard originally created by Olympus and Eastman Kodak for the design of DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The Four Thirds sensor has an imaging area of 17.3x13mm, which has a diagonal of 21.63mm, or roughly half of the diagonal of a 35mm film negative. Multiple companies have joined the Four Thirds standard to create camera bodies and lenses that are all compatible with one another. While the Four Thirds standard was geared toward DSLRs, the subsequent Micro Four Thirds standard uses the same Four Thirds sensor but eliminates the mirror box and pentaprism for mirrorless cameras.

Fox Talbot, William Henry– An inventor and pioneer of photography, Fox Talbot (1800-1877) introduced the calotype or talbotype process in 1841. His book, The Pencil of Nature (published– in instalments from 1844-1846) was the first commercially published book– to be illustrated with photographs. One of his most famous photographs, made in 1844, showed Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London, still under construction.

Fps (frames per second)– Measurement of the continuous shooting rate of a camera. Read more: What are burst modes & continuous shooting?

FPS FPS stands for frames per second and determines the speed at which a camera can take photos. It is especially important for sport and wildlife photographers, who need to be able to shoot rapidly to make sure they capture perfectly-timed images.

Frame rate– The number of frames a camera can capture in a second (frames per second) and used both for continuous shooting modes in stills cameras, and for video capture. Read more: Video jargon explained

Frames Per Second (FPS) – Frames per second or FPS refers to the number of times the shutter on a camera can open and close in one second. It’s used most commonly to describe how many exposures can be made by a camera when using the burst mode setting.

Frames Per Second (FPS). A camera’s maximum continuous shooting (burst) rate for still photos or available frame rates for video.

Framing– A technique for highlighting a subject and giving depth to an image by using another feature within the image to form a frame around it. Examples include shooting a church tower through an archway, or a portrait of someone looking through a window frame or standing under the bough of a tree.

Freelensing – Freelensing is a method of making images with the camera lens not attached to the camera.

Fringing – See Chromatic aberration.

Frontal lighting– Lighting directed towards the subject, and therefore positioned behind, or level, with the camera.

F-stop– The aperture setting on a lens. The number is the focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the aperture. As a result, larger f-stop numbers represent narrower aperture sizes. F-stop numbers are used so that exposure settings for a particular scene can be expressed without having to know the focal length of the lens used. The term, F-stop, comes from the Waterhouse stop (a series of circular holes in strips of metal that ‘stopped’ some of the light passing through the lens). The system was invented by John Waterhouse (1806-1879) in 1858, but the hole sizes don’t correspond with modern f-stop numbers.

F-stop. Another term for f-number.

F-Stop/F-Number – F-Stop is the photography term used to describe the measurement of the aperture opening in camera lenses. The f-stop number is preceded by ‘f/’. ‘F’ represents the lens focal length. The number following it is divided by the focal length to provide the size of the aperture opening.

F-stop: The size of the aperture opening, also known as the f-number. A small f-number means the aperture is open more. A larger f-number means it’s open less. For example, f/1 lets in much more light than f/6.

Full Frame (FF). The sensor size in digital photography based on the 35mm format that became dominant in film photography. A full-frame sensor measures 36×24mm, has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and has a diagonal measurement of roughly 43mm.

Full-Frame Sensor – A full-frame sensor is the photography term used to describe the physical dimensions of a camera sensor that measures 36mm x 24mm. This is the same size as a single frame of 35mm film. It is relevant when discussing the focal length of camera lenses and their field of view.

Full-frame– Used to describe a digital SLR sensor that has a light-sensitive area the same size as a frame of 35mm film – around 24x36mm. Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?.

FX– A Nikon (or Nikkor) lens that’s compatible with its full-frame SLRs, as well as crop-factor ones.


G– Stands for Gold – a designation found on top-class Sony lenses. It’s also used for current Panasonic Lumix compact system cameras and lenses.

Gain– Amplification of an electronic circuit. It’s used in digital cameras and camcorders as a way of electronically boosting the sensitivity of the imaging chip in low light. See ISO.

Gamma Curve/Correction – A gamma curve is a tool in digital imaging software that allows the user to adjust (or correct) the brightness of an image during the editing process.

Gamut– The range of colors that can be printed or displayed by a particular electronic device.

GAS. Gear acquisition syndrome. Often used to describe a photographer’s addiction to continually purchasing new camera equipment, often without any real practical need.

Gelatin emulsion– A thin coating on one side of a roll of photographic film, which contains microscopic light-sensitive silver halide particles.

Geotagging. The adding of geographical location information to the metadata of a photo, typically in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates. Knowing the location where photos were captured can both add context when reviewing photos and also aid in the searching and organizing of images.

Giclée– A name for digital prints made on high-resolution large format inkjet– printers, coined by the printmaker Jack Duganne in 1991. It comes from ‘gicler’,– the French word meaning ‘to spray or squirt’. The name originally referred to prints made on a prepress Iris printer, but now also includes those made on– other large-format printers that use pigment-based inks and archival paper.

GIF (graphic interchange format)– A digital file format that uses lossless compression. GIFs are sometimes used for graphics and images for use on the web. Its image palette is limited to 256 colors – much fewer than a TIFF, JPEG or raw file can contain – so its use to show photographs isn’t recommended.

GIF  – A GIF is an image file format. GIF stands for Graphical Interchange Format.

GIF. Graphics Interchange Format. A bitmap image format introduced in 1987 that supports 8 bits per pixel, meaning each image can display a maximum of 256 different colors. GIFs are ubiquitous on the Web due to the format being widely supported, but the color limitations make the format less suitable for photos than formats such as JPEG. However, photos are widely shared in GIFs in the form of online memes.

Gigabyte (GB)– Unit for measuring computer memory, roughly equivalent to 1,000 megabytes.

Gigapixel (GP). One billion pixels. A term used to refer to the resolution of a photos, displays, and camera sensors.

Gimbal– A handheld stabilizer that attaches to the base of a camera to allow you to shoot smooth handheld video footage. A gimbal uses a gyroscopic sensor and motors to keep the camera stable.

Glass– The nickname for the lens – the portrait photographer’s best friend. Always buy the best ‘glass’ you can afford. Fast 50mm or 85mm lenses with a constant wide aperture are ideal for portrait work.

Glass. A slang term used by photographers to refer to a camera lens. e.g. “Instead of investing in the best camera, get some good glass.”

Global shutter– Actually a type of sensor design rather than a shutter mechanism, a global shutter can capture an entire image electronically and instantaneously. This is increasingly important in video in order to avoid ‘rolling shutter’ or ‘jello’ distortion with fast camera movements. Read more: What is a global shutter?

Gobo. Stands for “go before optics” and refers to any object placed between a light source and a subject to shape light and/or alter shadows.

Golden Hour – The golden hour is a term used by photographers to describe the times of day a little after sunrise and shortly before sunset. At these times sunlight takes on a warm tone because it is low in the sky and must pass through more of the earth’s atmosphere before we see it. Many photographers prefer taking photographs outdoors during the golden hour. The length of time varies depending on the season and your location on planet earth.

Golden hour– A short period before sunset on a clear day when the landscape is bathed in a warm, ‘golden’ light, and a favorite time for landscape photographers. Read more: When is the Golden Hour and why is it called that?

Golden hour– Although not necessarily an hour long, this is the period of time after sunrise or before sunset in which landscape photographers particularly enjoy working because of the favorable effect of the light on their images. The main reason for the term is the warm color of the sunlight, which, together with its reduced contrast, gives outdoor scenes an especially attractive appearance. The low angle of sunlight also creates longer shadows and reveals more texture in a landscape.

Golden hour Golden hour, also commonly referred to as ‘magic hour,’ is the period right before sunset and after sunrise. During this time, the sun is low on the horizon so light takes on a redder shade than when it’s higher up in the sky.

Golden Hour. Also referred to as magic hour, is the period of time immediately after sunrise and immediately before sunset when the sun is low enough in the sky to cast a soft, warm light. This window of opportunity is prized by photographers, especially portrait shooters, for its quality of natural light.

GPS– Stands for global positioning system. This geotagging feature is built into many more recently introduced camera models. Using satellite-based navigation, it records the camera’s position when an image is made. This information can then be embedded in the image’s metadata, allowing some software to show maps of where you took each photo. See best cameras with GPS

GPS. Global Positioning System. A satellite-based radio navigation system that is owned by the United States and operated by the US Space Force. It is one of the leading systems used by camera manufacturers for geotagging digital photos, or embedding location information into the file’s metadata.

Graduated filter– A type of optical filter that has a dark section and a clear section. These filters – commonly known as ND grads – are used to balance the brightness in high-contrast scenes, usually landscapes, with the dark area placed over the bright sky and the clear section over the dark foreground. Read more: What is a graduated filter?

Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND) A kind of neutral density filter in which the amount of light blocked is a gradient from one side to the other. Useful for scenes like landscapes where photographers need to reduce the contrast between a bright sky and a dark landscape.

Grain – Grain is the appearance of small particles seen in film and photographs produced from film. It is the light sensitive silver halides that metamorphose into metallic silver when exposed film is developed. It is a common misconception that noise caused by camera settings using a high ISO is the same as grain. Each type of film produces different looking grain structures.

Grain– Metallic silver particles, random in shape and distribution, particularly visible in images made with black-and-white photographic film. It’s present to a lesser degree in color film. Grain is more noticeable in higher ISO film, but it’s also visible in lower ISO film when making big enlargements.

Grain. Also known as film grain, this is the visible silver crystals in a film’s emulsion that can be seen in resulting prints as well. Various films have different levels of grain size and quality, and this is an important consideration for film photographers picking a photographic film to use for their work.

Gray Card. A gray-colored card used by photographers as a reference point for capturing consistent exposure and/or color across multiple photos. The card is typically 18% neutral gray, meaning it has 18% reflectance across the visible spectrum. This value represents the mid-point between pure black and pure white on a logarithmic or exponential curve.

Grey card– A neutral grey card, usually with 18% reflectance, is used as a standard reference when determining consistent photographic exposure. It’s used by placing it in a scene to be photographed and taking a reading from it with a reflected light meter. This avoids problems of over-exposure and under-exposure.

Greyscale– A digital image in which all the color information has been removed, leaving only black, white and shades of grey.

Grip and rip– A slang phrase for setting the camera to its highest continuous drive mode and keeping the shutter button held down to shoot as many frames as possible in a short space of time. ‘Spray and pray’ has the same meaning.

Ground glass screen– A sheet of glass, ground to a matte finish, which is used to look at images on large-format cameras. The image from the lens is projected upside-down on the screen. The image is examined and focused more easily by blocking out all other light with a dark cloth.

Group f/64– A group of like-minded San Francisco-based photographers, formed in 1932, which was dedicated to making clear, sharply focused images of landscapes and other natural forms. The group included Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. The group’s name is a reference to its members’ preference for using a very narrow aperture for increased depth of field.

Guide Number (GN)– A number on a flash unit that measures its capacity to light a subject at a particular distance and ISO setting. Usually, based on a setting of ISO100, the guide number is determined by multiplying the flash-to-subject distance by the f-stop setting needed to correctly expose the subject at that distance. A flash with a lower guide number produces a much weaker flash than one with a higher guide number. Read more: What is flash, and is it still useful for photography?

Guide Number (GN). A number used to indicate the power of an electronic flash and used to calculate the necessary f-stop for any flash-to-subject distance (or the distance for a given f-stop). Guide number = f-number x distance. The larger the guide number, the greater the distance the flash can properly expose a subject.


Half frame– Type of film camera that uses 35mm film, but which shoots uses an image size that is half the size of 35mm cameras. This means that a 36-exposure roll allows you to shoot 72 exposures.

Haloes– A term used to describe the glow that’s created around the edges of objects when they’ve been over-sharpened in Photoshop or other similar photo-editing software. They are even more prevalent in high dynamic range images.

Hand tool– A tool for moving your image around when you’re zoomed in and can’t see all the image at once, by dragging on the image. Press the H key, or hold down the space bar, to switch to this tool quickly.

Hard Light – Hard light casts shadows with a clearly defined edge. This light is created by a light source that’s relatively small compared to the subject. Think of the sun on a cloudless day or a camera flash with no modifier and the type of shadows you see with these types of light.

Hard Light. Light that causes harsh shadows. This quality of light causes the lines between highlights and shadows are immediate and well-defined. Hard light can be created by using a single, bright light source that is small in area relative to the subject. The smaller the light source, the more abrupt the transition between light and shadow in the scene.

Hardware Calibration – Hardware calibration as a photography term refers to using an accessory to manage and adjust a computer monitor so the colors it displays will look the same on screen as when they are printed.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) – HDR photographs contain a very wide range of tones, from the brightest to the darkest areas. They are typically produced by making multiple bracketed exposure of the same scene. These exposures are then combined in-camera or in editing software. As camera sensors have become more advanced, the HDR technique of combining multiple exposures has become somewhat redundant except for when photographing scenes containing extreme contrast.

HDR (high dynamic range)– A digital imaging technique where a series of identical pictures of a scene are taken at different exposures and then combined into one image. This brings out detail in shadow and highlight areas that usually can’t be captured in a single exposure, and is particularly useful for high-contrast subjects, such as brightly-lit landscapes, interiors and night scenes. Read more: What is HDR?

HDR HDR, which stands for high dynamic range, is a technique that gives images a wider dynamic range than the one captured by the camera. The goal of this technique is representing a scene as close as possible to how it was seen by the human eye. HDR images are created by combining multiple photos with different exposure values.

Healing Brush tool– An image-retouching tool that lays down copied pixels like the Clone Stamp tool, but in addition it analyses nearby color and tone and attempts to blend the cloned pixels in with the surrounding area. Sometimes it produces better results than the Clone Stamp, but not always, because its blending effect will tend to blur detail.– For seamless cloning, it’s often a good option to use both tools.

HID– Stands for High Index Dispersion, a type of glass used in Tamron lenses that helps to minimize chromatic aberration.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) A type of photography that aims to reproduce a greater range of luminosity than what is ordinarily captured with standard photographic equipment and techniques. This is often done by capturing multiple photographs at different exposures and then combining them into one photo with a higher maximum and lower minimum tonal value.

High key– An image in which the bright, white tones dominate the picture.

High speed sync (HSS)– Flash feature that allows the use of shutter speeds with flash, faster than the usual sync speed. The flash pulses at high frequency to ensure an even exposure, even though the shutter blinds are never fully open during the exposure. The facility is useful for freezing close-up action in daylight, and for allowing the widest apertures even in bright light. Read more: What is flash, and is it still useful for photography?

High-Key Lighting. A lighting style that aims to achieve a low lighting ratio in a scene. The result typically features brightly-lit scenes and subjects, a higher degree of fill lighting, soft lighting, soft/minimal shadows, and low contrast. This lighting style provides a mood that is optimistic, positive, light, airy, cheerful, upbeat, and/or hopeful.

Highlights– The brightest (whitest) areas of an image.

Highlights. The lightest areas in a photograph. One of the main components of an image’s dynamic range, along with midtones and shadows. When a photo is overexposed or when a camera is not able to capture enough dynamic range, detail may be lost in the highlight areas of the photo (something known as clipped or blown highlights). Represents the roughly 25% of the brightest pixels in a photo.

High-Speed Sync (HSS). A flash feature that allows you to synchronize your flash output when using shutter speeds faster than the camera’s native flash sync speed. This is achieved by rapidly firing the flash multiple times during the exposure, effectively extending the duration of the flash output and allowing the use of wider apertures or faster shutter speeds in bright lighting conditions. High-speed sync can be useful for reducing motion blur, controlling depth of field, or balancing flash and ambient light levels in challenging lighting scenarios (e.g. adding fill-flash to a model outdoors on a bright day).

Histogram – A histogram is a graphic representation of the tone values in a photograph. The left side of the graph displays dark tones and the right shows bright tones. The histogram is divided into 256 different values. The height of each part of the graph shows how much or how many pixels are displaying that value of light.

Histogram– A graph that provides an instant guide to the contrast and exposure of a picture. It maps the distribution of tones, from the darkest on the left to the brightest– on the right. The scale runs from 0 (solid black) to 255 (pure white), and the height of the graph at any point represents the relative number of pixels in the image with that brightness level. The overall shape of the histogram gives you an at-a-glance indication of the tonal range of the image and the presence of any clipping. You can use tools such as Levels to adjust the shape of the histogram and thereby improve the contrast and exposure of the image. Read more: What is a histogram and when would you use it?

Histogram Histogram is the visual representation of the luminance of an image. The left side of the graph represent the shadows, while the right side belongs to the highlights. The height of the histogram shows how many pixels there are for each specific luminance level.

Histogram. A graph that represents the distribution of tonal values in a photo. From left to right, the graph shows the relative number of pixels in the image that are pure black, shadow, midtones, highlights, and pure white. Histograms provide photographers with an at-a-glance look at how a photograph is exposed and whether there is any clipping or under/over-exposure.

Hot Shoe – Part of the camera where a flash or other accessory can be mounted. When a dedicated flash or wireless transmitter is mounted on a camera’s hot shoe, the flash and camera will communicate so when a photo is taken the correct amount of light will emanate from the flash.

Hot Shoe. An accessory connector slot that is typically found on top of a camera for attaching things such as flashes, lights, microphones, wireless triggers, external viewfinders, GPS receivers, light meters, and more. Unlike a cold shoe, a hot shoe is “hot” because it is capable of transmitting electronic signals to the mounted device.

Hot shoe: The mounting point on a camera for a flash or other electronic accessory. Usually on top of the camera body.

Hotshoe– An accessory shoe with an electrical contact, for mounting and connecting– a flashgun.

HSM– Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor is used in some of its lenses to provide faster and quieter AF operation.

Hue– Another term for color. It tells you where– a color lies on the color wheel without telling you how bright or dark it is.

Hybrid Camera. A camera designed to excel at shooting both still photographs as well as video. The form factor is usually that of a still camera, but the video recording capabilities can be more in line with larger cinema-oriented cameras.

Hyperfocal Distance (Hyperfocal focusing) – Hyperfocal distance is a method of calculating how to achieve the maximum depth of field you can obtain in a photograph. It is the measurement of how far from the camera to a point in a scene being photographed where everything from half of that distance to infinity is acceptably sharp.

Hyperfocal distance– The shortest distance at which a lens can be focused so that depth of field stretches to infinity for a given aperture and focal length. When focused at the hyperfocal length, the depth of field will stretch from exactly half the hyperfocal distance– to infinity. Read more: What is hyperfocal distance and when would you use it?

Hyperfocal Distance. A focus distance beyond which all objects in a scene are rendered with “acceptable” focus, resulting in the maximum depth of field at a given aperture.

Hyperfocal Hyperfocal is the distance at which the focus point provides a deeper depth of field. It is often used by landscape photographers to ensure their scenes are as sharp as possible.

Hyperlapse. A moving time-lapse in which the viewer is transported through both space and time. Unlike a traditional timelapse, in which the camera shoots photos over time from roughly the same spot, a hyperlapse is created by moving the camera a short distance between each shot and over a long distance during a sequence of images.


IBIS. In-body image stabilization. A mechanism found in digital cameras that compensates for camera movement while an exposure is being made by moving the image sensor at the final point of the optical path. These systems compensate for up to 5 axes of movement: X, Y, Roll, Yaw, and Pitch. While optical image stabilization (OIS) is built into individual lenses, IBIS in a camera works with all lenses that can be mounted to it.

ICC Profile (International Color Consortium profile) – An ICC profile is a set of data determining how digital imaging devices manage color to a specific standard.

Ice Light– Developed by Westcott and wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis, the Ice Light is a handheld LED daylight source which runs off rechargeable batteries. It offers a wrap-around light source that reduces the need for extra equipment (including off-camera flash) and can also be tripod mounted for extra flexibility. Particularly handy for outdoor portraits (though it does like a bit like a Star Wars light sabre). See our guide to light sticks and wands.

IF– Stands for internal focusing, and is found on many lenses from many manufacturers. The lens is constructed so that it doesn’t change in length as the lens is focused.– It also means that the front element doesn’t rotate – which can help with– the use of some lens attachments, such as petal-shaped lens hoods and– polarizing filters.

If you want to navigate the world of professional photography, you need more than just a good eye. Photography is a field with technical and artistic terms that describe aspects of image quality, parts of the camera, shooting and editing techniques, and much more. You need to know the right words for gear, techniques, and camera settings to best pursue the art and craft of photography.

Image Acquisition – This term is used in relation to the importation of image files into post-processing software. It happens in a variety of ways depending on the software or app being used.

Image Blending – Image blending is the process of combining two or more images during post-production. This is often done to make HDR or focus stacked images.

Image file format– A standard way of encoding information– for storage in a computer file. File formats used in photography include JPEG, TIFF, PSD, DNG and GIF, all of which are suitable for particular uses. See the separate entries for those formats for details of how they differ.

Image Quality – Image quality as a photography term typically refers to the overall technical characteristics of a photograph. Cameras, lenses, and photographers can all impact image quality.

Image Quality (IQ). The ability of a camera, lens, or film to properly capture images that are desirable to photographers and human viewers. This is typically a true-to-life rendering of a scene as close as possible to what the human eye sees (and what the brain interprets). Attributes of a photo that contribute to the visual characteristic of image quality include sharpness, contrast, color accuracy, distortion, optical aberrations, noise/grain, and more.

Image sensor– An integrated circuit chip that converts an optical image into an electronic signal. In current digital cameras, most are either CCD (charged coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) sensors.

Image Sensor. An electronic device, usually a silicon semiconductor circuit, that captures incident light information in the form of photons, converts them to electronic signals, and transmits the data to an image processor to create a digital photograph. The two leading technologies used in digital cameras are the charge-coupled device (CCD) and the complementary MOS (CMOS), with the majority of sensors in modern photographic cameras being CMOS. The millions of light receptors on a sensor are called photosites, and the number of photosites is typically conveyed in megapixels. In photography’s evolution from film to digital, image sensors replaced light-sensitive films as the way light is captured through a camera lens.

Image Stabilization (IS) – Image stabilization is also known as vibration reduction (VR) and Anti-Shake (AS). This is a technology used in some camera bodies and some lenses to help reduce the effect of blurring caused while exposure is being made.

Image Stabilization (IS). A feature that compensates for camera motion during image exposure in order to reduce blur, particularly at slower shutter speeds. This can be both mechanical and electronic, and it can be found in both lenses and cameras.

Image stabilization: A variety of methods to reduce the blur that comes from camera motion. Image stabilization can come from equipment engineered into a camera, or it can be part of post-production.

Incident Light Meter – It is a photography accessory used to measure light. It is a handheld device that has different functionality than light meters built into cameras. It measures how much light is illuminating a scene, rather than how much light is reflecting off a subject, (which is how in-camera exposure metering works.)

Incident light meter– A hand-held light meter that measures the amount of light falling on a subject.

Infinity– Optical term to describe objects that are so far away from the lens that light from them reaches the lens as parallel rays. In practice, it’s usually used to mean objects that are on or near the horizon. Represented on lenses by the mathematical symbol, .

Inkjet – A type of printing method commonly used in consumer computer printers that can be used to print photographs.

Instamatic– The name of a hugely popular series of low-cost, easy-to-use cameras made by Kodak. First sold in 1963, Instamatics used Kodak’s cartridge-based 126 film. In 1972, the company introduced the Pocket Instamatic, which used the smaller 110 film.

Instant camera– A camera that captures images on special instant film which develops automatically in a couple of minutes to produce a physical print. Read more: Instant film types

Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). A type of photography in which the camera is moved or lens adjusted during an exposure for creative effect. These acts produce blurring in resulting photos, whether from the movement of the camera or from adjusting the focus or zoom of the lens.

Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC). A camera that accepts interchangeable lenses rather than having a fixed non-removable lens.

Interlaced video– Video recording technology uses when processing power and broadcast bandwidth were limited. Frames were recorded in alternate ‘odd’ and ‘even’ lines and then spliced together (interlaced) for display. It’s low-tech by today’s standards and rarely used now. Read more: Video jargon explained

Internal Focusing. A design for camera lenses in which focus is achieved by only moving internal lens elements without any rotation or shifting of the front lens element. Advantages include the ability to more easily use certain filters (screwed-in polarizing) and hoods (petal), keeping dust out, not hitting macro subjects, avoiding “zoom creep,” and smaller lens designs.

Intervalometer. Also known as an interval meter or an interval timer, this is a (usually small) device that connects to a camera and repeatedly triggers exposures at a consistent interval over a period of time. They are commonly used to create timelapses (capturing a large number of photos of a scene over a long period of time and then combining them as frames of a passage-of-time video) as well as astrophotographs (capturing a set of night sky photos over a period of time and then blending them together into a single image).

Inverse square law– This law particularly relates to the use of studio lights or flash, and says that if an object is twice a particular distance from a point source of light, it will receive a quarter of the illumination. For example, if your subject is two metres away, and you increase it to four metres, the resulting fall-off means you’ll need four times the amount of light to keep the same exposure settings. Alternatively, you’ll have to increase the exposure by two stops.

Invisible selfie stick– Pole used to hold a 360 camera, which due to the overlapping views of the two lenses can be removed from the scene automatically by the camera’s software.

IPS Monitor – A high-quality LCD type monitor that is known for producing accurate color rendering.

IPTC. International Press Telecommunications Council. A London-based consortium of over 50 major news companies and organizations from around the world. As the global standards body of news media, the IPTC defined a standard for photo metadata that is the world’s most widely accepted and used.

Iris– Another name for the diaphragm, or aperture, of a lens.

IS IS stands for image stabilization, a technology that reduces the effects of vibration on an image. IS can be integrated in the camera body or lens. This system is meant to be used when hand-holding the camera, as using it in combination with a tripod can send the wrong data do the system and incorrectly detect shakes.

IS– The abbreviation used for Image Stabilization – the optical camera shake-reduction system found in a wide range of Canon lenses. Read more: What is image stabilization, and how does it work?

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) – ISO is used to measure the responsiveness of a camera sensor or film to light. This is expressed as a number. The lower the number, the less sensitive the sensor or film is. So, when the light is very bright, a low ISO setting can be used. The higher the ISO setting used, the greater the incidence of digital noise. This depends on the quality of the image sensor.

ISO ISO, International Organization for Standardization, represents the sensor’s sensitivity to the light. The higher the number, the most information will be captured. Higher ISO numbers are used in low-light situations such as astrophotography. Digital cameras allow photographers to easily change the ISO, while each film roll has a predefined number.

ISO– Stands for International Organisation for Standardisation. In photography, it refers to a system for measuring and specifying the sensitivity of digital imaging systems and photographic films. The higher the ISO number, the greater the sensitivity to light. Cameras have an ISO range, enabling you to choose an ISO setting that suits the situation in which you’re shooting. Read more: What is ISO?

ISO. International Organization for Standardization. A standard for measuring a camera film or sensor’s sensitivity to light. For film, this refers to how quickly the chemicals react to light, and for digital sensors, this refers to the gain (or amplification) applied to the signal before the image is recorded.

ISO: How sensitive your camera is to light. A higher ISO will be more sensitive and photos will generally be brighter. A lower ISO less so. This term used to apply to film, but in the digital era it is now a camera setting. ISO gets its name from the International Organization for Standardization, a group based in Switzerland that began standards for industrial and commercial products, including cameras, following World War II.


Jack– A socket into which a plug is inserted to make a connection, also known as a ‘female’ connector. A jack on a camera is used for connecting an accessory such as headphones or a remote shutter release unit. A 3.5mm mini-jack is used for connecting an external stereo mic or to connect to old TVs.

Jaggies – This term refers to the zigzag appearance curved lines take on in low quality digital images.

Jaggies– See antialiasing.

Joiner– A term coined by the artist David Hockney (born 1937) to describe his photo-collage work in the 1980s. Hockney’s joiners combined overlapping prints, made at slightly different times and from multiple viewpoints, to make landscapes and portraits. His most elaborate joiners used hundreds of individual prints to make one collage. Other photographers creating joiners (also called ‘panographs’) have followed Hockney’s method of assembling prints, or have combined digital images on screen using photo-stitching software.

JPE JPEG is an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group and the standard format in which pictures are compressed. Due to this compression, JPEG files are smaller and carry less information.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) – A JPEG (or .jpg) is a commonly used image file format. This format is ‘lossy’ which means that as an image is saved some of the data that make up the photograph is discarded. If a JPEG photo is compressed too much, the loss of quality is visible. The more a JPEG image is compressed, the small the file size is.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)– A file format used for digital images. A variable amount of compression can be used to vary the amount of detail stored and the resulting file size. It’s the standard format used by digital cameras (although raw or TIFF formats may also be options). It’s a ‘lossy’ file format, which means it tends to degrade with each save.

JPEG. Joint Photographic Experts Group. Also abbreviated JPG, this is a lossy compression standard named after the group that created it in 1992. It has since become the most widely used compression method in the world for digital photos. The fact that it’s lossy means that editing and resaving the files causes a loss in image quality each time.

Juxtaposition. A compositional concept in which two or more objects or subjects in a photo have strong and interesting contrast between them, including in lighting, color, shape, texture, subject matter, and more. This contrast can be both eye-catching and thought-provoking, causing the viewer to think or feel something that the photographer is trying to convey.


Kelvin – Kelvin, or the Kelvin scale, is used to measure color temperature. This is closely tied to the white balance function in digital photography.

Kelvin (K)– Unit used for measuring the color temperature of light sources, named after the 19th century physicist and engineer William Thomson, first Lord Kelvin (1824-1907). Average noon daylight usually has a color temperature of around 5500K.

Kelvin (K). The international base unit of absolute temperature that’s used to conveniently express color temperature in photography. Higher temperatures (e.g. over 5000 K) are cooler, bluer colors, while lower temperatures (e.g. under 3000 K) are warmer, yellower colors. “Daylight” is traditionally around 5600 K.

Kelvin Kelvin is the absolute thermodynamic unit used to measure temperature color. The scale goes from 1,000K (candlelight) to 10,000K (blue sky) and is tightly related to white balance. Underwater photography offers a great opportunity to experience how color temperature works, as lower temperatures disappear rapidly as the distance to the subject increases.

Key Light – The key light is the main light illuminating a photograph. It can be natural or artificial.

Key light– The main light on a subject used in studio photography.

Key Light. The primary source of artificial lighting that a photographer uses to light a subject and/or scene. It is typically the most important light in a scene and the first that is established in a lighting setup. The intensity, angle, and color of the key light have a primary impact on the look and mood of the resulting light.

Kicker Light. A secondary accent light in a lighting setup that helps define the edges of your subject by highlighting them against the background. Usually placed at an angle behind the subject, this light’s name comes from the fact that it gives some extra “kick” to the portrait. Also known as a rim light.

Kilobyte – A Kilobyte is an amount of digital data (1,024 bytes) that is commonly used to measure digital image files.

Know your photography terms.


L– Stands for Luxury, and is used to designate Canon’s best professional lenses, which have superior build quality and weatherproofing.

LAB Color – LAB is a color space that is not in common use. RGB and CMYK are the standard color spaces when editing and printing out digital images.

Lag Time – This is the delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter opening in a camera. This is only noticeable using a cheap camera. Lag time is also known as shutter lag.

Landscape Orientation. A photo that is wider than it is tall. When held vertically, cameras generally capture images in landscape orientation due to the horizontal orientation of the rectangular image sensor within. Landscape orientation images can often be displayed larger on standard computer and laptop displays since those screens usually also have the same orientation.

Landscape Photography. A genre in which photographers aim to capture the beauty of the natural outdoor world. While they may contain humans and animals within the frame, most landscape photos do not as they typically focus only on plants, weather, land, water, and sky in a scene.

Lange, Dorothea– Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was an American photojournalist and documentary photographer. Her most famous image was taken in the 1930s, when she recorded the plight of sharecroppers and migrant laborers during the Depression era for the American government’s Farm Security Administration. Her best-known picture, Migrant Mother (1936) has come to symbolize the era.

Large format– See format.

Large Format. Photography done with an imaging surface of 4×5 inches (10.2×12.7cm) or larger. Large format is considered to be anything larger than medium format, which is in turn defined as being anything smaller than large format but larger than the classic 35mm full-frame format 24x36mm (0.94×1.42in). Cameras in the early days of photography were typically large format before the development of new technologies introduced smaller and smaller films (and subsequently sensors). Sizes seen in large format cameras throughout history have included the most common 4x5in, the quarter-plate (3.25×4.25in/8.3×10.8 cm), 5x7in (12.7×17.8), and 8×10in (20×25 cm).

Lasso tool– A pencil-like Photoshop tool that you can use to select an area you want to work on simply by drawing around it. It’s used to make very rough selections.

Layer– The digital counterpart of the cut-out pieces of paper in a collage or decoupage work. Layers containing cut-out objects can be stacked on top of an original– image or background layer in order to create a composite image. Adjustments and effects can also be applied in the form of adjustment layers, enabling you to alter the exposure, color, and so on, without actually altering the original. Layers can be opaque, translucent, or merged with layers in the stack below in a number of ways.

Layers panel– Formerly known as the Layers palette, this Photoshop feature enables you to manage and organize the layers in a multi-layered image, add new layers or adjustment layers, and change the way in which layers interact with each other (such as their opacity and blending mode).

LCD– (liquid crystal display)– Type of display panel used widely on cameras to provide information to the user. High-resolution color LCDs are capable of showing detailed images, and are used as viewing screens on digital cameras.

LCD. Liquid crystal display. The display technology that’s ubiquitous in camera screens, viewfinders, computer monitors, and more. It uses liquid crystals, polarizers, and backlighting to produce the displayed images.

LD– This features on Tamron lenses that use one or more Low Dispersion lens elements to help reduce chromatic aberration.

Le Querrec, Guy– Guy Le Querrec (born 1941) is a French photographer best known for his documentary work with jazz musicians. He joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and began experimenting with film shortly after. He won the Grand Prix de la Ville– de Paris in 1998.

Leaf shutter– Also known as a diaphragm shutter, it uses overlapping ‘leaves’ of metal, which open and close to allow light to reach the image sensor or film. It’s usually located between lens elements, and is commonly found on large- and medium-format cameras. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important?

LED (light emitting diode)– Colored indicator lamp used on many cameras.

LED. Light-emitting diode. A semiconductor light source technology that has applications in photography ranging from lighting to displays. As a light source, they are flexible (with a wide range of colors and intensities), energy-efficient, low heat, and long-lasting. In a display, they are bright, energy-efficient, sharp, flicker-free, and long-lasting.

Leica– Prestigious German camera maker famous for its long-running Leica M rangefinder cameras, now fully modernised for the digital age. Leica also makes high-end mirrorless and medium format cameras. Read more: Leica lens naming explained

Lens Flare – Lens flare happens when you point your camera in the direction of bright light. This causes the light to scatter inside the lens and cause haze and/or colored light shapes on photographs. This effect is rather random and can be used creatively or completely avoided.

Lens Flare. An optical phenomenon that occurs when light that does not contribute to forming an image enters a lens and is scattered within the elements. The artifacts created in the resulting photo are often undesirable and can be reduced or eliminated by repositioning the lens and/or using something (e.g. a lens hood) to block the incoming light, though photographers may also intentionally aim to have flare in photos for artistic effect.

Lens hood– Attaches to the front of the lens to prevent stray light from outside the image area entering the lens. The lens hood is important for preventing flare, and needs to be designed for a specific lens so as not to cause image falloff.

Lens Hood. Also known as a lens shade, this is a device attached to the front of a camera lens that is designed to block direct light from entering and causing lens flare and glare. A secondary purpose for using a lens hood is to protect the front element of the lens from getting damaged or dirty. Hoods are traditionally made of plastic or metal, though do-it-yourself hoods can be fashioned from things like paper and cardboard as well. Hoods are sometimes bundled with lenses, especially high-end ones, but they can also be purchased as optional accessories.

Lens Mount. The interface between a camera lens and camera body, allowing interchangeable lenses to be securely mounted to the camera at exactly the right distance from the focal plane. Mounts can be purely mechanical for manual lenses or they can also feature electrical connectivity for autofocusing lenses. Camera manufacturers typically use proprietary mounts exclusive to their own cameras, but there are also standardized mounts (e.g. Micro Four Thirds) used across cameras from multiple brands.

Lens. An optical body mounted to a camera and used to focus light onto a sensor, film, or light-sensitive medium in order to capture an image through chemical or electronic processes. One of the main components of any camera system, and may be both permanently attached to a camera or removable as an interchangeable lens. May include a single lens element or a combination of carefully-arranged lens elements. Typically created with glass, lenses can also be made from plastic and other transparent and semi-transparent materials.

LensbabyA selective focus lens with a flexible bellows tube section used for creating special effects. It allows the photographer to keep part of the image in focus while the rest becomes increasingly blurred. The point of focus can be moved by pushing or pulling the lens.

Levels– A tool used in digital image manipulation– to adjust exposure, contrast and color balance. Histograms are used as a guide– to the corrections that need to be made to the image.

Light Meter – A light meter or exposure meter is a device used to measure the amount of light before taking a photograph. All modern cameras have built-in light meters that measure reflected light. When a camera is set to any auto-exposure mode the light meter will read the light when the shutter button is partially depressed. The camera will then adjust the exposure settings so the correct amount of light will enter the camera, according to the camera’s pre-programmed algorithms. When using a camera in manual mode, a photographer must read the information provided by a graphic display the light meter displays in the viewfinder or on the monitor. The exposure controls must then be adjusted manually according to how the photographer interprets the information the light meter provides. Hand-held exposure meters can also be used to measure the amount of light. These provide the added option of being able to read incident light.

Light meter– A device used to measure the amount of light and determine the correct exposure. Most cameras have built-in light meters that measure the reflected light from a subject, as do hand-held reflected light meters. Incident light meters measure– the light falling on the subject, and readings are taken from the subject’s position with the light meter pointing back towards the camera. Read more: What is a light meter and how is it used?

Light meter Light meter is a device that measures the scene’s luminosity in order to determine the best exposure value. The vast majority of cameras have a built-in light meter that relies on reflective readings through the lens.

Light Meter. A device that measures the amount of light for the purpose of calculating the proper exposure for a photo. Reflected-light meters (such as those in most cameras) measure light reflected by the subject or scene, while incident-light meters directly measure the amount of light falling on the subject. Once the light is measured, a light meter will provide the photographer with the calculated shutter speed and f-number for optimal exposure given the ISO.

Light meter: A device used to precisely measure a light source or the amount of light in a space.

Light modifierAny one of a number of devices that alters the direction and intensity of light. See reflector, softbox, snoot, and barn doors.

Light Painting. A technique in which a photograph is created with a moving light source in the frame during a long exposure. The movement of the light is rendered as trails in the resulting image, giving photographers the ability to “paint” with one or more lights (often of different colors) over the course of an exposure. This requires the skill of being able to visualize the art in 3-dimensional space as it’s being drawn, as typically the artist cannot see what they are painting until the exposure is completed. In light painting, lights are the brushes and the frame is the canvas.

Light trails– Lines of light recorded in an image by a moving light source during the exposure. Examples are vehicle lights on a motorway at night, lights on a fairground Ferris wheel or someone moving a hand-held torch. They can also result from shooting images of still lights and moving the camera during the exposure.

Light-field camera– Also known as a plenoptic camera, this device uses microlens-array technology to record images in a completely different way to a conventional camera. Uniquely, this allows images to be re-focused after they have been shot. The first light-field camera was introduced by Lytro in 2011.

Lighting Pattern – A lighting pattern is what some photographers call standardized ways studio lights can be set up to achieve a certain lighting look in a photograph. Rembrandt lighting is a popular lighting pattern used in portraiture.

Lighting Ratio – Lighting ratio is the comparative brightness of any light sources lighting a subject in relation to each other.

Lighting Ratio. The comparison of the main light illuminating a subject (the key light) and the secondary light filling in the shadow areas (the fill light). The higher the lighting ratio, the higher the contrast, and the lower the lighting ratio, the lower the contrast. A good rule of thumb is a lighting ratio between 2:1 and 4:1 for portrait photography. A ratio of 1:1 has a flat, one-dimensional look while a ratio of 8:1 has a dramatic look with dark shadows.

Lightroom – Lightroom is a popular image editing software package produced by Adode for manipulating and cataloging digital images. Images can be manually edited or you can apply presets to obtain a certain look to an image.

Lithium-Ion – A type of battery commonly used in cameras.

Log mode– A mode in more advanced video cameras that compresses a wider tonal and color range into the video recording which can then yield better dynamic range and more adjustable color later on in editing. Read more: Video jargon explained

Lomography– A photographic style originally inspired by the images produced using the low-cost Russian-made 35mm Lomo LC-A camera, introduced in the 1980s. Lomography enthusiasts include lens blur, light leaks and other camera quirks as an important part of their images. These defects are often introduced into digital photos for stylistic effect.

Long Exposure – A long exposure is also known as a slow shutter speed. Using this technique the photographer leaves the camera shutter open for long periods of time. The amount of time can be controlled by the camera, or manually when the camera is set to Bulb mode.

Long exposure– An exposure in which the camera’s shutter is open for an extended time period. It may be used at night to capture movement, such as car lights on a motorway or star trails, or during daylight to blur water movement in a river running through a scene. Long exposures in daylight are usually made using a neutral density (ND) filter to prevent over-exposure.

Long Exposure. The use of a slow shutter speed for a longer-duration exposure to capture an extended period of time. This can be for necessity, such as when shooting in low-light environments and needing increased exposure time to achieve proper exposure. Another reason to do long exposure photography is for creative effect, as moving elements within the frame may be rendered as blurry or possibly eliminated altogether. Moving points of light (e.g. stars) may be rendered as light trails, and water will be captured as smooth flows.

Long-focus lens– A lens used to magnify distant subjects that has a focal length longer than the diagonal measurement of the image sensor or film being used. In 35mm terms, this is any lens with a focal length longer than the ‘normal’ 50mm.

Loop Lighting – Loop lighting is a technique used by portrait photographers. With this lighting pattern, the key light is placed slightly above the subject and at about a 45-degree angle. This casts a “loop” shape in the shadow cast by the subject’s nose.

Loop Lighting. A common lighting setup in portraiture in which the main light is placed slightly above and to one side of the subject, creating a circular, “loop”-shaped shadow on the other side of their face. The shadow is usually found below and to the side of the nose in a loop, or “C”, shape around the subject’s cheek and nose. This type of lighting style produces flattering portraits in which there is depth and dimension in the subject’s face.

Lossless – Lossless image file formats retain all the image data when they are saved or exported. These can also be referred to as non-lossy formats.

Lossless compression– A process whereby the size of a digital image file is made smaller without losing information. Lossless formats include TIFF and PNG.

Lossy – Lossy in photography terms refers to image file types where the image is compressed and data is discarded as the file is saved. JPEG is the most commonly used lossy image file format.

Lossy compression– A process in which information is lost from a digital image file to make the file size smaller. This reduces the image quality, although the result may not be noticeable. JPEG is the most common file format to use lossy compression.

Low key– An image that is dominated by dark tones.

Low-Key Lighting. A lighting style that aims to achieve a high lighting ratio in a scene. The result typically features dimly-lit scenes and subjects, an emphasis on shadows, dark tones, hard lighting, and high contrast. This lighting style provides a mood that is serious, mysterious, dramatic, somber, and/or emotional.

Low-Pass Filter – A low pass filter is used to help reduce the moiré effect in photographs. This is a phenomenon that happens in digital photography when there’s something with closely spaced repeating lines or patterns in the scene being photographed. The low pass filter, or anti-aliasing filter, manages the frequency of light affecting the sensor. It allows lower frequencies to pass through while blocking higher frequencies.

Low-Pass Filter. Also known as an optical low-pass filter (OLPF), anti-aliasing, or blur filter, this sits over a digital imaging sensor that allows lower frequencies of light to pass through to capture coarser details while blocking higher frequencies of light with super fine detail. By introducing a slight blur in this way, the filter helps to prevent moiré interference patterns and other aliasing artifacts. Some cameras eschew having a low-pass filter in favor of sharper images at the expense of moiré.

Luminosity – Luminosity refers to the brightness of a light or the light value in parts of a digital image at a certain wavelength. Basically put, luminosity is the brightness of an image.

Luminosity. The perceived brightness of an object. Photo editing apps such as Adobe Lightroom feature luminosity masks that allow photographers to make selections based on the luminosity of pixels in an image, from highlights to midtones to shadows.


Macro Lens – A macro lens is one that has a very short minimum focusing distance. These are used to take photos of very small objects and render them in a ratio of at least 1:1. Macro lenses can also be used to photograph subjects that are not so close. For more information, read this article about camera lenses.

Macro Lens. A lens capable of reproduction ratios of at least 1:1 that can be used to capture close-up photos of small subjects in the field, something known as macro photography. While macro lenses are designed for close-up photography, they can also be used for standard pictures in genres such as portraiture and landscapes.

Macro Macro is the name given to extreme close up photography, usually capturing really small organisms or objects. In this kind of photos, the size at which the subject appears on the sensor is larger than it is in real life.

Macro Photography. Photography that produces photos of small-scale things at larger-than-life sizes. By capturing close-up images of tiny subjects, photographers can give viewers a view of the world that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Macro– Term generally used to describe equipment for taking pictures at a closer shooting distance than usual, to provide a bigger image of the subject. Historically speaking, the term ‘macro’ refers to when the recorded image is life-size or larger than life-size, with a magnification ratio that is 1:1 or greater, as with macro lenses. Read more: What is macro photography?

Maddox, Dr Richard Leach– Maddox (1816-1902) was an English photographer and doctor who invented the first successful gelatin dry plate for photography in 1871. Until then, photographers used wet plates, which had to be coated, exposed and developed in hazardous chemicals while still wet. Leach’s invention made photography much less dangerous and complicated, and laid the basis for early film emulsions.

Magic Hour. Another name for golden hour, or the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset in which the soft, warm sunlight is prized by natural light photographers.

Magic Wand tool– A tool that selects pixels on the basis of their color. Click a pixel, and more pixels of a similar color or tone will be selected. The Tolerance setting will dictate how close in color other pixels must be in order to be included. A Contiguous option defines whether only adjacent pixels will be included in the selection.

Magnification ratio– The relationship between the size of the focused image and the size of the subject.– If the image is life-size, as offered by most macro lenses, the magnification ratio is 1:1.

Manual exposure– An exposure made after the photographer has selected a shutter speed and aperture of their choice, usually after taking a reading from a built-in or hand-held light meter.

Manual Focus (MF). A process in which a photographer (rather than the camera) adjusts the lens’ focus to achieve the desired sharpness in a photo.

Manual focus– Adjusting the camera’s focus by turning the focusing ring on the lens barrel by hand. It’s often used to choose a particular focus point in macro photography. It can also be essential in certain lighting situations, for example low light or mist, when autofocus can struggle to lock on to a subject.

Manual Manual is the camera mode in which the photographer controls all exposure settings. Shooting manual offers complete creative control over the shot, and is therefore considered a “must” for professional photographers.

Manual Mode – Manual mode is the M setting on a camera that gives the photographer the most control over the camera’s exposure settings. The settings for aperture and shutter speed must be set manually, along with the ISO, to obtain the desired exposure.

Manual Mode. A camera mode in which the photographer chooses the desired exposure by manually selecting shutter speed and aperture (and optionally ISO).

Marching ants– The dotted lines that flicker around areas that have been selected with a Marquee tool in Photoshop.

Marquee– The Marquee tools enable you to make regular-shaped selections such as ellipses or rectangles. The term ‘marquee’ is also used to refer to the animated dotted– outline that indicates the border of a selection, which is also often referred to as ‘marching ants’.

Matrix Metering – Matrix metering is the term Nikon uses for the averaged metering mode in their cameras.

Matrix metering– See evaluative metering.

Maxwell, James Clerk– James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a theoretical physicist who collaborated with photographer Thomas Sutton (1819-1875) to create the first color photographic image in 1861. They photographed a tartan ribbon through red, green and blue filters. Then, at a lecture at The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, the three negatives were projected together on a screen, using the same colored filters, and combined to make one color image.

McCullin, Don– One of Britain’s finest documentary and news photographers, Don McCullin (born 1935) is famous for his hard-hitting portraits taken in the 20th century’s trouble spots. While not a studio portrait photographer, McCullin’s images of the victims of war and disasters reveal a unique power and empathy.

Medium Format (MF). A film or digital sensor size that’s larger than 35mm full-frame (24mmx36mm) but smaller than large-format (4inx5in). The most common medium format film type is 120, which is roughly 6cm wide — cameras can capture a variety of frame sizes on this film format with a range of aspect ratios, including 6×4.5cm, 6×6cm, 6×7cm, 6×9cm, and the panoramic 6×17cm.

Medium-format cameraAny camera that uses film larger than 35mm, but smaller than 4×5 (large format) film. In digital photography, the term refers to cameras that use sensors larger than a 36 x 24mm image sensor. Current examples include the Fujifilm GFX 50S  and Hasselblad X1D II 50C (both with a sensor size of 44 x 33mm). Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?

Megabyte – A megabyte is an amount of digital data (1,024 kilobytes) that is commonly used to measure digital image files.

Megabyte (MB)– A unit for measuring the size of computer memory and storage capacity in hard– disks. Largely outmoded by the larger gigabyte unit (roughly 1,000 megabytes) as technology has improved to offer larger sizes.

Megapixel – A megapixel is the standard measure of the size of a digital camera sensor. One megapixel is one million pixels.

Megapixel (MP). One million pixels. A unit of measurement of the resolution of a digital photo, camera, display, scanner, and more. The megapixel count of an image, sensor, or display is calculated by multiplying the width and height of the pixels, photo sites, or display elements, respectively.

Megapixel– A measurement of the resolution of a digital camera, equal to 1,000,000 pixels. Read more: What are megapixels, and is more always better?

Memory Card – A memory card is a flash memory storage device commonly used in digital cameras.

Memory Card Reader. A device for accessing the data stored on a memory card. Rather than directly connect a camera to a computer, photographers often use a USB memory card reader to transfer photo and video data onto a computer. Data can also be written to a memory card using a reader. Memory card readers often have multiple slots for compatibility with different memory card formats.

Memory Card. An electronic data storage device used for storing digital information, particularly photos and videos captured by digital cameras. Typically using non-volatile flash memory, the most popular memory card format in the world is the SD (Secure Digital) family of card formats. Other popular formats seen in the industry include CF (CompactFlash), XQD, and CFexpress. In addition to a wide range of types and form factors, memory cards are available in different brands, capacities, and classes (which refers to the read/write speeds).

MemoryStick– Family of removable memory cards used by early digital cameras. Pioneered by Sony.

Metadata – This is the information about a digital photograph. As a photo is being taken the camera writes some of this information and attaches it to the image file. It typically contains information about the camera settings, model, lens, etc. The set of data can be added to and edited during post-processing.

Metadata Metadata, also known as EXIF, is the essential information about the image. This includes dimensions, resolution, keywords, camera settings, focal length, copyright owner, etc. Most of this information is automatically added to the photos, but some fields can be added or modified in post-processing.

Metadata– Text information that describes an image file, such as EXIF camera settings and user-added captions.

Metadata. Information stored in a digital photo file that is not typically visible when viewing the photo but can be accessed with certain software to reveal the photo’s technical details, copyright info, and more. One of the most common metadata standards in digital photography is EXIF data, which includes info on camera settings, time/date, and location.

Metered manual– An exposure mode in which shutter speed and aperture are set manually by the user, although information as to their suitability is provided by the camera’s own light-metering system.

Metering – Metering in photography terms is the practice of taking an exposure meter reading before taking a photograph.

Metering Mode. The way in which a camera calculates optimal exposure through metering the light in a scene. Common modes include spot (only a small area in the center of the scene is analyzed), average (the average of the entire scene), center-weighted average (the central 60-80% of a scene is analyzed), or multi-zone metering (several areas are analyzed and combined). Different modes are useful for different lighting scenarios, though for highly complex lighting environments a photographer may choose to forgo camera metering altogether and shoot in manual mode.

Metering. When the camera evaluates the amount of reflected light in a scene in order to determine the correct shutter speed and aperture for an optimal exposure at the current ISO speed.

Micro Drive – A redundant form of memory storage used with early digital cameras.

Micro Four Thirds – Micro Four Thirds refers to the size of sensors and the camera system using this size of the sensor. It is a format popularly used in mirrorless cameras. The size of the sensor measures 18mm x 13.5mm.

Micro Four Thirds (MFT or M4/3). A mirrorless interchangeable lens digital camera system standard launched by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008 and joined by a large number of camera manufacturers. The specification uses the Four Thirds sensor size while omitting a mirror box and pentaprism to allow for smaller cameras and lenses.

Micro Four Thirds system– A standard for mirrorless cameras created by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008. It uses the same sensor size as earlier Four Thirds system DSLR cameras, but doesn’t use the mirror box or pentaprism. This allows a smaller, lighter and more compact Micro Four Thirds lenses.

Micro Lens – A micro lens is similar to a macro lens in that it is designed to be able to closely focus on a subject. The difference is that a mico lens has a magnification ratio of at least 20:1. This photography term is also sometimes used to refer to certain aspects of image sensors.

Midtones– All the areas of an image that aren’t shadows or highlights. These are areas– of brightness that, if the image were converted to black and white, would be a shade of grey rather than black or white. In a histogram, they correspond with the main central parts of the histogram graph.

Midtones. The areas of a photo that are neither highlights nor shadows but have luminance values that are roughly in the middle 50% of the image’s tonal range (in other words, the middle tones). One of the main components of a photo’s dynamic range.

Minimum Focus Distance. The shortest distance from a subject at which a camera lens can achieve focus. This distance is measured from the subject to the focal plane mark on the camera body rather than to the front of the camera lens (which is called the working distance).

Minimum Working Distance. The shortest distance between a subject and the front of the lens for which the lens can achieve focus. This informs the photographer on how much room they have to work with, particularly in macro photography when getting up close to tiny subjects. A larger working distance gives the photographer more flexibility for composition and lighting.

Mirror Lockup. A feature in single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras that allows the photographer to flip the mirror up and lock it in that position in advance of the shutter being triggered. This reduces camera vibration during the capture of a photo (thereby reducing blur) and also allows the mounting of lenses that extend further into the camera’s mirror box.

Mirrorless Camera – A mirrorless camera has no internal mirror to reflect light as does a DSLR camera. Mirrorless cameras are generally lighter and smaller than DSLR cameras because they do not contain a mirror or the pentaprism needed to flip an image so it appears the right way up in the viewfinder. Viewfinders on mirrorless cameras show a digital image of what the camera sensor is rendering. Many mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses, some do not.

Mirrorless camera– An interchangeable lens camera design that drops the mirror used in digital SLRs and older film SLRs and instead uses the main sensor to display the image in the viewfinder. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLRs and are steadily taking over. Read more: What is a mirrorless camera?

Mirrorless Camera. A type of digital camera with interchangeable lenses that does not contain a mirror and pentaprism for an optical viewfinder system like digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs), but instead has an electronic viewfinder with the live view of the scene.

Mirrorless camera: Technically most DSLR, point-and-shoot, and smartphone cameras are mirrorless, in that they literally don’t have internal mirrors. However, mirrorless camera is a specific term for a camera where the sensor is directly exposed to light and the photographer has a preview of the potential image at all times to view on an electronic viewfinder.

Mode Dial. A dial found on digital cameras that allows the photographer to change between different camera modes, which may include manual modes (e.g. program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual) and/or automatic scene modes (e.g. action/sport, landscape, portrait, night, macro).

Moiré – Moiré is a pattern of distortion that sometimes appears in digital images of subjects that contain closely spaced patterns or lines.

Moiré pattern– In photography, moiré occurs when a detailed or repetitive pattern in the subject is overlaid with the pattern of pixels on a digital sensor. The interaction of the two patterns produces a separate, often wavy, moiré pattern. The effect is reduced by the camera’s optical low pass filter.

Moiré. An effect that occurs when repetitive lines or patterns cause an interference pattern to occur. In cameras, this undesirable interference pattern can be captured in photos when the detail of the repetition exceeds the resolution of the imaging sensor. To combat this, camera manufacturers commonly added optical low-pass filters (OLPF) over their sensors, though higher-resolution cameras may forego the filter for increased sharpness.

Monochrome– Although the term applies to images made using only one color, or shades of one color, in photography it usually refers to black-and-white images. The ‘monochrome mode’ on digital cameras enables you to record directly in black and white, instead of converting color images at the post-capture stage.

Monopod– A one-legged camera support. This doesn’t provide complete stability to the camera, but enables slower shutter speeds to be used than would otherwise be possible with a handheld camera. Used widely by sports photographers due to its maneuverability. Read more: What is a monopod?

Monopod. A camera support that has only a single leg, compared to the three legs found on a tripod. ‘Mono’ is a prefix that means “one, only, single.” While monopods are not as stable as tripods and cannot support a camera independently unless staked or fixed into the ground somehow, they are usually collapsible and lightweight and therefore a convenient and portable way to provide a camera with extra stabilization while on the go.

Motion blur– Out-of-focus streaking effect caused by the movement of the subject or camera during the exposure. Examples include a long exposure of a moving object passing through a static street scene at night, or panning the camera with a moving subject to create a background with blur.

Motor drive (or motorwind)– A camera facility for taking a number of pictures in rapid succession. The camera continues to take pictures as long as your finger keeps the release down, or until it runs out of memory.

Mount – Mount as a photography term can refer to how a print adheres or how a lens is attached to a camera.

Move tool– A tool used for aligning a layer by moving it around the canvas.

MTF. Modulation transfer function. A technical way to measure a lens’ optical performance potential. An MTF chart plots the contrast and resolution of a particular lens, with the x-axis representing the distance from the center of the frame (center at left and edge at right) and the y-axis representing light transmission (0% at bottom and 100% at top). MTF charts generally plot sagittal and meridional lines for the contrast measurements of lines that run parallel or perpendicular (respectively) to the line from the center to the edge of the frame.

Mugshot– Taken from ‘mug’, the established slang word for ‘face’, the term originally applied– to the stark police photographs of criminals, taken after arrest. It now refers– to any simple head-and-shoulders portrait such as those found on a driving license– or passport.

Multiple exposure– An image created by two or more superimposed images.

Multiple Exposure. Two or more frames superimposed in a single photograph. These can be created both in camera (e.g. exposing a single frame of film multiple times) or digitally (e.g. using software to stack multiple images into a single frame).

Multizone metering– See evaluative metering.


Natural Light. Light that is from the Sun, Moon, or another natural source (e.g. fire, bioluminescence, lava) rather than from a camera flash or other artificial light source. Natural light photography involves only using this ambient lighting to expose a photo. Since natural light changes over the course of a day, picking the right time for a photo shoot to take advantage of sunlight angle and quality becomes an important factor in a photo shoot. One of the most prized periods of the day for natural light is golden hour.

Naturalistic photography– An approach put forward in the 1880s by the English photographer Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936). He said that photographs should be direct and simple and reflect nature. He also said they should be produced from a single negative (as opposed to the use of multiple negatives in combination printing), without being staged or retouched.

Nature Photography. Photography done outdoors that focuses on natural elements such as landscapes, plants, wildlife, weather, natural phenomena, and more. Photos can range from wide-angle views that capture sweeping scenes to close-up macro photos showing details of the world that are ordinarily hidden from the naked eye.

Negative– An image made on a strip or sheet of film made of transparent plastic. Tones are reversed on black-and-white negative film, while on color negative film, colors are recorded as their complementary colors. Negatives are converted to positive images when printed on photographic paper. The first negative was recorded on paper by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1835, using his calotype process.

Negative Space. Also known as “white space” or “empty space,” this is the space surrounding a subject or object. While it is not usually a primary point of focus, it can help create “breathing room” in an image, provide balance, add visual appeal, and/or direct a viewer’s eyes to the main subject.

Negative. A photographic image, usually on film, in which the shade and/or color values are reversed from the true image — the lightest parts of the image are darkest on the negative, and the darkest parts are lightest. With color negative film, colors are inverted into their respective complementary colors. A positive print or scan can be made from a negative by inverting it, whether in a darkroom through the enlarging process or with digital software.

Neutral Density Filter (ND) – ND filters block a certain amount of light from entering the lens. They are measured in stops and come in a variety of densities. On graduated ND filters, part of the filter reduces the amount of light, and part of the filter is clear. These are popular with landscape photographers for reducing the brightness of the sky in landscape photos.

Neutral Density Filter (ND). A type of filter that reduces the amount of light entering the camera, modifying the intensity of all wavelengths equally so that there are (ideally) no changes in color. Allows photographers to use exposure settings that would otherwise result in overexposed photos (e.g. for a longer exposure or larger aperture on a bright sunny day).

Neutral-density (ND) filterAn optical or electronic filter that reduces the amount of light reaching the image sensor equally across the entire field of view. It permits longer shutter speeds or wider apertures than would otherwise be possible in the lighting conditions. Read more: What is an ND filter and when would you use one?

NFC– Stands for near-field communication, a short range wireless technology that has been introduced on many new camera models. It enables devices to communicate by using interacting electromagnetic radio fields. Images can be transferred wirelessly between a camera and a smartphone with NFC, simply by placing– the devices close together.

NFT– NFT stands for Non Fungible Token, and it’s a way of assigning a uniqueness and a value to a non-physical digital object, like a photo or even a tweet. Read more: What are NFTs? 

Niépce, Joseph Nicéphore– Niépce (1765-1833) was a French inventor who made the earliest surviving permanent image from nature in 1826. He used a camera obscura to project an image onto a pewter plate coated with light- sensitive Bitumen of Judea. His groundbreaking ‘heliograph’, View from a Window at Le Gras, showed a courtyard and buildings at his house. See when was photography invented?

Nifty Fifty. A nickname for a 50mm prime lens, which is a type of lens that is fixed to a single focal length, rather than being able to zoom in and out. These lenses are often referred to as “nifty fifty” because they are relatively inexpensive and offer a lot of versatility for photographers.

Noise – Digital noise in photographs consists of miscolored pixels or pixels of incorrect luminance values in images produced using high ISO settings. It is most noticeable in underexposed and shadow areas in photographs.

Noise Noise is a visual distortion that looks like tiny colored specs on a photo. It is especially visible in images shot at high ISO or very slow shutter speeds. Noise is the digital photography version of film grain.

Noise Reduction – Noise reduction is an in-camera function and an external one in photo editing software. It is used to reduce the amount of digital noise in photos and can sometimes cause an image to appear soft when aggressively applied.

Noise Reduction. Digital processing to remove noise from a photograph, whether done in-camera by firmware or by a feature/tool in an image processing/editing application.

Noise– Unwanted interference in an electrical signal, which is seen as a grain-like pattern in dark areas of a digital image. Noise increases in digital photos when a higher ISO setting is used. Read more: What is noise in digital images, and when does it become a problem?

Noise. The unwanted grainy or speckled texture that can appear in an image, particularly in darker areas or in images that are shot at high ISO values. Noise can be caused by a variety of factors, including the image sensor in the camera, the quality of the image processing software, and even the ambient temperature.

Non-lossy – Non-lossy, or lossless, are terms used for image file formats that retain all the image data when they are saved or exported.

Normal Lens. A lens that has a focal length approximately equal to the diagonal size of the film or image sensor it is used with. For example, on a 35mm film camera or full-frame digital camera, a normal lens has a focal length of around 50mm. Normal lenses are called “normal” because they provide a field of view and perspective that is similar to what the human eye sees. They are often used for general-purpose photography.

North light– The diffuse, reflected light that comes through a north-facing window, which– is therefore not directly lit by sunlight. Its soft, flattering quality makes it popular– in portrait photography.


OIS– Optical image stabilization, the system used on Panasonic lenses to reduce– camera shake. Read more: What is image stabilization, and how does it work?

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) – The type of technology used in some camera monitors.

OLED– Stands for organic light-emitting diode. OLED screens use a thin film of organic compound between two conductors that emits a bright light when an electric current is applied. These screens make flexible, high-quality displays that are lighter, thinner and faster to respond than LCDs. They are becoming increasingly common on high-end cameras.

Optical filter– A glass or plastic accessory placed in a holder or attached to the front of the camera lens. They are used to alter the image being recorded by allowing light– of particular wavelengths to pass through while blocking others. Most of the traditional optical filters are only used in film photography, because their effects can be replicated by in-camera digital filters or by using post- processing techniques on a computer. The types of optical filters still used widely in digital camera capture include the polarizer, UV filter, ND filter, ND grad and infrared filter.

Optical low-pass filter– A filter built into many digital cameras and located in front of the image sensor. It reduces the combined effect of moiré and false color in digital images.

Optical Resolution – Optical Resolution refers to the resolution of a camera or digital scanner. Resolution is measured in megapixels and often expressed as part of the common camera information, such as a 38 megapixel, or 24.2 megapixel camera.

Optical Viewfinder (OVF). Allows the photographer to compose (and usually focus) a scene while looking at the scene itself rather than an electronic display (as with an EVF). This can be a through-the-lens viewfinder (like in SLRs) or a look-through viewfinder (like in rangefinders).

Optical Zoom – An optical zoom is more commonly called a zoom lens. This provides a photographer with the ability to manipulate the focal length of the lens to include more or less in their compositions without physically changing their location. Some cheaper models of cameras have digital zoom functionality.

Orientation sensor– A sensor used in some cameras that detects when you turn the camera to take a vertical shot. It stores this information so that it displays the image correctly when played back on the camera LCD or computer screen.

OS– Stands for optical stabilization, the system used on some Sigma lenses to reduce camera shake.

Overexposure – This is what happens when too much light enters the camera and affects the sensor. The result is a very light photograph. Overexposure is avoided by learning how to meter the light and adjust the exposure triangle settings to gain a correct exposure.

Overexposure and underexposure: Letting in either too much light or too little on the camera sensor. Overexposed photos look blown out, with subjects generally looking overly pale. Underexposed photos tend to look dark and dim.

Over-exposure– Exposing an image for too long to suit the subject in given lighting conditions. As a result, details in highlight areas are lost or ‘blown out’. Some photographers choose to over-expose when creating a particular effect. They may also use over-exposure to compensate when the camera’s light meter gives an incorrect reading – when shooting snow scenes, for example.

Overexposure Overexposure occurs when the exposure value is higher than it should be, resulting in a loss of information over highlight areas.

Overexposure. A condition where too much light is allowed to reach the film or image sensor, resulting in a washed-out or overly bright image. Overexposure can be caused by a variety of factors, including using a lens with a wide aperture, using a high ISO setting, or using a slow shutter speed in bright lighting conditions.

Oversampling– A video processing technique often used on cameras with a higher resolution than is needed for video, e.g. a 24MP camera being used for 4K video. The video is captured (oversampled) at the camera’s full resolution then downsampled to the required video resolution. Read more: Video jargon explained


P P is a semi-automatic camera mode. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t stand for “professional,” but for “programmed automatic”. This mode allows photographers to control a few settings such as the use of flash, ISO, EV, and WB. The rest of the settings are automatically selected by the camera.

Pack shot– A short form for ‘packaging shot’, this is a photograph of a product with labelling clearly displayed, and is usually taken for advertising or other commercial reasons. Studio setups for pack shots can vary from the simple to the elaborate.

Paint Bucket tool– A Photoshop tool that fills a complete area with a particular color. As with the Magic Wand tool, you can adjust the Tolerance to change the effect. It can be useful for creating masks.

Painting with light– Creating images with a mobile light source. One way of painting with light is– to shoot a scene in the dark, whether indoors or outdoors, with the camera on the B (bulb) setting. While the shutter is open, objects in the scene can be ‘painted’ with light from a hand-held flash or other light source. The other technique also involves shooting in the dark with the shutter open, but in this case the light source is moved while being pointed towards the camera, often to create a ‘light trail’ shape in the final image.

Palette Bin / Panel Bin– Area on the right of the interface for keeping various dialogs and information displays in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Later versions tend to use the term ‘panel’ instead of ‘palette’. The feature can be minimized to buttons or hidden completely.

Pan-and-tilt headA tripod attachment that provides independent movement of the camera in both horizontal and vertical planes, giving the photographer greater flexibility.

Pancake lens– An ultra-slim lens, usually a prime lens but sometimes a zoom, that’s slimmer than it is wide and designed for compactness, portability and light weight. Read more: What is a pancake lens?

Panning – Panning is a technique photographers use to photograph moving subjects so they capture sharp, or sharpish, photographs while using a slow shutter speed.

Panning– Moving the camera along a horizontal plane during the exposure to follow a moving subject.

Panning. A technique used to create a sense of motion in a photograph by following a moving subject with the camera and taking a photograph with a slower shutter speed. The result is a photograph where the subject is in focus and appears sharp, while the background is blurred and appears to be moving, giving the impression of motion. To achieve this effect, the photographer needs to follow the subject with the camera as it moves, keeping it in the same position in the frame.

Panograph– See joiner.

Panorama. A wide-angle view or representation of a physical space, whether in image form or as a series of images. It is typically created by stitching together multiple photographs taken from a single vantage point, or by using specialized panoramic cameras or lenses that allow for the capture of wide fields of view.

Panoramic– An elongated image in which the width is at least twice the height. Panoramas are made by cropping one image, made using a specially designed panoramic camera, or by combining several images together using ‘stitching software’. Aspect ratios for panoramic images can be 4:1 or higher.

Parallax – Parallax in digital photography is the difference between what the camera sees and the image that is recorded by the sensor. Most good cameras are designed to avoid parallax errors from occurring.

Parallax– An effect in which the image seen through a camera’s lens is not the same as that seen through the viewfinder, resulting in parts of the scene missing in the photograph. It’s found in any camera in which the viewfinder and lens are separate, such as Leica rangefinder and twin-lens reflex cameras.

Partial metering– A type of metering system where the exposure reading is taken from a small area in the centre of the field of view. It’s similar to spot metering, but the reading is taken from a larger area of the image.

PASM modes– PASM stands for Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual, the four main exposure modes found on more advanced cameras to give you exactly the degree of automation or manual control you need. Read more: What are PASM modes?

Passive autofocus– An autofocus system that adjusts the focus of the lens by analyzing the image itself, rather than actively measuring the subject distance. Passive autofocus is used by most digital cameras, and is also known as phase-detection or contrast-detection autofocus. Read more: What is autofocus, and how does it work?

PC lens– Stands for perspective-control lens, another name for a shift lens.

PC socket– A simple electrical connection socket found on some DSLRs for connecting a flash to a camera to enable synchronization. It’s widely used for connecting studio flash.

PC Sync – The system used in cameras to connect an external flash unit. This is standardized across camera manufacturers.

PC-E– Stands for perspective control-electronic. It’s used to designate Nikon’s range of tilt-shift lenses, which enable you to move the front elements on the lens to avoid or exaggerate lens distortion. These lenses are commonly used in architectural photography to ensure vertical lines remain parallel in the picture.

Pellicle mirror– A lightweight, thin, translucent mirror used in Sony’s Single Lens Translucent (SLT) cameras. In this design, part of the light coming through the lens is diverted to an autofocus unit, and part goes to the digital sensor. This allows the photographer to see a continuous image through the viewfinder during exposure. It also avoids vibration and noise from the movement of a mirror.

Pentamirror– A low-cost alternative to the pentaprism (see next entry) used in the construction of some D-SLRs. They offer the same functionality, but use mirrors for the viewfinder construction rather than a prism.

Pentaprism– The five-sided prism used in the eye-level viewfinder of SLR and D-SLR cameras. It ensures that the image appears the right way up and the right way around in the viewfinder, correcting the effects of the mirror and the lens.

Perspective– Perspective is used to translate a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional image. It gives the viewer a sense of depth in the image, for example, through the use of converging lines in a landscape. Perspective allows us to interpret the size and distance between objects, relative to the camera’s viewpoint.

Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF). A camera autofocus system that divides incoming light from opposite sides of the lens into two images and compares them to calculate whether the subject is front- or back-focused. This information is then used to adjust the lens until focus is achieved.

Phase-detection autofocus– See passive autofocus. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

Photo Stitching – Photo stitching is the process of joining two or more photographs of the same scene taken with the intention of forming one image from multiple photographs.

Photo Walk. An event or activity in which photographers go for a walk as a group with the purpose of taking photographs. Photo walks can take place in a variety of locations, such as city streets, nature trails, or other outdoor spaces, and the goal is often to explore a new area and find interesting subjects to photograph.

Photobomb– To appear in the background of an informal portrait and upstage the person being photographed, without them being aware.

PhotobookA book largely consisting of photographs. It’s a means by which photographers have displayed their work since the earliest days of the medium. Landmark photo books of the past have included Robert Frank’s The Americans and Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. More recently, the ability to create a personalized photobook has come within everyone’s reach via online companies such as Mixbook, Snapfish and Photobox.

Photogram– A photographic image created by placing an object on a sheet of light-sensitive paper and exposing it to light. When the paper is developed, parts of the object that light rays cannot pass through are recorded as pure white, while translucent parts– might be recorded as shades of grey. The technique goes back to photography’s earliest days. The artist and photographer Man Ray (1890-1976) later produced many such images, which he called ‘Rayographs’ or ‘Rayograms’.

Photogram. A photograph made without a camera by placing objects directly onto light-sensitive paper or film and exposing it to light. The resulting image is a silhouette of the objects, with the areas around the objects remaining white or light-colored.

Photograph. An image created by capturing light with a camera, usually via a digital sensor or film, and recording it onto a storage medium. The process of creating a photograph typically involves aiming the camera at a scene or subject and pressing the shutter button to take the picture. The resulting image is a representation of the scene or subject as it appeared at the time the photograph was taken. Photographs can be taken with a variety of cameras, including digital cameras, film cameras, and smartphones, and can be produced in a variety of sizes and formats. They can be used for a wide range of purposes, including documenting events, capturing memories, telling stories, expressing emotions, and creating works of art.

Photographer. A person who takes photographs, either as a hobby or as a profession. Photographers use cameras to capture images of people, places, and things in a variety of settings, including studios, outdoors, or on location at events or assignments. Professional photographers may specialize in a particular type of photography, such as portrait, wedding, fashion, commercial, or fine art photography. They may also work in various industries, such as journalism, advertising, or the arts. Some photographers are self-employed and work on a freelance basis, while others may be employed by companies or organizations.

Photography. The art or practice of creating still or moving images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as film. Photography has a long history dating back to the early 19th century and has evolved significantly over time with the development of new technologies and techniques. There are many different types of photography, including portrait, landscape, still life, documentary, and fine art, among others. Photographers may work in a variety of settings, including studios, outdoors, or on location at events or assignments. They may use a variety of cameras and other equipment to capture images, and may also use software to edit and manipulate their photographs.

Photojournalism– News journalism using a camera to record events. The ‘golden age’ of photojournalism’s lasted from the 1930s to the 1950s, before television took over– as the main source of news, but it still plays an important role in the media.

Photomerge– A group of ‘automated’ features designed for combining a number of similar or related shots together, including Photomerge Panorama for combining an overlapping sequence to create a panoramic view. Elements includes additional Photomerge tools not included in Photoshop, such as Photomerge Group Shot (for combining the best features from a series of near-identical group portraits).

Photomicrography– Photographic images of things invisible to the naked eye, created using a microscope. DSLR cameras are connected to a microscope using an adaptor, and the degree of magnification is determined by the power of the microscope.

Photoshop – Photoshop is a popular digital image editing program created by Adobe.

Photoshop– Industry-standard software program produced by Adobe that  enables photographers to edit digital images on screen and save them as a JPEG, TIFF,– PNG or GIF. It was initially named Display, and was created by Thomas and John– Knoll in 1988.

PICT – PICT is a little-used lossy digital image file format.

PictBridge– A system for printing directly from a camera to a compatible photo printer– without the need for first uploading images to a computer.

Pictorialism– An artistic approach to photography, dominant during the late 19th and early 20th century. Instead of being straightforward documents of reality, photographs were given a more painterly, soft-focus appearance. Processes such as bromoil, gum bichromate and platinum printing, which involved manipulating a photograph’s tones and texture using brushes, pigments and inks, were popular among Pictorialists.

Pincushion Distortion – Pincushion Distortion happens in cheaper cameras and has the appearance of lines in a photograph bending inwards towards the center of a photograph. This is usually on photos taken with a wider angle lens.

Pincushion distortion– A lens fault or aberration that causes parallel lines in an image to bow inwards towards the centre, and is seen when shooting with telephoto lenses. The effect is similar to one you’d see if an image was printed on a pincushion. It can be– corrected using post-capture software such as Photoshop. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Pinhole camera– A camera that uses a small hole instead of a lens to project an inverted image on to photographic film or a digital sensor. Exposures are usually manually operated and can range from several seconds to hours in duration. DSLRs can be converted to pinhole cameras by replacing the lens with a piece of plastic drilled with a hole of around 0.3mm in diameter. Alternative pinhole cameras have been made with anything from wheelie-bins to shoe boxes. Read more: What is a pinhole camera?

Pinhole Camera. A simple camera that is made by creating a small hole in one side of a light-tight box. Light passes through the hole and is projected onto the opposite side of the box, creating an inverted image. Pinhole cameras do not have a lens, and they rely on the pinhole aperture to focus the light.

Pixel – A pixel is the smallest part that makes up a digital sensor or digital image.

Pixel binning– An image processing technique used in some cameras to combine the light values from several pixels to produce an image with lower resolution but better light sensitivity. It’s also used in some video cameras where the native sensor resolution is much higher than the video resolution required. Read more: What is pixel binning?

Pixel Peeping. The act of examining the pixels of an image at a very high magnification, typically 100% or more, in order to evaluate the image’s sharpness and other image quality characteristics. Pixel peeping is often done by photographers who are looking for flaws or imperfections in their images, and who want to ensure that the images are as sharp and detailed as possible.

Pixel Pixel is the smallest unit of programmable color represented on a digital display. Despite common photography myths, the number of pixels is not the determining factor on how good a camera is.

Pixel. Short for “picture element.” A single point in a digital image. Pixels are the smallest unit of an image that can be displayed on a digital screen, and they are what make up the total resolution of an image. Digital images are made up of a grid of pixels, with each pixel representing a specific color and brightness value. The more pixels that an image has, the higher the resolution of the image and the more detail it can contain.

Pixelated– A digital image in which individual pixels can be clearly seen, either due to very low resolution or high magnification of a small part of an image. Pictures are sometimes deliberately pixelated, for example when someone’s face is obscured in a newspaper for legal reasons.

Pixelization – Pixelization happens to an image when it is enlarged to over 100% of its original size. This has the appearance of higher contrast between pixels and causes the image to look blotchy and soft.

Pixels– Every digital photograph is made up of millions of square-shaped dots called pixels (the term derives from “picture elements”). Like the tiles in a mosaic, they blend together to create a photorealistic image. Zooming into your images using the Zoom tool in Photoshop/ Elements enables you to see, and then edit, each of these building blocks if you choose.

Plugin– A piece of software that adds functionality to an existing computer program. Plugins are available for many digital image-manipulation programs, including Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom, providing an increased range– of effects and transformations. One such plugin is Adobe Camera Raw.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) – PNG is an image file format that supports transparency. This format is lossy and was specifically developed for use on the internet.

Point and Shoot Camera – Point and shoot cameras are also known as compact cameras. They are small, easy to use, and usually have a built-in zoom lens.

Point-and-Shoot Camera. A type of compact camera that is designed for ease of use and convenience. It is characterized by its small size, simple controls, and automatic features, which allow the user to take photographs by simply pointing the camera at the desired subject and pressing the shutter button. Features typically include a fixed lens and a built-in flash.

Point-and-shoot: Small cameras designed for ease of use. They usually focus and handle exposure automatically, have flashes built in, and do not require a great amount of skill to use effectively. These cameras are less popular now that smartphone cameras are so common.

PolarizerA filter that only transmits light vibrating in one plane. It can be used to deepen the color of part of a picture, such as the sky. It can also be used to eliminate or reduce reflections on non-metallic surfaces, such as water or glass. It must be rotated in front of the lens until you achieve the desired effect.

Polarizing Filter (Polarizer) – This is a common type of photographic filter that has the effect of being able to enhance or diminish reflections. It can also boost vibrance and contrast in images. This filter requires the photographer to rotate it once it’s mounted to achieve the desired effect.

Polarizing Filter. A camera lens accessory that is used to reduce reflections and glare in photographs. It does this by polarizing the light that enters the camera, which can make the sky appear more blue and the clouds more white. Polarizing filters are often used in landscape photography to make the colors in the scene more vibrant and to reduce the amount of reflections in water and other reflective surfaces. They can also be used to reduce reflections on glass and other shiny surfaces in architectural and product photography.

Portfolio. A collection of photographs that a photographer has taken and selected as representative of their work. Portfolios are often used by photographers to showcase their skills and style, and to demonstrate their ability to produce high-quality images. Photographers may create portfolios for a variety of purposes, such as attracting new clients, applying for jobs or grants, or entering photography contests.

Portfolio: Portfolio is, basically, a collection of work. Over the last years, online portfolios have become an absolute must and have grown to become full professional photographer websites. In addition to showcasing their work, photographers can now communicate with clients, constantly update their projects, and even book their services, all from a single platform.

Portrait Mode. A feature found on some cameras and smartphones that is designed to take high-quality portrait photographs. Portrait mode uses a combination of hardware and software to create a shallow depth of field in the image, which is a technique used to blur the background of the image and make the subject stand out.

Portrait Orientation. The orientation of the camera when taking a photograph. When the camera is held vertically and the photograph is taken with the height of the image being longer than the width, the photograph is said to be in portrait orientation.

Portrait. A photograph that focuses on the face or head of a person or animal. Portraits are usually taken from the front or the side and are typically intended to capture the subject’s personality, expression, and appearance.

Positive– An image that gives an accurate representation of the composition, tones and colors of the original subject being photographed, as opposed to a negative in which the subject’s composition, tones and colors are reversed.

Post-Processing – Post-processing is the manipulation of digital images using a computer program or app. A skilled editor can enhance many aspects of a photograph during post-processing, especially when working with RAW files.

Post-Processing. Also referred to as “post,” this is the process of editing original camera data with software programs (e.g. Photoshop and Lightroom) to create an improved and/or customized final photograph. This can involve both basic edits (e.g. brightness, contrast, white balance, saturation, cropping) as well as more involved editing (e.g. cloning, compositing, masking).

Post-production or post-processing: The process of cropping, editing, altering, and improving photo files in programs like Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom.

PPI– Pixels per inch. A measure of the resolution (density of pixels) in a photo print or on-screen image.

PPI. Pixels per inch. A way to measure the resolution of a digital display. Refers to the number of pixels that are found in the space of one linear (not square) inch.

Predictive autofocus– A sophisticated autofocus setting on cameras where the focus is not only adjusted until the shutter is actually fired, but continues to be adjusted during the delay between pressing the shutter and the picture actually being taken. This enables the camera to focus more accurately on moving subjects. Read more: What is autofocus and how does it work?

Prefocusing– A manual focusing technique used for photographing moving subjects. The lens is focused on a point or at a distance, which you anticipate the subject is going to move through. The shutter is released when this point is reached.

Previsualization– A term first introduced by pioneering photographer Ansel Adams, which he defined in his book The Camera (1980) as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.

Prime Lens – A prime lens is one that has a fixed focal length and does not zoom. Prime lenses generally have wider maximum aperture settings than zoom lenses.

Prime lens– A non-zoom lens, that is, a lens with a single and fixed focal length. Read more: What is a prime lens?

Prime Lens. A lens that has a fixed focal length, meaning that it cannot zoom in or out. Prime lenses are typically smaller, lighter, and faster than zoom lenses, as they have fewer moving parts and a simpler design. They are also generally more optically efficient and can produce sharper, higher-quality images than zoom lenses.

Prime lenses: Lenses with a fixed focal length. Distinct from zoom lenses, which have variable focal lengths. Sometimes called unifocal lenses.

Prime Prime lenses are those with a fixed focal length. These lenses are usually smaller and faster, as they have a smaller number of moving parts and a less complicated lens formula. Their maximum apertures are usually lower than f2.8.

Print. A physical copy of a photograph that is created by printing the image onto paper or another material using an inkjet or other printing process. Prints can be made in a variety of sizes and on a variety of materials, including glossy or matte paper, canvas, metal, or acrylic.

Product Photography. The art of capturing visually appealing and enticing images of items or merchandise, typically for advertising, e-commerce, or promotional purposes. It aims to highlight the product’s features, quality, and aesthetics through careful composition, lighting, and styling, while maintaining accuracy and appealing to the target audience.

Program (P). A semi-automatic shooting mode that allows the photographer to control some aspects of the exposure, while the camera takes care of the rest. When a camera is set to program mode, the photographer can adjust settings such as ISO, white balance, and focus mode, but the camera determines the appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the scene.

Program exposure– Any exposure mode where the camera defines both the aperture and the– shutter speed.

Program shift– A program exposure mode in which the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture automatically, but the photographer has the option of altering the bias between the two readings to set a preferred shutter speed or aperture without changing the overall exposure.

Progressive video– Type of video capture where each frame is recorded in full, as opposed to the older and inferior ‘interlaced’ video technology of the past. Read more: Video jargon explained

Provenance – Provenance is a term used to describe how proof of ownership is established with a photograph or other artwork.

PSD– Photoshop’s (and Photoshop Elements’) own file format, which preserves components such as layers and transparency that aren’t supported by some formats (including JPEG). It’s worth saving an edited photo as a PSD if you might want the option to revisit layers or adjustment layers at a later time.

Puppet Warp tool– First introduced in Photoshop CS5, this tool allows you to adjust or radically change the shape of parts of an image. Subjects can be selected and altered without affecting the background.

Push/pull processing– In film photography, push processing means increasing the film’s speed by shooting with shorter exposures than recommended and increasing the development time proportionately. This allows photographers to work in lower light conditions, but increases the grain size. Pull processing means using longer exposures than recommended and reducing development times, to give a negative with reduced contrast and grain.

PZ– Stands for power zoom, a servo-assisted zoom facility found on some Panasonic compact system camera lenses.

PZD– Stands for piezo drive, a type of ultrasonic motor used in Tamron lenses to provide fast, quiet AF.


Quality: Quality is one of the most widely used and yet more vague photography terms. One way to consider the quality of an image is looking for aberrations or information loss. Another, more subjective, one is to evaluate its composition, sharpness, exposure, etc.

Quick-release plate– A facility for attaching and removing a camera from a tripod. A plate attaches to the camera using the traditional screw-in arrangement, then the plate slots into a recess on the tripod.


Rangefinder– A camera with a separate lens and viewfinder, linked by a rangefinder mechanism. When looking through the viewfinder, two separate images are shown, one of which moves when the focus ring is turned. When the two superimposed images are perfectly aligned, the image is in focus. Still used in the M range of Leica cameras.

RAW – A RAW image file is one that contains all the data a camera or scanner captures when an exposure is made. This is a lossless image format. Each camera manufacturer gives its own file name extension to RAW images.

Raw– A file format option provided by digital SLRs, mirrorless cameras and some other top-end digital cameras. Image data is stored in a semi-processed state and needs to be fully processed on a computer. Raw files enable exposure compensation, image contrast, color balance and other settings to be altered after the initial exposure, while still retaining maximum image quality. Raw images also offer a greater tonal range than the alternative JPEG recording quality options. Raw isn’t an abbreviation, or even a single file type like JPEG; the format varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and sometimes from camera to camera. Most current Canon models use CR2, and Nikon models use NEF.

Raw files: Unprocessed data. Raw image files have not been compressed or altered in any way. This means they are good for archival purposes, as they contain all the data associated with an image. However, raw files can be too large for certain uses, like online use.

RAW. An image file is one that contains minimally processed data straight from a digital camera sensor (or scanner). These files are generally processed in raw editing software before being converted into a format such as JPEG or TIFF for printing or sharing online. Many camera manufacturers use proprietary raw file formats in their camera ecosystems, while others use open formats such as Adobe’s DNG. Not an acronym but is widely capitalized as though it were, including by companies like Canon.

RAW: RAW is a file format that saves the image as it was captured by the sensor, with minimal processing and no compression. This allows photographers to take complete control over the creative edition of the photo. On the downside, RAW files are much larger than JPEGs and other compression file formats.

Rear-Curtain Sync – This is a camera setting that synchronizes the flash to fire immediately before the second shutter curtain closes during an exposure. Using this technique with a slow shutter speed it is possible to create a heightened sense of motion with moving subjects. This blur looks different than when the camera syncs so the flash fires immediately after the first shutter curtain opens.

Rear-curtain sync– Flash feature found on some D-SLRs and flashguns that synchronizes the flash output when the second shutter curtain is about to close. Usually, the flash fires at the point where the first shutter is fully open. The facility gives more natural-looking images when using flash in conjunction with slow shutter speeds. Read more: What is flash, and is it still useful for photography?

Rear-Curtain Sync. A camera flash setting in which a flash is fired just before the camera’s shutter closes, rather than at the beginning of the exposure as it is in normal (front-curtain) sync. This can be useful in a variety of situations, such as when the photographer wants to capture a moving subject at the end of their movement with the background showing the subject’s motion as a blur leading up to the frozen moment.

Reciprocity failure– In film photography, when shooting with very long or very short exposures, the reciprocity law (see above) can break down, leading to reciprocity failure. In these cases, extra exposure might be needed to compensate, as specified by the film manufacturer. Reciprocity failure doesn’t occur with digitally captured images.

Reciprocity– The reciprocity law states that the density of a photographic image is in direct proportion to the intensity of light (aperture setting) and the duration (shutter speed). For example, if the correct exposure for a subject is 1/125 sec at f/4 and the aperture is increased by one stop to f/2.8, the shutter speed must be correspondingly decreased by one stop to 1/60 sec to maintain the same image quality, and vice versa.

Red Eye. A common problem in photography in which a subject’s eyes appear red in the image. Red eye is caused by the reflection of the camera’s flash off the blood vessels at the back of the subject’s eyes.

Red-Eye – Red-Eye is the photography term used to describe the appearance of red in a person’s eyes when a photo is taken using direct flash. This is most common in situations where the light is very low and people’s pupils are naturally dilated.

Red-eye– An effect often caused by a camera’s built-in flash. The flash light reflects from the retina of a subjects’ eyes and gives them a bright red color. It can be reduced or corrected in-camera, or at the post-processing stage.

Red-Eye Reduction – Red-Eye Reduction is flash technology designed to reduce the instance of red-eye in photographs.

Reflected light reading– The most frequently used type of exposure meter reading, which measures the amount of light reflecting from a subject. An alternative approach is to use an incident light meter, which measures the amount of light falling on a subject.

Reflector – Any accessory used by a photographer to bounce more light into areas of their composition. A light reflector can be as simple as a sheet of paper or it can be a purpose-designed tool with many surface options.

Reflector– A piece of card or other flat material that reflects and increases the amount of illumination from a light source. Reflectors can be white, silver or gold, and are often used to ‘bounce’ light into shadow areas and make them brighter. An umbrella-shaped reflector on a studio light is used to create softer and more diffuse illumination. Read more: What is a reflector, and when would you use one in photography?

Reflector. A device that is used to reflect light onto a subject. Reflectors are often used to add fill light to a scene or to highlight certain features of the subject. They are especially useful in outdoor photography, where the available light may be harsh or uneven. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they can be made from a variety of materials, such as foam board, paper, or metal. Reflectors can be either reflective or diffusive, and they can be white, silver, gold, or other colors.

Reflex Camera – A reflex camera has a mirror to reflect light entering the lens so the photographer can see an image in the viewfinder.

Rembrandt lighting– A studio portrait lighting technique named after the Dutch painter Rembrandt van– Rijn (1606-1669), who often used it. It refers to lighting one side of the face so that it creates a triangle of light on the opposite cheek. A reflector is sometimes used to bounce light on to the side of the face in shadow.

Rembrandt Lighting. A type of lighting pattern named after the Dutch painter Rembrandt, who often used this lighting style in his portraiture. It is characterized by a small triangle of light on the subject’s cheek, opposite the light source, and it is often used in portraiture to create a sense of depth and dimension in the subject’s face.

Remote Capture – Remote capture is the process of taking a photo when the photographer is not holding the camera or close to it. It involves the use of a cable release, remote control, mobile phone app, or another device to trigger the shutter release.

Remote Flash Trigger – The use of remote flash triggers make it possible to synchronize the flash to fire when it is not mounted on the camera. Some camera systems incorporate remote flash triggering, other systems require the use of external accessories.

Reportage– The act or technique of news reporting. In photography, the term refers to the art of telling a news story through pictures. Many wedding photographers offer ‘reportage style’ pictures. This simply means that the day’s events are approached as if it were a news event, and recorded in an informal and unobtrusive way. See photojournalism.

Reproduction Ratio. The size of the image of a subject on the camera’s image sensor in relation to the actual size of the subject. Typically expressed as a ratio or fraction — for example, a reproduction ratio of 1:2 means that the image on the sensor is half the size of the actual subject. This is an important consideration in macro photography, as it determines how much the subject will be magnified in the final image. A higher reproduction ratio will result in a larger, more detailed image of the subject.

Resize– To create a new copy of an image with a different file size or resolution (pixel count).

Resolution – Resolution as a photographer term refers to the amount of detail in an image. It is used for measuring monitors, digital photo sensors, and just about anything you’d put on a monitor or photosensor such as web pages, photographs, and windows. It is typically measured in pixels per inch (PPI) or dots per inch (DPI).

Resolution– A measure of the density of pixels in a printed or on-screen image, usually expressed in terms of pixels per inch (ppi). A resolution of 300ppi is widely regarded as the optimum for professional-quality printing. Monitors typically display images at between 72 and 96ppi, although this can vary with monitor size and other factors. Changing a photo’s resolution in the Image Size dialog in Photoshop won’t change how big it looks on-screen, only in print.

Resolution. The level of detail and clarity that is captured in an image. Resolution is typically measured in pixels, with a higher pixel count indicating a higher resolution and a greater level of detail. Resolution is an important factor in digital photography, as it determines the quality and print size of the final image.

Resolution: Resolution is the dimension in megapixels that a camera sensor is able to capture. For example, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV maximum resolution is 6720 × 4480 pixels, which rounds out to 30.1 effective megapixels. Higher resolutions allow photographers to capture a larger amount of detail on their photos.

RF– The rear focus feature is found on super telephoto lenses. With rear focus, the group of elements nearest the camera are used to determine the point of focus, providing faster autofocus.

RGB Color (Red Green Blue) – RGB is a common color space used in digital displays. It is known as additive color space and differs from CMYK which is a subtractive color space.

RGB– Stands for red, green and blue. These are the three primary colors used by a digital camera to record a picture. Some tools can access and edit each of the three color channels separately.

RGB. Red, green, and blue. An additive color model in which the primary colors of red, green, and blue are added together in various proportions to create a wide range of possible colors. As an additive model, red, green, and blue are added to black, and the full combination of colors is white. Digital cameras and computer/phone displays typically work in RGB.

Rim Light – The rim light is behind the main subject and has the effect of adding a halo-like light to the edges of the subject. It is also sometimes called backlighting.

Rim Light. A light in a lighting setup that is placed behind the subject to create an outline (or edge or rim) of light, defining the subject by separating it from the background. The result can be a dramatic or mysterious look. Also known as an edge or kicker light.

Rim lighting– Light from behind or to the side of a subject that gives a thin line of light around some or all of the subject’s edge, which sets it clearly apart from the background.

Ring flash– A flash lighting system that uses a circular flash tube attached to the front of the lens to provide even, shadowless lighting. Ring flash is often used in macro photography, but is sometimes used in other kinds of photography including portraiture. Oversized ring flashes are available for studio use, providing doughnut-shaped catch lights when used for portraits.

Roll filmA photographic film wound on a spool and protected from light with paper backing.– The most commonly used type is 120 roll film. It’s used in cameras shooting 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7 and 6×9 negative sizes, plus panoramic cameras.

Rule of Thirds – The rule of thirds is a composition technique. It divides the frame into a grid with two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The method is to align the subject or main elements of your image on the 4 intersecting points, or along the vertical or horizontal lines.

Rule of thirds– One of the best-known compositional ‘rules’, in which an image is divided, horizontally and vertically, into three parts, using two equally spaced lines. Important elements of the picture are then placed on one or more of these lines, which creates a stronger and more visually appealing composition than simply centering the subject. The term has its origins in painting, and was first written down by the artist John Thomas Smith in 1797. Read more: What is the rule of thirds?

Rule of Thirds. A basic composition guideline that suggests that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The theory is that if you place points of interest along these lines, or at the intersections of them, your photo will be more balanced and will have more visual interest.


Sabattier effect– A wet darkroom effect in which an image is processed so that it’s partly a normal positive image and partly a negative. It was first described in the 1860s, but became well-known in the work of Man Ray (1890-1976). His assistant, Lee Miller (1907-1977) accidentally turned on a light while developing a print, but Ray liked the effect and consciously used it in his work. He called it ‘solarization’. The Sabattier effect is easily recreated using Photoshop, and looks best applied to a black-and-white image.

Safelight– A red/orange lamp used to light a traditional wet darkroom when printing black-and-white photographs. It’s safe to use at the printing stage because photographic paper isn’t sensitive to red/orange light.

SAM– Stands for smooth autofocus motor, which has been used in recent Sony Alpha lenses.

Saturation – As a photography term refers to the depth of colors in a photograph. Saturation can be controlled during post-processing.

Saturation– The strength of a color or hue. An increase in saturation gives a more intense color.– Too much saturation, and the image will look unreal. An image with no saturation whatsoever will be black and white.

Saturation. A term used to describe the intensity or purity of a color. In photography, it refers to the richness or vibrancy of the colors in an image. An image with high saturation has vivid, bright colors, while an image with low saturation has more muted, subdued colors.

Saturation:Saturation refers to the color intensity of an image. As their saturation increases, colors appear more vivid and are considered more pure. Decreasing saturation results in muted colors, with full desaturation giving a monochromatic version of the image.

Scale– Scale gives us a sense of the size of an object or environment in an image, by– using another object in the scene as– a frame of reference. For example, by including a person in a landscape, the– viewer is given a strong idea of the relative size of that landscape.

Scene Modes – Scene modes are generally found in lower-end cameras. These are pre-programmed exposure modes designed for specific situations. They can include modes such as Portrait, Landscape, Night/Low Light, etc.

Scene Modes. Preset settings on a camera that are optimized for specific types of scenes or subjects. They are designed to help beginner photographers get the best possible photo in a variety of different shooting situations by automatically adjusting the camera’s settings to suit the scene.

Scene modes: Scene modes are automatic camera modes with pre-set exposure values based on different types of situations and subjects. These modes are aimed to help amateur photographers achieve the optimum exposure and DOF without having to control any of the settings.

Scheimpflug principle– Theodor Scheimpflug (1865-1911) stated: “If the lens plane is tilted down, when the extended lines from the lens plane, the object plane and the film plane intersect at the same point, the entire subject plane is in focus.” This principle comes into play when using tilt-shift lenses or tilt-and-swing movements on view cameras. In practice, it means that if you’re photographing a landscape, the lens can be tilted forwards until the plane of focus runs parallel to the ground. As a result, depth of field is vastly increased, even when shooting with the lens wide open.

Scratch disk– Hard disk space used by Photoshop while processing an image to temporarily store information and make the process faster. It’s used, for example, to store the history states that are essential for using the History panel.

Screen grab– Also called a screen shot or screen capture, this is an image of all or part of a computer monitor display that can be saved as a graphics file.

Scrim. A material placed between a light source and subject that softens or diffuses the light, reducing the intensity and/or harshness.

SD (Secure Digital) card– A type of removable memory card used in some digital cameras.

SD Association (SDA). The non-profit organization formed in January 2000 by SanDisk, Panasonic, and Toshiba to manage SD Card standards. Around 1,000 companies are now a part of SDA.

SD Card (Secure Digital) – An SD card is a common type of flash memory used in many cameras.

SD– Super-low dispersion, the glass used in Tokina lenses to reduce chromatic aberration.

  1. SD. Secure Digital. A memory card format that is commonly used by digital cameras. Introduced in August 1999 by SanDisk, Panasonic, and Toshiba, it uses flash memory technology to store large amounts of data on relatively small devices. Its primary competitor is the CompactFlash (CF) card.

SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity)– A type of SD card that has a higher maximum capacity than standard SD– cards (up to 32GB).

SDM– Supersonic drive motor, Pentax’s fast, quiet focus motor.

SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity)– A type of SD memory card that has an even higher maximum capacity than SDHC cards (up to 2TB).

Second curtain sync– An alternative term for rear-curtain sync.

Secondary mirror– A mirror used in digital SLRs to project some of the light passing through the lens to exposure and autofocus sensors.

Secret Photography. The practice of taking photographs without the knowledge or consent of the subjects being photographed. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to capture candid moments, to document events or situations, or for artistic expression. It can also be used to invade the privacy of others, and in some cases, it may be illegal or unethical.

Selenium tone– A chemical treatment applied to a silver-based black-and-white print in a wet darkroom that changes some of the metallic silver to silver selenide. Depending on dilution and the type of printing paper, tones may range from red-brown to purple-brown. The appearance of the effect can now be simulated in post-capture software on a computer. Photoshop CS6 and CC includes selenium toning among– its range of toning presets.

Self Portrait. A photograph that the photographer has taken of themselves. It is a way for the photographer to capture their own image and express themselves through the medium of photography.

Selfie– A modern term for self-portrait, a genre becoming increasingly popular in the age of the smartphone camera.

Selfie. A self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a smartphone or camera held at arm’s length or with a selfie stick. Selfies are usually taken to be shared on social media or other forms of communication with friends or followers.

Self-timer– A camera facility that incorporates a delay between the pressing of the trigger and– the beginning of the exposure. It has traditionally been used to enable the photographer to appear in the shot. It can also be used as a way of minimizing the vibration caused by pressing the camera shutter, when shooting a long exposure with the camera mounted on a monopod– or tripod.

Sensor Size – The sensor size is the physical dimensions of a camera sensor, usually measured in millimeters. This is different from the megapixel count of a sensor which can also be used to describe its size and resolution.

Sensor size– The dimensions of the CCD or CMOS sensor in a digital camera vary greatly according to the type of camera. This has a major impact on image quality. Larger sensors collect more light and produce images with greater dynamic range and less noise than smaller sensors. Smartphone camera sensors measure around 4.5 x 3.4mm; compact camera sensors are around 6.1 x 4.5mm; D-SLR sensors are around 23.5 x 15.6mm, while a ‘full frame’ 35mm sensor measures around 36 x 24mm. A medium-format sensor (such as in the Fujifilm GFX 100S) measures around 44 x 33mm. Read more: What is sensor size, and why does it matter?

Sepia tone– A chemical treatment used in traditional photography that converts metallic silver– in a black-and-white photograph to silver sulphide. It has the effect of changing shades of grey into shades of reddish-brown. The appearance can easily be created in digital images, either in-camera or using Photoshop.

Shadows. The darkest part of an image on the opposite side of the histogram from highlights, where relatively little light has hit compared to other parts of the frame. These areas help to provide depth, contrast, mood, and/or mystery to a photo.

Sharpening– Sharpening boosts the contrast around the edges of objects to increase definition, which helps counter the inherent softening effect of digital capture. Inkjet printing has a further softening effect, so if you’re going to print your image, it will need more sharpening than it would need for on-screen viewing. Over-sharpening can be a problem, leading to undesirable haloes.

Sharpness – The sharpness of a digital image is about its clarity. The quality of camera lenses and sensors affects the sharpness of images. The ability of the photographer to focus well and use an appropriate shutter speed also affects the sharpness of an image.

Sharpness. The clarity of details in a photo. While various factors contribute to a photograph’s sharpness, primary ones include the imaging quality of a lens and the camera settings that were used when exposing the photo. Sharpness can also be adjusted on an existing photo using image editing software.

Sheet filmFilm used in large-format cameras, including 5×4 and 10×8 equipment, which is supplied in boxes of individual sheets.

Shift lensAn interchangeable lens available for a small number of D-SLRs and medium-format cameras. The lens provides a limited range of camera movements, including a facility for the lens to be shifted upwards to avoid converging verticals when photographing tall subjects, especially buildings. Also known as a PC lens.

Short Lighting – Short lighting is a photography term used to describe a style of portrait lighting. This light affects the side of the subject’s face that is facing away from the camera. The result is that the aspect of the subject’s face closest to the camera is darker.

Shutter – The shutter in a camera blocks light from reaching the sensor or film. When the shutter release is pressed the shutter opens and then closes again. The duration the shutter remains open is controlled by the camera using a set timer in most instances. The photographer can also set the shutter to remain open as long as they want it to. The shutter typically consists of two blinds or curtains. When the shutter release is pressed, the first curtain opens. The second shutter curtain closes to complete the exposure.

Shutter– A device for allowing light to pass through a camera lens to the digital sensor or film, usually for a precise period of time. See also leaf shutter and focal plane shutter. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important?

Shutter Lag – This is the delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter opening in a camera. Shutter lag is only noticeable using a cheap camera. This is also known as lag time.

Shutter lag– The delay between the photographer physically pressing the shutter and the exposure actually being made.

Shutter Lag. The delay that occurs between triggering the shutter of a camera and when the exposure is actually recorded. Components of this delay may include the time it takes to focus, calculate exposure, physically move the shutter mechanism, and recording the data to the memory card.

Shutter Priority – Shutter priority mode is a semi-automatic camera exposure mode that allows the photographer to choose the shutter speed. The camera then sets the aperture so a ‘correct’ exposure can be produced when the shutter is released.

Shutter priority– A semi-automatic exposure mode in which the shutter speed is set by the photographer. The aperture is then set by the camera to suit the metered light readings taken by the camera.

Shutter Priority. Also abbreviated on some mode dials as Tv, for time value, this is a camera setting in which the photographer chooses a fixed shutter speed while allowing the camera to adjust the aperture value (and possibly ISO) to achieve a proper exposure (as determined by the camera’s internal light meter).

Shutter priority: Sometimes known as time value, this setting on the camera is usually abbreviated as S or Tv. It allows the photographer to set a specific shutter speed and the camera will automatically choose an aperture and ISO to match.

Shutter Release – The shutter release is the button on the camera, usually controlled by the right-hand forefinger, that controls when the shutter is opened to make a photograph. The shutter on many cameras can also be released by a cable, remote control, or app.

Shutter Speed – The shutter speed is the duration of time the shutter on a camera remains open when the shutter release is activated.

Shutter speed– Also called exposure time, this is the length of time the camera’s shutter is open to allow light coming through the lens to reach the image sensor or film. Read more: What is the camera shutter, and are shutter speeds important?

Shutter Speed. Also known as exposure time, this is the time, in seconds, that the sensor or film inside a camera is exposed to light in order to capture a photograph. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion while a slow shutter speed will cause moving subjects in the frame to blur.

Shutter speed: Shutter speed is the length of time a camera sensor is exposed to light when taking a photo. Slow shutter speeds capture the blur of subjects in motion, making it highly valuable for night and landscape photographers. On the other hand high speeds allow photographers to freeze a single millisecond in time, which is usually an absolute must in fields such as sport and pet photography.

Shutter speed: How long the camera’s shutter is open and the sensors inside are exposed to light. Very high shutter speeds are used for things like capturing a moving subject without blur. Low shutter speeds, for example, are often used for nighttime photography or by landscape photographers, which benefit from more light entering the camera during the longer shutter duration.

Shutter-Release Button. Also known as a “shutter release” or a “release button,” this is the button or mechanism that is pressed or activated to cause the shutter to open and expose a photo. The shutter closes again according to the shutter speed chosen by the photographer or camera, or it may be held open indefinitely as long as the shutter-release button is depressed if the camera is set to Bulb mode.

Side lighting– This is illuminating a subject from one side across the camera axis, either using natural or artificial light, while the other side remains in shadow. It’s often used in portraiture to give texture and depth to a subject. It can give a dramatic look, especially against a dark background. If desired, shadow areas can be lightened– by using a reflector.

Silver halide– The light-sensitive chemical compound that, when coated on photographic film or paper, enables images to be recorded.

Single lens reflex (SLR)– A camera that uses a pentaprism and mirror to show the exact image being seen through the lens. When the shutter is released, the mirror flips up to allow the image to pass through to the sensor or film. Read more: What is a DSLR and are they still useful?

Single lens reflex camera: A term usually applied to pre-digital cameras. A camera with one lens that moves in relation to a mirror and sensor. Older cameras sometimes had two lenses, which did not allow the photographer to get a good look at what they were photographing through the viewfinder. With SLR cameras, what the photographer sees through the viewfinder better approximates how the final photograph will actually look.

Single-Lens Reflex (SLR). A camera (most often referring to a film one these days) that uses a mirror to direct light between the viewfinder prism (for seeing and composing the scene) and the image sensor (when the shutter is activated to expose a photo).

Slave– Device that triggers a flash unit automatically when another flash is fired. The slave uses a light-sensitive photoelectric cell, and cuts down on the number of cables needed in a studio.

SLD– Stands for super-low dispersion – lens elements in Sigma lenses that reduce chromatic aberration.

Slow lens– A lens with a narrower than average maximum aperture for the focal length.– As a result, shutter speeds at the maximum aperture are longer than with ‘faster’ lenses.

Slow Sync Flash – A slow flash sync is a combination of using a flash with a slow shutter speed setting. This can allow for more ambient light to affect the exposure and create some blurring of any movement that happens while the shutter is open.

Slow sync flash– Technique in which a slow shutter speed is used in conjunction with flash. The flash usually provides the main source of illumination, but the ambient light creates– a secondary exposure that can be useful in suggesting movement, or for providing detail in a background that would otherwise have looked unnaturally dark.

SLR (Single-Lens-Reflex) Camera – An SLR camera uses a mirror and prism to direct and orientate light so an image can be seen in the camera’s viewfinder. Digital SLR cameras are called DSLR cameras.

SLT– Stands for Single Lens Translucent. This is a proprietary name for Sony A-mount cameras that use a pellicle (fixed, translucent) mirror, electronic viewfinder and phase-detection autofocus system.

Smc– Stands for super multi coating, a seven-layer coating used on Pentax lenses to reduce light reflected by the lens itself.

Snapshot aesthetic– A style of fine-art photography that uses a seemingly casual, snapshot appearance, and focuses on everyday subject matter. Photographers using this approach have included William Eggleston (born 1939), Nan Goldin (born 1953) and Wolfgang Tillmans (born 1968). It was particularly popular in 1990s fashion photography.

Snoot – A snoot is a lighting accessory that constricts the spread of light.

Snoot– A tube-like attachment in the shape of a cone or cylinder, which fits on the front of a flash unit or studio light. A snoot enables the photographer to control the direction and width of the light so that it concentrates on, or isolates, a subject.

Social documentary– Photographic genre that concentrates on recording the everyday lives of people– from different nationalities, cultures and social classes. Social documentary projects often have a particular purpose, such as the photographs of Lewis Hine (1874-1940) highlighting child labor in the early part of the 20th century, or Sebastião Salgado’s 1993 project on the conditions endured by workers in different countries around the world.

Soft Box – A softbox is a lighting accessory that softens and diffuses light. Softboxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The larger the box, the softer the light will be.

Soft Focus – Soft focus is a photography technique sometimes produced with the use of a soft-focus filter. This technique reduces contrast in an image. And, as the name suggests, it renders the image so that is it blurred, rather than sharp.

Soft focus– Slightly blurred and lacking in sharp definition. Images can be ‘soft’ due to a lens flaw, or made deliberately so to give a romantic ‘glow’ to an image. It can be achieved in-camera by attaching a soft-focus or diffuser filter to the lens, or by shooting through a piece of translucent material (for example, a section cut out from a pair of tights). It can also easily be added using post-capture software on a computer.

Soft Light – Soft light is a photography term used to describe the light that casts shadows with indefinite edges, or soft edges. This type of light is indirect and diffused, such as the sun is on a cloudy day.

Soft Light. Diffused light that does not cast hard, harsh shadows on a subject, with gradual transitions between bright and dark areas. This type of lighting typically comes from light sources that are both large and close.

Softbox– An enclosure around a flash or continuous light. The insides are lined with reflective material while the square or round front screen is made of a white opaque material that diffuses and softens the light. Softboxes can measure anything from 40cm to 2m across the front, and are often used instead of umbrellas for diffusing harsh flash light.

Softbox. A light modifier consisting of a light source within a reflective closed chamber covered with a white, translucent material that diffuses the light, making it softer and minimizing harsh shadows. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, softboxes are commonly used in portraiture and product photography.

Solarization– See Sabattier effect.

Sontag, Susan– Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was an American writer, filmmaker and prominent activist, whose series of essays collected in the book, On Photography (1977), was a groundbreaking critique of the photographic medium.

Soup– Slang term for developer.

SP– Stands for super performance, a long-standing tag found on top-of-the-range Tamron lenses.

Speedlight – A speedlight is a portable camera accessory also known as a flash. This provides an additional light source the photographer is able to control.

Split Light – Split light is a term used for portrait lighting that illuminates half of a subject’s face and leaves the other half in shadow.

Spot meter– Exposure metering system in which a meter reading is taken from a very small area in the centre of the frame. Read more: What is spot metering, and when would you use it?

Spot Metering – Spot Metering is a standard exposure metering mode on many cameras. Using this mode it is possible to take a light reading from a very small area of composition.

Spot Metering. A metering mode by which a camera (or light meter) measures the light only in a very small area, typically 1-5% of the frame. This allows the photographer to take a light reading from a specific part of the scene and use that information to set the exposure for the entire photograph.

Spray and Pray. A term used in photography to describe when a photographer rapidly takes multiple photos in quick succession, with the hope that at least one of the shots will be a “keeper,” rather than taking time to carefully compose and time each shot. While this technique can be helpful in certain types of fast-paced and/or unpredictable photography, such as sports or wildlife, it is often looked down upon as being “amateur.”

sRGB – sRGB is a color space or color profile, that is based on RGB. It is similar to Adobe RGB.

sRGB– RGB color space frequently used by digital cameras, but providing a narrower range of colors, or ‘gamut’, than the Adobe RGB space.

SSM– Stands for supersonic motor, used for high-speed autofocus in top-of-the-range Sony lenses.

Standard Lens – A standard lens is one with a focal length that provides a field of view that is similar to what we see with our eyes but not including our peripheral vision.

Standard lens– A focal length of lens roughly equal to the diagonal of the image sensor area. Typically, standard lenses have an effective focal length of around 50mm.

Steichen, Edward– Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was an American fashion and portrait photographer. As Chief Photographer at Condé Nast publications in the 1920s and 1930s, he was the most famous (and reputedly the highest-paid) photographer in the world. He was Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947-1962 and in 1955 organized the Family of Man exhibition, seen by over nine million people.

Stieglitz, Alfred– An important advocate for photography as an artistic medium, Stieglitz (1864-1946) formed the Camera Club of New York in 1896 and edited the magazine Camera Notes. He formed the Photo-Secession in 1902, a group of leading photographers that argued that artistic expression was the most important thing about photography. His ideas influenced a generation of photographers.

Still-life photography– Following in the centuries-old tradition of still-life painting, still-life photographs focus on single or small groups of objects. They can be shot indoors or outdoors, using daylight or artificial light, and are usually carefully arranged by the photographer. Notable still-life photographers include Edward Weston (1886-1958) and Irving Penn (1917-2009).

Stitching– Combining two or more overlapping images of a subject to create one seamless panoramic or high-resolution image. It can be achieved via dedicated software programs such as Autostitch or Canon’s Photostitch, or using the Photomerge feature in Photoshop.

Stop – Stop is a photography term used to describe the measure of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. An increment of one-stop either halves or doubles the amount of light affecting an exposure.

Stop– A unit of exposure. Changing exposure by a single stop is equivalent to doubling or halving the amount of light reaching the image sensor. The distance between each– of the standard aperture settings (f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/16 etc.) is a full stop. Digital SLRs usually provide a number of intermediate half-stop or third-stop settings.

Stop down– Close down the camera’s aperture. The opposite term is ‘open up’.

Stop Up/Down. Adjusting the aperture of the camera lens to control the amount of light that enters the camera. Stopping up light by one stop means opening up the aperture to the next lower number on the f-stop scale, thereby doubling the amount of light entering the camera. To stop down means to close the aperture to the next highest number, halving the light.

Stop. A unit used to describe ratios of light or exposure. Each change in stop refers to a change by a factor of two — an added stop is double the light or exposure, and each subtracted stop is half the light or exposure. A one-stop unit is also referred to as the exposure value (EV) unit. Aperture stops are adjusted by changing f-stops, and increasing or decreasing f-stops involves doubling or halving the size of the area of the aperture pupil.

Stopping Down – Stopping down is a term used to describe the decreasing of the size of the aperture in a camera lens. Changing the f-stop number from a lower number to a higher one and thus reducing the amount of light passing through the lens.

Straight Out of Camera (SOOC). Photos as they were captured by the camera without any additional post-processing afterward prior to it being displayed.

Straight Photography. Also known as pure photography.

Street photography– Photographs taken in public places that record human behavior or interaction in– a way that comments on society or life in general. Street photographers aim to capture life as it happens and usually take pictures when people are unaware. Those who have worked in this broad genre include Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), Robert Frank (born 1924), and Garry Winogrand (1928-1884).

Street Photography. A genre of photography that captures everyday life and human interaction in public spaces, often in urban environments and on sidewalks and streets (hence the name). Practitioners aim to capture candid, spontaneous moments and emotions in an unposed and unstaged manner to create an artistic record of that place and time.

Strobe Light –A strobe light is one that produces a very bright burst of light when triggered. These are commonly used in photography studios. Good quality strobe lights have controls to regulate the output of the light. There are also many accessories such as snoots, umbrellas, and softboxes that are used with strobe lights.

Strobe light– Also called a stroboscopic lamp, this light source produces flashes of light (usually around 200 microseconds in length) at regular intervals. In photography, it’s been used to make high-speed images of subjects that move too fast for the eye to see, such as a bullet zipping through the air. Strobe lights have also been used to capture multiple images of a moving subject in one image, for example in the photographs of dancers by Gjon Mili (1904-1984).

Strobe. Another term for flash. While strobe and flash are typically used interchangeably in modern photography, a strobe often refers to a larger type of off-camera flash that is not mounted to a camera’s hot shoe while a flash is a more general term that can include both on-camera and off-camera devices.

Subtractive Lighting –Subtractive lighting is the blocking of light affecting a composition. When there’s too much light, especially hard light, accessories can be placed between the light and the subject so less light is falling on the subject.

Sunny 16. A rule of thumb for determining the correct exposure settings for outdoor photography in full sunlight. It states that on a sunny day, when the ISO is set to 100, the correct aperture should be f/16 and the correct shutter speed should be the reciprocal of the ISO (e.g. ISO 100 and 1/100s shutter speed). This rule can be useful for photographers who don’t have a light meter and want to estimate a proper exposure quickly.

Super-Telephoto Lens. A lens with an extreme telephoto focal length designed to shoot close-up photos of far-away subjects in fields such as sports, wildlife, and news photography. While there is no exact standard for what distinguishes a standard telephoto lens from a super-telephoto lens, any lens with a focal length greater than about 300mm is generally considered to be a super-telephoto.

Superzoom (Ultrazoom) –A superzoom is a zoom lens with a very diverse focal length range, from very wide-angle to extreme telephoto.

Superzoom– A lens with an unusually large focal length range. Current superzoom examples available for D-SLR cameras include the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC and the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM. Some of the largest superzooms are found on bridge cameras; the Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a 125x optical zoom, for example, which is equivalent to 24-3000mm. Bridge cameras themselves are sometimes called ‘superzooms’ or ‘ultrazooms’.

Swinger, Polaroid– A name used on some of the affordable and easy-to-use range of instant cameras produced by the Polaroid Corporation in the 1960s and 1970s.

SWM– Silent wave motor, the high-speed quiet autofocus motor used on Nikon’s AF-S lenses.

Sync speed– The fastest shutter speed that can be set on a camera that enables synchronization with the flash. See flash synchronization.

Sync Speed –The sync speed on a camera is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with a flash. This varies from camera to camera. When the shutter speed is set to a faster speed than the sync speed the shutter may not release or the camera may automatically reduce the shutter speed to the sync speed.

Sync Speed. Also known as flash sync speed, this is the maximum shutter speed a camera can use while still synchronizing with an external flash unit. If shutter speed is set any faster than this limit, the camera’s shutter will not fully open before the flash has completed its exposure, causing a dark band in the image. The sync speed can vary depending on the camera and flash setup but is typically around 1/200 to 1/250 of a second. To go beyond this native sync, flashes commonly offer a feature called high-speed sync (HSS).


Table-top photography– Images of small objects or a miniature scene, arranged on a table top.

Talbotype– See calotype.

Teleconverter– A supplementary lens used between a primary lens and the camera body to increase the focal length range of the primary lens. For example, a 1.4 teleconverter on a 200mm lens will increase the focal length to 280mm, but causes a corresponding one-stop reduction in the maximum aperture size. Read more: What is a teleconverter?

Teleconverter –A teleconverter is an accessory that mounts to the camera body and the lens is then attached to it. The function of a teleconverter is to increase the effective focal length of the lens.

Teleconverter. An accessory that fits between a camera and lens to extend the focal length of the attached lens, typically by 1.4x or 2x. Tradeoffs generally include less light transmitted, poorer image quality, and slower autofocus.

Telephoto– A term generally used to describe any long-focus lens (in full-frame photography, a lens with a focal length of 85mm upwards). However, telephoto technically refers to a long-focus lens in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than its focal length, a design feat achieved by its internal lens assembly.

Telephoto Lens –Telephoto lenses have a focal length of more than 100mm. This style of lens has the effect of making the subject in a photo look larger. Distance has the appearance of being compressed in photos taken with telephoto lenses. The longer the focal length is the more compression occurs.

Telephoto Lens. A type of lens designed to capture distant objects with a magnified field of view. They have a longer focal length than normal lenses, which allows them to bring far-off subjects closer and capture more detail. Telephoto lenses are often used by photographers in genres such as sports, wildlife, and portrait photography.

Telephoto lens: Lenses that specialize in long-range photography and make the subject appear closer to the camera. Telephoto lenses tend to be large, and their focal length is shorter than their physical length. Because of this, objects like far-off wildlife appear much closer.

Terabyte (TB)– Unit for measuring computer memory or disk storage capacity, which is roughly equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes.

Tethered Shooting. When a photographer’s camera is physically connected to a computer or other device during a photo shoot, usually through a USB cable or wireless link. This setup allows the photographer to view the images on a larger screen in real time and make adjustments to the camera’s settings, such as focus and exposure. Tethered shooting is commonly used in professional studio photography, product photography, and other applications where precision, review speed, and control are important.

TFT (thin film transistor)– High-quality color LCD technology, widely used for rear displays on digital cameras.

Three-quarters lighting– Used in portraiture, this style of lighting is created by placing a light at approximately 45 degrees from each side of the centre line of the face. It lights three quarters of the face, leaving a shadow area along the side opposite to the light that gives the face depth and volume.

Thumbnail– A small, low-resolution version of a larger image. It’s often used in image management applications such as Adobe Bridge and Organizer to make it easier and faster to search through and preview your photo collection. The small representations of each layer in the Layers panel in Photoshop and similar software are also referred to as thumbnails.

Thumbnail –A thumbnail image is a small-sized, often low resolution, digital photo used as a reference.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format)– Digital image format used to record files with maximum available detail. Files can be large, although this can be reduced using lossless compression.

TIFF (Tagged-Image File Format) –TIFF stands for ‘tag image file format’. This is a lossless file format that is commonly used in digital photography using the .tif file name extension.

TIFF. Tag Image File Format. Also abbreviated TIF, this is a file format for storing raster graphics images that is commonly used in photography. TIFF files can store photos in a lossless format, meaning image quality is not lost when images are edited and resaved, making it popular as an archival format.

TIFF: Stands for tagged image file format. A popular format for storing high-resolution raster graphics — graphics made of a set number of pixels. JPG and PNG are other image file types that TIFFs can be converted into.

Tilt-shift Lens –A tilt-shift lens is a specialist type of camera lens that can be adjusted to manipulate perspective. This type of lens is commonly used by architectural photographers as it allows for the correction of perspective distortions that can occur when using wide angle lenses.

Tilt-Shift Lens. A type of camera lens in which the orientation of the lens relative to the camera body can be adjusted, allowing the photographer to control the plane of focus, shift the perspective, and correct distortion. Tilt-shift lenses are commonly used in architectural, product, and landscape photography to correct perspective distortion and create a selective focus effect.

Time exposure– See long exposure.

Time Exposure –Time exposure is also known as a slow shutter speed or long exposure. Using this technique the photographer leaves the camera shutter open for long periods of time. The amount of time can be controlled by the camera, or manually when the camera is set to Bulb mode.

Time Lapse –Time lapse photography captures a sequence of images taken over a period of time. These photos are then used to create a video giving the appearance of time moving faster than normal.

Time of Flight camera– A camera that can measure the distance of objects in the scene in a fraction of a second and then use this information for collision detection, for example, or for augmented reality (AR) imaging or for depth of field simulation in camera phones like the Portrait mode in iPhones. Read more: What is a Time of Flight camera?

Time-lapse– Technique where pictures are taken of the same subject at regular intervals, then combined into moving video footage. Some time-lapse photographers record– an event that takes place over a long period of time, such as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis or a flower opening its petals. See also best timelapse cameras

Timelapse. A photography technique where a series of photos are taken over a specific period of time and then played back in rapid succession to create a video that appears to show fast motion or the rapid passage of time. The interval between each photo can range from a few seconds to several hours, depending on the desired effect. If the camera moves a significant distance during the video, it is often referred to as a hyperlapse.

TLR– Stands for twin-lens reflex. A TLR film camera has two lenses of the same focal length; one is used for taking the picture while the other provides the image for the waist-level viewfinder, seen via a 45-degree mirror. The two lenses are connected so that focusing is the same on both lenses. See the Rise and fall of the TLR.

Tog– Short form for ‘photographer’.

Tonal Range –The tonal range of an image is the measure from the darkest to the lightest areas and all the tone values represented in between.

Tonal Range. The full range of brightness levels in an image, or the number of distinct values of gray, from the darkest blacks to the brightest whites.

Tonal range: Tonal range is the total number of tones in an image, from its darkest to its brightest area. A wider tonal range allows for a higher variety of shades, which translates into more detail. In black and white photography, this translated into shades of gray. In digital photography, tonal range is directly affected by dynamic range.

Tonality –Tonality in photography terms is similar to tone range. It refers to the appearance of tones in a photograph.

Tone mapping– A technique used in image processing to reduce the range of tonal values in a high dynamic range image, so it looks more natural when shown on a computer monitor or in print.

Tone –Tone refers to the levels of brightness in a photograph.

Toning– Changing the color of a black-and-white print or digital image. In traditional photography, black-and-white prints are usually toned using chemicals to change the metallic silver in the print emulsion to a silver compound. This happens in sepia and selenium toning. Other processes, such as platinum and gold toning, are known as metal-replacement toners. Similar effects can be produced in digital images using post-processing techniques.

Toning –Toning in photography is a technique used to add or alter the color in a monochromatic photograph. In the past sepia toning was popular, being used to add a light brown tone to black and white pictures.

Toy camera– An inexpensive and easy-to-use film camera, such as the Holga, Lubitel, Lomo LC-A and Diana. Their lens quality and general build leads to vignetting, image blur, distortion and light leaks, but many photographers enjoy incorporating these flaws into their images for artistic effect.

Transform– A Photoshop tool used to scale, rotate, reduce, enlarge, distort or change the perspective of a layer, selection or shape.

Travel photography– A genre of photography that concentrates on documenting the landscape, people, culture and customs of a country.

TripodA three-legged camera support.

Tripod –A tripod is a photography accessory with three legs used to mount a camera on. Mounting a camera on a tripod is accomplished with a standard sized threaded hole in the base of the camera. Using a tripod allows a photographer to use much slower shutter speeds than can be achieved effectively when hand-holding the camera.

Tripod bush– Threaded socket found on the base of cameras, used for attaching tripods and other accessories.

Tripod. A three-legged stand used to support a camera to keep it stable and reduce shake during the course of a photographic exposure, particularly with slow shutter speeds and/or in low-light environments.

TS-E– Tilt-shift electronic – Canon’s range of perspective control shift lenses.

TTL– (through the lens) metering– An exposure metering system in which the intensity of light is measured through the camera lens.

TTL (Through-the-lens) –TTL metering measures light as it passes through the camera lens and affects the sensor. This is part of the built-in exposure metering system in cameras and generally provides a more accurate light reading than a handheld exposure meter.

TTL. Through the lens. A method of metering light in which the intensity of light that’s reflected from the scene is measured through the lens, as opposed to having a separate light detector or an off-camera light meter. Also a flash mode that uses the camera’s built-in light metering to determine optimal flash output for the correct exposure.

Tungsten Light –Tungsten light is an older style of electric lighting that produces a warm color temperature of about 3200 Kelvin.

Tungsten lighting– A type of bulb lighting that has a warm color temperature of between 2,600 and 3,500K.

Tv (time value)– Abbreviation used for shutter priority on some cameras.

Twin Lens Reflex –A twin lens relex camera has two lenses, usually configured with one above the other. Behind the top lens is a mirror that reflects the light onto a ground glass screen in the top of the camera so the photographer can see an image.

Twin-Lens Reflex (TLR). A type of camera that uses two lenses of the same focal length. One of the lenses is used for the viewfinder system while the other is used to capture the photograph.

UD– Stands for ultra-low dispersion, a type of glass used in Canon lenses to reduce chromatic aberration in the image.

Ultra-low Dispersion (ULD) –Ultra-low Dispersion glass is used in camera lenses and was developed to help overcome chromatic aberrations.

Ultrasonic Motor –Ultrasonic Motors are used to focus auto-focus lenses. These are tiny motors built into higher-end camera lenses.

Umbrella– An umbrella is used in a studio to reflect and diffuse light from a flash unit,– creating a softer and more even light. The most common types are the white shoot-through umbrella, which is used between the flash and the subject, or the black umbrella with a reflective silver or white underside that bounces flash light back on to the subject.

Umbrella. A lighting accessory, shaped like a rain-blocking type of umbrella, that is used to soften and diffuse light from a flash or continuous light source. Umbrellas come in two main types: shoot-through umbrellas, which allow light to pass through the material and be redirected toward the subject, and reflector umbrellas, which reflect the light back toward the subject after bouncing it off the inside of the umbrella

Under-exposure– An insufficient exposure for the subject to retain all the shadow details, so that darker areas become black or almost black. The greater the under-exposure, the darker the image. This may be a conscious choice for artistic reasons.

Underexposure –Underexposure is what happens to a photograph when insufficient light affects the sensor or film. The result is that the photo looks too dark because the sensor or film has not been exposed to enough light to make a correct exposure.

Underexposure. When an image is captured with too little light, either due to camera settings or the lack of light available, resulting in a dark or dim image. This can cause a loss of detail in the shadows and darker areas of the image and may make colors look dull or washed out.

Underexposure: Underexposure means that the exposure value was lower than necessary, resulting in a photo that is too dark to produce normal contrast.

Underwater housing / waterproof housing– A sealed container specifically made to protect particular cameras from damage– in underwater photography, and that allow controls to be accessed and operated as normal.

Unsharp Mask –An unsharp mask is used during image post-processing and has the effect of emphasizing texture and detail where there are contrasting edges in an image. The name suggests that it will make an image less sharp. Many people believe that will make an out-of-focus image become more sharp. Generally, effects of using an unsharp mask have minimal effect on correcting an out of focus photograph. Used aggressively an unsharp mask will create very unnatural results in a photograph.

Unsharp Mask– One of the most popular Photoshop tools for increasing sharpness in a digital image. It gets its curious name from a traditional print process, where a soft focus negative– is sandwiched with the sharp original in order to increase edge contrast.

Urban Exploration. Also known as urbex, this is a type of photography that focuses on capturing the beauty and history of abandoned or forgotten urban spaces, such as buildings, tunnels, and infrastructure. Urban explorers and photographers often seek out and enter these off-limits spaces (possibly trespassing in the process) to document the decay, graffiti, and other unique features that are not seen by the general public.

USB 3.0– The third version of the Universal Serial Bus standard for connection and communication between computer peripherals (including digital cameras and printers) and personal computers. It was released in 2008 and was further updated to USB 3.1 in 2013.

USD– Stands for ultrasonic silent drive, Tamron’s fast, quiet AF motor.

USM– Stands for ultrasonic motor, a fast, low-noise autofocus motor used by some Canon lenses.

UV (Ultraviolet) Filter –A UV filter reduces the ultraviolet rays entering the lens and affecting the photograph. These filters also help protect the front lens element from being damaged. They are sometimes known as haze filters.

UV filterAn optical filter that absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It can be used to improve visibility and quality in mountain and maritime landscapes. Many use them to protect the front of the lens.

Variable contrast– A type of photographic printing paper that, in the wet darkroom, allows a range– of contrast grades to be produced by changing the color of the filter in the enlarger head.

VC– Stands for vibration compensation,– the name of the optical camera shake-reduction system fitted on some Tamron lenses.

V-flat. A large, flat panel, usually made of foam board or cardboard, used in photography as a lighting tool to modify the light in a scene. The “V” shape created when two panels are placed together allows for more precise control of light reflections, highlights, and shadows. They can be used to reflect light onto a subject or to block light, creating negative fill.

Vibrance– A slider available in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop that enables you to increase the saturation of colors. It doesn’t increase saturation universally – it concentrates on colors that are not saturated already, with a more limited effect on colors that are already intense. This often leads to a more visually pleasing result.

Vibrance –Vibrance is a control used in image post-processing software to control the level of intensity of some colors.

Vibrance. A smart photo-editing tool coined by Adobe and found in software such as Photoshop and Lightroom that allows a photographer to increase the saturation of less-saturated colors while leaving already-saturated colors unchanged.

Vibrance: Vibrance is a post-processing photography term coined by Adobe used to describe a “smart” saturation setting. Unlike the saturation slider, which increases all colors’ pureness equally, vibrance only affects those colors that are less saturated than the rest.

Vibration Reduction (VR) –Vibration Reduction is also known as image stabilization (IS) and Anti-Shake (AS). This is a technology used in some camera bodies and some lenses to help reduce the effect of blurring caused while an exposure is being made.

View camera– A large-format film camera that uses sheet film. Depending on the camera design, film sizes can range from 5×4 inches to 20×24 inches. All view cameras have a front standard with a lens mount and a rear standard with a film holder and ground glass screen for focusing. Both standards can be moved backwards and forwards and at different angles to alter perspective, focus and depth of field. They are connected by a flexible and extendable bellows. View cameras can be used with digital backs instead of film.

Viewfinder –The viewfinder is the part of a camera that you look through. It can be optical or electronic. Mirrorless cameras use electronic viewfinders and reflex cameras have optical viewfinders.

Viewfinder. A device in or attached to a camera that a photographer looks through to frame and compose the shot. There are optical viewfinders (OVF) with a view of the real world, electronic viewfinders (EVF) with a view on a small digital display, or hybrid viewfinders that combine the two.

Viewfinder: What the photographer looks through to take a picture. With a single-lens reflex camera the photographer can actually look through the camera’s optical equipment to see their subjects. Most cameras today have electronic viewfinders, which is a digital display of what the camera lens will capture when the shutter is closed.

Vignetting– Darkening of the corners of an image. This appearance is often deliberately created to highlight a subject in the centre of the image, and can be applied by digitally burning in corners in Photoshop. It’s also commonly seen in images taken with toy cameras such as the Holga. If vignetting is unintended, it’s usually due to lens fall-off, and can be corrected using post-processing software. Read more: What are lens aberrations? Lens defects explained

Vignetting –This is the effect of darkening or lightening the edges of an image with the aim of emphasizing the main subject.

Vignetting. When the corners of an image appear darker or have reduced brightness compared to the center of the image. This effect can be naturally occurring due to the design of the lens, or it can be added artificially during post-processing to create a desired aesthetic effect.

Vignetting: Vignetting is a common occurrence in photography in which the edges of an image appear less bright and desaturated, specially on the corners. Nowadays, most post-processing programs can automatically detect a lens that is vignetting and correct it seamlessly.

Vignetting: Reducing an image’s brightness along the borders. Often, this effect draws the eye to a brighter central part of the image and can make the image look like it’s viewed through a hole or telescope.

Visualization –Visualization, or pre-Visualization, is the practice of imagining how a photo will look before it’s taken.

VR– Stands for vibration reduction, Nikon’s name for its image-stabilization system. Read more: What is image stabilization, and how does it work?

Watermark –A watermark is a visual reference placed on a digital image or print by a photographer to help protect the image from being copied illegally.

Watermark– An element embedded in a digital image, such as the photographer’s name or a symbol, to show ownership and prevent images being used without the copyright owner’s permission.

Watermark Watermark is a piece of text or image added to a photo in order to identify ownership of its copyright. The most common type of watermark is a somewhat transparent version of the owner’s photography logo. General opinion on the use of watermarks is strongly divided, with passionate advocates and fervent critics.

Watermark. A translucent or transparent logo or graphic image added to a photo to assert ownership or protection against unauthorized use. It is typically placed in a noticeable location on the photo, such as the center or corner, to make it difficult to remove or crop out. The purpose of a watermark is to prevent image theft, establish copyright over the image, or show a preview to a client without delivering the final product.

Waterproof/weatherproof– A waterproof camera is one that can be submerged and used underwater without harm, while a weatherproof camera can withstand rain, cold and dust but is not waterproof. Read more: What are waterproof and weatherproof cameras?

Wedding Photography. The genre of photography that involves capturing the moments and memories of a couple on or around their wedding day. A wedding photographer may be hired to shoot everything from the ceremony and reception to portraits of the couple at a different location.

Weston, Edward– Edward Weston (1886-1958) was one of the major American fine-art photographers of the 20th century. His aim was, he said, to “make the commonplace unusual.” His photographs were clear and detailed representations of landscapes, portraits, nudes, and, most famously, still-life subjects such as seashells and peppers.

White Balance (WB). The adjusting of color intensities in a scene that have a color cast caused by different light sources with different color temperatures. The goal is usually to reach natural/correct colors that reflect what the human eye sees.

White balance– Digital camera system that sets the color temperature for the scene being photographed. This can be set automatically, with the system attempting to set the color so that it looks normal to the human eye. Most DSLRs also offer a wide selection of manual white balance settings – where the WB can be set from a reference source (such as a piece of white card), or to a particular Kelvin value, or to a lighting type (such as sunny daylight or tungsten bulb lighting). Read more: What is white balance?

White balance White balance is the adjustment done to an image in order to compensate for the temperature of the light illuminating the scene. Cameras offer a few pre-set values based on the most common types of illumination, but it can also be set manually during or after the shot.

White Balance –White Balance is the process of correcting the color balance in a digital photograph. It can be controlled in camera or during post-processing of RAW files. It is the correction of light temperature by adding a filter so white appears white and colors in the image look natural.

White balanceThe practice in digital photography of making the colors look more natural. White in particular can look blue or yellow depending on the color temperature of light. You can adjust the white balance to ensure that white looks white, and other colors look accurate as well.

Wide Angle Lens –A wide angle lens generally has a field of view of 50 degrees or wider. This can be either as part of the focal length of a zoom lens or a prime lens. These are often preferred by landscape photographers.

Wide Open. Shooting with the lens aperture set to its maximum aperture, or the smallest f-number, such as f/1.4 or f/2. This results in a very shallow depth of field, a blurred background, and increased light.

Wide-angle lensA lens with a focal length shorter than the ‘normal’ lens (that is, the lens that gives the most true-to-life field of view) for a given format. In the 35mm format, focal lengths from 35mm to 24mm are considered wide-angle, while lenses from 21mm to 12mm are generally described as ultra wide-angle.

Wide-Angle Lens. A lens with a short focal length that allows for capturing a wider field of view than a standard or normal lens. It’s often used in landscape, architectural, and interior photography to capture more of the scene in a single shot. The wider field of view means that subjects at the center of the frame will appear smaller in relation to those at the edges, which can result in a more dramatic perspective and a sense of depth. A lens is typically considered to be wide-angle when it has an angle of view greater than 64°, or the equivalent of a 35mm lens in full frame.

Wide-angle lens: A lens whose focal length is shorter than its physical length. Allows for a wider field of view, good for landscapes, architecture photography, and large group photos.

Wildlife Photography. A genre of photography that focuses on capturing images of wild animals and their habitats. It can include capturing images of individual animals, groups of animals, or entire ecosystems and landscapes.

WR– Weather resistant – a term found on certain Pentax lenses.

Wratten number– A code for labeling optical filters, named after the inventor Frederick Wratten (1840-1926). Each separate color has a number (orange filters, for example, have the number 81) and some have letters to indicate the strength of the filter (an 81EF is much stronger than an 81A, for example).

xD Cards –xD Cards are a type of flash memory storage device used in modern digital cameras.

XLD– Stands for extra low dispersion, the glass used in some Tamron lenses to reduce chromatic aberration.

XMP– Stands for extensible metadata platform. A labelling technology used by a number of image-editing programs, including the Photoshop family. It records information about a file, and is usually embedded within the file itself. With raw files, the XMP information is recorded separately.

XR– Stands for extra refractive, a type of glass used in Tamron lenses. It can bend light at wider angles than normal glass, helping to make the overall size of the– lens smaller.

Yellow filter– In film photography, yellow filters were often used by black-and-white landscape photographers to darken a blue sky and brighten the landscape.

Yellow filter: Yellow filter is one of the most popular types of color filters on black and white photography. When shooting monochromatic pictures, color filters are used to block a specific color from reaching the sensor in order to modify the image’s tonal qualities.

Yevonde, Madame– Madame Yevonde (1893-1975) popularized the use of color in portrait photography– in the early 1930s. She’s most famous for her studio portraits of the mid-1930s that made creative use of and props.

ZA– Stands for Zeiss Alpha – a range of Sony lenses designed by Carl Zeiss.

Zebra Pattern. A visual representation of the exposure values on a camera’s viewfinder or LCD screen, typically in the form of diagonal striped lines (hence the name) over portions of a scene or image that are overexposed. These alerts help a photographer or videographer prevent scenes from being “blown out” with clipping and lost details in the highlights.

Zone system– The Zone system is a systematic technique for calculating the best possible film exposure and development. It was formulated in around 1940 by photographers Ansel Adams (1902-84) and Fred Archer (1889-1963).

Zone System –The Zone System provides photographers with a scientific method to evaluate the tone range in a composition. It also guides the photographer to adjust the camera’s exposure settings to capture an image the way the photographer imagines it. American photographers Ansel Adams and Fred Archer developed the Zone System. They came up with it to help them be more scientific and precise about black and white sheet film exposure and processing. This was long before the invention of digital photography. It was also a long time before the addition of auto and semi-auto modes to cameras. Back when photographers had no option but to carefully consider the light and how to best control their exposure settings.

Zone System. A systematic approach developed by Ansel Adams for determining and controlling the exposure values in a photograph. It assigns a series of 11 brightness values, or “zones,” to a scene, with Zone 0 being pure black and Zone X (Roman numeral 10) being pure white. By understanding the relationship between these zones, a photographer can visualize the final image and make precise exposure decisions to control the placement of tones within the image.

Zoom– A lens with a variable angle of view. On a zoom lens, the focal length can be changed while the focus remains the same.

Zoom Lens –A zoom lens is one that has a variable focal length. This allows a photographer to capture a wider or narrower field of view of what they are photographing. These lenses constrain arrays of glass elements to produce high-quality images. Optical zoom is achieved by using a zoom lens. Digital zoom is achieved by enlarging a portion of an image and producing lower quality results than using a zoom lens.

Zoom lens: A lens with an adjustable focal length, allowing the photographer to quickly change the angle of view without swapping out lenses. Popular with photojournalists and event photographers, who have to capture events as they happen, due to its flexibility and versatility in the moment.

Zoom ratio– The relationship between the shortest and longest focal length setting of a zoom lens. For example, a 14-42mm lens has a zoom ratio of 3:1, or 3x; a 50–500mm lens has a zoom ratio of 10:1, or 10x.

Zoom Ratio –The zoom ratio is the ratio between the shortest focal length and the maximum focal length of a zoom lens. This measurement is commonly used in labeling on compact cameras with fixed lenses and indicated by 5X, 10X, etc.

Zoom. The ability of a lens to change its focal length and magnify a subject from a distance. A zoom lens allows a photographer to change the angle of view and perspective of a scene without physically moving closer to or further away from the subject. This can be particularly useful for capturing images of wildlife, sports, and other subjects that are difficult to approach. Zoom can be either optical (adjusting the position of lens elements to achieve the magnification) or digital (a lower-quality result achieved by essentially cropping the photo).

Zoom: Zoom lens are those whose focal length can be modified, allowing photographers to make the subject appear closer than it really is. This type of lenses is much more popular than prime lenses, as it offers more flexibility.

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