Photography terms explained: Photo glossary of regularly used camera and photography terms
Glossary of photography terms
Use our glossary of photography terms to help understand frequently used terms
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The lens opening through which light passes, measured in f-stops. The larger the f-stop number, f/22 for example, the smaller the hole and so the less light let in. Apart from governing the ﬂow of light, it can also be used to control depth of ﬁeld.
APERTURE PRIORITY MODE
A semi automatic Program mode that allows you to determine the aperture, while the camera takes
care of setting the shutter speed.
See Programmed Exposure mode.
A method by which your camera uses a detection system and motor to bring the subject into sharp focus without your intervention.
AV (APERTURE VALUE)
See Aperture Priority mode.
The simple code (made up of zeroes and ones) that a computer uses to store information.
A type of digital camera that bridges the gap between compact and DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reﬂex) cameras in terms of features and sophistication. Commonly features an electronic viewﬁnder and a large zoom capability, as, unlike a DSLR, the lens cannot be removed and swapped.
A device for reading/writing data stored on a memory card.
CENTRE WEIGHTED METERING
Exposure metering pattern that measures exposure from an area situated towards the centre of the frame.
CCD (CHARGED COUPLED DEVICE)
The most commonly used digital camera sensor. Others include CMOS and Foveon.
CD (COMPACT DISC)
Optical medium used for storing digital data – can be read only, write once or re-writable.
A colour aberration that masks the true colours of an image – usually caused by light that has a single dominant colour and a mismatched white balance setting.
A COLOUR CAST can spoil or make a picture. Here we have an instance where tungsten light has
given the picture a vivid orange cast when the scene was shot using Daylight White balance
setting. A corrected photograph would not be nearly as striking.
COMPACT DIGITAL CAMERA
A pocket sized digital camera usually with an LCD viewﬁnder and ﬁxed zoom lens.
A system for reducing the size of a digital ﬁle by removing information deemed unnecessary. This allows more pictures to be saved within the available memory capacity, but at a lower image quality. The most common compressed image ﬁle format is JPEG.
DEPTH OF FIELD
A reference to the amount of
an image that is sharply in focus;
subjects behind and in front of plane
of focus will vary in their degree of
sharpness depending on the depth
of ﬁeld. Small apertures increase
depth of ﬁeld while large apertures
(DIGITAL SINGLE LENS REFLEX)
A type of camera that uses a reﬂex
mirror to allow you a direct view
through the same lens as that used
to take the picture. Another bonus
is that its lens can be swapped to
best suit your subject matter and
shooting conditions. So for keen
amateurs and professionals wanting
the best quality images available, a
DSLR has to be the top choice.
Accessory camera back which can
be ﬁtted to the likes of a medium
format camera, converting it to a
digital camera. Usually used by high-
end professional photographers only.
DPI (DOTS PER INCH)
A measure of output resolution,
independent of ﬁle quality – usually
used to describe printer resolution.
DVD (DIGITAL VERSATILE DISC)
Optical medium used for storing
digital data – can be read only, write
once or re-writable. Has a greater
storage capacity than the alternative
of a CD.
DYE SUBLIMATION PRINTER
A printing device that uses heat to
transfer dye from a roll or sheet of
ribbon onto photographic paper.
A generic term to describe a system
of light metering that takes into ac-
count the amount of light reﬂecting
from all areas of the scene. Also
known as matrix metering and
EXIF (EXCHANGEABLE IMAGE
Information including exposure,
focal length and Program Mode
is recorded by your camera and
stored on your memory card along
with your image. The information
can then be viewed later on your
Creative camera control that allows
you to measure exposure from a
speciﬁc area of the frame and then
lock that reading before re-framing
A lens with a large maximum aper-
ture that allows a greater quantity of
light to pass through and so on to
FIELD OF VIEW
The amount of a scene that a lens
can capture, normally calculated
as the angle across the diagonal of
the frame and expressed in degrees.
Telephoto lenses have a narrow
ﬁeld of view, while wide angle lenses
have a large ﬁeld of view.
A standard used to store a digital
ﬁle. Common formats for photos
include JPEG, TIFF and RAW.
A burst of ﬂash combined with
ambient light in an exposure. Used
to reduce contrast in a scene.
FIXED FOCAL LENGTH
A lens with a single focal length that
cannot be adjusted to provide a
different ﬁeld of view.
A lens that is ﬁxed to the camera
body and therefore cannot be
changed by the photographer.
A term that, when mentioned in
connection with an image, means
lacking in contrast.
The ﬁeld of view of a lens, which is
measured in millimetres. The shorter
the focal length, the wider ﬁeld of
view a given camera will have; the
longer the focal length, the narrower
the ﬁeld of view.
System that allows the photogra-
pher to direct focus on a subject
not in the centre of the frame and
recompose it while maintaining the
initial focus setting.
Function to delete all information/
pictures on a memory card and
return it to its original empty state,
so that it can be re-ﬁlled with great
A term used to describe operat-
ing your camera without use of
additional means of support, such as
A computer disc drive that is used
to store programs and ﬁles. Can be
internal or external.
The brightest of the light tones in an
image or scene.
A graphical representation of the
number of individual tonal values in
IMAGE EDITING SOFTWARE
Computer software designed to
process and edit images after they
have been captured.
Printer that uses a heated head
to eject ink through microscopic
Process that is used to increase
image size by inserting new pixels
between existing ones.
be used to add to the
amount of pixels in an
image but interpolate too
many pixels and image
quality will suffer, as in the
right half of this example.
For top quality capture,
retain as many pixels as
Abbreviation for the International
Standards Organisation. Measure of
sensitivity to light of a ﬁlm or sensor;
the advantage of a digital camera
being that ISO can be adjusted from
shot to shot.
Abbreviation of the Joint Photo-
graphic Experts Group and the
name given to the most commonly
used image ﬁle format. Allows
more images to be saved in a
given memory space than TIFF or
RAW ﬁles, but at a lower quality.
Type of camera where the sensor or
ﬁlm area is greater than 4×5-inches.
LCD (LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY)
A data display panel common on
cameras and accessories, capable of
displaying text or imagery.
Common term used to describe
any extreme close-up photography.
MACRO and close-up
photography can make
the most surprising
objects into exciting
pictures. Here a binding
from a folder becomes an
abstract world once we
get in really close.
See Evaluative metering.
A digital ﬁle storage medium in
the form of an interchangeable or
removable card of varying capacities.
A system to measure light, used to
enable a correct amount of light to
reach the sensor.
The areas of a framed shot
measured by the metering system
– see Spot, Centre weighted and
Evaluative metering patterns.
A tone in the middle of a tonal
range, either in a scene or in a
representation of a scene.
The digital equivalent of ﬁlm grain,
characterised by multi-coloured
dots in darker areas of an image.
Think of a fuzzy TV signal suffering in
visibility the higher up the ISO range
you go when shooting in low light
A non-electronic viewﬁnder that
allows a direct view, rather than via
a LCD screen.
A form of camera where a tiny ‘pin’
hole is used to focus light onto ﬁlm
or sensor – without the aid of a
glass lens element. Characterised by
a soft image, lacking in sharp detail.
Term derived from the words
Picture Element that denotes an
individual unit of information in an
image. In theory, the more pixels the
more detailed the picture, though
lens and the camera’s processor also
have their roles to play.
A term used to describe instances
when the individual pixels that make
up an image are visible – usually
occurring when a low-resolution
image is enlarged more than it
PLANE OF FOCUS
Where your lens has focused the
scene in the picture. Subjects in
front of and behind of this plane will
be less sharply deﬁned.
POINT AND SHOOT
A fully automatic, usually compact,
camera with few or no manual
features that allow the user direct
control over the image.
Program mode that generally
restricts depth of ﬁeld in order to
emphasise your subject rather than
a possibly distracting background.
PPI (PIXELS PER INCH)
A term that relates to the pixel
density and resolution of an image.
Often confused with DPI.
Program mode that automatically
sets aperture and shutter speed.
The various picture taking modes
a camera provides. Each involves
varying degrees of automation or
manual control over the camera’s
settings. Most commonly, Pro-
grammed Exposure mode (Auto),
Aperture Priority, Shutter Prior-
ity and Manual are accessed via a
Program dial or LCD.
A dial or wheel, usually on the top
plate of the camera that allows
the photographer to control the
A ﬁle format that takes information
collected from the CCD and stores
it in an unprocessed form. More
memory hungry than a jpeg (which
in turn are smaller than tiffs)
A red hue in a subject’s eyes caused
by light from a ﬂash entering the iris
of the eye and being reﬂected back.
The problem becomes more visible
when the camera’s ﬂash is situated
directly above or adjacent to the
A method of interpolating new
pixels (see Interpolation)
The ability to deﬁne detail, governed
by the number of pixels recorded
in an image, and also lens quality. In
printing, resolution is a measure of
how many dots can be placed on a
line of a particular length (see DPI),
usually an inch.
The device in your camera that is
sensitive to light and thus records
the image. Equates to ﬁlm and is
allocated the same position in the
Increase in contrast applied to detail
in a digital image, making it appear
A semi automatic program mode
that allows you to determine the
shutter speed while the camera
takes care of setting the aperture.
A picture-taking mode where the
camera selects a faster shutter
speed that is best suited to action
An exposure metering pattern that
measures between one and ﬁve
percent of the viewﬁnder image
– usually in the central area.
A lens that provides approximately
the same ﬁeld of view as the human
Zoom lens designed to replace the
standard lens with a modest range
of focal lengths from medium wide
angle to medium telephoto.
Lens of longer focal length, designed
to reproduce objects bigger than
they appear to the naked eye. This
allows the capture of a narrower
ﬁeld of view.
A small preview image of a bigger
ﬁle, commonly used to quickly view
a ﬁle in a computer folder or as a
link to a larger image on a website.
(TAGGED IMAGE FILE FORMAT)
A loss-less ﬁle format, meaning that,
unlike a JPEG, no detail is lost each
time an image is re-saved. TIFFs take
up far more space on a memory card,
but provide a compromise between
JPEG and RAW ﬁles.
TV (TIME VALUE MODE)
See Shutter Priority Mode.
USB (UNIVERSAL SERIAL BUS)
A common type of connection that
allows information to be transferred
from one device to another, in our
case typically ﬁles from a digital
camera to a computer.
A camera menu setting that allows
colours to be reproduced faithfully
under a range of different types of
Light actually varies quite
a lot in colour, depending
on where you are and
what time it is. In this
example blue light would
be reﬂecting off the blue
sky. Matching the WHITE
BALANCE to the colour
of the illumination means
that colours in your
pictures match those you
saw when you took them.
A lens of shorter than standard
focal length, designed to reproduce
objects smaller than they appear
to the naked eye. This allows you
to capture a wider ﬁeld of view
and so is perfect for photographing
landscapes or adding drama.
A lens of variable focal length,
designed to reproduce objects at
a variety of sizes. Allows you to
capture a variable ﬁeld of view.