200+ Photography Terms You Need to Know

By July 22, 2019 June 13th, 2020 Photography

If you’re new to photography odds are you’ve realized that you’re going to have to learn a whole collection of words you’ve never heard before.

To help you start, I’ve put together a compendium of the most common terms and phrases in photography along with their definitions.

I hope this can serve as a handy guide you can use to help you grow on your photographic journey.



The act of importing your images into a photo-editing software to edit and process them. 

AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing)

A feature in most DSLR cameras that allows you to take multiple shots of a scene at different exposures. AEB typically has two adjustable settings: the number of shots (typically 3-7) and number of stops to adjust exposure. AEB is great to use when you can’t capture a scene with one single exposure such as silhouettes.

Adobe Camera Raw

A plug-in for Adobe Photoshop which allows you to import and edit raw photos.


The degree of detail between objects in an image; the amount of contrast present between determines acutance. Note that acutance is a subjective appearance. Increasing the acutance increases sharpness but does not effect the resolution of a photo.

Additive color

A color system that applies to the color absorbed by our eyes directly from a light source. All digital screens operate on the principles of the additive color system, which is the RGB system. Mixing colors in the additive color system begins with black and ends with white. This means that as you add more color, the subsequent color tends to white.

AE-Lock (Auto Exposure Lock)

A camera feature that gives you the ability to lock the current exposure settings in place. Certain cameras can activate AE-lock by pressing and holding the shutter button while others have a dedicated button. This feature is handy when you need to reframe a shot while keeping the exposure constant.

AF-L ( Autofocus Lock)

A camera feature that gives you the ability to lock your current focus point in place. Activate the AE-L by half-depressing the shutter button while framing a shot. Certain cameras have a dedicated button to controlling AF-L. Often times the same button controls both AE-L and AF-L, to unlink them explore your camera’s menu. 

Angle of View

The view your lens sees and records on the viewfinder. Wide angles lenses have a wider angle of view and capture more of a scene. While telephoto lenses have a much narrower angle of view which magnifies a small portion of your scene.


The technology used to counter the blur caused by camera shake. Two key anti-shake technologies exist in the market today: tilt-shift stabilization and lens-based stabilization. Each type has its advantages, but each is better than no stabilization especially when shooting handheld, during low light conditions, or with slow shutter speeds.


The opening in a lens that allows light to enter. The opening is adjustable and can be large or small. A larger aperture will let in more light while a smaller aperture will let in less light. There is also a close relationship between the aperture and the depth of field in an image.

Aperture Priority

A shooting mode that allows you to set the aperture and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed. Use this shooting mode to maintain control over the depth of field in your image. 

APS (Advanced Photo System)

Introduced as a film format in the 1990s, today APS is an indication that a camera has a crop sensor. The two most common APS sensor sizes are the APS-H, which is a 30.2 x 16.7 mm and the APS-C, which is 25.1 x 16.7 mm.

Aspherical Lens

Lenses that use an imperfect sphere a lens element. Aspherical lenses have become the mark of excellence because they produce sharper images with less focusing aberrations.


Unwanted elements that appear in images. These elements include vignetting, noise, JPEG compression artifacts, and chromatic aberration.

AWB (Automatic White Balance)

Automatic white balance is a camera mode that automatically neutralizes color cast in a photo caused by different light temperatures. For example, the warm light of a sunset will make the colors appear warmer than they are. Automatic white balance adjusts for warm light by making the colors appear cooler.

Ambient Light

Light that is present in the natural environment of a scene. Ambient light can be artificial or natural, but in either case, they have no control over it.



Light that illuminates the scene from behind the subject. To capture the details of your subjects, you will need to overexpose or use reflectors or a fill flash.

Barrel Distortion

Optical/lens distortion that causes the lines in an image to bend outward from the center toward the edges of a photo.


Visible and unaesthetic transition between colors which usually appears as lines that spread across an image. Banding occurs when an insufficient number of tones exist to create a seamless tonal gradation. An image with a lack of tones will have a visible transition between colors. Banding is most common in 8-bit images or heavily compressed images.


A term used when a camera feature will capture multiple images of a scene while changing one setting. The most common types of bracketing are exposure bracketing and white balance bracketing. Exposure bracketing will capture multiple images of the same scene at different exposures. White balance bracketing will do the same expect it will adjust the white balance rather than the exposure.

Bounce Flash

Light that bounced off another surface before reaching the subject. Bouncing light off the ceiling or a reflector causes it to diffuse more. To give light side directionality use a flash with a swivel head. 


The intensity of light in an image.

Back up

Duplicating your physical or digital files and storing them in a secondary location. A backup is only effective if you store your duplicated files at a secondary location; this protects your files against catastrophes, equipment failure, or theft.

Back button focus

A button that allows you to control the shutter and autofocus separately. For most cameras, the default is to focus when you press the shutter button halfway. Once you release the shutter button, you will capture a photo.

Back button focus allows you to separate these two functions. The shutter button will capture the image, and a button on the back of the camera will control the autofocus.

The button on the back is usually the AF-ON or AE/AF lock button. Holding the back button down will focus your camera and clicking the button once will lock the focus in place.


The tiniest piece of storable digital information. Digital cameras capture photons at each pixel and convert them into bits which are then used to create a full image.

Bit Depth

Bit depth refers to the number of bits a single pixel can store. This number refers to that largest number of colors an image can have. It is important to note that it does not indicate how many colors an image has but rather the potential colors it can display.

The bit depth can be though of as the degree of accuracy with wich colors can be captured. Larger bit depths can store more information (more colors) and thus they can produce more accurate images.

Blown out

Any part of an image, in whole or part, that is so over-exposed (bright) it has no detail.


Bokeh is a technical term which refers to the feel and quality of the blur in an image. A common mistake is to use bokeh and blur interchangeably, but the truth is they are different.

Bulb Mode

A shutter speed setting that allows you to expose the sensor for as long as you are holding the shutter button down. You can find this mone by selecting manual mode or shutter priority and scrolling through the shutter speeds until you see “bulb” or “b”.

Burst mode

Camera mode that will continue capturing images as long as the shutter button is held down. Burst mode is commonly used by photographers who shoot active scenes such as sports and wildlife.


Cable Release

A long wire with a shutter button at the end that attaches to your camera or tripod. A cable release allows you to capture images from a distance, which means you don’t need to be standing near your camera to press the shutter button.

Camera modes

Digital cameras modes determine how much control the photographer will have over the exposure settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. For example, manual mode gives the photographer complete control.

In auto-mode, the camera has full control to determine all the exposure settings. Finally, aperture priority and shutter priority give the photographer control over one exposure setting while the camera controls the rest.

Camera Shake

Movement to the camera that occurs while the shutter is open, which can cause a blurry image. Camera shake becomes visible when the shutter speed is slower than the unintended movement. There are two ways to reduce camera shake: increase the shutter speed and reduce camera movement (use a tripod).


“Charged Coupled Device” or CCD is one of two types of sensors used by digital cameras. CCD sensors capture light and turn it into digital information that the camera uses to display the photo. This type of sensor is unique because it converts light into digital information one pixel at a time using a conveyor belt and bucket system. CCD sensors often produce images with less noise, of higher quality, and higher dynamic range than CMO sensors the secondary types of sensor.

Center-Weighted Metering

A metering mode that analyses the light from the entire frame but places more weight at the center of the image. This metering mode is excellent if your subject is in the center of the frame or if a very bright or dark background surrounds it.

Chromatic Aberration

A color fringed artifact that appears in images when varying wavelengths of light focus at different positions. Chromatic aberration often occurs at high contrast edges.


This occurs when shadows become pure black or highlight pure white and contain no detail. Clipping often occurs in the respective areas of an image when it is either over or underexposed.


The clarity of an image refers to the overall tonal range in a photo. That is the difference between the brightest and darkest tones. In post-processing software, clarity sliders adjust the contrast of only the mid-tones in an image while leaving the shadows and highlights untouched.


CMYK Represents Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, the three primary colors used in printing plus black. By combining the primary colors, you can create any color except pure black. This is the reason black is included in the CMYK color system.


CMOS is the second type of sensor that a digital camera can have. CCD and CMOS used different methods to convert light into digital information.

In a CMOS sensor, each pixel is can process light information into digital information. This allows the CMOS sensor to be much faster than CCD because they can process light information immediately.

Cold Shoe

Bracket located at the top of the mounting plate which connects a tripod or other accessory. Cold-shoes are designed to connect external light sources to the camera. Unlike, a hot shoe it does not have a power source, which means devices connected to the cold shoes need a way of receiving information from the camera. Cold-shoe devices are often connected using a wire or through radio connection.

Color Channel

Pixels collect light and each pixels contains a color filter with one of the three primary colors red, green, or blue. The filters represent the three color channels that cameras record light information. Using different combinations of these three color channels cameras can create every color in an image.

Composite photograph

An image that is a combination of multiple images. Photographers create composite photographers when it is challenging to produce the image they want with one single image. Digital photography and photo editing software have made this feat much easier than ever before.


The deliberate combination and organization of all the elements in a phot. Composition is an integral part of the art of photography. It is essential in telling a story, depicting a person, or showing a place.


The range between the brightest and darkest pixels in a scene. A wide range implies high contrast while a narrow range implies low contrast.

Color Cast

A tint that appears over an image usually the result of light temperature. The easiest way to solve color cast issues is by using white balance. If color cast is not correct the colors in your image will appear inaccurate. 

Color temperature

Light temperature varies depending on its color; the Kelvin scale is used to measure the differences in light temperature. Warm light typically falls between 1,000K and 4000K and appears orange-yellow. Cool light typically falls between 6000K and 10000K and appears blue. Finally, white light is the center middle ground on the Kelvin scale and falls at around 5500K.


A tool in most photo-editing software such as Photoshop that allows you to duplicate a specific part of an image. In Photoshop, you select a reference point, and it will create a copy of that area.

Contrast-Detection AF

An autofocus system that uses contrast to determine the point of focus. DSLRs and CSCs commonly use this system in live-view mode.

Crop Factor

Also known as the focal length magnification, it is a multiplier applied to a crop sensor to determine the effective focal length. For example, an APS-C sensor has a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x depending on the camera manufacturer.

CSC (Compact System Camera)

A class of cameras that use do not use mirrors in their design but rather rely on the digital transfer of information. The term means Compact System Camera, and can also refer to other camera designs with a fixed lens.



The first commercial photographic process invented by Louis Daugerre. His invention market the beginning of photography for the mass public.


A process used by digital cameras to create full-color images from the information gathered by the sensor and the CFA. Since each pixel only collects information on one color, a demosaicing algorithm reproduces all the colors of an image.


The deformation or misrepresentation of the physical world by the camera. There are two types of distortion in photography: perspective and optical. The choice of focal length and framing typically create perspective distortion. Optical distortion, on the other hand, is caused by the optics of the lens being used and most commonly occurs with wide-angle lenses.


The subtle alteration of the telescope’s direction between images during astrophotography. The movement removes artifacts such as cosmic rays, hot and cold pixels, and noise.


An open-source file format introduced by Adobe to create a standard RAW file format to use across all camera manufacturers. DNG or digital negative is a raw file format that contains much more information than RAW images. DNGs are unique because all metadata is stored within the file whereas most RAW file formats store metadata in a separate extension file.

Dodge and Burn

Photo-editing terms that apply to both film and digital photography. Dodging makes images brighter while burning makes images darker.

DOF (depth of field)

The distance between the closest and farthest object in focus. The depth of field tells you how much of your scene will be in focus. A wide depth of field will have most of the image in focus while a shallow depth of field will only have a small area of the frame in focus.


Chemical used in film processing to display the image captured on film.


An object that causes light particles to scatter. A diffuser is used to give light a soft appearance. They can be manmade or an object in the environment such as the clouds.

Dust Bunnies

No matter how careful you are, you’re going to become familiar with this bane of photographers. Dust bunnies are the dust that collects on your sensor and inside the body of your camera.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

Is a measure of how many dots appear per inch on a print. DPI is the print equivalent to PPI and is a determination of the resolution of an image in print. A higher DPI will result in higher quality prints than a low DPI.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)

A camera system that uses a digital sensor in combination with a prism and set of mirrors to display the image on an optical viewfinder.

Dynamic Range

The tonal range, from bright to dark, that a camera can capture detail in. Dynamic range is typically measured in stops with more stops representing a larger range. It is important because if the dynamic range of a scene is wider than the cameras, there will be clipping in the highlights and shadows.


Edge Transfer

The rapidity with which light becomes a shadow. Soft lighting tends to produce a subtle transfer. Harsh bright light will create a defined and sudden transfer.

EFL (Effective Focal Length)

The focal length or angle of view of a lens on a crop frame camera. To calculate the effective focal length multiply the focal length of the lens by the cameras crop factor.

EV (Exposure Value)

The focal length or angle of view of a lens on a crop frame. The effective focal length is calculated by multiplying the focal length of the lens by the camera’s crop factor.

Evaluative Metering

Metering modes used by Cannon that consider the entire scene when determining the exposure of an image.

EVF (Electronic Viewfinder)

A viewfinder that does not use a serious of mirrors to display an image on the viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders display the image captured by the sensor directly to the viewfinder. The advantages of EVF’s are that it can display an image with all the cameras settings applied. As a result, the image on the viewfinder does not always match the actual scene.


The images created when a sensor is exposed to light. Photographers use the exposure settings (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) to adjust exposures to meet their photographic and artistic needs.

Exposure Compensation

A camera function that allows you to adjust what the camera considers proper exposure. Increasing the exposure compensation (+) will make images brighter while reducing it(-) will make images darker. Use exposure compensation when you know that the camera is incorrectly exposing your images or as a creative tool

Exposure Metering

The analysis that the camera meter performs to determine the exposure of an image and e which settings are required to reach a proper exposure.

Extension Tube

A hollow tube that is mounted between the camera and the actual lens to make the lens longer. Lense tubes are used to help lenses focus closer to the subject. The extension tube does not alter any other characteristics of the lens.



The size of the aperture in a lens presented as a fraction of the focal length. F/stops are written as f/2.8 f/4, f/5.6, etc.

Fill Flash

A technique that uses flash to brighten deep shadows. Often used during sunny days to illuminate shaded areas. Most cameras have a fill flash mode that will trigger even during bright sunny days.


A filter can take two forms: physical or digital. A physical filter is a cover that is placed over the lens that can be used to alter the appearance of your image. Physical filters can be used for a variety of functions such as altering the color, reducing exposure, softening or hardening light, and many more. A digital filter is one that is applied by photo-editing software applying the same effect that a physical filter would.


A chemical used when developing traditional film. The chemical used as the final step of the developing process to make the image permanent. Without this step, images will continue to darken when exposed to light.

Fast Lens

A lens that has a large maximum aperture. The aperture influences how quickly a lens can capture light. Therefore, lenses with wider apertures are faster than those with smaller apertures. Fast lenses ideal when shooting scenes that require fast shutter speeds.

Field Monitor

An external, portable, battery-powered display that replicates the image recorded on the viewfinder of the camera. Field monitors are often attached directly to the camera to make it easier to see the image. It can also be used separately to display the viewfinder to others easily.

File Format

Standardized method for storing and capturing digital images. The most common file formats for digital photographers are DNG, RAW, and JPEG. Other less popular file formats include GIF, PNG, and several others. Each file format follows different standards for storing the data such as compressed (JPEG), uncompressed (RAW), or vector.

Fill Light

Lighting used to reduce the shadows in an image. Portrait photography often uses fill light to create a contrast between the subject and the background. This helps give the image a sense of depth that would otherwise be absent in a two-dimensional image.

Fish-Eye Lens

Ultra-wide angle lens that produces panoramic images with strong visual distortion. These lenses typically have between 100-degree and 180-degree angle of view with varying focal lengths.


A form of light that can provide continuous light with very little heat and often recognized by the green tint it leaves on a scene.

Focal Length

The distance between the sensor and the optical center of a lens when focusing the lens at infinity.
It is often used to describe the viewing angle. At a short focal length, lenses have a wide viewing angle, and at longer focal lengths the viewing angles are narrower.

Focal Plane

The surface where the image is formed after passing through the lens. For digital cameras, the focal plane is the sensor, and for film cameras, it is the film.


A device used to add artificial light to an image to help illuminate the scene. The light emitted is typically a white light around 6000 Kelvin, and it can last anywhere from 1/1000 of a second to 1/200 of a second. Today most cameras come equipped with a flash, but an external flash can be used to provide additional light.

Flash Synchronization

A process designed to synchronize the flash and the opening of the shutter. When these are synchronized the flash illuminates the entire scene thus produces more natural-looking photos.

Focus Stacking

A process that allows you to create a deep depth of field using multiple images with different focal points. To effectively apply focus stacking, you will need to capture multiple images with varying points of focus. Once you have captured multiple images and then combine them using post-processing software.

Full Auto

A camera mode where your cameras determine all the settings for your image. As a photographer, all you need to do is point and shoot and forget about the rest.

Full Frame

A sensor that matches the size of a 35mm film which is 36 x 24 mm. A camera with a full-frame sensor is preferred because there is not a cropping factor.

Forced Perspective

When you use an optical illusion to alter the seeming size or location of an object in an image. It is a common technique used in architecture, film-making, and photography.


A form of chromatic aberration that appears as a purple or magenta ‘ghost’ image that appears in photos. Fringing often occurs where high contrast edges meet, causing a portion to look purple.



A light modifier used to alter the shape of light. It is often used in theater and studio lighting to create unique lighting effects.

Golden ratio

In photography, the golden ratio is used as a compositional technique to produce compelling and intriguing photos. The idea is to place your focal point on the smallest part of the spiral and placing other key elements along the spiral. The easiest way to do this is to apply an overlay to your image while you are cropping it.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

This filter goes by many names including ND filter, split neutral-density filter, or graduated filter. It is an optical filter designed to go over the lens to reduce the exposure of a scene through.


An artifact found on film photographs and is the equivalent to noise in digital photography. Grain is caused by the light-sensitive silver halide crystals used to create film. The higher ISO a film has the more silver halide is needed, and thus the more grain that is present.


An event where people are expected to smile and shaking hands.

Grey Card

A card that is a colored a special grey known as 18% grey, a grey which remains the same color regardless of light temperature. The card is used to help calibrate for proper exposure and white balance during different light temperatures.

Gray Scale

The gradation from white to black and all the tones in between. This scale is often used to demonstrate the gradation of highlights, shadows, and midtones. Grayscale can also be used to describe a black and white photo.



A type of light that’s small relative to the subject. Hard light tends to cast shadows with sharp edges and high contrast.

HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging)

A type of imaging that takes multiple images of the same scene at different exposures and then creates a composite of those images to capture the full dynamic range of the scene. HDRI is often necessary for images with a broad dynamic range that can’t be captured with a single exposure.

High Key

An image that consists primarily of highlights with very little to no shadows.


The brightest areas of an image.


A graphical representation of the tonal distribution in an image. This graph can determine the distribution of highlights, shadows, and midtones. The histogram is very useful for assessing the exposure of an image.

HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide)

A continuous light source that stays cool and has a daylight color balance. It is commonly used in film and digital photography.


The powered metal bracket found on top of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Hot shoes are typically used to connect external flash accessories such as speed light or an automatic flash control.

Hyperfocal distance

The focus distance that provides the widest depth of field.


Scientifically speaking it is an innate property of objects determined by the frequency of light. More commonly we refer to hue as color. All hues are created using some mixture of red, green, and blue.


Incident Light Reading

Incident Light Reading is a method of measuring the amount of light that is falling on a scene or subject. This method has the benefit of not being influenced by the subject’s darkness or brightness.

ISO (International Standards Organization)

This term has its roots in the traditional film system when ISO was an indication of how sensitive film was. Today, it refers to the sensitivity of the camera sensor. With one exception being that sensors have a fixed sensitivity and

increasing the ISO requires an amplifier to enhance the digital information.

Image Stabilisation (IS)

Technology that allows cameras to capture images with sharp details regardless of the lighting conditions. Image stabilization also allows photographers to capture sharp pictures at much slower shutter speeds than before.

Interchangeable Lens System

A lens system that allows you to use different lenses on the same camera body. This usually means photographers can changes lenses easily and quickly. The interchangeable lens system is standard on both mirrorless and DSLR cameras.


JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

A file format most cameras can shoot in. JPEGs use lossy compression which means digital information is removed to make the file sizes smaller. When shooting in JPEG the camera performs a certain level of processing such as sharpening and noise reduction.


Kelvin (K)

The unit of measurement for light temperature, created by William Lord Kelvin.

Key Light

The primary source of artificial light used when capturing an image. When using multiple sources of light, the key light is the most prominent one. This means that the key light isn’t a specific form of lighting, but instead a specific source. Everything from a penlight to a floodlight can be a key light.


Lab Color

Lab is a color model similar to RGB and CMYK. L represents lightness while a and b are arbitrary letters with no literal meaning. Lab is known for two things: having the largest color gamut and being the most abstract and complex color model.

Large Format

Film cameras that us a film larger than 5×4 inches


A tool in photo-editing software that allows you to treat different elements on a single image as individual pieces. This tool is extremely useful and allows photographers to target specific areas within an image.

LCD (liquid crystal display)

Display technology used by electronic viewfinders and digital cameras.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

Light technology used by many cameras and camcorders for its low power consumption and high light output.

Lens flares

A light artifact created by the passage of light through a lens. The result tends to veil the image or create a very distinct polygons of color in the final result.

Lens hood

A tube or cover that attaches to the front of a lens to prevent undesired light from entering the lens.


A common photo-editing tool that can be used to control the range of the greyscale in photos. That is it allows you to choose how bright and how dark your tones will appear. In doing so, you will control the brightness and exposure of your image.

Light meter

A device that built into most DSLRs but handheld versions are also sold. Built-in light meters measure the reflected light of a scene and provide exposure recommendations. Handheld light meters, on the other hand, can measure both the reflected and direct light of a scene.

Lighting Pattern

Describes how shadows and light fall on the surface of an object. The direction of the light determines the lighting patters.


Lightroom is an Adobe Inc product that is an easier and less powerful version of Adobe Photoshop. This is typically the first photo-editing program photographers work with.

Live View

Feature on most DSLRs today that allows you to view and compose images on the LCD screen.

Lossless Compression

A file compression algorithm that reduces the size of a file by removing little to no data. JPEG compression is particularly prone to lose data as it uses lossy compression.

Long Exposure

The use of slow shutter speeds to create a specific effect. Most times, it is a smooth or blurred effect, such as when shooting waterfalls, star trails, or moving cars. There is no exact definition of what shutter speeds are considered long exposure; instead, it is defined by the effect on the photo.

Looney 11

A guideline to help photographers shoot the moon at night. The rule states that to shoot the moon at night start with an aperture value of f/11 and use the reciprocal of your ISO as the shutter speed.

Low Pass Filter

A filter made by camera manufacturers and applied to sensors to reduce moiré your photos. Low pass filters apply a slight blur to the image in order to remove the small details that cause moiré. A clear disadvantage is that this filter does cause pictures to be less sharp than they should be. The low pass filter is also known as blur filter or anti-aliasing filter.

Low Key

An image that contains few if any highlights and has mid-to-dark tones primarily.



Any image taken at a ratio greater than 1:1 is considered macro photography. In practice, it tends to refer to taking photographs of smaller subjects at close range.

Macro Lens

A lens that can take images at ratios greater than 1:1. Sometimes used more generally for lenses that have better than average close up capabilities.

Manual Mode

Exposure mode giving you full control over all the exposure settings. The degree of control means you can produce the exact images you want. Of course, you also have no one but yourself to blame if it doesn’t work out.


Metadata is data about data. In photography, metadata is data about the photograph. For example, most image metadata will include the date, time, settings used, location, and camera used. Cameras embed metadata inside every image automatically. This means you can go back to your image metadata to remember where you were and what settings you used.

Metering (see exposure metering)

Matrix Metering

Nikon’s proprietary metering pattern that gives equal weight to the entire frame when determining the exposure.

Medium Format

A format that was derived from old roll films describing a film with a 60mm width. In digital cameras, this term refers to those with comparable sensor size.


A term used to refer to one million pixels and often used when describing a camera’s image quality capabilities.

MF (Manual Focus)

Adjusting the lens by hand to focus your image. While it may seem strange to do this when AF is available, MF can be faster and more accurate.

Mirrorless Camera

A camera that does not use mirrors or an optical viewfinder. Mirrorless cameras directly transfer the image from the sensor using an electronic viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders allow mirrorless cameras to display a picture with the exposure settings already applied.


An image that uses only various shades of a single color. Black and white is the most common form, but cyanotype and sepia are both forms of monochrome as well.

Multiarea Metering

Multiarea metering is a system that measures the exposure of multiple areas within a frame to determine the exposure. Most cameras have several multiarea metering modes such as matrix or center-weighted metering. Spot metering is an example of a metering mode that does not use multipole areas (we will discuss later).

Micro Four Thirds

Microphotography guidelines and standards released by Panasonic and Olympus in 2009. The guidelines are to help with the design, development, and release of digital cameras, lenses, and camcorders for Micro Photography.


This occurs when a photo has repetitive details (lines, dots, circles), but the resolution of the sensor can not accurately capture it.

Motion Blur

The streaking effect you see in images that are capturing motion. Motion blur occurs when you are photographing a moving object, but your shutter speed is too slow. Motion blur can also occur if you are using a long exposure, and your subjects are not entirely still. This effect can be unintentional due to incorrect timing or intentional as a creative tool.


NFC (Near Field Communication)

An NFC is a wireless technology used to transfer images from a camera to an external source. The use of NFC in digital cameras has increased over the last several years.

Negative Space

The space surrounding your subject sometimes referred to as white space.

Nifty 50

50mm lenses are “nifty” because of the versatility and ease of use they offer at such low prices. This is one of the most inexpensive investments you can make that will help you improve your photography.


Image artifacts that occur during long exposures or when using a high ISO. There are two types of noise: luminance and color. Color noise characterized by random pixel discolorations (green,blue, or red) in an image. Luminance noise is attributed to the brightness of an image and is characterized by the appearance of a grainy texture.

Noise Reduction

A process in photo-editing software or built into cameras that are designed to reduce noise. The basis of noise reduction is targeting specific pixels of an image and smoothing out the details or color. Noise reduction can be difficult because excess noise reduction can cause an image to look soft and lacking in detail.



The format that you take and display your image in. The two most common image orientations are landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical). Landscape images are longer than they are tall, while portrait images are taller than they are long. Landscape orientation is typically used more often than portrait orientation. Though smartphones and social media apps such as Instagram and Pinterest have made portrait images popular as well.

Overcast 8

A Guideline used by photographers for shooting overcast days. It suggests settings your f-stop to f/8 on overcast days and using the inverse of your shutter speed to determine ISO. If your ISO is 100, your shutter speed should be 1/100, if it’s 400, 1/400.

Over Exposure

When an image is brighter than you intended. This can be due to a high ISO, slow shutter speed, or large aperture. Using overexposure deliberately can result in images that appear airy and light.

OVF (Optical Viewfinder)

The viewfinder uses multiple mirrors and a prism to display an image on the viewfinder. OVF displays the image exactly as it appears in real life without any exposure settings applied to the. The optical viewfinder is usually found on both SLRs and DSLRs.



A technique used to capture a moving object in focus while blurring the background. Panning requires a slow shutter speed and camera motion. Very simply, you set your camera to slow shutter speed and move your camera in the direction your subject is moving in. The result should be an image with the subject in focus and the background blurred. Panning is commonly used to capture objects moving horizontally, such as moving car or animals.


Photo-editing software released by Adobe Systems Inc. Photoshop is one of the best photo-editing software on the market and regarded as the gold standard for software. It allows nearly endless editing possibilities.

Pixel peeper

Someone prone to evaluate the image quality and resolution of an image through careful inspection of a magnified image.

Point and Shoot

Cameras that do not have interchangeable lenses, instead use a fixed lens system. They are incredibly easy to use as the name suggest but lack the degree of control available in DSLs. With the continual improvements to smartphone cameras, traditional point and shoot cameras have seen a decline.


A long and thin photo that captures an extended horizontal or vertical view. Panoramic images are great for capturing landscapes, especially those views that stretch along the horizon. Panoramas allow you to avoid capturing an excessive amount of sky and foreground. There are also what is known as “stitched” panoramas, which use multiple photos to create a single high-resolution panorama view.

Phase-detection AF

Autofocus technology that creates a pair of images and compares them using dedicated AF sensors to focus the image. This system is known for its speed and has become a popular auto-focus feature in DSLRs and CSC cameras.

Picture Style

Preset options only available for JPEGs that determine the color effects of your image. Depending on the cameras picture style can also be referred to as picture modes, creative styles, or picture controls.

Pincushion Distortion

The optical distortion that makes an image appear like it is being pulled towards the center of the image. As a result, the line in an image bow inwards. This can be thought of as the opposite effect that barrel distortion.


The smallest part of an image used as a building block to produce a full image.

PPI (Pixels Per Inch)

A measurement of the resolution of a camera. It determines how many pixels can fit in a linear inch on the sensor. The more pixels there are on a sensor, the higher the resolution.

Prime Lens

A lens with a fixed focal length, which means it can not zoom. With the popularity of zoom lenses, people tend to overlook prime lenses. Nonetheless, they sill offer many benefits such as being cheaper, lighter, producing higher quality images, and having wider maximum apertures.

Program mode

A shooting mode where the camera determines the shutter speed and aperture. Photographers can adjust the combination of shutter speed and aperture if a faster shutter speed or smaller aperture is needed. Using program mode is a great way of learning how shutter speed affects motion and how aperture affects depth of field (DOF) without worrying about exposure.



A range finder is a focusing system used by rangefinder cameras. In these cameras, it acts as a separate visual system that shows two overlapping images. These two images need to align to focus the image.

The range finder is a separate visual system than the viewfinder that is mounted near the lens which shows two overlapping images.  One of the main issues with this focusing system is that the image does not necessarily match the images on the viewfinder.

Rear Shutter Curtain Sync

A type of flash sync designed to produce accurate images when using a flash. The camera uses two curtains to protect the sensor from light: one that starts the exposure and a second one that ends the exposure. In rear shutter curtain sync, the flash is initiated when the rear curtain begins to move. When used properly rear shutter curtain sync will produce natural-looking images while using flash. 

Remote Trigger

Camera accessory that connects to your cameras and acts as an external shutter button. Remote triggers are either wired or wireless and have a remote like appearance. These are useful for reducing camera shake or including yourself in the images.

Rule of Thirds

A compositional rule of thumb that dictates how you should compose your images. The rule posits that you should divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically (think of a tic-tac-toe grid over your frame). The intersection points of these lines are the focal points.  You should place your subjects along these lines to create well balanced and intriguing images.


A file type that displays the ‘raw’ untouched image captured by a camera. Unlike JPEGs, there is no compression or processing applied by the camera. Professional photographers prefer shooting in raw for the high-quality images and post-processing flexibility they offer.


A photographic artifact that causes the retina of the subject in a photo to turn red. Red-eye is a result of the blood vessels at the rear of the eye reflecting red light. To prevent red-eye, you can: avoid looking directly at the camera, increase the brightness of your scene, turn-on anti-red function in your camera, or try moving the flash and lens farther apart.

Red-Eye Reduction
A function designed to reduce or eliminate the appearance of red-eye. You can reduce the possibility of red-eye by using pre-flash or dedicated lamp to open the subject’s pupils prior to the actual flash.

Reflected Light Reading

Method of reading light based on the amount of reflected light from a scene or object. This type of light reading makes it easy to measure the reflected light of distant objects.


A device that reflects light to fill in shadows or lift the exposure on a subject. Reflectors come in a variety of color, but white is the most common.


A measure of how pixels are on the sensor of a camera. More practically, higher resolution cameras can produce sharper images with greater detail.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue)

The three color channels used as a foundation for all digital images. Different combinations of these color channels can create every color. 



A device used to reduce the intensity of light. Scrims are made of a very light and transparent textile such as cotton.

Shutter Lag

The delay between the pressing of the shutter button and the image being recorded. Shutter lag becomes a problem for photographers that are capturing moving objects. It can also refer to the focus and metering lag that occurs after pressing the shutter.

Single-lens Reflex

Single reflex lens or SLR is a film camera system that uses a prism and mirror to display the image that the camera will capture. The image will display on an optical viewfinder after it reflects off several mirrors. Once you press the shutter button the mirror will flip out of the way and allow light to pass through the camera and onto the film roll.


Photographs that’s taken quickly and informally, usually with a camera that is small and handheld.

Spray and Pray

A synonym of another photographic term known as Grip and Rip. The practice using burst mode to capture several photos per second in hopes that one of them will be useable.


A color space created by Microsoft and HP together in 1996 that stands for Standard red, green, and blue(sRGB). The color space was designed for use on the internet, monitors, and printers. Today it is often the default color space when there is no color space information.

Stopping down

The action of increasing our f-stop value (f/4 to f/8) to reduce the size of the aperture and reduce the amount of light that can enter the lens. Keep in mind that stopping down also increases the depth of field of an image. 


An external light source that is stronger than a camera flash and that also has much faster recycle times. When using a strobe, photographers don’t waste any time waiting for the flash. Be aware that strobes require their own power source, either a wall socket or large battery pack.

Subtractive Lighting

Subtractive lighting is a color system that is only applicable to physical forms of media. It is used when mixing paint or ink and starts with white and ends with black. Printers use CMYK as the standard subtractive color system when printing. 

Sunny 16

A shorthand photography term for the general practice of using f/16 to shoot in full sun and setting the shutter speed according to the ISO film speed’s reciprocal. (100 = 1/100, for instance). Use this guideline when the light meter isn’t available or as a starting point when shooting in manual mode. 


The intensity of a color.


The light-sensitive chip that records and converts light into digital information to produce an image. The introduction of the sensor was crucial to the invention of digital cameras.


Lighting tool that diffuses light as it passes through. Studio photographers commonly use them as a strobe or portable flash. 

Soft Light

A light source that is larger than the subject and that produces soft edges with diffused shadows. 


The parts of a scene that are the darkest.


A technique used in photo-editing increases the contrast along the edges in an image to create the illusion of greater sharpness.


The device in your camera device that opens to expose the sensor to light, and closes to finish the exposure. Shutters can be electronic or mechanical.

Shutter Priority

Shutter priority is an exposure mode that gives you control over the shutter speed while all the other exposure settings are automatically set by the camera. Use shutter priority to control how motion will appear in your images. 

Shutter Speed

The length of the shutter exposes the sensor to light when capturing an image.


A type of camera that uses a mirror and prism to display the image passing through the lens on an optical viewfinder.

Spot Metering

A metering mode that only collects light information from a small area of a scene. This amount can be as little as 1% and permits incredible accuracy in the hands of a skilled photographer. Unfortunately, it is easy to incorrectly expose an image if you select the wrong ‘spot’.


A stop represents the halving or doubling of light used by the exposure settings: aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. Increasing ISO by one stop such as ISO 100 to 200 will effectively double the brightness in a photo.

Stop Bath

A chemical used in film processing to immediately stop the developing process.

Sync Speed

The fastest shutter speed that light will reach the entire sensor when using flash. At faster shutter speeds the shutter will close too quickly, causing the flash only to reach a portion of the sensor.



A secondary lens mounted between the camera and the standard lens to increase the focal length. Teleconverters enlarge the central part of an image but can also reduce the speed and sharpness of the lens.

Tilt-Shift lens

A lens that can tilt or shit its internal optics to create a different field of view without moving your camera.

Time Lapse

A method of capturing images over an extended period to show the passage of time.

TLR (Twin-Lens Reflex Camera)

A camera with two objective lenses of the same focal length. One lens captures photos while the other acts as a viewfinder.

Tonal Range

The range between the darkest and lightest colors image. Wide tonal ranges will have incredibly white and dark areas within the image.

Telephoto Lens

This lens provides a magnified image of the subject by employing a narrow-angle of view.

TIFF (Tagged Image file format)

A lossless file format that collects information from each pixel and converts it into an image. Initially, the goal was for it to become the 3rd shooting format next to JPEG and RAW. Unfortunately, the large file sizes and length required to produce the image has made them an unviable option. Despite its disadvantages, photographers still use TIFF files for its high-quality images. 

TTL (Through The Lens)

The functions of a camera that depend on light passing through the camera’s aperture, such as exposure modes, metering, white balance, and more.


An artificial light source that emits an orange-red color cast and measures approximately 3200 on the Kelvin scale. Photographers typically avoid tungsten light due to its orange color cast, high heat exertion, and low visibility in daylight.



When an image is darker than you intended. This can be due to an ISO that’s too low, a shutter speed that’s too high, or an aperture that is too small.



The viewfinder is the screen that allows the photographer to view the frame they are capturing or the images they just captured. Viewfinders can come in multiple styles such as the optical viewfinders found on DSLRs or electronic viewfinders found on mirrorless cameras. Electronic viewfinders can display exposure settings, histogram, battery life, and several other settings.

Vibration Reduction

Technology developed to reduce lens movement due to hand-shake. Nikon refers to their technology as vibration reduction while Cannon refers to theirs as image stabilization. Remember that although they go by different names, they perform the same function.


An artifact that causes the periphery of the frame to appear darker than the rest of the image. Wide-angle lenses typically produce images with more vignetting than telephoto lenses. 


White Balance

The ability of a camera to adjust the colors in an image depending on the light temperature. White balance ensures that white will always look white regardless of the light in the scene is cool or warm.


A mark that photographers puts on an image to identify it as their own. It is typically a transparent signature, stamp, or logo.

Wide-Angle Lens

This lens is exactly what’s on the tin. It’s a lens that allows you to capture more of a scene using a wide-angle view.

Walk Around Lens

A lens with a wide focal range (24-70mm is common) that allows you to take advantage of a wide range of photo opportunities quickly without changing gear. With a walk-around lens, you can promptly go from photographing landscapes to architecture with ease.


Zone System

Fred Archer and Ansel Adams devised a technique known as the zone system in the 1930s. The purpose was to create standardized practices that produced properly exposed images in every situation.

Zoom Lens

Zoom lenses offer a broad range of focal lengths eliminating the need to change lenses to use a different focal length.

About The Author

Photographer. Explorer. Story Teller. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel, capture beautiful moments, and live life to the fullest.

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