📷Photography Glossary

Last Updated: 21 November 2022 (Version 2.0)




Automatic Exposure mode on a Digital Camera that selects all aspects of the exposure allowing users to point and shoot.


Automatic Exposure Lock function that can be used when you want to reframe the scene but keep the current exposure from changing.


Autofocus function of a camera to automatically focus on a subject.


Autofocus Area The area of the frame that the camera will use for autofocus is shown by focus points in the viewfinder. Photographers can choose where the camera will focus by choosing a focus point. Selection can be made by the photographer or set automatically by the camera.


Autofocus Continuous shutter release button mode pressed halfway where focusing is constantly performed to match the movement of the subject.


Autofocus Lock advanced function on professional and semi-professional cameras that allows the photographer to lock autofocus at any time and reframe.


Autofocus Single operates when the shutter button is pressed halfway down. Once the subject is in focus the focus is locked. It is suitable for shooting motionless subjects such as landscapes, portraiture and still life.


Advanced Photo System type C is an image sensor format approximate in size to the Advanced Photo System film negative in its C ("Classic") format of 25.1×16.7 mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.


Aperture Priority shooting mode primarily allows you to control the aperture setting (f stop number) whilst the camera sets the shutter speed for correct exposure. Aperture (f stop) is one of the three components of the exposure triangle, see also ISO and TV Shutter Speed.


B (Bulb)

Exposure setting that is used when seeking to use a shutter speed of more than 30 seconds generally used in low light situations but also needed when shooting in daylight with neutral density camera lens filters producing longer exposures.


Back Button Focus ensures sharp focus 100% of the time with precise control over focus, exposure, shutter speed, ISO, and depth of field, producing higher quality images. removes the focusing task from the shutter release button and moves it to a dedicated button which is usually called AF ON that is situated on the back of the camera where you can easily reach with your thumb.


Black and White photography also referred to and known as Monochrome.


The effect of a deliberate soft out of focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture such as f/2.8 or wider. Simply put, bokeh is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of out of focus blur in a photograph.



Compact Flash memory card format, apart from size, the data transfer speeds for the CF card are more than double the write speed of the SD card, despite their identical capacities and the fact that both have speed ratings that make them suitable for video recordings.


Cyan Magenta Yellow Black colour profile for printed output, representing mixing the four colours in varying amounts, millions of other shades are produced in the printed material. These links are utilised when printing photographs in books, magazines and on gallery walls.


Compact System Camera term refers to mirrorless camera systems. The reflex mirror is discarded allowing the design for smaller cameras. Light from the lens passes straight through to the digital sensor at the rear of the camera.


Custom White Balance enables you to manually set the white balance for a specific light source for better accuracy as desired.



Depth of Field the distance between the nearest and furthest elements in a scene that appear to be "acceptably sharp" in an image.


Digital Negative Graphic type of raw file format used in digital photography developed on the TIFF 6.0 format with Adobe®.


Dots per Inch resolution of images for print output, typically 300dpi.


Digital Single Lens Reflex digital camera version of Single Lens Reflex (SLR) of which is from analogue film origin both reflecting light that enters through the lens using a mirror so that an image can be seen in the camera’s viewfinder.


Crop Sensor Format the DX format is the smaller sensor at 24x16mm known as APS-C sensor size developed by Nikon™️ than the larger full frame FX format sensor that measures 36x24mm which is approximately the same size as the 35mm analogue film equivalent.



Exposure Compensation feature available on almost all cameras. It allows the fine tuning of brightness to photos making them darker or lighter, depending on subject and the vision you may have for the photo. Dial in for lighter or darker around the suggested exposure reading in 1/3rd stop increments for over or underexposed photographs.


Extra Low Dispersion Glass refers to the composition and optical properties of the glass used for camera lenses.


Expose to the Left capturing an image with the histogram exposure that does not clip any of the shadows.


Expose to the Right capturing an image with the histogram exposure that does not blow out any of the highlights.


Exposure Value number that represents a combination of a camera's shutter speed and f stop number. Higher EV means you're exposing for a brighter subject and vice versa.


Electronic Viewfinder camera viewfinder where the image captured by the lens is displayed on a small screen known as Live View.


Exchangeable Image File Format data standard used by devices which handle images and audio files for photo, video, and smartphone cameras.


Exposure Triangle In photography, the exposure triangle explains the relationship between shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. Whether you're shooting old school analogue film or with digital or a mirrorless camera, these three factors are at the centre of every exposure.



Full Frame digital camera sensor the size of that equivalent to a 35mm film camera for a wider field of view and allow for shallower depths of field (meaning blurred backgrounds) in capturing the entire image. Crop sensors are smaller than the Full Frame standard which introduce a crop factor to the photos these cameras take. This means that the edges of your photo will be cropped for a tighter field of view.


Field of View the open observable area a person can see through their eyes or via an optical device such as a camera.


Frames per Second rate at which the camera shutter opens and closes continuously in capturing fast moving subjects for sports and wildlife.

F Stop

The “f” in f stop stands for the focal length of the lens. While focal length itself refers to the field of view of a lens, f stop is about how much light you allow to hit the sensor via the aperture opening. A wide aperture, such as f/2.8, is going to give you a shallow depth of field while a narrow aperture, such as f/16, will often give you a shot that's sharp throughout.



Gigabyte equal to 1,024 megabytes (MB)


Graphics Interchange Format raster file format designed for relatively basic images that appear mainly on the internet. Each file can support up to 8 bits per pixel and can contain 256 indexed colours also allowing images or frames to be combined creating basic animations.



High Dynamic Range range of the lightest tones to the darkest tones within a photograph. HDR settings can capture detail in high contrast situations that result in dramatic and inspiring photography.


Hyperfocal Distance defined as the focus distance which places the furthest edge of a depth of field at infinity. If one were to focus any closer than this if even by the slightest amount, then a distant background will appear unacceptably soft.


Hyper Sonic Motor the same as USM but an original SIGMA™️ lens development that uses ultrasonic waves to drive the autofocus mechanism. Its extremely quiet operation helps avoid disturbing photographic subjects. High torque and speed assure rapid autofocus response.


High Speed Sync allows you to sync the light from a flash when using a shutter speed faster than your camera's native sync. We know that most DSLRs have a native sync speed of 1/250th of a second. Anything faster is beyond the camera's ability to sync with flash.



Internal Focusing Most photographers use two types of focusing, manual focusing (MF) in which the photographer focuses on the subject by turning the focusing ring on the lens and there is autofocusing (AF), where the camera focuses on the subject for you.


Intentional Camera Movement creative way of working with long exposure photography and it implies deliberately moving the camera during an exposure. ICM is both a technique and an artistic way of expression for making photographs in camera.


International Press Telecommunications Council photo metadata standard is the most widely used standard because of its universal acceptance among photographers, distributors, news organisations, archivists, and developers. The schema defines metadata structure, properties, and fields, so that images are optimally described and easily accessed later.


Infrared photography that can be done with either infrared film or a digital camera and typically involves near infrared light in the range of 700nm to 1200nm wavelengths invisible to the human eye. Special IR filters are required for lenses in the case of analogue film cameras with digital cameras requiring conversion for internal special IR filters to replace the built-in infrared sensor blocker.


Image Stabilisation applies to digital cameras and lenses and refers to how stable an optical system of a camera is during capture. Accidentally moving the camera while taking the photo, the image stabilisation will prevent a blurred picture. This is useful if you work with a slower shutter speed when shooting handheld without a tripod. Image stabilisation has been around for years in Canon® and Nikon™️ lenses. Canon® calls this technology Image Stabilisation (IS) while Nikon™️ uses the term Vibration Reduction (VR).


International Standards Organisation a camera's sensitivity to light as pertaining to either film or a digital sensor. A lower ISO value means less sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO means more sensitivity and is one of the three components of the exposure triangle. See also AV Aperture (f stop) and TV Shutter Speed for exposure triangle. ISO was formerly known as ASA (American Standards Association).


Image Quality the level of accuracy with which different imaging systems capture, process, store, compress, transmit and display the signals that form an image. Another definition refers to image quality as the weighted combination of all of the visually significant attributes that form an image.



Joint Photographic Experts Group a computer lossy raster file format that compresses an image to make the file smaller. JPEG files are some of the most popular and widely used image formats in the world for compression portability, compatibility and vibrancy in photography.



Kilobyte the term refers to a measurement used to describe the size of a digital file. One kilobyte is comprised of 1,024 bytes of digital information.



Liquid Crystal Display is the display technology used to create the screens embedded in the back of nearly all digital cameras. In a digital camera, the LCD works for reviewing photos, displaying menu options, and serving as a live viewfinder.


Long Exposure photographic technique that uses a slow shutter speed to flood a camera's image sensor with light. Most photography styles use a rapid shutter speed, but long exposure images require the shutter to remain open for much longer, such as 1, 10, 30 secs and even into minutes.


Light Emitting Diode lighting products produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs. Great for portraiture in the studio or on location with powerful portable LED units, these lightbulbs convert more energy into light producing higher quality images.


Lightroom photo & video editing software by Adobe® that has become the industry standard with powerful slider tools to finetune photographs and use transformative presets to quickly add unique adjustments that bring your photos to life with a great management system for organising large quantities of digital files wherever you are, all in one app.



As the name suggests, this mode stands for full manual control of Aperture and Shutter Speed. Allowing you to fully override other camera settings to manually set both the aperture and the shutter speed to any value you want, the camera lets you fully take over the exposure controls.


Megabyte refers to a unit of measurement used to describe the size of a digital file. One megabyte is comprised of 1,024,000 bytes, or 1,024 kilobytes of digital information.


Manual Focus the process of adjusting the depth of field of a camera lens by hand to bring an image into focus without relying on the built-in camera autofocus (AF) system.


Mirror Lock-up function that involves flipping the camera's internal mirror up well before the shutter opens for a fraction of time allowing any vibrations to die down before exposing, that may otherwise affect the captured image. Applies to both analogue film SLR and digital SLR cameras and is a useful practice and integral for longer exposures at night.


Megapixels translates to one million pixels which dictate how much detail your camera's sensor can capture. It's no longer true that the higher a camera's megapixel count the better. The only thing more megapixels will give you is the ability to enlarge and crop pictures without individual pixels becoming visible. Other factors are much more important in determining overall picture quality.


ND Filters

Neutral Density Filters camera lens filters that reduce the amount of light that passes through to the internal camera sensor. Meaning the camera has to perform a longer exposure than usual to create an evenly exposed image which can be beneficial when you want to be more creative with your photography, especially in capturing movement. As a rule of thumb be sure to switch on the camera’s noise reduction function too for this process.


Noise Reduction There are two types of noise in photography, luminance noise and colour noise. Luminance noise appears as grainy black and white spots in an image, whilst colour noise appears as colourful dots or pixels, both types of noise can be distracting and make an image appear unclean. Typically, noise appears from light bouncing around in the camera when the shutter is open for longer exposures, for example during low light and night time photography. With noise reduction switched on, the camera will need to process the image and write time to the memory card for the same length of time as the exposure that has been made, for example a two-minute exposure would take another two minutes to be saved to the camera’s memory card, totalling four minutes.



Off Camera Flash creative lighting technique that involves the off-camera placement of portable flashguns or sometimes larger studio style unit heads, taking control over the direction and intensity of light output to the subject.


Optical Viewfinder When you look through the eyepiece of an optical viewfinder squinting the other eye, you’ll see the scene in front of you no matter what settings you choose on the camera. This type of viewfinder is mounted on the top of the camera and derives from analogue film SLR cameras that have adjustable dioptre settings, the same is also applicable to digital SLR cameras that also incorporate EVFs (Electronic Viewfinders).


Optical Zoom involves a physical camera lens movement, which changes the apparent closeness of the image subject by increasing the focal length. To zoom in, the lens moves away from the image sensor, and the scene is magnified.



Programmed Auto Exposure this mode is marked by 'P' on your camera's mode dial and is one of the Creative Zone modes, though one with the least control over your exposure settings. In program mode the camera selects and sets both the shutter speed and the aperture.


Post Processing is editing the RAW data captured by a camera of the photo taken to enhance the image to how the scene looked at the time or how you want it to look.


Pixels per Inch is the amount of pixels a digital file contains when representing a certain height or width in inches.


Picture Quality Factors that affect picture quality include brightness and evenness of illumination, contrast, resolution, geometry, colour fidelity and colour discrimination of an observed image. Achieving the best equipment but also making the correct photographic choices.


Adobe Photoshop an image creation, graphic design and photo editing software developed by Adobe®. The software provides many image editing features for pixel based images, raster graphics and vector graphics. Adobe® Photoshop was first released in 1988.



Refers to a Quick Button on the rear of some Canon® EOS system DSLR cameras which gives quick access to all functions in the menu at a glance on the LCD screen.



Highest level camera file that is lossless, meaning it captures uncompressed data from your camera sensor. Sometimes referred to as a digital negative, you can think of a RAW file as the raw ingredients of a photographic image file that will need to be processed in order to bring out the picture's full potential.

RGB Red Green Blue

This colour model defines how light emitting objects, such as light bulbs, behave, it's an additive model. This means that when you combine light sources with these specific colours, you end up with white. RGB and CMYK are both colour models or methods of duplicating colour. In order to render an image on screen or in print, the image is recreated using only a few colours. A computer monitor uses three colours red, green and blue (RGB). Printers use four colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). In photography there is RGB colour space and CMYK colour space, of which you can save files to each of these colour spaces for different end uses, the former used for online (RGB) purposes and the latter (CMYK) for more accurate colour print output.



Secure Digital refers to a memory card format that can write and store a high amount of image data in Gigabytes. For example, a 4GB SD memory card can store approximately 500 compressed JPEG files from a DSLR camera of 24 Megapixels depending on each file size.


Secure Digital High Capacity a memory card format that can store a higher amount of image data for more Gigabytes. For example, 16GB SD memory card can store approximately 2000 compressed JPEG files from a DSLR camera of 24 Megapixels depending on each file size.


Secure Digital Extra Capacity digital camera memory cards that can write and store up to 2 terabytes (2000 GB) of RAW photo image data.


Single Lens Reflex is a camera that typically uses a mirror and prism system hence "reflex" from the mirror's reflection that permits the photographer to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured. SLR refers to an analogue film camera the same as DSLR refers to digital cameras of the same type.


Standard RGB sRGB and Adobe® RGB are two different colour space profiles also known as colour models, or colour systems. A colour space is a range of possible colours depending on which mode you shoot in, your camera will capture a certain percentage of all visible colours.



Terabyte when the decimal standard is used 1 TB is equal to 1,000 gigabytes but when the binary standard is used 1 TB is equal to 1,024 GB. The difference of 24 GB can represent a substantial amount of data.


Teleconverter These are small tubes that contain glass elements which sit in between the lens and the camera body. They are used to magnify the focal length of a lens for further reach. Also known as extenders, teleconverters come in different zoom amounts, amplifying the focal length by either 1.4x, 1.7x, 2x or more.


Tagged Image File Format is a computer file used to store raster graphics and image information. A favourite among photographers, TIFFs are a handy way to store high quality images before editing if you want to avoid lossy file formats, especially for physical print output.


Is a shortened term for a photographer, for example a street Tog is slang for a street photographer or just like a landscape Tog photographs landscapes.


Through the Lens metering feature of cameras whereby the intensity of light reflected from the scene is measured through the lens as opposed to using a separate metering window or external handheld light meter in determining an exposure reading, some cameras various TTL metering modes can be selected, known as spot, partial, centre weighted, evaluative and matrix metering.


Time Value Shutter priority mode for DSLR cameras which allows you to set the shutter speed, leaving the camera to choose the aperture needed for correct exposure. 'Tv' is used to identify this setting on the mode dial. Shutter speed is one of the three components that make up the exposure triangle, see also Aperture (f stop) and ISO.



Ultra Sonic Motor is the most widely used AF motor type in the Canon® EF lens mount range to date. Common to all USM motors is the fact that they convert ultrasonic vibration energy into rotational force to move the camera lens.


Ultra-Wide angle refers to lenses that produce images with an extremely wide angle of view, popular among architecture and landscape photographers because they can fit much of the foreground, as well as the surrounding elements into the photograph. Example focal lengths are 10mm, 14mm, 16, 20mm and 24mm depending on sensor size (APS-C size sensor type DSLRs have a ratio of 3:2 and increase focal length by up to 1.6x) Full Frame DSLR cameras and 35mm for analogue film SLR cameras are equivalent to the above focal lengths for Ultra-Wide Angle lenses.



Vibration Reduction is an image stabilisation technology that minimises blur caused by camera shake. When you are shooting with a tripod and remote camera release with landscapes for example, you should turn off the lens VR and IS settings to achieve sharper images. Otherwise, when your camera goes looking for a vibration and doesn't find one, it will continue to look for one, which can cause a slightly shaky result.



Wide-angle A wide angle lens has a focal length of 35 mm or shorter, which gives you a wide field of view. The wider your field of view, the more of the scene you'll be able to see in the frame. These lenses are ideal for many scenarios and most photographers have at least one trusty wide-angle lens in their kitbag.


White Balance is the process of removing unrealistic colour casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the colour temperature of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light.


X Ray

X Ray a photographic or digital image of the internal composition of something, especially a part of the body, produced by X rays being passed through it and being absorbed to different degrees by different materials. Electromagnetic waves of high energy and very short wavelengths, of which are able to pass through many materials opaque to light.

X Axis

X Axis the horizontal (width) left to right measurement of a photograph.


Y Axis

Y Axis the vertical (depth) bottom to top measurement of a photograph.


Zone System

Zone System is a scale of eleven tone values. The darkest being pure black, the lightest being pure white. Black is Zone 0, white is Zone X. Each grey value between these two extremes is exactly one photographic stop different from the grey tone on either side of it. The Zone System was invented by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer, two of the most prominent photographers in history. Its purpose is to help photographers expose their photos perfectly and consistently, without resorting to guesswork. Although the Zone System was developed for black and white film photography in 1930, it can now with the same principles, also be used for colour and digital photography today.

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