Category Archives: Photo Glossary

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As shown in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.


Saturation  The degree to which a color is undiluted by white light. If a color is 100 percent saturated, it contains no white light. If a color has no saturation, it is a shade of gray.

Scanner  A device that captures an image of a piece of artwork, a slide, or a negative, and then converts it to a digitized image or bitmap that the computer can handle.

Scene Modes  Most often found on point-and-shoot digital cameras, the special picture-taking modes  automatically set available focus and exposure controls for a certain type of subject matter.  Example: portrait, landscape, kids, sports and more.

Self-Timer  Mechanism that delays the opening of the shutter for some seconds after the release has been operated.

Shutter  The device in a camera that opens and shuts to allow light into the camera.

Shutter Button  The button on your digital camera that you press to take a picture.

Shutter Speed  The length of time that the camera shutter remains open, thereby allowing light to enter the camera and expose the photograph.

Shutter-Priority Auto-Exposure  A semi-automatic exposure mode in which the photographer sets the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture.

SLR (single-lens reflex) camera  A type of camera, film and digital, that has interchangeable lenses.  When composing an image in the viewfinder you are looking through the lens.  The image is reflected to the viewfinder by two mirrors.  One of the mirrors is in front of the sensor.  When the shutter button is pressed, the mirror “reflexes” up so that light coming through the lens reaches the sensor.  After the exposure the mirror drops back into place.

Spot Metering  Metering mode that bases exposure on light in the center of the frame only.


Telephoto lens  A lens that magnifies an image.

Thumbnail  A small, low-resolution version of a larger image file that is used for quick identification.

TTL (Through The Lens)  An autofocus or auto-exposure system that works through the camera’s lens.

TIFF (pronounced tiff)  Stands for Tagged Image File Format.  TIFF was a popular digital image format supported by Macintosh and Windows programs.

Tripod  A three-legged supporting stand used to hold the camera steady.  Useful when using slow shutter speeds and/or telephoto lenses.


Underexposed  When too little light hits the camera’s film or image-sensor array, creating an image that’s too dark.

USB  Stands for Universal Serial Bus. A type of port now included on most computers. Most digital cameras come with a USB cable for connecting the camera to this port.


Viewfinder  The eyepiece window used to frame the subject.

Optical viewfinder  An eye level viewfinder that is used to compose the photograph and is the traditional type of viewfinder.

Electronic viewfinder (EVF)  An LCD within the eyepiece and is used on many new digital cameras.


White Balancing (WB)  Adjusting the camera to compensate for color temperature light hitting the subject.  Proper WB eliminates unwanted color casts produced by changing light sources.

Wide-Angle Lens  A lens that has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view than a normal lens for a particular film or digital image format.


Zoom Lens  A lens that can change focal lengths at your command to provide more or less magnification of the image.

December 27, 2011


Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms O-P-Q-R

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As shown in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms O-P-Q-R



Orientation Sensor  A sensor that knows when you turn the camera to take a vertical shot and rotates the picture so it won’t be displayed on its side when you view it.

Orphan work  An original work that is protected by copyright but whose copyright owner cannot be identified and/or located, because the work (or subsequent transfer of rights) wasn’t registered with the Copyright Office, or because the copyright owner has died and the heirs are unknown.  Reproduction and other uses of such works carry the risk of a copyright infringement claim.

Overexposure  An image that appears too light because too much light reached the sensor.

Online gallery  Internet sharing services that allow you to post your images to the Web.

Optical Viewfinder  A glass-covered opening in your camera you look through to frame and compose your image.

Optical Zoom  A traditional zoom lens where lenses move back and forth to visually bring the subject closer to you or farther from you.  Optical zoom indicates the camera has a multi-focal length lens, as opposed to a digital zoom that magnifies the center portion of the picture.



Parallax Error  The difference in views between the lens taking the photo and the external optical viewfinder.

Patent  A government grant that generally protects an invention from being copied, used, distributed, or sold without the permission of its owner.

Photon  A particle of light.

Pinhole camera  A camera whose lens is covered except for a pin-sized hole.  A pinhole is essentially a very small aperture, so you have to shoot long exposures.

Piracy  The unauthorized copying of copyrighted material, most often used to describe the unauthorized copying of CDs, DVDs, and software.

Pixel  Short for picture element. The basic building block of every image.

Plagiarism  Reproducing any portion of a copyrighted work without permission. See also academic plagiarism.

Point-and-Shoot  A type of digital camera that has automatic settings for most features (such as focus and exposure).

Polarizer  Camera filter that reduces the glare bouncing off shiny surfaces in your photos.  Will also deepen the contrast of the sky from certain angles.  Digital cameras require a circular polarizer.

Portrait Mode  The orientation of an image in which the longest dimension is vertical, also called tall orientation.

PPI  Stands for pixels per inch. Used to state image print resolution. Measured in terms of the number of pixels per linear inch. A higher ppi usually translates to better-looking printed images.

Print Resolution  The number of pixels per linear inch (ppi) in a printed photo; the user sets this value inside a photo-editing program.

Proprietary Format  Also called native format. The format used by only that particular type of camera.  Example: Memory Stick memory card is a proprietary format of Sony cameras.

Public domain  A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if the term of its copyright protection has expired or if it does not meet the requirements for copyright protection (for example, while the design of a calendar can be copyrighted, the content itself cannot).  Works in the public domain may be used freely.


RAM  (Random Access Memory)  A computer’s system working memory.

Rear Curtain Sync  An electronic flash synchronization technique in which the flash fires only when the second (rear) curtain of the focal plane shutter begins to move at the end of the exposure.

Red Eye  An effect caused by in-camera flash photography that appears to make a person eyes glow red.  (Animal eyes will appear red or green.)   Caused by light bouncing from the retina of the eye.

Resolution  A term used to describe the capabilities of digital cameras, scanners, printers, and monitors; means different things depending on the device.

RGB  The standard color model for digital images; all colors are created by mixing red, green, and blue light.

Rule of Thirds  A way of mentally dividing your picture horizontally and vertically into thirds, then placing important subject matter where these lines intersect.

December 15, 2011


Glossary of Digital Photography Terms: K – L – M – N

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As shown in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.

Landscape Mode  The orientation of an image in which the longest dimension is horizontal.

LCD Screen (Liquid Crystal Display)  The type of display screen on the back of most digital cameras.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)  The colored indicator lights used on most cameras, power supplies and electronic devices.

Lens  One or more elements of optical glass or plastic that collects and focuses light rays to form a sharp image on the digital sensor.

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

License  A legal agreement granting permission to use a work for certain purposes or under certain conditions. Cartoon and film characters, for example, can be used on merchandise (and in some classroom applications) only through a license granted by the copyright owner for that specific purpose.

Lossless  Refers to storing an image in a non-compressed format, such as TIFF.


Macro Mode   See Close Focus Mode.

Matrix Metering  Also called multi-zone metering. A metering mode that calculates exposure based on the entire frame.

Megapixel One million pixels.

Memory Card  Most digital cameras do not have on-board storage capacity.  To store images you need a memory card.  Memory cards are available in several types, Secure Digital (SD), Compact Flash (CF), Memory Stick (MS), SmartMedia (SM) and more.  The memory card or cards for your camera is determined by what digital camera you buy.  The cards are physically different and are not interchangeable.  Memory cards capacity ranges from 1 to 32 gigabytes and larger.  Ideally you want the largest capacity and highest speed memory card that works with your camera.  Of course, the price of a memory card increases with increased memory and speed.  Format new memory cards in the camera before use.  Re-format the card to remove images after your images have been securely saved on your computer.

Metadata  Extra data that gets stored along with the primary image data in an image file. Metadata often includes information such as aperture, shutter speed, and EV setting used to capture the picture, and can be viewed using special software. Often referred to as EXIF metadata.

Metering Mode  Refers to the way a camera’s auto exposure mechanism reads the light in a scene.

Monopod  A one-legged support used to steady the camera.

Multi-Zone Metering  See Matrix Metering.


Noise  Graininess in an image, caused by too little light, a too high ISO setting, or a defect in the electrical signal generated during the image-capture process.

December 1, 2011


Glossary of Digital Photography Terms: G – H – I – J

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As posted in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Gray Card  A card that reflects back 18% of the light hitting the card surface.  Digital camera light meters are calculated for 18% reflectance.

Histogram  A visual representation of the exposure values of a digital image. Histograms are shown in graph form and display the light values of the image’s shadows, mid-tones, and highlights as vertical peaks and valleys along a horizontal plane.

Hot Shoe  The device on a camera that holds an external flash or provides the cable connection from flash to the camera.


Image Sensor  A digital camera’s solid-state capture device, made up of a grid-like arrangement of red-, green-, and blue-sensitive elements.

Image Stabilization  An optical or digital system for removing or reducing camera movement.

Intellectual property  Any product of a creative mind that is fixed in a tangible form of expression and, thus, is thereafter protected by patent, copyright, or trademark laws.

ISO (International Standards Organization)  The ISO setting on a camera determines how sensitive the camera sensor is to light.  A low setting such as 100 is used in a bright situation where the camera needs to be less sensitive to light.  In contrast, a high ISO such as 800 or higher 1600 is low-light situations to make the camera more sensitive to the available light.  ISO is equivalent to ASA.

AUTO ISO – digital camera automatically sets the ISO speed according the brightness of the scene, increasing or decreasing the sensitivity.  Photographer has no control over which ISO number is used.

ISO 80 – When taking photos in bright light; excellent for close-ups, landscape, and portraits. Produces fine detail and image quality.

ISO 100 – Extra sensitivity with little, if any, reduced image quality.

ISO 200 – Acceptable image quality, with some visible noise.  Good for cloudy and overcast days.

ISO 400 – suitable for indoor photography whether or not a flash is used. Useful for “stop-action” and sports photographs.

ISO 800, 1600 and above – useful in very low light, or outside in good light when increased shutter speeds are required. Results can be disappointing when shooting at these high numbers with compact digital cameras, so take test photos before photographing an important event.


JPEG (Pronounced jay-peg)   Joint Photographic Experts Group :  The primary file format used by digital cameras; also the leading format for online and Web pictures.

JPEG+Raw  A camera setting that creates both a Camera Raw file and a JPEG file of a picture.

November 17, 2011

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms D – E – F

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As posted in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Glossary of Digital Photography Terms:  D – E – F

Depth of Field (DOF)  The distance between the nearest and farthest points that appears in focus in a photograph.  DOF varies with lens aperture, focal length, and camera-to-subject distance.

Diaphragm  The adjustable aperture of a lens is called a diaphragm and it controls the amount of light passing into the camera.  The diaphragm may be in front of, within or behind the lens.

Digital Zoom  Digital magnification of the center of an image that increases the apparent image size by interpolation.  Interpolation enlarges individual pixels often making a blurry picture and out-of-focus image.  Many photographers turn the digital zoom function off.  You will get the same or better quality image by cropping the image in post production.

Download  Transfer data from a device to a computer using a cable connection.

DSLR  A digital single lens reflex camera.

Diopter adjustment: A viewfinder feature that corrects for common eyeglass prescriptions so eyeglass wearers can use the viewfinder without wearing their glasses.


EXIF: Exchangeable Image File Format. Developed to standardize the exchange of image data between hardware devices and software.

Exposure: The amount of light allowed reaching the sensor, determined by the intensity of the light, the amount admitted by the iris of the lens, and the length of time determined by the shutter speed.

Exposure Value (EV): EV settings are a way of adding or decreasing exposure without the need to reference f-stops or shutter speeds. For example, if you tell your camera to add +1EV, it will provide as much exposure by using a larger f-stop, slower shutter speed, or both.


f numbers – A numerical designation (f/2, f 2.8, f3 etc.) indicating the size of the aperture.

F-stop – A term used to describe the aperture, or opening of a lens. F-stops are defined numerically – f1/4, f5.6, f22, etc. Larger, or wider apertures, allow more light to enter the lens, which results in faster shutter speeds. Faster apertures also allow for selective focus (narrow depth-of-field), while smaller (slower) apertures allow for greater depth-of-field. Wider apertures are preferred for portraits, while smaller apertures are preferred for landscapes.

Flash: A flash supplies additional light to compensate for low lighting, back-lighting and other lighting issues.

Focal Length The distance from the optical center of the lens to the image sensor when the lens is focused on infinity, usually expressed in millimeters.

Focus The process of bringing one plane of the scene into sharp focus on the image sensor.

File Format: A way of storing image data in a file.

Fill Flash: Also called forced flash. A camera setting that causes the electronic flash to always fire, which produces the effect of filling in shadows in brightly illuminated images.

Focal Length: The distance between the film and the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused on infinity, usually measured in millimeters.

Focus: To adjust the lens to produce a sharp image.

Framing: 1. In photography, composing your image in the viewfinder or LCD. 2. In composition, using elements of an image to form a sort of picture frame around an important subject.

Front Curtain Sync: The default electronic flash synchronization technique. The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure — in the instant that the first curtain of the focal plane shutter finishes its movement across the film or sensor plane.

November 12, 2011

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms: A – B – C

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As shown in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Angle of View  The amount of a scene that can be recorded by a particular lens. This is determined by the focal length of the lens.

Aperture  The aperture is an adjustable opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera.  Most digital cameras have an automatic mode that adjusts the camera’s aperture depending on light levels.  The size of the opening is calibrated in f-stop numbers.  The smaller the number the bigger the aperture; the higher the number, the smaller the aperture.

Aperture-Priority Auto-Exposure  A Semi-automatic exposure mode; the photographer sets the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed to produce a good exposure.

Automatic Exposure  A feature where the camera automatically adjusts the aperture or shutter speed or both for the proper exposure.

Automatic Flash  A flash unit with a light-sensitive cell that determines the length of the flash for proper exposure by measuring the light reflected back from the subject.

Auto Focus  A system that automatically focuses the camera lens.

Auto Mode  A digital camera mode where both the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically.

AVCHD  (Advanced Video Coding High Definition)  A format for recording and playing back high-definition video and used in many HD camcorders.
Average Metering – Average metering takes all of the light values for a given scene – highlights, shadows, and mid-tones – and averages them together to establish a good overall exposure. Average metering is best used for front-lit subjects.  Back lit subjects tend to be silhouetted when metered in Average mode.

AWB (Auto White Balance)  An in-camera function that automatically adjusts the white balance of the scene to a neutral setting regardless of the ambient light source.


Back Lit  The subject is heavily lit from behind which generally causes it to be underexposed.

Back Lighting  A lighting effect produced when the main light source is located behind the subject. Backlighting is also a technology for illuminating an LCD display from the rear, making it easier to view under high ambient lighting conditions.

Blinkies  Flashes on the camera LCD screen that indicates over or under exposed areas in the captured image.


Capture  A term used in digital imaging meaning “to photograph”. The term is used to differentiate the method by which the image is made. As the word “photograph” is closely associated to film photography, “capturing” is applied to specify a digital sensor is used.”

Card Reader  See: Memory card reader

CCD (Charge-coupled device) An image sensor that reads the charges from the sensor’s photo sites one row at a time.

Center Weighted  An auto exposure system that uses the center portion of the image to adjust the overall exposure value.

Compact Flash (CF)  A common type of digital camera flash memory storage. There are three types:  CF Type I: the original 5mm high card, CF Type II: cards and devices that are 9mm high and CF Type III: used in double-height slots only.

Continuous Auto Focus  An always-on auto focus system.

Continuous Shooting   A mode available on many digital cameras that allows a burst of shots by holding down the camera shutter button.  Continuous shooting is often used to capture fast-action sporting events and kids running around the yard.

Contrast  A measure of rate of change of brightness in an image.

Copyright  A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States that gives creators exclusive rights to ownership and use of their “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. Copyright is also protected by international agreements.

Copyright infringement The unauthorized copying or use of a work that is protected by copyright.

Copyright notice The copyright notice consists of three elements: the “c” in a circle (©) or the word “copyright”, the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner.

Camera Raw  A file format offered by some digital cameras.  Records the image without applying any in-camera processing that is usually done automatically when saving photos in JPEG or other formats. Also known as Raw.

Center-Weighted Metering  Metering mode that reads the entire scene but gives more emphasis to the subject in the center of the frame.

Chimping  A digital photography term used to describe the “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!” sound made by photographers when checking the camera LCD just after a photo is taken.

Choices  A photographer makes choices more than just the subject when taking a digital photo, they include:

Light – Quantity, Quality, Type;

Point of View – Where to stand;

Field of View – What to include, what to exclude

Camera Configuration – horizontal, vertical or on occasion diagonal.

Circular Polarizer  See” Polarizer

Close Focus Mode   A point and shoot camera mode that allows close focus of objects close to the lens.  It is designated on the back cameras with a flower icon.  Close Focus is not a true macro focus, but is often called “macro.”

CMOS  (Pronounced see-moss, Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)  A type of Imaging Sensor. CMOS chips are less energy-consuming than CCD Type sensors and are becoming increasingly common in pro DSLRs.

Composition  The arrangement of the main subject, other objects in a scene, and/or the foreground and background.

Contrast  The range of difference in the light to dark areas of a photo.

Crop  To trim an image or page by adjusting its boundaries.

November 11, 2011

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