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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

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