Below is a list of photography terms
we will be adding to this list as we find new terms.
The Aperture is the size of the opening in the camera lens at the moment a photo is taken. Aperture is measured in fractions, so the larger the number, the smaller the aperture opening. Shutter speed and aperture are the two primary controls for limiting the amount of light that hits the film or sensor.
An Application is just another word for computer program.
Refers to size of the digital camera sensor. With Nikon’s DX or APS-C format sensor size is about 23.5 x 15.5mm and has a lens multiplier number of 1.5. This makes a 200mm lens equal to a 300mm lens in 35mm format equivalent. Math example – 200mm * 1.5 = 300mm.
A Browser is an application that allows the photographer to sort and rename the pictures in his or her collection.
Burning means darkening part of a photograph. In the darkroom, it’s done by blocking some of the light that would normally reach the rest of the photo. In digital photo editing, it’s usually a paintbrush-like tool built into the application.
Compact Disks are the typical means of storing digital photographs. They hold about 700 megabytes of information, and can be CD-R for writeable CDs and CD-RW for re-writeable CDs.
Cloning is an image editing term for copying one part of the image into another part of the same image or a different image entirely. It’s used for painting out unwanted items, like electric lines.
CMYK is an acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. These are the four colors used in the standard printing process. It’s also a color mode in photo editing programs.
Compact Flash is one form of digital camera media. It was the original standard, and is still one of the most common formats. It has a capacity that starts at 2MB to a maximum capacity of 128GB.
Cropping involves chopping out part of a picture. You might crop to focus attention on the real subject, or to remove extra stuff that intruded on the picture.
When it comes to storing digital pictures, a DVD is basically a monster-sized CD. It will hold over four and a half gigabytes of data.
Dodging is making a section of a photo lighter. When this is done in the darkroom, it’s usually by blocking some of the light from reaching that part of the picture. In a photo editing program, it’s a paintbrush like tool that lightens instead of painting.
Downloading is the opposite of uploading. Downloading means to pull data from another location. Normally it means to get data from the Internet, but in digital photography, it also means to get the pictures from the camera. Sometimes used interchangeably with Importing.
Most photo printers and monitors measure their resolution in Dots Per Inch, or DPI. The higher the number, the higher the resolution.
EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image Format. Most digital images have two parts. The first is the image itself, which is usually stored as a JPG image. The second is the EXIF data. EXIF data most often includes all of the photographer’s information, like the date and time the picture was taken and the shutter speed and aperture set at the time.
Flipping an image is the same as reflecting it in a mirror. Flipping is one of the basic image editing tools.
Full Frame Format
Refers to size of the digital camera sensor. The Nikon FX or Full Frame Format sensor size is about 26 x 24mm or about the same size as 35mm film.
Technically speaking, a spectrum of gray shades from black to white. A grayscale picture is the digital equivalent of a black and white photo.
The Highlights are the whitest part of a picture. Normally, they are a very small percentage of the picture, because it’s very easy to lose details in highlights.
A Histogram is a chart that graphs all of the tones in a photo. Most programs will generate histograms, and most digital cameras can create them also.
Image File Format
The format of an image file determines the size of the file, the overall image quality, and several other things. Common image file formats are JPG, GIF, TIFF, and PNG.
The Resolution is the number of pixels, or dots, in a picture.
An Inkjet printer sprays tiny jets of ink onto paper.
The sensitivity of film is measured by ISO, and the larger the number, the more senstive the film. ISO 100 needs a lot of light, like outdoors on a sunny day. ISO 1600 doesn’t need much light. However, higher ISO means more grain in the film. Digital images borrowed the ISO scale to measure the sensitivity of a camera sensor. Just like the grain that’s added to film at higher ISO settings, more “noise” is added to digital images at higher ISO. In general, as ISO goes up, quality goes down.
JPG or JPEG
The Joint Photographic Experts Group developed a method for making digital images smaller while sacrificing only a little bit of quality in the process. This is called JPG compression, and is the most common picture format on the Internet.
The word landscape, like portrait, actually has two meanings. The first and original is the photography term for a picture of wide open spaces, like a mountain or sunset. The second meaning is a description of the alignment of a picture. Pictures that are oriented horizontally–with the narrow sides upright–are known as Landscape images, whether they depict a mountain or not.
Think of Layers as sheets of tracing paper or transparency film laid over top of your image. Graphic designers use layers to separate out elements of their project, so that they can work on individual pieces without damaging others. Adjustment Layers are a special kind of layer that shows the results of whatever filter or function is attached to that layer.
Media is a technical term for storage. Compact disks, DVD’s, memory cards, thumb dieves, are all storage media. Removeable media is a memory cards, thumb dieves, or disk that can be moved from one computer to another without losing data.
A megabyte is generally about a million bytes, or a thousand kilobytes. Technically, a megabyte is 1024 kilobytes.
A megapixel is one million pixels, or dots. Megapixels are the de facto standard for measuring the power of a digital camera. Generally speaking, a four megapixel image can be printed at about 5×7 or perhaps even 8×10 without making the pixels so large it ruins the picture. However a 12 megapixel or 24 megapixel can produce a much larger quality print, but lens quality plays a more important roll with large prints.
Memory Stick (R)
One brand of digital camera media. It looks like a small stick of chewing gum.
Online Photo Printing
Online Printers are Internet companies that allow their members to upload pictures for printing. Once the prints are done, the company then mails them to the customer.
Panning the camera involves following a moving subject while snapping the picture. Done properly, the subject will be sharp and the background behind it will be blurry. This technique can be duplicated by using a radial blur on the background in a photo editing application.
Pixel is short for Picture Element, and it’s basically a dot. All digital pictures are made up of these dots, and counting them is a measure of the image (pixels per inch, or PPI), print (dots per inch, or DPI), and camera power (millions of pixels or megapixels).
Plug-ins are small or large programs that can be added to a program application like Photoshop or Lightroom to enhance the capability of the application. Theses plug-ins are usually created by a third party company.
The word Portrait actually has two meanings. The first and original is the photography term for a picture of a person. The second meaning is a description of the alignment of a picture. Pictures that are oriented vertically–with the long sides upright–are known as Portrait images, whether they depict a person or not.
RAW is the internal format of a digital camera. Many cameras “pre-process” images. They will do JPG compression, white balancing, and a number of other adjustments. The RAW image is the starting point for all of these. Digital photographers prefer to start from the RAW file so that they can make their own changes to these items.
Red Eye is the reflection of the camera flash off of the back of the subject’s eyes. It happens most often with a bright flash in dim light. Many photo editing applications have red eye removal features.
Resize is one of the basic photo editing tools. It’s used to change the size or resolution of an image.
RGB is the standard color format for digital images. It stands for Red, Green, Blue. Each of the three colors is given an amount between 0 and 255, and the blend of the three produces all of the other colors. Three zeroes produce white, and three 255s produce black.
Rotation is one of the basic photo editing tools, and is commonly used to fix portraits that have been downloaded from the camera as landscape.
Saturation is a measure of the richness of the colors in a photo. When a picture is desaturated, all of the color information has been removed, and what’s left is a grayscale or black and white picture.
The shadows are the darkest part of an image, just as highlights are the brightest.
Sharing photos generally involves uploading them to a website (like Flickr) so that other people can view them or even order prints and photo gifts.
Sharpness is a description of the focus and clarity of a picture. It concerns how clearly the details appear to be.
SD or Secure Digital
One versions of digital camera media card that can support a maximum capacity of 2GB.
SDHC or Secure Digital High Capacity
One versions of digital camera media cards that support a maximum capacity of 32GB. Some older cameras do not support this format.
SDXC or Secure Digital Extended Capacity
One versions of digital camera media cards that support a maximum capacity of 2TB. Only some of the newest cameras support this format as of 2010.
Shutter Speed is the amount of time the shutter remains open when a photo is taken. Shutter Speed and Aperture together determine just how much light hits the film or camera sensor. The shutter speed is also a fraction, just like the aperture. A shutter speed of 500 is actually 1/500, or “one five hundredth of a second.”
Smart Media ™
One of the several versions of digital camera media.
A Thumb Drive is one name for a USB Flash Chip. Other nicknames are Jump Drive and USB Keychain. The Thumb Drive comes in various sizes, like 1mb to 16mb and higher that plugs into a computer’s USB port. It’s like having a pocket hard drive.
A Thumbnail is a small version of a larger picture. Many browsing and editing programs use thumbnails to index a picture collection. Some programs will even generate Contact Sheets, which are basically page after page of thumbnails showing the entire collection or directory.
Uploading is the opposite of downloading. Uploading involves sending a file from your computer to another system, either through a cable or over the Internet.
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It’s an industry standard for connecting things to computers. Most digital cameras and chip readers use a USB cable to connect to the computer. USB 2.0 is a newer and faster standard, most computer can handle the 2.0.
White Balance is a camera setting used to compensate for changes in the color of light. Some artificial lights “tint” the color they project, so the camera’s white balance setting is used to balance this back to a more normal color cast. If the camera’s white balance was incorrect, then the photo editor has to account for this by changing the color scale. The program will use an area that was supposed to be white as the starting point, and will remap every other color in the picture accordingly.
A Wizard in computer terms is a program that walks you through a process step by step. For example, a scanning wizard might ask a series of questions on color vs. black and white, automatic scratch removal, and image resolution, before it actually triggers the scanner.