Photography Terms Glossary

Explore our comprehensive glossary of photography terms, covering essential concepts like aperture, shutter speed, and composition, to improve your skills.

Aperture: The adjustable opening in a camera lens that controls the amount of light that passes through to the image sensor or film. It is measured in f-stops.

Aperture Priority (A or Av): A camera mode that allows the photographer to choose the aperture, while the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure.

Aspect Ratio: The proportional relationship between the width and height of an image or sensor.

Bokeh: The aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in an image, often characterized by smooth, round shapes.

Bracketing: Taking multiple shots of the same scene with different exposure settings to ensure the best exposure.

Bulb Mode (B): A camera mode that allows the shutter to stay open as long as the shutter button is held down, often used for long exposures.

Camera Raw: Unprocessed image data captured by the camera's sensor, which provides more flexibility for post-processing.

Chromatic Aberration: A lens distortion that causes different colors to be focused at different distances, resulting in color fringing or blurring.

Composition: The arrangement of elements within a photograph, including framing, perspective, and balance.

Continuous Autofocus (AF-C): A camera's autofocus system that constantly adjusts focus to track a moving subject.

Depth of Field (DoF): The range of distance within a photograph that appears to be in sharp focus.

Digital Zoom: A technique that crops and enlarges an image, often resulting in a loss of image quality.

DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex): A type of digital camera that uses a mirror and prism system to direct light from the lens to the viewfinder and image sensor.

Dynamic Range: The range of brightness levels that a camera can capture, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights.

Exposure: The amount of light that reaches the camera's sensor, determined by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.Exposure Compensation: An adjustment to the camera's automatic exposure settings to intentionally over- or underexpose an image.

F-Stop: A measurement of the aperture size, expressed as a ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the aperture.

File Format: The structure and encoding of digital image files, such as JPEG, TIFF, or RAW.

Focal Length: The distance between the camera's lens and the image sensor or film, measured in millimeters (mm), which determines the angle of view and magnification.

Focus: The adjustment of the camera lens to bring the subject into sharp detail.

FPS (Frames per Second): The number of still images captured per second in a video or burst mode.

Full-Frame Sensor: A digital camera sensor that is equivalent in size to a 35mm film frame (36 x 24mm).

Histogram: A graphical representation of the distribution of brightness levels in an image.

Hot Shoe: A mount on top of a camera that provides an electrical connection for attaching external accessories, such as a flash unit.

ISO: The sensitivity of a camera's sensor to light, with higher numbers indicating greater sensitivity.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): A common lossy compression format for digital images.

Long Exposure: A photography technique that involves using a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur or light trails.

Manual Mode (M): A camera mode that allows the photographer to manually set both the aperture and shutter speed, giving full control over the exposure settings. This mode is often used when the photographer wants precise control over the creative aspects of the image, such as depth of field and motion blur.

Megapixel: One million pixels, used as a unit of measurement for the resolution of digital images.

Metering: The process by which a camera measures the light in a scene to determine the optimal exposure settings.

Mirrorless Camera: A type of digital camera that does not use a mirror and prism system, instead relying on an electronic viewfinder or live view on the rear screen.

Noise: Unwanted visual artifacts, such as grain or speckles, in a digital image, often caused by high ISO settings or long exposures.

Optical Zoom: A feature of some camera lenses that allows for magnification by changing the focal length, without degrading image quality.

Panning: A photography technique that involves moving the camera horizontally in sync with a moving subject, resulting in a sharp subject and a blurred background.

Prime Lens: A fixed focal length lens, as opposed to a zoom lens, which can offer better image quality and larger apertures.

RAW: A file format that contains unprocessed image data directly from the camera's sensor, allowing for more control during post-processing.

Rule of Thirds: A compositional guideline that suggests dividing an image into nine equal parts and placing the subject along one of the vertical or horizontal lines or at an intersection point.

Shutter: A mechanical device in a camera that opens and closes to control the duration of light exposure on the sensor or film.

Shutter Priority (S or Tv): A camera mode that allows the photographer to choose the shutter speed, while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture to achieve the correct exposure.

Shutter Speed: The length of time the camera's shutter remains open, controlling the amount of light that reaches the sensor or film.

Single Autofocus (AF-S): A camera's autofocus system that locks focus once it has been achieved, typically used for stationary subjects.

Spot Metering: A camera's metering mode that measures the light in a small area of the scene, often the center or a user-selected point.

Telephoto Lens: A lens with a long focal length, typically greater than 70mm, that magnifies the subject and can create a shallow depth of field.

Time Lapse: A photography technique that involves taking a series of images at set intervals and then combining them into a video to show the passage of time.

Tripod: A three-legged stand used to stabilize a camera, often necessary for long exposures or precise compositions.

Vignetting: A reduction of an image's brightness or saturation at the corners, often caused by lens limitations or intentionally added during post-processing.

White Balance: The adjustment of a camera's color settings to ensure that whites and other colors appear accurate under different lighting conditions.

Wide-Angle Lens: A lens with a short focal length, typically less than 35mm, that captures a wide field of view and can exaggerate perspective.

Zoom Lens: A lens with a variable focal length, allowing the photographer to change the magnification of the subject without physically moving closer or farther away.

Zone System: A technique developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer for determining optimal exposure and development in black and white photography, based on dividing the tonal range into ten zones.