New To Photography:Dictionary

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This page is a chapter in the book Appendix F - Dictionaries.
The Photography Dictionary. (Created by Craig Miller)
Or, how to understand all that technical stuff without going insane.

You need to know what aperture is? What different lenses do? and if you think anything should be added, let us know.


Aberration: A lens fault (problem) in which light rays are scattered, degrading the image. Different types include:
Chromatic (colors and light wavelengths), Spherical (blurring in the center of a picture), coma (edge blurring),
astigmatism (light rays focused as a line, not a point), and field curvature (plane of sharpest focus is a curved surface).

Achromatic Lens: a lens constructed of different types of glass, used to reduce chromatic aberration.

Acutance: The objective measurement of how well an edge is recorded in a photograph.

Additive process: the process of combining lights of different colors.

Admin: Administrator

Aerial process: The impression of depth in a scene, created by use of haze.

AF: Auto Focus

Anastigmat: A compound lens; reduces optical aberrations

Angle of view: The widest angle of those light rays used by a lens to form an acceptably sharp image at the film plane. Widest when lens is set to infinity.

Ångström: measurement of light wavelength. 0.1 nanometre. All that physics crap is boring.

AP: Australian Photography, Ausphotography, - This site!

Aperture: An adjustable circular hole centered on the lens axis. The aperture is adjusted to allow more of less light in. f/1.8 lets in more light then f/33. Think of it as a fraction. This is important.

ASA/ISO: The sensitivity rating of a film to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive. ISO 400 is good for indoor photography, for example. ASA/ISO 200 is twice as fast as 100. Gory details here...

Automatic Exposure (AE) control: A system found in many modern cameras which utilizes a photo-electric cell to determine the amount of light reaching the film. AE control will then set shutter and/or aperture speed for you. Many cameras will also allow you to set either aperture size or shutter speed, and the camera will change accordingly, adjusting the other to balance the photograph. This is a great setting for sports photography.

Auto Focus (AF): on many modern cameras, AF allows the photographer to point the camera at a scene, and the photo-electric cell in the camera itself focuses the lens faster then many could focus manually. Handy for sports and wildlife photography, when you don't have tons of time to focus for a shot.

Av: Aperture value: f/number setting. Used to indicate aperture-priority setting for auto-exposure. Sometimes just A on the dial.


B&W: Black and White

Back Lighting: lighting behind a subject, directed towards the camera.

Barrel distortion: A lens aberration that distorts an image. Straight vertical lines bow outwards. Barrel distortion is found using a fish-eye lens and can be used to great effect.

Bas-relief: A method of producing images that stand out. Produced by sandwiching a positive and negative of the same image slightly out of register.

Bayonet mount: a type of fitting enabling lenses to be mounted on the camera body quickly and easily.

BBF: back button focusing (AF-ON)

Bee gun: A hand-held smoke gun used to produce special effects smoke by burning charcoal and incense.

BG: Background

BIF: Bird in Flight

Bokeh: Pronounced Bo (as in bone) and Ke (as in Ken), both the 'Bo' and the 'Ke' equally emphasized..... In Japanese, this term literally means “blur,” and in photography, this is an out-of-focus quality that comes as a result of certain photographic compositions. Normally, this is seen in photographs that utilize a large aperture.

BOP: Bird of Pray

Bounce Flash: light from an electronic flash bounding off a reflective surface such as a wall, ceiling or white umbrella- produces a softer more diffused illumination

Bracketing: shooting the same picture three times: one underexposed (high aperture), one at correct exposure, and one overexposed (low aperture).

Brightness: "The subjective impression of luminance." Wow, who the flap came up with that definition? Hahaha.

BTW: By The Way

B (Bulb): A shutter-speed setting on an adjustable camera that allows for time exposures. When set on B, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release button remains depressed.


Camera Shake: unintentional (usually) movement of the camera during exposure- causes blurring of the image.

Candid Pictures: Unposed pictures of people, often taken without the subject's knowledge. These usually appear more natural and relaxed than posed pictures.

CC: Constructive Critique (term used on AP). When someone tells you what's wrong with your perfect image.

CG: Computor Graphics

Changing bag: a light-tight bag with sleeves to allow safe handling of light-sensitive photographic materials.

Circle of confusion:
1) AP Meet-ups
2) Size of smallest detail that can be distinguished from a viewing distance of 250 mm: usually taken as spot or circle with diameter 0.25mm. * Strictly, circle of confusion is size of spot that cannot be distinguished from true point at a viewing distance of 250 mm. Any image detail smaller than 0.25mm in a well illuminated subject cannot be distinguished by normal unaided eye at distance of 250 mm: therefore detail finer than this is not required in final print. This figure is used as basis in lens designs; when calculating depth of field tables and determining screen sizes in printing.

Close-up: A picture taken with the subject close to the camera-usually less than two or three feet away, but it can be as close as a few inches.

Close-up Attachments: Accessories such as a close-up lens, bellows, or extension tube, which enable the camera to focus closer than normal.

Colour Balance: How a colour film reproduces the colours of a scene. Colour films are made to be exposed by light of a certain colour quality such as daylight or tungsten. Colour balance also refers to the reproduction of colours in colour prints, which can be altered during the printing process.

Contact sheet: A print of all the frames from a roll of film, arranged in strips. A contact print allows you to select what pictures you wish to enlarge. You make one by putting photopaper under your negative sheet, then you expose it. A contact printer, made up of a sheet of clean glass and a base, will flatten the negative sheet out and allow you a clean contact print.

Contrast: The range of difference in the light to dark areas of a negative, print, or slide (also called density); the brightness range of a subject or the scene lighting.

CPL: Circular Polarising Lens/Filter

Cropping: the removal of unwanted sections of an image when enlarging.


Depth of field: The distance in front of and behind the absolute-focus of a picture that is in acceptable focus. Depth of field is increased by increasing the f stop (making the aperture smaller. f/1.8 has a very small DOF, where f/22 has a large DOF)

Development: the chemical process by which an invisible latent image is converted into a visible one.

Diaphragm: See aperture

Differential (or Selective) Focus: A technique used to isolate a subject by using a large aperture to produce a small depth of field so that areas not in the subject plane are unsharp. A focus is created specifically around the desired object.

Diffraction: The scattering of light as it passes close to an opaque surface such as a lens diaphragm. At very small apertures, loss of image quality can occur.

Diffuser: Translucent material capable of scattering transmitted light, producing softer illumination.

Digital Camera: A digital camera (also Digi-cam or camera for short) is a camera that takes video or still photographs, or both, digitally by recording images via an electronic image sensor. Typically a Compact, phone Camera, Web Cam, DSLR or Video Camera.

DIN: a logarithmically measured sensitivity of film to light. ASA/ISO are arithmetic measurements. An increase of 3 DIN units indicates a doubling of film speed. DIN is not used anymore.

Diopter: Measurement of the refraction ability of a lens. Diopter is reciprocal of the focal length; a convex lens is positive, a concave lens is negative.

Distortion: The change in shape of an image.

DP: Digital Processing

DR: Dynamic Range

DSLR: Digital Single-lens Reflex.

Dodging: see shading

DOF: Depth of Field

Downrating: AKA: cutting, pulling: The technique of decreasing the film speed then underdeveloping the film during processing.

Dry mounting: The method of affixing a print to a card, wood, etc. by heating mounting tissue between the two surfaces.

DX: The lettering used by Nikon to indicate an APSC sized sensor camera ( cropped frame )

DX coding: A system of marking the film canister with the film speed. Many modern cameras will read this marking to determine the ISO of the film. DX coding can be “hacked” manually


Easel: AKA “Masking Frame”: A flat board used to hold and frame photographic paper during printing.

Emulsion: the light sensitive substance composed of halides used for film and paper.

ETTR: Expose To The Right

Exposure: the amount of light reaching an emulsion, being the product of intensity and time.

Exposure latitude: the amount by which photosensitive material can be over or under exposed and still produce acceptable results.

Exposure Value (EV): an indication of the aperture/shutter speed combination for a given level of light. 1/30 seconds at f16 has the same EV as 1/250 at f5.6


f/stop: The light gathering power of lenses is usually described by the wider f/stop they are capable of, and lens aperture rings are normally calibrated in a standard series of f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32. See aperture.

Fast film: Film with an ISO/ASA rating higher then 400. (or 400, for that matter)

FF: Full Frame

Fill-in Flash: A supplementary light source used to increase the exposure in certain (usually shadowed) areas without altering the overall character of the lighting.

Filter: Transparent material that modifies the light reaching the film. Filters are places in front of a light source or between the film and the subject.

Fish-eye Lens: An extremely wide-angle lens exhibiting barrel distortion and a very large depth of field.

Fish fryer: A large light source measuring about 2x3ft, usually used in a studio; supported on an adjustable stand.

Fixer: A chemical solution that ‘fixes’ the photographic image on negatives or photographic paper- making it permanent. Photographs that aren’t in the fixer long enough exhibit a strange changing of colours.

Flash: A unit that produces short bursts of intense light lasting between 1/60th of a second and 1/40,000 of a second.

Flipping: Turning over a negative or transparency so the image appears back to front in order to increase the drama or flow of the image.

Focal length: the distance between the center of the lens and its focal point.

Focusing: Adjusting the distance between the lens and the film to achieve sharp focus.

Focus Spot: A spotlight with a narrow angle of view, generally 1 degree.

Format: The size and shape of a negative or transparency.

Fresnel lens: A flat condenser lens used with spotlights or with focusing screens.

Front Projection: A system of projecting an image onto a background screen. A medium format camera can shoot through a two-way mirror to combine two separate scenes.

FWIW: For What It's Worth

FX: The lettering Nikon use to designate a 35mm sized sensor camera.


Gelatin filters: Coloured filters made from dyed gelatin, used over the lens or light source.

Glass: See lens.

GND: Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Gobos: Cut out shapes or masks placed in the front of a light source to cast shadows of the scene.

Grade: Scale indicating the contrast of printing paper from soft to hard (0-5).

Graduated filters (grads): A toned filter that gradually reduces in density towards the centre of the filter.

Grain: An individual light-sensitive crystal. Grain would be like Megapixels or DPI- the better grain of a photograph, the larger you can make it without compromising the quality of the picture. Or something like that.


Hand Colouring: Painting a photographic image by hand, usually with a brush and coloured dyes. Does not work well on glossy photo paper (you have been warned!)

Hard light: An intense light that creates distinctive shadows.

HDR: High Dynamic Range

High Key: An image comprising light or pale tones only.

Hot: Bright or too bright, when referring to light or exposure.

Hyperfocal Distance: Distance of the nearest object in a scene that is acceptably sharp when the lens is focused on infinity.


ICM: Intentional Camera Movement

Incident light meter: A meter that reads the amount of light falling onto the subject. It is held in front of the subject, facing the light source.

Infinity cove: A 3-foot radius coving used in a studio to produce horizonless backgrounds or smooth, continuous reflection in cars.

Infra-red film: Film designed to record infra-red light. (Infra-red is not visible to the human eye)

IMHO: In MY Honest Opinion

IQ: Image Quality

ISO: International Organization for Standardization, an international standard-setting body. Everyone should realise that the acronym for this organisation is actually IOS. So what is ISO if it is not an acronym? Anyone, however, has to be forgiven (by international law) for thinking ISO actually stands for "International Standards Organisation". But it doesn't because that's not the right name for the august body. The name ISO, we're told, is actually from the Greek word 'isos' meaning 'equal'. See? What could be simpler? Or is the idea of anything simple about an international body merely oxymoronic?

ISO (Light Sensitivity): See ASA !


Jitter: Jerky, irregular movement of image due to variety of causes e.g. unsteadiness of film transport in gate of projector, faulty animation, low refresh rate of monitor, slow transfer of video data e.g. in videoconferencing or from CD-ROM player.

JPEG: Acronym referring to a data compression technique that can reduce file sizes to as little as 10% of original with only a slight loss of image quality and to less than 5% by sacrificing a bit more quality. JPEG compression has the following characteristics: (a) it is lossy: i.e. compression loses data that cannot afterwards be recovered; (b) its degree of lossiness can be varied to balance reduction of file size against loss of image quality (mainly seen as loss of resolution); (c) JPEG compressed files do not need to be decompressed before use. (also .jpg files)


Kelvin: The unit of measure of colour temperature.

Key light: the light providing the main illumination, usually supplemented by other light sources and/or reflectors.


Large format cameras: Camera using sheet film measuring 5’’x4’’ or larger.

Lens: an optical element which converges or diverges light (plural Lenses). A photographic lens (also known as objective lens or photographic objective) is an optical lens or assembly of lenses used in conjunction with a camera body and mechanism to make images of objects either on photographic film, digital sensor or on other media capable of storing an image chemically or electronically. Colloquially Glass (That's a nice piece of glass you have there).

Lens Axis: a line through the centre of the curvature of a lens.

Lens flare: Non-image forming light reflected from lens surfaces that degrades the quality of the image- can be used to good effect.

Lens Shade/ Lens hood: stops lens flare.

Lightbox: A box containing fluorescent tubes balanced for white light, covered by a diffuser, and used for viewing transparencies and negatives.

Light source: anything that gives off light.

Light tent: Translucent material surrounding the subject and diffusing the light reaching it.

Lith film: a high contrast film emulsion that can produce striking photographic images. Way cool.

Low key: An image comprising mostly dark tones.

LR: Lightroom


Macro: see photomicrography

Masking frame: see easel

Medium format cameras: Film cameras using 120 and 220 roll film, producing negatives of varying formats, notable 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x12cm, and 6x17cm. Do you see a pattern? Also: Digital Cameras such as the Pentax 645D

MF: Manual Focus

Mired: A measure of the colour of light whose values are found by taking one million and dividing it by the colour temperature in kelvins. A 5500k light source, for example, has a mired value of 182 (1,000,000/5500).

MO2: My Two Cents

MOD: Moderator

Modeling light: A continous low-wattage light source built in to electronic flash heads to show the effect that flash will produce.

Modeling light 2: Side-lighting that accentuates the three-dimensional nature of a subject.

Model release form: get one if you use real people.

Motor drive: a motorised film advance device attached to or built in to a camera, enabling single or continuous frame advance (measured in frames per second, fps)

Multiflash: repeated flashes to produce a sequence of images of a moving subject, or to increase the illumination of a static subject.

Multiple exposures: Recording more then one image on the same frame of film.


ND: Neutral Density Filter

Negative: Photographic image with reversed tones (and colours), used to make a 'positive' image.

Neutral density: Colourless tone

Neutral density filter: A filter that reduces the amount of light without affecting the colour balance.

n00b: Newbie


OOF: Out of Focus

Original Poster/Original Post

OT: Off Topic

Over The Top

Exposure that is more than normally considered correct. Causes loss of highlighted detail.


Panning: A smooth rotation of the camera so as to keep a moving subject continuously in the frame- blurs the background.

Panoramic camera: A camera with a very wide view and minimum of optical distortion.

Parallax: The difference between the image viewed through the viewfinder and the image viewed by the lens.

PC: Personal Computor

Perspective: The illusion of 3d depth within a 2d picture

Perspective correction (shift) lens: A lens used mainly in architectural photography to correct converging verticals. With the camera horizontal, the lens can be shifted in any direction.

Photomacrography: Fancy name for "Macrophotography", taking close up pictures with magnification in the rage of 1-10x.

Photomicrography: Fancy name for "Microphotography," using a microscope to take pictures at great magnification.

Point and Shoot: Point and shoot cameras mean just that, point the camera at something and trip the shutter. The camera does all the work for you. Unfortunately, the camera is rarely as smart as the photographer so the results can be iffy. Point and shoot cameras are often abbreviated as P&S. These cameras started out as a fixed lens that focused about 4 feet in front of the camera with a fixed aperture and shutter speed. It was basically a box with a shutter. Then the lab that developed the film did what it could to fix the exposure. Today's P&S cameras are much more sophisticated. While there are still some P&S film cameras, such as the disposable or one time use cameras, most P&S today are digital.

Polarizing filter: A filter that absorbs polarized light, to varying degrees depending on its orientation. It is used to reduce reflection in water, glass, etc. and to increase colour saturation in skies.

POV: Point of View

PP: Post Processing, (slang Photoshopping). The editing of digital images on a computer.

Printing (burning) in: Increasing the exposure during printing of selected areas to dramatize the image or change the emphasis.

PS: Photoshop


Quartz halogen lamp: Definition: Type of incandescent light-source in which a filament or coil made of tungsten is heated in a quartz bulb containing a halogen gas. * Variant of tungsten lamp, usually distinguished by small envelope or bulb, operation at very high temperatures and very high light output. * Also known as QH lamps. Handling? No sweat QH lamps should be handled with great care: not only are they expensive to manufacture (and buy), their quartz envelopes are highly fragile and susceptible to chemical attack. This is because the lamps work at such high temperatures so sweaty any acid left on the envelope by a squidgy finger (ugh!) can weaken the envelope catastrophically. Always handle the lamp with tissue paper.


Rear curtain flash: A method of triggering the flash at the end of the exposure, creating more realistic images.

Reciprocity failure: Very short and long exposures cause a loss of film emulsion sensitivity. In colour film, this results in a colour cast. Added exposure may be necessary for shutter speeds over 1 second.

Red eye: Eyes can appear red when looking at the camera for a shot taken with flash- the effect is the result of light reflecting of the back of the retina. Using a pre-flash that contracts the pupil, bouncing the flash, or re-aiming the flash can fix this.

Red head: a 750-watt tungsten halogen light providing extra light to help in focusing when stopping down to f32 or more.

Reflected (ambient) light meter: A meter, such as a through-the-lens meter, that measures light bouncing off the subject.

Resin coated: A water-repellent base to photographic paper enabling them to be processed and washed faster- and dry more quickly then fiber-based papers.

Reversal film (transparency)(slide): Film that produce3s a positive image on exposure, without a separate negative.

RGB: Red Green Blue

Ring flash: A circular electronic flash unit positioned in front and around the camera lens, producing shadowless lighting ideal for close-up medical and scientific work.


Sabattier Effect: partial reversal of tone due to brief exposure to light during development. Similar to Solarization.

Safe light: Darkroom light of a colour and intensity that will not affect specific light-sensitive material.

Sandwiching: Combining two or more negatives within one frame when printing, or transparencies when projecting.

Shading (dodging): The covering or masking of selected areas of the paper while printing in order to hold back development.

Shutter: Mechanism that controls the duration of the exposure.

Shutter-release cable: A cable enabling the photographer to trigger the shutter remotely, without causing camera shake.

sic: Spelling Incorrect

Single-Lens Reflex: SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex and DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex and refers to how the light enters the camera. These cameras have a larger body than most P&S cameras and interchangeable lenses. These cameras allow for great control over the photography process and allow the photographer to take images not always possible with a P&S.

Skylight filter: A filter that absorbs UV light, reducing haze and blueness.

Slow film: ASA/ISO 50 or less

Snoot: cylindrical fitting for a light source, used to throw a circle of light on the subject.

SOOC: Straight Out of Camera

SOTA: State Of The Art

Spreading filter: A filter used in 6x12 and 6x17 panoramic cameras to spread the light evenly over the entire image

SS: Shutter Speed

Stop bath: Chemical that neutralizes the action of the developer on an emulsion.

Stopping down: Reducing the lens aperture. Going from f1 to f22, for example.


TBH: To Be Honest

TC: Teleconverter

Telephoto: A long focal-length lens designed to that the length of the lens is less than the focal length

Test strip: used to test various exposures made with an enlarger- always make these! The test strip will tell you what length of time to use to achieve the desired effect during enlarging.

Toning: A system of bleaching and dyeing to add an overall colour to black and white photos.

Troll: Offensive Comments Poster

TS: Thread Starter

TTL: Through The Lens

Tv: Time value: shutter setting. Used to indicate shutter priority setting for auto-exposure. Sometimes S on the dial.

TY: Thank You


Underexposure: Exposure that is less than the normally considered ‘correct’. Causes loss of shadow detail, reduced contrast and density

Uprating: The technique of increasing the film speed, then overdeveloping the film during processing.

UWA: Ultra Wide Angle


Viewfinder: A viewing device on a camera to show the subject area that will be recorded on the film or sensor. Also known as projected frame.

Vignetting: A fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print. Can be caused by poor lens design, using a lens hood not matched to the lens, or attaching too many filters to the front of the lens.


WA: Wide Angle

WB: White Balance

White balance: refers to the color tint of a photograph. Film and digital sensors are calibrated for certain types of light. Whenever an image is shot under different light conditions (or colour temperature), white does not appear white. If an image appears reddish it is referred to as "warm", while bluish images are referred to as "cool".

Wide-angle lens: A short focal-length lens that records a wide angle of view

WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get


X-synch: Shutter mechanism or technique for synchronising shutter run with electronic flash exposure. With diaphragm shutters the flash is fired as soon as the shutter is fully open. With focal-plane shutters, the flash is generally fired as soon as the first curtain has traversed the width of the film-gate: the X-synch time is therefore the shortest time setting at which the first curtain has exposed the film but the second curtain has not started to cover the film. The shortest shutter time setting at which X-synch is possible.


YCbCr: Colour representation system very similar to YIQ. * Y is the luminance (brightness) component and Cb and Cr are the chrominance (colour) values.


Zone focusing: Technique of pre-setting focus of lens for a certain distance in anticipation of action or movement taking place within a zone delivering an image of acceptable sharpness. Used in close, fast-moving situations such as crowds where there is no time, even for auto-focus mechanisms, to focus each shot.

Zoom Lens: A lens with a continuous range of focal lengths within a given limit. Such as 35-70mm, 28-85mm, 50-300mm.


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