Photography Terms & Definitions

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Photography Terminology Explained

Many people are hooked on photography even though there is so much to learn before you can claim some sort of expertise. One way to speed up the learning process is by knowing the various photography terms and definitions used by experts on their websites and on printed publications.

We have compiled a list of these simple terms together with short discussions or explanations. Click on the A-Z sections in the table below to jump to the relevant section.



Aberration is the distortion of image quality or color rendition in a photographic image caused by the defect in the lens or lens system that prevents light from being brought into sharp focus or the ability of the lens to reproduce a focused, sharp and accurate image.

An example of a distorted image is the presence of unwanted color lines around the subject due to chromatic aberration.

Absolute resolution

Absolute resolution is the camera’s optical resolution of the image specified in horizontal and vertical pixels or megapixel (MP) count. The optical resolution is the number of pixels the camera or scanner can actually see or capture. For example: 1500 X 1200 pixels = 1,800,000 pixels or 1.8 megapixels

An image with a high number of pixels is said to have high resolution while an image with a low number of pixels is considered to have low resolution.

Be aware that there is another kind of resolution – the interpolated resolution which could be presented in higher pixel counts. However, it’s the optical resolution that is the true or absolute resolution and not the software-enhanced interpolated resolution specified by some camera manufacturers.


To acquire is to import or transfer a digital image from camera or scanner to a computer for editing purposes.

Adobe RGB (Adobe RGB 1998)

Adobe RGB 1998 is a widely- accepted editing color space designed by Adobe Systems, Inc. that uses only Red, Green and Blue as primary colors. It can cover millions or “all possible colors” that can come out of CMYK printers.

The color space is a useful reference that users can use to understand a camera’s, monitor’s or printer’s color capabilities.

Adobe RGB offers a wider color space compared to sRGB, another widely-accepted color space.

AF Servo

AF Servo or Autofocus Servo is a feature, normally found on DSLRs, that allows the camera to continuously focus on a moving object. This feature is generally useful to wildlife or sports photographers that need to focus on a moving subject.

AF Servo is also known as Continuous Focus.


Anti-aliasing is the method of reducing or smoothing out the pixels’ jagged or stair-stepping edges using software. The stair-stepping, jagged edges are due to the visible square configuration of pixels, the basic unit of digital images.

Anti-Shake (Image Stabilization)

Anti-Shake (Image Stabilization) or Vibration Reduction is a technology or camera feature intended to counter or compensate for the effects of camera shake that can cause blurred images.

Camera manufacturers have developed a number of anti-shake (image stabilization) methods to help photographers take better, sharper pictures as follows:

  1. Use of lens-based sensors and compensating elements.
  2. Sensors built into the camera body to detect camera shake. Then there are tiny motors to readjust the sensors position in the “floating” micro state to compensate for camera shake.

Another way to avoid the negative effects of camera shake is by using a faster shutter speed when possible.


Aperture is the circular-shaped opening in a lens through which light passes to reach the image sensor or the film.

The aperture opening is either fixed or adjustable (like an SLR camera). Aperture size is usually measured in f-numbers or f-stops (f22 f/2.0, f/1.8 etc) that are visible on the lens barrel.

Large aperture openings, which allow more light through, have smaller f/stop numbers than that of smaller aperture openings which allow less light to get through. So, an aperture with an f-number f/2.8 has, in fact, a much larger opening than one with f/22.

Adjusting the aperture opening affects the image’s depth of field.

Aperture Priority Mode

A camera set to Aperture Priority Mode allows you to set the aperture value and let the camera determine the most appropriate shutter speed to ensure proper exposure.


APS-C (APSC) is the acronym for Advanced Photo System – Classic, an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the Advanced Photo System “classic” negatives of 25.1 × 16.7 mm; aspect ratio of 3:2. Many variants of this size of digital imaging sensors, which are much smaller than 35 mm standard film (which measures 36×24 mm) are used in almost all compact DSLRs. Devices with this smaller sensor are also called “cropped frame” because the edges of the image that appear if taken by a full-frame camera are cropped off.

APS was a film format introduced in 1996 but has been discontinued.


APS-H (APSH), the acronym for Advanced Photo System – High Definition, is an imaging sensor (1.3x) that is smaller than full-frame (24 x 36mm) imaging sensors but larger than APS-C (1.5x) imaging sensors.


Artifacts refer to image degradations or distortions as a result of image compression, interpolation and other image-processing activities. Examples of artifacts are: chromatic aberrations, moiré, blooming and noise. There are software applications available to fix or reduce artifacts.

The term is also sometimes written as “artefacts.”


ASA stands for the American Standards Association. ASA defined the film speed rating system used to describe how fast the film reacts to light or its light-sensitivity levels.

The more universal ISO system was introduced in 1974. The ASA system is still in use as part of the ISO system and presented as ISO/ASA.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the relationship between the image’s width and height, showing how many times longer the height is compared to the width. For example, the 1.5:1 aspect ratio of a 35mm image (36 x 24mm) is computed by dividing both the length and the width by 12, their common factor. The ratio comes out to be 3:2. It is reduced further to 1.5:1 by dividing both numbers by 2.

Aspherical surface

The surface of a lens that is has two or more radii of curvature deviating slightly from a spherical shape. This surface is designed to reduce aberrations that were encountered using lenses with traditional spherical surfaces.


Autofocus is a camera feature that allows the camera and lens to keep the object in focus during an exposure. Autofocus can be set to continuous, single or automatic focus modes. Or you can turn the autofocus feature off and focus manually.

Average Metering

A camera set to average metering mode will consider all of the light information for a given scene—midtones, highlights and shadows—and averages them to establish the more precise final exposure setting.

A metering sensor is used to measure the brightness of the subject.

AWB (Auto White Balance)

Automatic White Balance or AWB is a setting where the camera automatically determines the correct white balance for a scene. White balance adjusts the camera lighting for a more natural-looking image where for example, white objects appear the same in the photos taken.

This system can be a bit hit and miss on occasions and a photographers white balance card can be used as a reference point to gain correct white balance.


Barrel Distortion

A barrel distortion is an image distortion caused by lens defect where the edge straight lines of an image bulge outwards as in a barrel effect.


A bit, short for binary digit is the smallest unit of digital information. It is the unit of data storage quantity used to describe digital images.


A bitmap is the term for the method of storing digital information represented by an the arrangement of small squares of various colors, called pixels. The pixels appear dot-like but they are actually tiny squares when magnified.


Blooming is that colored or bright halo or streaks around the bright areas of a digital image caused by the exposure of the imaging sensor to a large amount of light or overexposure to the charge-couples device (CCD).


Blownout is the complete loss of the image’s highlight details. In this image defect caused by overexposure, the highlight detail appears as pure white.

Also called flared highlights or blown-out highlights.


The .BMP is the extension for the Microsoft Window’s bit-mapped file format. Mainly used in Windows-based applications


Bokeh (sometimes spelled boke) is the term for the blur quality in the out-of-focus parts of the photograph. There is good and bad bokeh mainly dependent on the eyes of the beholder although it is generally accepted that blurred areas with softer, smoother edges are preferred.

Bokeh, which is pronounced boh-keh originated from the Japanese word for “haze” or “blur.”


Bracketing is the term for taking multiple images of the same scene, usually in varying exposures, to create a choice of exposure options. Bracketing is done if the photographer wants to see the results of using different exposures for a scene and to determine which one is the best.

Bracketing is an optional custom function in many cameras.

Burst Rate

The burst rate of a camera locked into “Burst” or “Continuous” mode is the number of consecutive images that it can shoot continuously before the buffer is full. The buffer is the internal memory in the camera for temporary storage of the image before they are transferred to the memory card.

When the buffer becomes full, the camera slows down to have the time to move photos out of the buffer.

C is for CMOS

CCD (Charge-Coupled Device)

CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) is a type of imaging sensor for digital cameras. It is a light –sensitive semiconductor device that works as the digital equivalent of film but with better resolution.

CCD sensor has high degree of sensitivity, enabling it to produce an image in extremely dim light.

CCD was invented in 1969 by George Smith and Willard Boyle at Bell Labs.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is one of the two major categories of optical anomalies or aberrations that occur when a lens fails to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane. It can also be caused by wavelengths of color directed at different positions in the focal plane.

This defect, also known as “color fringing” or “purple fringing”, is most common around the edges of high-contrast images, usually toward the edges of the frame.,

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)

CMOS or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor is a type of imaging sensor, the light-sensitive device used to capture the image in DLSRs and other digital cameras. It is also a semiconductor device and functions like a CCD or charge coupled device while using less power and less expensive. CMOS is now the sensor used in most digital cameras.

CMOS was introduced much later than CCD. CMOS was also considered an inferior technology compared to CCD sensors but has greatly improved and now offers more advantages than CMOS sensors.

CMYK Color (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

CMYK is the acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) the color space for commercial offset printing as well as for laser, inkjet and other printers.

They are the four colors used in color printing, usually applied in the order stated in the acronym.

Color Calibration

Color calibration is the method of establishing that the calibration source -digital camera or scanner, monitor and output (printer) are adjusted or compatible to use the same or similar calibration target or color standard such as the Adobe RGB, sRGB, etc. The calibration is done to ensure the same range of colors between the image viewed on the monitor and the image to be printed.

Colour Correction

Color correction is the adjustment of colors to achieve the desired image. It can include but not limited to the following:

  1. fixing the white balance to arrive at the desired color,
  2. correcting the color to make a pasty skin tone look warmer or
  3. usingcolor gels, or filters

Color Cast

Color cast is an unwanted color that is “cast” on a portion or the whole image and caused by the camera’s lighting or white balance. The problem can be usually corrected using editing software.

Color cast can also occur in photos developed from film.

Color Depth

The number of distinct colors that are available or represented by a piece of hardware or software expressed in bits per pixel or the number of 0’s and 1’s. So, 24-bit digital camera has twenty-four 0’s and 1’s. Computed tables show that it means 224 or 16,777,216 colors available.

It is also referred to as “bit” depth.

Color Palette

The color palette is the set of available colors in a device or required by an application or program. For example, a computer with a color palette for 16 million colors may have a 256-color display if the color palette of the program used contains only 256 colors.

Color Space

Color space is the range of colors that a digital camera can see, a computer monitor can display or a printer can print. In short, it shows the color capabilities of the device. sRGB and Adobe RGB (1998) are two of the widely- used color spaces.

CompactFlash Card (CF)

Compact Flash or CF is a type of digital camera’s re-usable memory card to store images taken by the camera using flash memory technology. Developed by SanDisk in 1994, they are available in various storage capacities.


Compression is the process of reducing the size of a digital image file stored in hard drives and memory cards. Compression is called “lossless” if there is no detail removal and “lossy” if there is removal of some detail.

The most popular compression format is the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), a lossy compression format. Most video formats are also lossy formats.

Composition (image aesthetics)

Composition is the arrangement or placement of the subject and other elements in a scene or photograph.

Continuous Focus

Continuous Focus is the camera setting appropriate to take photographs of a moving object. In this mode, you continue to depress the shutter release while manually keeping track of the target subject and the camera refocuses accordingly as it detects the moving subject in the viewfinder.

This mode uses a lot of battery power because of the need to continuously focus and refocus. However, this mode might be necessary to avoid blurred photos if the subject is going too fast in different locations. The autofocus setting might not accurately predict the direction the subject will be moving to.

Color Temperature

Color temperature is a method of measuring a light’s color characteristics in degrees Kelvin (oK) based on a light spectrum showing the color temperature for various types of daylight and artificial lights. Following are examples of the color temperatures in degrees Kelvin: “daylight” for natural outdoors light (5500 degrees K), sunlight: Sunrise of Sunset (2000 ), 40-Watt Incandescent Tungsten lamp (2650 K), photoflood lamp (3200 to 3400K) and midday blue sky is approximately 10,000K.

So the color chart is an objective and common way of describing or identifying colors.


Cropping is the process of removing parts of an image to improve the image’s composition. A cropping tool is included in most digital image editing programs.


Depth of Field (DOF)

Depth of field is the measure of the distance in a scene that appears sharp or in focus. The area that appears sharp or in focus is within the depth of field while the areas in front and at the other side of the depth of field appear blurred.

Depth of field is controlled by the lens aperture. Smaller aperture can increase the depth of field while a wider aperture can reduce it.

Depth of field (DOF) is also called focus range

Depth of Focus

Depth of focus is the amount of displacement that can be done between the camera lens and the film without causing a blurred image. Depth of focus is sometimes called “lens-to-film tolerance.”

Digital Negative

Digital Negative (DNG) is a raw image format owned by Adobe for long-term storage of digital photographs in various proprietary formats. It was made publically available, royalty free in 2004. DNG is based on the Tag Image File Format/Electronic Photography (TIFF/EP), a raw image format and includes the use of metadata.

The public availability of digital negative is the solution to the lack of an open standard for the raw files created by individual camera models. This helps professional photographers avoid lossy compression when files are converted to JPEG and other formats.

Adobe has released a program to convert images in various formats into DNG format. DNG helps ensure that photographers will be able to access their files in the future without fear that it is in a format that has become obsolete.

Digital Zoom

Digital zoom is a digital camera function used to make the image seem more close-up. It’s like cropping and enlarging a photo in a graphics program.

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) is a digital camera combining the mirror and prism system of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor acting similar to that of a photographic film. By having only one lens, the viewfinder of a DSLR presents an image that is the same as what is captured by the camera’s sensor.

A DSLR is a high-end model suitable for intermediate and experienced photographers.

Dynamic Range

A camera’s dynamic range is the measure of the range between the darkest and the lightest areas of an image that its sensor can record or capture. Dynamic range is popularly expressed in f-stops.

Dynamic range is also known as tonal range.

DPI (Dots per Inch)

DPI (Dots per Inch) is the printing term for resolution based on the number of ink dots per linear inch of image. It is also a scanning term for resolution measured by the number of dots or pixels (PPI) the scanner can capture per inch of an image. The higher the DPI, the higher is the resolution of the image.


Effective Pixels

Effective pixels are the pixels that are actually recording or capturing the viewable image within a camera’s sensor. A digital camera may include in its specification the total and effective pixels. Effective pixels are fewer than the total pixels because some pixels are located along the edge of the sensor and are not part of the viewable image.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

Electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a digital camera’s relatively-small LCD display that provides the photographer with the field of view of the image captured by the camera’s lens. New EVF models have over a million pixels and faster refresh times that make them capable of almost the same clarity levels as optical finders.

EXIF (Exchangeable Image File)

EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) is a standard way of identifying digital images with meta data and other information. EXIF is possible in images in TIFF and JPEG formats.

Typical EXIF information includes but is not limited to the following: flash (on/off), exposure time (shutter speed), ISO setting, f-number (aperture), date and time, brightness value, metering mode, white balance setting, camera’s make and model, lens type, photographer’s name, focal length and sensing method.

However, when the image or digital photo is viewed on a computer, the EXIF data is typically hidden by default but has options so that they can be viewed.


To export is to send a file out through a plug-in or the appropriate application for the purpose of printing or compressing. It is also the term for saving data to specific file formats, i.e. GIF or JPEG.


Exposure in photography occurs when light is allowed to strike a traditional camera’s film or a digital camera’s image sensor; the camera’s sensor or film is exposed to light.

Exposure is one of the critical elements that determine what is actually recorded on film or the image sensor depending on the amount of light passing through the lens aperture (f/stop) and the exposure duration (shutter speed). The amount of light depends on the camera’s exposure setting that basically include the following: shutter speed, ISO and aperture,

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is intentionally adjusting the recommended exposure time indicated by the camera’s light meter, in order to achieve proper exposure. Experts say that the recommended exposure is not always the “best” exposure.

Most cameras have exposure compensation options.

F is for F-STOP

F-Stop (Aperture)

F-Stop (Aperture) is a term used to describe the aperture, or diaphragm opening of a lens. f-stop is the ratio of the focal length and the diameter of the lens opening and tells how wide open the aperture of a lens is.

f-stop = focal length / lens opening diameter.

F-stop is presented in the form f-number. For example, f/2.0 means that the aperture opening diameter is equal to the focal length divided by 2. Considering the same focal length, the smaller the f-stop (f/2.0) the wider is the effective aperture while f/10 will result to a narrow aperture that doesn’t allow much light in.

The “stops” were named from the markings on the old-style aperture ring designed so that moving one “stop” before and after the current stop adjusts the amount of light in by half or double the current amount.

In newer models of digital cameras without an aperture ring anymore, the user sets the aperture to these common aperture stops: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.0…..

Also spelled as F/stop.

File Format

File format is the way that a digital image is saved to a camera’s memory or other storage medium. Among the common file formats used: JPEG, TIFF, PSD, Raw, etc.

Filter (Lens Filters – Neutral Desity/UV/Polarizer/Graduated)

Lens filter is a translucent or transparent piece of glass or gelatin attached to the lens to protect it, to alter the amount, color or characteristics of the light passing through or add special colors and effects to an image.

Lens filters are available as screw-in and slot-in filters. There are different types of filters in terms of function. Some of the common types are: UV or Ultra-Violet, Star Effects, Neutral Density (ND), Graduated Filters, Color Compensating, Colour Conversion or Correction, Polarizing, Stepping Rings and Diffusion.

Fish eye – lens

Fish eye lens is an ultra-wide angle, convex lens that has a view of 100 to more than 180 degrees sometimes, showing a distorted, spherical image. This lens is usually used in landscape and artistic photography.


Firmware is a program that is a combination of hardware and software stored in the camera’s Read Only Memory and is used to activate and control its features. Camera makers consider the firmware as part of camera or hardware, .

Flash (lights)

Flash (lights) are artificial lights that provide brief, sudden burst of bright light from an electronic flash unit (flashbulb) to properly illuminate a dark scene to be photographed.

Flash – Master/Slave

Flash – Master/Slave are two types of camera flashes. The master flash is triggered directly by the camera while the slave flash is triggered by the master flash. The slave flash has a sensor that detects the signal from the master via infra-red or radio

Flash Sync

Flash sync is short for flash synchronization which is a means timing the firing of the photographic flash head at the same moment when the camera’s shutter that allows light to the image sensor or photographic film is completely open.

Flash Triggers

Flash triggers are devices that send the signal from your digital camera that will fire the flash unit. Wireless flash triggers send RF signal to trigger the camera flash

Focal Length

The focal length of the lens is the distance between the convergence point in your lens and the image sensor or film in the camera when the subject is in focus. Focal length is usually stated in millimeters.


Fringing is the term for the out-of-focus or “bleeding” of color along the edges of high-contrast parts a digital image. For example, a cyan blurred portion on one side of a high-contrast object on a photograph.

Frames per second

Frames per second (fps) refer to the number of pictures that a camera can take in a second or the speed at which your camera can take photos.

Full Frame

Full Frame is the term for a camera’s sensor that has the same size as a 35mm film format – roughly 24mm X 36mm. that makes a full frame about 2.5 times bigger than the surface area of an APS-C sensor.

G is for GAMMA


In digital photography, gamma is used to determine the brightness of an image. It is used to determine the relationship of the numerical value of a pixel to its actual brightness.



HDSLR is the acronym for Hybrid Digital Single Lens Reflex. It’s called a hybrid because it’s a camera that can shoot both still images and videos. It’s a DLSR that shoots video. HD does not stand for high definition because DLSR cameras can already shoot high-definition photos.


Histogram is a visual representation, in the form of a bar chart that shows the shadows, highlights and midtones in a digital image. Photographers refer to the histogram to understand and adjust exposure. For example, a bell-shaped histogram means it is a well-exposed photograph

Hot Shoe

A hot shoe is an accessory holder on a camera that includes an electrical contact so that, it can trigger a flash unit as well as support external microphones, GPS devices, electronic viewfinders, and field monitors. The most common camera flash trigger is the hot shoe that is typically on the top of the camera’s prism housing.

I is for ISO

ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

In photography, ISO, pronounced “EYE-so”, before a number is used to designate the universally-accepted film speed or sensitivity ratings for camera sensors defined by the International Organization for Standardization. So, ISO is the speed with which a film or digital camera sensor responds to light.

Digital cameras have ISO rating to calibrate their sensitivity to light but traditional cameras don’t. ISO is equivalent to the older ASA rating system defined by the American Standards Association. The ASA system has been superseded by the ISO system

ISO is derived from the Greek word “Isos”, which means equal. Obviously, it’s

not the acronym of the International Organization for Standardization (IOS), the federation of standards setting bodies from 130 countries.

The organization has standards for “all fields” except in electrical and electronics engineering and telecommunications which are governed by another organization.

The International Organization for Standardization did not use the acronym IOS to identify its standards because it would have another acronym in another language. For instance, in French it would be OIN for Organisation internationale de normalization. So, it was decided that in any country or in any language, the organization’s standards will be identified by “ISO.”

J is for JPEG


Jaggies is the term for the stair-stepped appearance or jagged edges of curved or angled lines in a digital image file. They are pixels which do not connect into smooth edges because they are not round. Jaggies are less noticeable if they are smaller or present in greater number.

Jaggies are not visible in high resolution cameras where the pixels are smaller.

Jaggies are also called aliasing

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPEG is a commonly used lossy compression format for digital images. JPEG is capable of reducing a digital image file to about 5% of its normal size.

JPEG is an acronym for its creator, the Joint Photographic Experts Group. The file’s name extension is .jpg or .jpeg.


Kelvin (colour temp)

Kelvin is the unit of the absolute temperature corresponding to the type of visible light. So, the color temperature chart shows that candle flame is equivalent to 1800 °K while daytime shade’s color temperature is 7500 °K. Photographers refer to the color temperature chart to find the right setting to achieve “white balance.”

Kelvin was named after the mathematician, physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin.


Kilobyte (abbreviated “K” or “KB”) is a unit of computer memory or data storage capacity equal to 1,024 bytes. However, this definition is contrary to the prefix “kilo” which is defined by the International System of Units (SI) as 1000 (103). Therefore, one kilobyte equal to 1000 bytes. There is some confusion but for years, one kilobyte =1024 bytes has been used.

In 1999, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) issued the Amendment 2 to “IEC 60027-2 regarding the use of kibibyte (KiB) as equal to 1024 bytes. The problem is many people in the industry still use one kilobyte as equal to 1024 bytes.

L is for LENS

LAB Color

LAB color is a three-dimensional space that includes all perceivable colors. It means that it contains an infinite possible combination of colors that exceeds those of the CMYK and RGB color models. LAB stands for the space dimensions: L for lightness while a and b are for the color-opponent dimensions

Lag Time

Lag time is the term for the delay between the time when the shutter button is pressed and the time when the shutter fires. Also called shutter lag,


A lens is a single piece of glass, gelatin or other transparent substance shaped with one or more curved surfaces used in changing the convergence of light rays.

In photography, it can mean the entire photographic objective that collects and focuses rays of light to form an image on a digital camera’s sensor or a traditional camera’s film.

Lens Hood

Lens Hood or “Lens shade” is an accessory attached to the front of a lens to prevent stray light from striking the lens surface. The hood also protects the lens from scratches and other forms of physical damage.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) is a small, image-viewing screen in a digital camera that allow the preview of images to be taken or the review of photographs that have been shot.

Light meter

Light meter is an instrument to determine the amount of light reflected from or falling on a given area. The instrument also provides the photographer with the shutter speed and aperture combinations to achieve optimum exposure for the existing lighting situation and film speed.


Lithium-Ion is another type of rechargeable battery used in digital cameras and other small electronic devices.


Lossy is the term to describe the data-compression technique that result to some loss in data. An example is reducing the detail of a digital image file. Most video compression techniques utilize lossy compression like saving a picture as a .jpg or .jpeg


Matrix Metering

Matrix metering is the process of using an exposure meter to measure light in several areas of a scene and analyzing the results to determine proper exposure.

Matrix metering is also known as segmented metering.

Manual Focus

In a manual focus camera, the user has to adjust the focus of the lens by hand. Now, many cameras have autofocus feature.


A Megabyte is the unit of the size of information or image data in a file or the capacity of a built in memory, a memory card, hard drive or disk. Abbreviated as Mbyte, MB or Mb, a megabyte is equivalent to 1,048,576 bytes.


A megapixel or “MP” is equal to a million of pixels. It is the term for the measure to describe a camera’s resolution measured in pixels. It describes the size of the sensor in a digital camera. The higher the megapixel rating the higher is the camera’s resolution.


Memory refers to the camera’s data or file storage capacity. Cameras may have built in or internal memories or memory cards or a combination of both.

Memory Card

A memory card is a removable device used in digital cameras to store the image data it captured. CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, SD and XD are some of the commonly used memory cards.

Micro Drive

Microdrive is the registered trademark for a small, 1-inch hard drive from IBM and Hitachi. It is one of the types of memory cards for digital cameras. However, Microdrives are now considered obsolete having been replaced by solid-state Compact Flash cards


Moiré is the pattern of light and dark colors or bands created in portions of an image when two repetitive patterns of different orientation or frequency are layed over in an image.

This problem is less prone in higher-resolution imaging sensors.


A monopod, also called a unipod, is a single- leg or single-staff used to help support and balance to cameras or video cameras in the field. Monopod support however is not as stable as the support provided by a tripod.

N is for NOISE

NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) Battery

NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) battery is one of the rechargeable batteries used in digital cameras and other small electronics devices. This rechargeable battery needs to be completely discharged of its power before it is recharged.

NiMH ( Nickel-Metal Hydride) Battery

NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) battery is one of the rechargeable batteries for digital cameras, camcorders and other small electronic devices. An NiMH battery does not need to completely discharge its energy before it can be recharged.


Noise is the noticeable shadow, grainy look, or flecks of color found on digital images caused by image artifacts. Noise is the same as electronic noise.

Noise Reduction

Noise Reduction is the term for the suppression or elimination of the artifacts in a digital image caused by compression, interpolation and other image-processing activities.


Optical Resolution

Optical resolution is the actual, non-interpolated pixel dimensions of an image. Optical resolution is also referred to as “true resolution.”


Overexposure occurs when excess light is allowed to fall on the sensor/film. It results to a lighter or pale image with some loss of details. The use of the tight shutter speed and metering can prevent overexposure.

P is for PIXEL


Parallax is the difference between the image, as seen by a camera’s viewfinder or viewing system, and the image recorded by film or digital image sensor.


Panoramic refers to an unbroken view of the whole surrounding area. Panoramic photography uses specialized equipment or software to captures images with horizontally extended fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography and is widely used in landscape photography.

PC Card (PCMCIA Card)

PC cards, which are about the size of a credit card, is an easy way to transfer photos from the camera to a computer (notebook or desktop PC).

PC Sync

PC Sync is a standardized cord for connecting and synchronizing external electronic flash units (strobes) to cameras.


Pixel is the short term or abbreviation for picture element. It is a small square of colored light that are the smallest individual components of a digital image. Compare a pixel as a single small tile that make up a large mosaic. The more pixels there are in the image, the higher is its resolution.


Pixelization is the breakup of a digital image file because the pixels no longer form a smooth image together. Jaggies, the formation of step-like or rough curves and angled lines is an example of pixelization or pixelation


Raw Files

Raw files are files that have remained unaltered and still have all the image data recorded by the sensor when the photo was taken. None of the data has been discarded because the file has not undergone compression or other imaging processing.


Red-eye is the term for the imaging problem where the subject’s eyes appear to have red pupils. Red-eye occurs when the pupil of the subject’s eye is dilated and the light from the flash strikes the eyes and illuminates the blood vessels.

Red-eye can be avoided by maintaining at least 6” distance between the flash and the camera lens. Or, use a digital camera with red-eye reduction feature.

Red-Eye Reduction

There are now ways to reduce the occurrence of red eye by:

  • photo-editing programs.
  • using a camera with software to eliminate red eye.
  • using a camera with a built-in pre-flash that warns the subject several times before releasing the final flash and image capture.

Remote Capture

Remote capture is the software that makes it possible for a computer to remotely trip the camera shutter via a cable release or wireless transmitter / transceiver.


In digital photography, resolution refers to the number of pixels, both horizontally and vertically in a given area, usually measured as pixels per inch (ppi). In printing the resolution is in number of dots per inch (dpi).

RGB Color (Red Green Blue)

RGB color is the color model in which uses the colors red, green and blue to reproduce a wide array of colors for used on images displayed on computers and other digital devices.


SD Card (Secure Digital)

SD Card (Secure Digital) is a popular, removable digital memory card. SD cards have helped camera manufacturers in further reducing the size of digital cameras. They are also found in cell and other small electronic devices.

Newer and faster SD cards include SDHC and SDXC memory cards.


Shutter is the camera mechanism that controls light transmission to the film or sensor.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time that a camera’s shutter remains open during exposure. Shutter speed controls the duration of an exposure. Faster shutter speed means shorter exposure time.

Shutter speeds are expressed in seconds. Actual shutter speeds only last for fractions of a second (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/250…..)


Speedlight is a portable flash that that can be fired on the hotshoe of the camera. They also run on AA batteries. Speedlight is from Nikon and sometimes called “flash gun.”

Spot Metering

Spot metering is the measurement of the exposure by measuring the light reflected from very small areas in an image.

Studio Lighting (Softbox / Umbrella / Beauty dish)

Studio lighting is an artificial lighting set up that typically consists of the key light, a fill light and a back light. From this starting point, you can create special effects using the softbox, umbrella and beauty dish.

Use a beauty dish for an edgy and crisp light that enhances shape and texture in the subject. Beauty dish typically use a crisp type of lighting to highlight muscles, curves, and texture in sports portraits.

Soft boxes basically offer the benefits of soft, narrower beam of light that allows photographers to use soft light in specific parts only of the subject.

Umbrellas are large light sources that produce very soft light.

Sync Speed

The sync speed is the fastest shutter speed at which the shutter curtains are totally open, allowing the entire sensor to be exposed to the light through the lens at the same time.


Telephoto – lens

Telephoto – lens is a compound camera lens with longer-than-normal focal length that allows it to produce magnified images of distant objects.

Time Lapse

Time lapse photography is a technique whereby the frame rate or frequency of capturing film frames is much lower than the frame rate used to view the sequence.

Tripod / Monopod

A tripod is a portable three-legged frame, used to support the weight and maintain the stability of cameras and some other object.

Tonal Range

Tonal range is the range between the lightest or brightest and darkest areas of an image. In a black and white image, tonal range is the term for the various shades of gray from solid black to absolute white.

TTL (Through the Lens)

TTL (Through the Lens) is a camera feature that allows the user to look through the same lens used to focus the image on the digital sensor. The feature is also called TTL viewfinder.



Underexposure occurs when the film or image sensor receives too little light resulting to loss of detail in the dark areas of the image.


Video Mode

A digital still camera in video mode is capable of recording short, low-resolution video.


A photographer uses the camera’s viewfinder to see the field of view or actual image that will be recorded on the film or image sensor.


Vignetting is the intentional or unintentional darkening of the edges of a photographic image, making it darker than the center area. Unintentional vignetting can be caused by underexposure. Intentional vignetting is sometimes done to direct the viewer’ focus to the center of the image.



A watermark is an image or icon on an image for copyright protection and other information to protect the image from unauthorized use.

White Balance

A digital camera at white balance (WB) setting can correct color cast or tint under the correct lighting conditions (daylight, fluorescent lighting, indoor and electronic flash) and makes sure that white areas will be reproduced as white in the picture.

Wide Angle – Lens

Wide-Angle Lens is a lens with wider-than-normal angle of view. Its angle of view is also wider than that of the human eye. A simple example of the commercial use of a wide angle lens would be when photographing a small area such as a bathroom for a real estate agency. Using a standard lens such as 50mm would not capture enough of the room. A wide angle lens such as a 10-22mm lens would capture more of the room due to its wider angle of view.

X is for XD CARDS

xD Cards

An xD Card is a small, compact, reusable, narrow-profile memory card format designed to add memory to small digital cameras, cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants.

The card, which has a capacity of 16 MB up to 2GB, was developed by Olympus and Fujifilm and manufactured by Toshiba Corporation and Samsung Electronics and made available to the public in July 2002.

Z is for ZOOM LENS

Zoom Lens

Zoom lens is a lens with variable focal length. The focal lengths are adjustable from wide angle to telephoto.

Zoom lens is also called “variable focus lens.”

That’s it. Did you learn something new? The list was really intended for those who are relatively new to photography. There’s a lot to learn and one of the early steps is to be familiar with photography terms so that we’ll understand correctly what the experts are talking about.

There are still many photography terms to add to the list. Please feel free to mention them in your comments or share the article so that more photography enthusiasts can learn together.