When reading a magazine article or digital camera manual, some of the
digital photography terms may be unfamiliar to you. With any new hobby,
it takes a while to pick-up the jargon.
I have been there, trying to read my camera manual and remember
thinking to myself...why so many terms? It took me a while to work my
way through them, but now I just waffle along with the rest of the guys
at my local camera club.
I have decided to put together a list, that you can refer to, of common
digital photography terminology in order to help you become more
familiar with words such as: Aperture, DOF, DPI, JPEG, Megapixel - to
name but a few.
A - Digital Photography
Imperfection in an image caused by deficiencies within a lens or
optical system. These can affect colour, sharpness and shape.
Also called a pneumatic release. A long thin tube is attached to your
camera and when you squeeze an air-filled bulb on one end a plunger
trips the shutter.
The natural light in a particular scene, such as daylight or room
Angle Of View
Term used to describe how much a lens 'sees'. Measured in degrees.
Anti Red-eye Facility
Feature found in most cameras which reduces red-eye by firing a series
of weak pre-flashes before the final flash exposure is made.
The variable opening inside the lens, which regulates the intensity of
light striking the image sensor. Measured in f-stops, the lower the
number the larger the aperture. A side-effect of altering the aperture
is the change in depth of field, which declines as the aperture opens
An acronym for American Standards Association. An old method for
measuring film speed on a linear scale. Equivalent numbers are now used
by some digital camera makers to describe the sensitivity of their
The proportions or ration of a picture's width to it's height
B - Digital Photography
Making copies of important computer files such as digital photographs
in case the originals are damaged and cannot be accessed.
Term used to describe shooting towards the light, so your subject is
lit from behind.
A control on some digital cameras that adjusts the exposure for
subjects that might otherwise be silhouetted against a bright light
Technique used to improve the quality of light from a portable
flashgun. The light is bounced off a wall, ceiling or reflector so it
is softened and spread before reaching the subject.
The difference in brightness, often measured in stops, between the
highlights and shadows in a scene.
A memory reservoir built into digital cameras that stores the photos
before they are written to the memory card.
C - Digital Photography
An accessory which allows you to trip your camera's shutter release
without touching it. This helps to prevent camera shake and means you
can take pictures with long exposures easier.
Term used to describe pictures that come out blurred because the camera
was moved during the exposure.
Lens accessory which allows you to take pictures at 90 degrees to the
The effect of one colour dominating the look of an image. Often caused
by exposure errors or incorrect settings of a digital camera's white
balance for the ambient or artificial lighting.
Charge Coupled Device. One of the two main types of image sensors used
in digital cameras. (See also CMOS)
Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor. One of the two main types of
image sensors used in digital cameras. (See also CCD)
Compact Flash Card
A common type of digital camera memory card. There are two types of CF
cards. Type 1 and type 11, that vary in their thickness. Type 1 is
Reducing the file size of digital data files by removing redundant or
non-critical information within a digital image, helping to maximise
The difference between the darkest and lightest areas in a photograph.
Phenomenon common in architectural photos. It is caused when the camera
back is tilted to include the top of a building, which makes the
building look distorted.
Method of reducing the size of an image to improve the composition.
D - Digital Photography
Term used to describe how a flashgun works in conjunction with a
camera's metering system to deliver correct exposures automatically.
Depth Of Field
The distance between the nearest and farthest points that appear in
acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. The DOF varies with the lens
aperture, focal length and distance to subject.
A device that captures a scene as a representation using a digital code
in which numerical values encode the colour and brightness of elements
of the scene.
Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. A camera that allows the scene to be
viewed through the lens that will take the photo.
A zoom-like effect enlarging the central portion of a scene.
DPI - Dots Per Inch
Measurement of image resolution relating specifically to digital
The process of transferring files from a digital camera or other source
to a computer.
E - Digital Photography
Describes the number of pixels stored in the image files made by a
digital camera regardless of the number of pixels in the image sensor.
The number is always less than the pixels on the CCD as some pixels
around the edge may not be used and are only produced to help improve
the accuracy on effective pixels.
The total amount of light allowed to fall on a digital camera's sensor
during the process of taking a photograph.
An accessory flash unit that is triggered by the camera or the light
from the camera's internal flash.
F - Digital Photography
A flash technique common to most digital cameras used to brighten deep
shadow areas. Ideal for portraits.
The technology used by memory cards. A kind of solid-state memory that
is electrically changable and retains those changes even in the absence
The distance betwwen the near nodal point of the lens and the film
plane when the lens is focused on infinity.
The ratio of the lens focal length divided by the apparent aperture of
the lens. The larger the aperture, the smaller the f-stop. An example
being written as f/11.
G - Digital Photography
The total range of colours reproduced by a device such as a digital
camera, scanner or printer.
Graphical interchange format. A bitmap graphical format, ideal for
logos or graphics.
An image made of varying tones of black and white.
H - Digital Photography
A graphic representation of the range of tones from dark to light in a
photo. Many digital cameras include a histogram feature to facilitate a
precise check on the exposure of the photo.
Device found on the top of most cameras to accept a flashgun.
Point of focus at which you can obtain optimum depth of field for the
aperture set on your lens.
I - Digital Photography
A semiconductor circuit inside the camera made of millions of light
sensitive elements on which the camera lens forms its image. The image
sensor converts the pattern of light into electrical signals that the
camera converts into digital form and saves on the memory card.
Infrared is a wavelength that is longer than visible wavelengths which
can be viewed by the human eye. Most digital cameras are sensitive to
infrared and can make exposures at these longer wavelengths. To capture
the infrared you need to block out visible light using an infrared
filter attached to the lens.
Instant Return Mirror
Another name for the reflex mirror found in SLR's. It returns to its
normal position as soon as a picture has been taken so that you can see
through the viewfinder.
A flashgun that is built into the camera body. Nearly all compacts have
this type of flash as well as quite a few DSLR's.
The process of creating pixels that appear in between other pixels as
an image is magnified. Mostly used when an image is made larger, but
not sharper as interpolated pixels are added.
Another name for the lens aperture. Just like the Iris of your eye, the
small blades inside a lens shift to alter the aperture of the lens.
An acronym for the International Standards Organisation. Used to
designate speed ratings of film on a logarithmic scale. Digital cameras
use the same rating system to denote the camera sensor's sensitivity to
light. The higher the ISO number (100, 200, 400, etc.) the more
sensitive to light the camera becomes. A downside to this is that as
ISO speed climbs, image quality drops and noise forms.
J - Digital Photography
An acronym fot the Joint Photographic Experts Group and is a standard
for compressing image data. A JPEG is not a true file format, but is a
compression method used within a file format. Sometimes referred to as
a 'lossy' format because some image quality is lost in order to achieve
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