Photography A – Z

Are you confused by all the photography terms out there? Me too! Photography is an amazing way to capture the life around you, however it can feel quite daunting when it comes to the terminology. With that in mind, I thought I would pull together an A – Z reference guide.  I hope this will provide you with a good base knowledge and offers the opportunity to delve deeper into the wonderful world of photography.


A – Aperture: An opening in the lens which controls the amount of light that hits the sensor. Read more about Aperture here

B – Backlight: This is where the light falls behind the subject

C – Clipping: Clipping is the term used when an image has the incorrect exposure and has lost details in either the shadows or the highlights.

D – Depth of field: The distance between the nearest and furthest subject that is in focus. DOF is controlled by the Aperture.

E – Exposure: Is the amount of light hitting the sensor or film which is determined by the shutter speed and aperture.

F – F/STOP: This relates to the size of the hole that lets light in and is a measurement of the diameter of the Aperture. The larger the number, the smaller the opening. And the smaller the number, the larger the opening.

G – Greyscale: A black and white scale that goes in one stop increments from black to white.

H – Histogram: A graph that evaluates the exposure of an image. The left represents the blacks or shadows, the right represents the whites or highlights and the middle section represents the mid tones, thus displaying the tonal range of an image.

I – ISO: ISO measures the sensitivity of your camera to available light and is part of the exposure triangle that includes aperture and shutter speed. The lower the ISO number the less sensitive it is to light and vice versa. Increasing the ISO allows for low light shooting but increases the effect of digital noise.

J – JPEG: JPEG is the most common photo file format which compresses the image in camera. This means it captures all the data and forms an image file compromising of the compressed pixels.

K – Kelvin: This is a unit of measurement for temperature and is used in photography to help get the correct white balance.

L – Leading Lines: Refers to lines in the image that are used to draw the viewers attention to a specific part of the frame and is a useful way to compose an image.

M – Metering: Metering is how the camera determines what the aperture and shutter speed should be to get the correct exposure. Various metering modes are used and are dependent on the lighting conditions.

Noise: Noise is the term used for visual distortion. It looks similar to grain found in film photography. Noise tends to get worse in low light situations when a higher ISO is used.

O – Overexposure: A shot that generally appears too bright and lacks information in the highlight areas.

P – Prime Lens: A lens that has a single fixed focal length.

Q – Quartz lights Generic term for various types of lights that use tungsten-halogen lamps.

R – RAW: RAW is a file format, similar to a JPEG. RAW files however do not compress the image like a JPEG does but it captures all the raw, unprocessed data from the digital sensor.

S – Shutter Speed: This is the amount of time that the shutter is open. It is measured in seconds, or fraction of seconds. Shutter speeds are used to freeze movement or blur movement.

T – Tilt-Shift Lens: A lens that has a front element that can go from right to left (tilt) and up and down (shift) which relocates the focal plane. This can help with converging lines such as tall buildings.

U – Underexposure: A shot that generally appears too dark and has lost the detail in the shadow areas.

V – Vignetting: Darkening at the edges of a photo. This can be an unintentional underexposure caused by an unsuitable lens hood or it can be an intentional post processing technique.

W – White balance: It is essential in photography to get the correct white balance. This refers to the process of ensuring there is not incorrect colour casts in your image so that objects that appear white in person are white in your photo.

X – Ummmmmm! I don’t have anything for this so I’ll move swiftly on.

Y – Yellow Filter: The most popular colour filter used with black and white film. It absorbs all coloured light except yellow.

Z – Zoom Lens: A lens with a range of focal lengths.


Image via: Vera Ja


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