A to Z of Photography Terms
Photography is an art — a technical art. To be fully able to manipulate the art to your needs and desires, you need to understand the technical side of it. There are so many terms in the world of photography that it’s easy to be overwhelmed, so I’ve written this guide as a list of some of the most important ones that every photographer should understand.
Ambient Or Available Light
The existing light in a situation, before adding any custom light. This could be window light, overhead lighting, a lamp on the floor — whatever is lighting your scene before you start to add and manipulate that light.
A mechanism made of “leaves” or “blades” inside a camera lens that opens and closes to let more or less light pass through (think of it like the spigot on a garden hose, allowing more or less water through). This not only restricts light, but also affects depth of field. A larger aperture that lets more light through creates a shallow depth of field. A small aperture restricts the amount of light and creates a larger depth of field. The measurement is a fraction, which is why a smaller number is actually a bigger hole. The correct way to write an aperture as an f-stop is “f”, then a slash, then the aperture number, like this — f/4.0. The “f” is the focal length of the lens, therefore f/4 is bigger than f/22. A smaller number is a bigger hole, however a smaller number is less (shallower) depth of field. (See: Depth of Field and Bokeh)
A camera’s exposure mode is typically one of four settings, designated as PASM (Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, or Manual). Aperture priority means the camera operator chooses the aperture, and the camera automatically chooses a shutter speed to balance the exposure. ISO may or may not be able to be automatic, depending on the camera.
Referring to the size of a camera sensor; “APSC” is measured as a roughly 22mm to 28mm × 15mm to 19mm sensor (APSC sensor sizes vary by manufacturer), which is notably smaller than full frame sensors, which match that of 35mm film. The smaller the sensor, the smaller, lighter and less expensive the cameras and lenses can be. However larger sensors generally have better low light performance and shallower depth of field than their smaller counterparts.
The full glossary has a very long list of terms, each with a custom written definition, including…
Aspect Ratio, Bokeh, Bracketing, Buffer (in camera), Bulb , Burst Mode, Chromatic Aberration, Clipping (highlights, shadows, exposure, color), CMYK, Cold Shoe, Color Calibration, Color Profile, Color Space, Composition, Constant Light (LED, CFL), Crop Factor, Depth of Field, Diffuser, Dots per inch, Drone (or UAV), DSLR / DSLM, Dynamic Range, Embedded JPEG, Exposure, Exposure Compensation (EV +/–), Exposure Triangle, Fill or Bounce Light, Flash or Strobe, Flash Sync Speed (incl. High Speed Sync), Focal Length, Focus, Frames per second (FPS), Full Frame, Hair Light or Back Light, HDR (High Dynamic Range), HEIC / HEIF, Histogram, Hot Shoe, ISO, JPEG, Kelvin (degrees), Key Light or Main Light, Long Exposure, Macro Lens, Manual Mode, Megapixel, Memory card (SD or CF), Metering, Micro Four Thirds (MFT or M43), Mirrorless Camera, Negative Space, Neutral Density (ND) Filter, Noise, Orientation, Overexposed, PASM Camera Modes, Pixels, Pixels per inch, Polarizing Filter, Prime or Fixed Lens, Program, or Full Auto, RAW Files, Reflector, Resolution, RGB, Rule of Thirds, Sensor, Sensor Spots or Dust, Shutter Priority, Shutter Release, Shutter Release Cable, Shutter Speed, SOOC (Straight out of Camera), Stopped Down / Opened Up, Stops, Telephoto Lens, Time Lapse, TTL Flash, Underexposed, Viewfinder; Electronic Viewfinder (EFV), Optical Viewfinder (OVF), LCD Panel, Vignetting, White Balance, Wide Angle Lens, Wide Open, and Zoom Lens (!!!)