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49 Photography Terms You May Need to Know

49 Photography Terms You May Need to Know
49 photography terms you may need to know as a photographer

Reflecting on the complexity of the information you may find on this blog or in photography in general, there may be terms you are not familiar with, therefore, I created this glossary with 49 photography terms you may need to know in order to provide the best information and experience for free at Photornia.

There are hundreds of terms overall used in photography if not more. But here, I will share with you only the most important ones in order to better understand the context of the information I provide and to improve your experience with photography overall. These are going to be shared in alphabetical order and this post regularly updated with new information.

49 Photography Terms You May Need to Know

Ambient Light

Ambient light is any form of light that was not added into the scene by the photographer and this mainly refers to the natural light such as daylight or artificial such as street lights during the night.

Anti-aliasing Filter

The anti-aliasing filter is a type of filter designated to blur the image just a little bit in order to change the frequency of the pattern that is passed through the lens into the camera sensor.


Aperture is one of the main three pillars in photography among with the shutter speed and the ISO. Aperture is the hole, the opening of a lens where the light passes through. Larger the aperture, more light falls into the camera sensor. This is also known as the F-number (e.g. f/2.4, f/1.8, f/12 etc)

Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the width and the height of an image. It is known as x:y, where the x = width and the y = height. As an example, I am going to take the resolution of 1600×3200, which has an aspect ratio of 1:2 or the resolution of 6000×4000 which has an aspect ratio of 3:2.


Auto-mode or automatic mode in a digital camera is the camera software which controls everything when is about to take a photo, from the aperture to the shutter, ISO, image colour, etc. In this case, the photographer does not have control over any specific set of a photograph. Think about when you take photos with your mobile phone. Do you control the shutter speed, the aperture or ISO at all? Probably not. That is the auto-mode.


Bokeh is the blur produced in the out of focus part of an image, when there are out of focus points of light. Photographers are using this amazing technique to create bokeh by stepping down the aperture of your camera and photographing a subject against multiple sources (points) of light in the background. This works even better during the night where the rest of the background remains dark.

Bulb Mode

The bulb mode is part of the camera’s manual settings where you can open the shutter for an ‘unlimited’ amount of time in order to take long and super-long exposures. As the settings of DSLR cameras allow you to capture a maximum of 30 seconds exposure, you must use the bulb mode to go beyond that line.

Burst Rate

Burst rate is the number of photographs you can take consecutive while your camera is on continuous shooting mode before the buffer is full and your images are being transferred on your SD card. The burst rate is not to be confounded with FPS

Camera Mode

The 4 main camera modes you can use with a DSLR are “PSAM” (Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual Mode).
Programmed Auto, the camera is selecting automatically the shutter speed and the aperture.
Shutter Priority, where the shutter speed is controlled by the photographer but the aperture is controlled by the camera
Aperture Priority, the photographer is controlling the aperture while the shutter speed is controlled automatically by the camera.
Manual Mode, where the photographer controls both the shutter speed and the aperture.
Except for those 4 main camera modes, there are multiple secondary camera modes. If you are interested you can read more about it on the link below.

Candid Photography

Candid is a type of photography and are photographs captured, portraits, without the knowledge of the subject or the consent. These images usually create a story behind “people’s day to day activities” and could be associated with a form of art.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration is a common problem found on lenses when the colours are incorrectly refracted, resulting in a mismatch where the colours do not combine as they should. This is often caused in high-contrast scenes.


Composition is referred to the way different elements are arranged within the frame. There are quite a few composition rules, although they are not rules but guidelines, to help us take better photographs (e.g. Rule of thirds, leading lines etc.). This is one of the first rules (guideline) photographers must understand and study when they start photography

Crop Factor

Crop factor is the ratio of a camera’s sensor size as compared to the 35mm film format. One example would be the APS-C or DX format, very often found on entry-level DSLRs

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the distance between the closest and the farthest object of point in an image which is considered to be acceptably sharp. We have two terms mostly associated in photography with the depth of field:
Shallow (narrow) depth of field – the distance between these two objects in focus is very little, therefore, everything else around would be blurred, both (mostly both) foreground and background
Large depth of field – the distance between these two objects in focus is very large, therefore, little to none blur may be present into the image.

DNG (Digital Negative)

DNG or Digital Negative is a lossless RAW image format developed by Adobe and used in digital photography


DSLR or Digital Single-Lens Reflex is a digital camera combining the optics and mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor. DSLR is one of the most used cameras in photography by professional photographers and there are dozen of models on the market by different manufacturers such as Nikon, Sony, Canon, Pentax etc.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range in photography is the difference between the darkest and the lightest tones on an image. Manufacturers are putting a big work in advancing technological the camera sensors in order to capture greater dynamic ranges in photography. There are methods in post-processing of increasing the dynamic range also methods in photography such as HDR (more about that will follow).


In photography, exposure is the amount of light which reaches into your camera sensor. This is an extremely crucial part of photography which reflects how bright or dark the photos will look. In order for an image to be usable, this has to have the right amount of exposure, not to be overexposed nor underexposed.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation allows the photographer to override the camera’s exposure level, in order for the photograph to be either overexposed or underexposed, also to compensate the exposure level when the camera is unable to give us right readings.


More or less to say, f-stop would be the same as aperture, only that this represent the numeric system of the aperture which regulates the amount of light which goes through the lens into the camera sensor at a given shutter speed.

Focal Length

Focal length is the distance between the camera lens and the image sensor. To understand this better, think about the magnification of a lens, and how this could be a wide lens, medium lens, telephoto or super-telephoto lens. This system is represented in “mm” such as 18mm, 25mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 200-500mm 18-55mm.
Prime lenses have a single focal length such as 50mm and zoom lenses a multitude of focal lengths such as 18-55mm

FPS (Frames per Second)

FPS or Frames Per Second is the amount of speed at which a camera can continuously take photos. This is important in wildlife and sports photography, where in general, more images per seconds would be beneficial to be taken

Golden Hour

Golden hour in photography is the short period of time after the sunrise or before the sunset where the daylight is softer and the scenery will mostly look like the golden colour


HDR or High Dynamic Range is a technique in photography to capture a great dynamic range of luminosity which a camera sensor cannot capture into a single image. This is mostly used in the scenery where we have both dark shadows and bright lights, such as the sun over the city. In order for the sun to be pleasantly visible with little clouds on the sky as same as the darks of the buildings facing us, HDR techniques are used.


A histogram is a graphic representation of the tonal values of an image or scene, such as representing on a graphic the blacks, shadows, midtones, highlights and whites. It is the way to know when parts of the image are overexposed or underexposed, there are too much darks or whites, etc. without to try to “guess” this on an image or live view.

Hot Shoe

A hot shoe is a mounting point on the top of a DSLR camera for compatible accessories such as a flashgun, microphone, monitor etc.

Image Stabilization

Image stabilisation (IS) is either a simple electronic or complex physical system found in a lens and/or camera in order to stabilise the image when we take a photograph or record a video. The idea behind this is that nobody is perfectly stable and having lenses or cameras with image stabilisation will always help us capture images at longer shutter speeds, where without, this would not be possible (e.g. 1/4sec)


ISO is one of the three pillars in photography alongside the aperture and shutter speed, part of the exposure triangle. ISO is the sensibility of the image sensor to light and is often recognised to be as ISO 100, ISO 400, ISO3200, ISO6400 etc. Those are values. In general, one of the factors which reflect into the performance of an image sensor is the ISO sensibility and the noise induced when increasing ISO.
More you increase your ISO = more sensible is your camera to light = more light it captures = image noise is increased (grain).


JPEG, or Joint Photographic Experts Group is an image format, very popular nowadays, commonly used by digital cameras. The JPEG image format has a lossy compression and stores the final data of an image.
The images captured with your mobile phone has the photo format most probably to be JPEG.


In photography, Kelvin is a measurement unit for the colour temperature. Warm colour temperatures have a lower kelvin number where the colder colour temperatures have a higher kelvin number.

Lossy (Image Quality)

Lossy is a file compression results in loose of data from the original file. This is mainly found in photography in the JPEG format, in order to reduce the size of the image. Imagine having a RAW file of 50MB in dimension as compared to 5MB lossy JPEG, where the image difference may be a little noticeable. Lossy image is often associated with less dimension which an image can occupy.


Macro Photography is the extreme close-up photography usually of the small insects or organisms, which, in the size of the macro photograph is greater than in the normal life size.

Manual Mode

Manual Mode is one of the main photography modes where the photographer has full control over the aperture, shutter speed and the ISO. Manual mode is used to “break” the rules of photography and create unique artistic images. One example where manual mode would be crucial to use is astrophotography.


The metadata of an image is a set of information attached to that photograph which goes along and transported for human and computer reading. Think about when you check the properties of an image and you see which camera and lens have been used to take the image, what ISO, aperture, shutter speed and even location. Those are only a few data points which can be part of metadata of an image. Those can be erased or let alone to be transported with the image. There are more to be included in the metadata.

Noise (Image Noise)

In photography, the term noise is used to describe a visual distortion of a photograph. In general, in photography, noise is mostly referring to the grain noise, where, an image has “grain particles” as in the old 35mm films. This mainly reflects the high ISO usage of a camera among other reasons and depending on the acuity of the noise in an image, this can be easily fixed or not fixed at all.

Noise Reduction

Noise reduction are methods used in order to reduce the noise (grain) of an image, either before the photograph is taken or afterwards in post-processing. There are many methods to help you reduce the noise.


In photography, overexposure is the term used when the image sensor is exposed too much to light, therefore, the image result in being over-exposed as compared to the normal exposure. There are a few practical application of creating art in photography with overexposure. Not always an over-exposed image means a bad thing.

P Mode (Program Mode)

P Mode or the Program Mode is a semi-automatic camera setting found in DSLR, where the camera decides the shutter speed and the aperture to be used when taking pictures but you still have control over the ISO, EV, white balance, flash and a few other minor settings.

Prime Lens

A prime lens is a type of lens with a fixed focal length. This means you cannot zoom at all. The advantage of these lenses is that less glass is used for manufacturing, therefore, these lenses tend to be less expensive, sharper and have wider apertures as compared to zoom lenses.


In photography, a RAW image is an image format which has not been processed by the camera, therefore, the image contain the original data which has to be processed. RAW files are used by all professional photographers who want to take the post-processing of the image to the next level.

Shutter Speed

In photography, the shutter speed is the unit of measurement on how long the shutter has to be open for the photograph to be taken. The longer shutter is open, more light comes into the image sensor, therefore, longer exposure of the image is captured.
Shutter speed is a pillar in photography and one of the three parts alongside aperture and ISO to form the exposure triangle.

Shutter Priority

Shutter Priority Mode is one of the few DSLR modes alongside to Aperture Priority, Program Mode and Manual Mode, which allows the photographer to manually pick the shutter speed while other settings are adjusted automatically by the camera for a proper exposed image.

Spot Colour Photography

Spot colour photography (or selective colour photography) is a type of photography where the image itself is black and white but a part of the image remains in colour in order to draw attention to the subject or elements.


In a nutshell, time-lapse in photography is a movie created by a series of photographs taken of the same scene at a specific interval of time. The time-lapse resonates the idea of minutes or hours of still photographs which create a seconds-length movie.


Underexposure, as it is the opposite of over-exposure, refers to an image resulted where the image sensor was exposed too less to the light, therefore, the image appears to be darker than it should. There are techniques in photography where applying deliberate underexposure can create a form of art.


The viewfinder is in fact what photographers look through in order to take a photo or to focus on a subject. The viewfinder can be either optical as found in DSLR’s or electronic, as found in Mirrorless cameras.


Vignetting is the reduction of brightness towards the edges of a photograph and this is a flaw in lens limitation in special in those with wide apertures. In general, vignetting is consider to be a flaw but many photographers are using vignetting to create art in photography.

White Balance

White balance is the method to adjust the colours of a photograph to match the colours fo the source, in special where whites have to be whites. In a camera, white balance can be an automatic setting or adjusted manually for the colours to best match before the photograph is taken. Moreover, there is also a method in post-processing to adjust the white balance in order to match the real colours a photograph should have or to take it to another level and creating an artistic image by miss-matching the colours with the real ones, such as an over-golden sunset.

Zoom (in Lenses)

A zoom lens is a lens with the ability to zoom, and this to cover multiple focal lengths such as 18-55mm or 24-70mm. The advantages of zoom lenses as compared to prime lenses is the ability to cover any focal length in between the minimum and the maximum of a lens, where with a prime lens you can cover a single focal length.

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Reflecting on the complexity of the information you may find on any blog or in photography in general, there may be terms you are not familiar with, therefore, I created this glossary with 49 photography terms you may need to know in order to provide the best information and experience in photography.