Glossary of Photography Terms

An A to Z of strange words used by camera people.


Strange artifacts on an image caused by technical problems with the camera or lens itself.


Albedo is a measure of how much light is reflected by an object.

AE (Automatic Exposure)


AE-L (Automatic Exposure Lock)


Angle Of View


Aspherical lens



Lighting a subject from behind gives a silhouette, but when backlighting is combined with a good light on the front of the subject the effect can really help the final shot. Backlighting was a common tool of holywood glamourous studio photographers when taking shots of actors in the 1940s.


Lens distortion that makes edges of an image curve inward.


Old cameras and some modern large format cameras have a flexible box of pleated material between the lens and body. This looks somewhat like old victorian fire bellows, hence the name.


Bokeh (it comes from the Japanese language) is the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of a photo. Out of focus can be seen simply as a gentle blur, or alternatively big circles of colour. Bokeh is often most visible around highlights, such as reflections and lightblubs in the background. Bokeh filters allow you to change the shape of the highlights, producing starbursts or even heart shapes.

Bounced Flash

When the light from a flashbulb is literally bounced of a wall, ceiling or any surface rather than hitting the subject directly.

Blown out

When too much light has been picked up by a cameras sensor, you end up with white protions of an image where no detail is discernable.


By taking extra photos at apperture or speed settings either side of what you or the camera thinks is the 'correct' setting, you pretty much guarantee always having a correctly exposed photo. If the AE meter tells you the shot should be 1/60th of a second at f.6, you could bracket this by taking two more, both at the same speed, but one at f.5 and one at f.7. Even if the meter was wrong, by bracketing you will have covered the error. Bracketted shots are also good for HDR work.


Color cast occurs when the white balance is incorrectly metered. Photos often come out far bluer than they should when the white balance is off.

Chromatic aberration



Compact flash is a memory card format.




A coma is a blurring that sometimes occurs at the edge of a lens' field of view


The light coming out of a flash unit can be quite stark, so a diffuser is any material which spreads that light wider to give a softer lighting effect. They vary from highly expensive material screens placed between the flash and the subject to homemade diffusers made from plastic milk cartons. (personally the latter always seems to give the best shots).


An abbreviation for Depth of Field


EV stands for exposure value, basically a value for total amount of light in a given exposure.

Extension tube

As the name implies, an extension tube is a tube shaped addition placed between the camera and body.An extension tube allows you to move closer to an object while at the same time keeping focus, so particularly useful for macro photography.

FOV - Field of View

FOV is a product of the combination of the lens' focal length and the size of the camera's sensor. FOV comes into play when you have cameras with different sensor formats from the old 35mm film standard. For example 4/3 cameras (such as the Olympus e-range ) have 2x crop factor associated with them wich means any 50mm lens used on a 4/3rd format body will result in about the same FOV as any 100mm lens on a 35mm full frame body.



Film Speed







Frames per second



Grey card


Hot Shoe




Light meter







Abbreviation of 'Neutral Density'

Neutral Density





A very wide angled photograph







Polarising Filter



Making changes to an image after processing. Typically describes removing spots etc.


The ammount of colour in an image. Desaturated images have little if any colour in them, while highly saturated images are bright and full of colour. Of course, each provokes a different mood, so the level of saturation is important to the final effect of the picture.

Shutter Speed

The speed at which the camera opens the shutter in front of the film (although in digital cameras there is often no shutter at all, the shutter speed is used to mean the lenght of time of exposure time. Faster the shutter speeds equate to shorter exposure times.


Single Lens Reflex - a type of camera popular with professionals for many decades. The days of the SLR may be drawing to a close as digital manufacturers are finding ways to provide full functionality without the need for a moving prism.

Stopping Down




TTL metering


Tilt Shift