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Photography Dictionary by Slupton Photography Dictionary by Slupton
The Photography Dictionary. Or, how to understand all that technical crap without going insane. You need to know what aperture is? What different lenses do? Sound good- I'll try my best to inform. And if you think anything should be added, drop me a line. I don't check my email often (if ever), so it would be best to do it through DA.

P.s: If you could do some crazy awesome alphabet hot linking for me, that would be sweet. I can't do as much HTML as I used to.

Aberration: A lens fault (problem) in which light rays are scattered, degrading the image. Different types include:
Chromatic (colors and light wavelengths), Spherical (blurring in the center of a picture), coma (edge blurring),
astigmatism (light rays focused as a line, not a point), and field curvature (plane of sharpest focus is a curved surface).

Achromatic Lens: a lens constructed of different types of glass, used to reduce chromatic aberration.

Acutance: The objective measurement of how well an edge is recorded in a photograph.

Additive process: the process of combining lights of different colors.

Aerial process: The impression of depth in a scene, created by use of haze.

Anastigmat: A compound lens; reduces optical aberrations

Angle of view: The widest angle of those light rays used by a lens to form an acceptably sharp image at the film plane. Widest when lens is set to infinity.

Angstrum: measurement of light wavelength. All that physics crap is boring.

Aperture: An adjustable circular hole centered on the lens axis. The aperture is adjusted to allow more of less light in. f/1.8 lets in more light then f/33. Think of it as a fraction. This is important.

ASA/ISO: The sensitivity rating of a film to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive. Iso 400 is good for indoor photography, for example. ASA/ISO 200 is twice as fast as 100.

Automatic Exposure (AE) control: A system found in many modern cameras which utilizes a photo-electric cell to determine the amount of light reaching the film. AE control will then set shutter and/or aperture speed for you. Many cameras will also allow you to set either aperture size or shutter speed, and the camera will change accordingly, adjusting the other to balance the photograph. This is a great setting for sports photography.

Auto Focus (AF): on many modern cameras, AF allows the photographer to point the camera at a scene, and the photo-electric cell in the camera itself focuses the lens faster then many could focus manually. Handy for sports and wildlife photography, when you don't have tons of time to focus for a shot.


Back Lighting: lighting behind a subject, directed towards the camera.

Barrel distortion: A lens aberration that distorts an image. Straight vertical lines bow outwards. Barrel distortion is found using a fish-eye lens and can be used to great effect.

Bas-relief: A method of producing images that stand out. Produced by sandwiching a positive and negative of the same image slightly out of register.

Bayonet mount: a type of fitting enabling lenses to be mounted on the camera body quickly and easily.

Bee gun: A hand-held smoke gun used to produce special effects smoke by burning charcoal and incense.

Bounce Flash: light from an electronic flash bounding off a reflective surface such as a wall, ceiling or white umbrella- produces a softer more diffused illumination

Bracketing: shooting the same picture three times: one underexposed (high aperture), one at correct exposure, and one overexposed (low aperture).

Brightness: "The subjective impression of luminance." Wow, who the fuck came up with that definition? Hahaha.


Camera Shake: unintentional (usually) movement of the camera during exposure- causes blurring of the image.

Changing bag: a light-tight bag with sleeves to allow safe handling of light-sensitive photographic materials.

Close-up Attachments: Accessories such as a close-up lens, bellows, or extension tube, which enable the camera to focus closer than normal.

Contact sheet: A print of all the frames from a roll of film, arranged in strips. A contact print allows you to select what pictures you wish to enlarge. You make one by putting photopaper under your negative sheet, then you expose it. A contact printer, made up of a sheet of clean glass and a base, will flatten the negative sheet out and allow you a clean contact print.

Cropping: the removal of unwanted sections of an image when enlarging.

Depth of field: The distance in front of and behind the absolute-focus of a picture that is in acceptable focus. Depth of field is increased by increasing the f stop (making the aperture smaller. f/1.8 has a very small DOF, where f/22 has a large DOF)

Development: the chemical process by which an invisible latent image is converted into a visible one.

Diaphragm: See aperture

Differential (or Selective) Focus: A technique used to isolate a subject by using a large aperture to produce a small depth of field so that areas not in the subject plane are unsharp. A focus is created specifically around the desired object.

Diffraction: The scattering of light as it passes close to an opaque surface such as a lens diaphragm. At very small apertures, loss of image quality can occur.

Diffuser: Translucent material capable of scattering transmitted light, producing softer illumination.

DIN: a logarithmically measured sensitivity of film to light. ASA/ISO are arithmetic measurements. An increase of 3 DIN units indicates a doubling of film speed. DIN is not used anymore.

Diopter: Measurement of the refraction ability of a lens. Diopter is reciprocal of the focal length; a convex lens is positive, a concave lens is negative.

Distortion: The change in shape of an image.

Dodging: see shading

Downrating: AKA: cutting, pulling: The technique of decreasing the film speed then underdeveloping the film during processing.

Dry mounting: The method of affixing a print to a card, wood, etc. by heating mounting tissue between the two surfaces.

DX coding: A system of marking the film canister with the film speed. Many modern cameras will read this marking to determine the ISO of the film. DX coding can be “hacked” manually, please see here: [link]

Easel: AKA “Masking Frame”: A flat board used to hold and frame photographic paper during printing.

Emulsion: the light sensitive substance composed of halides used for film and paper.

Exposure: the amount of light reaching an emulsion, being the product of intensity and time.

Exposure latitude: the amount by which photosensitive material can be over or under exposed and still produce acceptable results.

Exposure Value (EV): an indication of the aperture/shutter speed combination for a given level of light. 1/30 seconds at f16 has the same EV as 1/250 at f5.6


F-stop: "the light gathering power of lenses is usually described by the wider f-stop they are capable of, and lens aperture rings are normally calibrated in a standard series of f1, f1.4, f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22, f32." See aperture.

Fast film: Film with an ISO/ASA rating higher then 400. (or 400, for that matter)

Fill-in Flash: A supplementary light source used to increase the exposure in certain (usually shadowed) areas without altering the overall character of the lighting.

Filter: Transparent material that modifies the light reaching the film. Filters are places in front of a light source or between the film and the subject.

Fish-eye Lens: An extremely wide-angle lens exhibiting barrel distortion and a very large depth of field.

Fish fryer: A large light source measuring about 2x3ft, usually used in a studio; supported on an adjustable stand.

Fixer: A chemical solution that ‘fixes’ the photographic image on negatives or photographic paper- making it permanent. Photographs that aren’t in the fixer long enough exhibit a strange changing of colours.

Flash: A unit that produces short bursts of intense light lasting between 1/60th of a second and 1/40,000 of a second.

Flipping: Turning over a negative or transparency so the image appears back to front in order to increase the drama or flow of the image.

Focal length: the distance between the center of the lens and its focal point.

Focusing: Adjusting the distance between the lens and the film to achieve sharp focus.

Focus Spot: A spotlight with a narrow angle of view, generally 1 degree.

Format: The size and shape of a negative or transparency.

Fresnel lens: A flat condenser lens used with spotlights or with focusing screens.

Front Projection: A system of projecting an image onto a background screen. A medium format camera can shoot through a two-way mirror to combine two separate scenes.


Gelatin filters: Coloured filters made from dyed gelatin, used over the lens or light source.

Gobos: Cut out shapes or masks placed in the front of a light source to cast shadows of the scene.

Grade: Scale indicating the contrast of printing paper from soft to hard (0-5).

Graduated filters (grads): A toned filter that gradually reduces in density towards the centre of the filter.

Grain: An individual light-sensitive crystal. Grain would be like Megapixels or DPI- the better grain of a photograph, the larger you can make it without compromising the quality of the picture. Or something like that.


Hand Colouring: Painting a photographic image by hand, usually with a brush and coloured dyes. Does not work well on glossy photo paper (you have been warned!)

Hard light: An intense light that creates distinctive shadows.

High Key: An image comprising light or pale tones only.

Hot: Bright or too bright, when referring to light or exposure.


Incident light meter: A meter that reads the amount of light falling onto the subject. It is held in front of the subject, facing the light source.

Infinity cove: A 3-foot radius coving used in a studio to produce horizonless backgrounds or smooth, continuous reflection in cars.

Infra-red film: Film designed to record infra-red light. (Infra-red is not visible to the human eye)

ISO: See ASA you twit.


The second addition and still nothing in J.


Key light: the light providing the main illumination, usually supplemented by other light sources and/or reflectors.


Large format cameras: Camera using sheet film measuring 5’’x4’’ or larger.

Lens Axis: a line through the center of the curvature of a lens.

Lens flare: Non-image forming light reflected from lens surfaces that degrades the quality of the image- can be used to good effect.

Lens Shade/ Lens hood: stops lens flare.

Lightbox: A box containing fluorescent tubes balanced for white light, covered by a diffuser, and used for viewing transparencies and negatives.

Light source: anything that gives off light.

Light tent: Translucent material surrounding the subject and diffusing the light reaching it.

Lith film: a high contrast film emulsion that can produce striking photographic images. Way cool.

Low key: An image comprising mostly dark tones.


Macro: see photomicrography

Masking frame: see easel

Medium format cameras: Cameras using 120 and 220 roll film, producing negatives of varying formats, notable 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x12cm, and 6x17cm. Do you see a pattern?

Modeling light: A continous low-wattage light source built in to electronic flash heads to show the effect that flash will produce.

Modeling light 2: Sidelighting that accentuates the three-dimensional nature of a subject.

Model release form: get one if you use real people.

Motor drive: a motorized film advance device attached to or built in to a camera, enabling single or continuous frame advance (measured in frames per second, fps)

Multiflash: repeated flashes to produce a sequence of images of a moving subject, or to increase the illumination of a static subject.

Multiple exposures: Recording more then one image on the same frame of film.

Negative: Photographic image with reversed tones (and colours), used to make a 'positive' image.

Neutral density: Colourless tone

Neutral density filter: A filter that reduces the amount of light without affecting the colour balance.


Overexposure: Exposure that is more than normally considered correct. Causes loss of highlighted detail.

Panning: A smooth rotation of the camera so as to keep a moving subject continuously in the frame- blurs the background.

Panoramic camera: A camera with a very wide view and minimum of optical distortion.

Parallax: The difference between the image viewed through the viewfinder and the image viewed by the lens.

Perspective: The illusion of 3d depth within a 2d picture

Perspective correction (shift) lens: A lens used mainly in architectural photography to correct converging verticals. With the camera horizontal, the lens can be shifted in any direction.

Photomacrography: Fancy name for "Macrophotography", taking close up pictures with magnification in the rage of 1-10x.

Photomicrography: Fancy name for "Microphotography," using a microscope to take pictures at great magnification.

Polarizing filter: A filter that absorbs polarized light, to varying degrees depending on its orientation. It is used to reduce reflection in water, glass, etc. and to increase colour saturation in skies.

Printing (burning) in: Increasing the exposure during printing of selected areas to dramatize the image or change the emphasis.


hahaha Q.


Rear curtain flash: A method of triggering the flash at the end of the exposure, creating more realistic images.

Reciprocity failure: Very short and long exposures cause a loss of film emulsion sensitivity. In colour film, this results in a colour cast. Added exposure may be necessary for shutter speeds over 1 second.

Red eye: Eyes can appear red when looking at the camera for a shot taken with flash- the effect is the result of light reflecting of the back of the retina. Using a pre-flash that contracts the pupil, bouncing the flash, or re-aiming the flash can fix this.

Red head: a 750-watt tungsten halogen light providing extra light to help in focusing when stopping down to f32 or more.

Reflected (ambient) light meter: A meter, such as a through-the-lens meter, that measures light bouncing off the subject.

Resin coated: A water-repellent base to photographic paper enabling them to be processed and washed faster- and dry more quickly then fiber-based papers.

Reversal film (transparency)(slide): Film that produce3s a positive image on exposure, without a separate negative.

Ring flash: A circular electronic flash unit positioned in front and around the camera lens, producing shadowless lighting ideal for close-up medical and scientific work.

Sabattier Effect: partial reversal of tone due to brief exposure to light during development. Similar to Solarization.

Safe light: Darkroom light of a colour and intensity that will not affect specific light-sensitive material.

Sandwiching: Combining two or more negatives within one frame when printing, or transparencies when projecting.

Shading (dodging): The covering or masking of selected areas of the paper while printing in order to hold back development.

Shutter: Mechanism that controls the duration of the exposure.

Shutter-release cable: A cable enabling the photographer to trigger the shutter remotely, without causing camera shake.

Single-Lens Reflex: A camera that uses a hinged mirror system to allow the subject to be previewed through the lens.

Skylight filter: A filter that absorbs UV light, reducing haze and blueness.

Slow film: ASA/ISO 50 or less

Snoot: cylindrical fitting for a light source, used to throw a circle of light on the subject.

Spreading filter: A filter used in 6x12 and 6x17 panoramic cameras to spread the light evenly over the entire image

Stop bath: chemical that neutralizes the action of the developer on an emulsion.

Stopping down: Reducing the lens aperture. Going from f1 to f22, for example.


Telephoto: A long focal-length lens designed to that the length of the lens is less than the focal length

Test strip: used to test various exposures made with an enlarger- always make these! The test strip will tell you what length of time to use to achieve the desired effect during enlarging.

Toning: A system of bleaching and dyeing to add an overall colour to black and white photos.


Underexposure: Exposure that is less than the normally considered ‘correct’. Causes loss of shadow detail, reduced contrast and density

Uprating: The technique of increasing the film speed, then overdeveloping the film during processing.



Wide-angle lens: A short focal-length lens that records a wide angle of view




Zoom Lens: A lens with a continuous range of focal lengths within a given limit. Such as 35-70mm, 28-85mm, 50-300mm.

Thank you for reading my photography dictionary. Remember, if you have anything to add, send me a message.
Add a Comment:
ivy020 Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you! Now I can "fake" being a photography expert! (Actually, I am just very careful with lighting and have a very fancy camera!)
timeywimeystuff13 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you.
The last photography glossary I looked at just translated the words into even more technical jargon, so... thank you for this one. It makes more sense.:)
UnicornSaint Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for this description! :D
sunmoni Featured By Owner May 12, 2013
its really helpfull... thank you
Assassin2294 Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2012  Student Digital Artist
katieqatar Featured By Owner May 20, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
lol This is really loooooong so I'm going to fave it for later. Thanks for the info, this is really useful to me. I'm just starting out in photography, so thanks again!
Lulu221 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
Wow:) Thanks for this:)
squiddy111 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2011
This is something anyone even remoteky interested in photography should have a look at.
DarCMoogle Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011  Student Photographer
Next could somebody translate it for me for Finland?
Dolpgirl Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
also whats contrast?????? :S
rainbowflyinglizard Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Contrast is the strength of the difference between light and dark in a photo. For example: High contrast- [link]
Low contrast- [link]
Dolpgirl Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
oh now i know what it is thank you!!!! :D
Dolpgirl Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
does anyone know what colour means for photography cause i read loads but i dont get it!!!!!! plz HELP!
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2011  Professional General Artist
This is brilliantly useful!!
ooooooooshiny Featured By Owner May 28, 2011   General Artist
check my dictionary comic or check my other stuff (laughs garunteed ! , or your money back)
BurningScream Featured By Owner May 11, 2011
Really helpful!!
Thank you! [:
morrbido Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2011
thank you! wow
AubrieyL Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2011
ah. I'm going insane.
Just kidding.
blackblock Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2010
izzmarit Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2010
Freakin useful!
mxgirl199 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I have been looking for something like this for a while!!! This helps so freaking much!
autum-fire Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2010
This is rad! Thank you for this!
LuminousLuck Featured By Owner May 28, 2010
You, my dear, have just made my life so much easier. Maybe now reading my manual won't be so hard!!!! If you ever need anything, let me know and I'll try my best to help!!! :hug:
JessicaValerie-n-Co Featured By Owner May 27, 2010  Student General Artist
Hey there :)
I have a favour to ask of you... I am currently doing my Year 12 HSC (Australian: Higher School Certificate, ie. Last year of high school) Information Processes and Technology major project, Which is to be a website on photography and cameras.

I saw your photography dictionary and was wondering if I would able to feature it on the site I make. Of course, You will be fully credited with links to your deviantart profile and deviation page.

I will also send you a link at the completion of the project if you would wish to see.
I would really appreciate if you agreed, but if you don’t, no hard feelings :aww:

dazzarox Featured By Owner May 2, 2010
Thank you! It's been very helpful! I hope you don't mind me using this in my assignment, referenced of course! :)
muggle-struggle Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2010
How very handy!
elmersilanga Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2010
tnx man! this dictionary save my day =)
hotelierLXX Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2010
wonderful! thanks! :thumbsup:
angelasuke Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2010
bravo great one..!^_^
swimfly96 Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2009
thanks, it cleared up somethings
giopg13 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2009
:worship: thanks for this ! learnt alot from it :D :love: faaaaav :D
Adrianhell28 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2009
Thankyou ,what a wonderfull thing
Adrianhell28 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2009
Thankyou ,what a wonderfull thing
happymoonwolf Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
toffXD Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2009
you forgot bokeh!

nice job :)
Fotography-Club Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2009
Extremely helpful and right-to-the-point! Very well done!
Roses-to-Ashes Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
to find stuff.. try Ctrl+f... it works for firefox.. most text documents... just hit those keys and type what you are looking for.. brings you right to that word...

Great job on this also.. has helped me out many times!!
bobbyrtle Featured By Owner May 30, 2009
thank you so much !
evanesces Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2009
awesome work! simply amazing! very helpful too! :D
Per-Per Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2009
    hahaha Q."

xShadowCatcherx Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2009   Writer
This is really great, thank you!
Gwaewiel Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2009
: D
ichellema101 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2009
I love you so much for this. :XD: Very useful!
spaceheed Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2009
Love it! Such a bloody good idea! :)

Thank you!!
IncendiaDea Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2009
bygolly, you are official my favourite in the whole wide world.
cherry-abduction Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2009  Student Photographer
Wow, thank you so much for this! I'm sure i'll use it in years to come :)
n00bphotographer803 Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2008   Photographer
I'm favin' for future reference. Very Helpful
Alexis90 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2008   Photographer
Thank you si much! I have been looking for something like that for ages...
Shawty-Porkie200 Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2008   Photographer
This is a real help, Thanks! :)
MollyMews Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2008
This is super resourceful! Thank you for sharing !!
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