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Decoding Photography 101

Learn The Photography Terminologies, from A to Z

Hello readers. Welcome to my new blog post.

The world of photography has its share of a large number of terms and acronyms. While some of them are easy to understand, some complicated terms need a deeper understanding. Learning these can be a daunting process for those who are new to the world of photography. Whether you are using a DSLR, Point & Shoot, or a mobile camera, most of the terminologies are common. Getting a clearer knowledge of these terms can also help you to get the most out of your equipment.

“Learn the basics first, move to the details later."

Below is a list comprising the well-elaborated common as well as complex terminologies used in photography.

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4K: A high definition video format with a display resolution of 4096 X 2160.

720p: Known as Standard HD, it has a resolution of 1280 x 720. The p stands for progressive, which means both odd and even scan lines are displayed at the same time.

1080i: Known as Full HD, it has a resolution of 1920 x 1080. The i stands for interlaced, which means odd and even scan lines are displayed as separate fields, with even lines appearing first followed by odd lines.


Adobe RGB: Created by Adobe, this color space comprises more colors than standard sRGB. It is used primarily for printing purposes.

AI Servo: Abbreviation of Artificial Intelligence Servo. It is a dedicated focusing mode in Canon cameras for moving objects.

Anti-aliasing: It is a process by which the edges appear smooth instead of taking jagged looks.

Aperture: Aperture is a circular opening in the lens through which light enters inside the camera. A larger aperture gives more light and shallower depth of field. A smaller aperture gives less light and a deeper depth of field. Aperture is measured in f-stops.

Aperture Priority: Known as Aperture value (Av) in Canon and Aperture (A) in Nikon cameras. This mode allows the photographer to control the aperture value manually while shutter speed is determined automatically.

APS-C: It is an abbreviation of Advanced Photo System. Crop frame cameras use APS-C sensors.

Artifact: The distortions or anomalies appearing in an image. Artifacts include noise, chromatic aberrations, jagged edges, and halos.

Aspect Ratio: The ratio of the width to the height of an image. Usually, images have an aspect ratio of 3:2. Many cameras offer options for 3:2, 4:3, and 16:9 aspect ratios.

Aspheric Lens: A lens whose surface profiles are neither spherical nor cylindrical. Aspheric lenses are used in the lens assembly to reduce optical distortions.

Autofocus: An ability of a camera to keep the subject in focus automatically during the shot.

AWB: An abbreviation of Auto White Balance. It allows the camera to automatically balance the color tones in an image.


Back-button Focus: Using the dedicated button on the back of the camera for focusing, instead of using the shutter button.

Barrel Distortion: A type of optical distortion resulting in bowed-out edges in an image. Usually caused by using cheap wide-angle lenses. Particularly apparent in architectural photography.

Bit Depth: The number of bits used to represent each pixel in an image. Also referred as color depth. An 8-bit image contains 256 colors while a 32-bit image contains 16.8 million colors.

Bokeh: Refers to the out-of-focus areas in an image particularly around the highlight areas. Bokeh often appears as blurred circles with variable sizes depending on the shape of the aperture's opening.

Bracketing: Refers to shooting multiple images of the same scene using different exposures. Often used for HDR images.

Buffer memory: A temporary storage area for the image data before it is written to the memory card.

Bulb: A camera setting that keeps the shutter open till the shutter release button is pressed. Used for capturing long exposure scenes.

Burst rate: The number of continuous images a camera can capture before filling the buffer time.


Calibration: It is a process that is applied to make the monitor display accurate colors.

Chromatic Aberration: A type of distortion caused by the failure of a lens to focus different color wavelengths at the same point. Usually appears as color fringes along the edges.

CMOS: Abbreviation of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semi-Conductor. It is a type of digital sensor commonly used in the latest cameras.

CMYK: Abbreviation of Cyan Magenta Yellow Black (Key). This color model is usually used for printing.

Composition: Placement of the subject in the frame that makes the image look aesthetically and technically perfect.

Contrast: Range of difference between the different color tones in an image.

CR2: Abbreviation of Canon RAW 2nd Edition. It is a raw image format used by Canon.

Crop Factor: A ratio of the sensor's size to the full-frame sensor or standard 35mm film. Nikon cameras have a crop factor of 1.5x and Canon cameras have a crop factor of 1.6x.

Crop Frame: A camera, which uses a smaller sensor than a full-frame sensor.


Depth of Field: Distance between the nearest and the farthest objects in an image that appears acceptably sharp.

Digital Zoom: A zooming effect achieved by cropping the image around the center area of the frame.

DNG: Abbreviation of Digital Negative. Raw image format developed by Adobe.

DSLR: Abbreviation of Digital Single-lens Reflex. Refers to a camera with a single lens and reflex mirror combined with a digital sensor to record the final image.

Dynamic Range: A measure of the range of maximum (white) and minimum (black) measurable light intensities.


Electronic Viewfinder: A viewfinder, which electronically displays the real-time preview of the scene. It helps in determining the exact exposure required. Usually found in the mirrorless camera.

EXIF: Abbreviation of Exchangeable Image File. It contains information like camera settings, time, date, etc.

Exposure: Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the sensor or film in the camera.

Exposure Compensation: A process to alter the exposure given by the camera’s light meter to make it over or underexposed.


F-stop: A unit to measure the aperture value.

Firmware: An operating system of a camera.

Fish-eye Lens: An ultra-wide lens that produces strong visual distortions with an angle of view between 100 and 180 degrees.

Focal length: Distance between the lens and the sensor when the subject is in focus. Measured in millimeters (mm).

FPS: Abbreviation of Frames per Second. Defines the number of pictures the camera can take in a second.

Full Frame: A camera, which uses a sensor that has the same size as 35mm film.


Golden Hour: The period right before the sunset and after the sunrise. Mostly preferred for shooting portraits as it gives a soft, warm look to the image.

Grayscale: An image, which has a range of monochromatic shades from black to white.

Grid Lines: The lines on the display that helps in composing the shot according to Rule of Thirds.


HDR: Abbreviation of High Dynamic Range. A technique used to capture the image with a higher dynamic range than the one captured by the camera. Usually done using multiple pictures of different exposure values. Mostly used in landscape photography.

High Key: An image that is almost entirely bright with very few shadows.

Histogram: A visual representation of the brightness values in an image. Usually illustrated using a graph with the left side displaying shadows, the right side displaying highlights, and the center areas displaying mid-tones.

Hot Shoe: A mounting point on top of the camera to attach flash or wireless trigger.


Image Stabilization (IS): A technique used in the lens to minimize the blur caused by camera vibrations. Usually used in Canon lenses.

ISO: Abbreviation of International Organization for Standardization. Represents the sensor’s sensitivity to the light.


JPEG: Abbreviation of Joint Photographic Experts Group. Standard format for image compression in digital devices.


Kelvin (K): An unit to measure color temperature. Usually used while setting the manual white balance.


Leading Lines: A composition technique to draw the viewer’s attention to the main subject by using lines. Usually used for architectural and street photography.

Light Meter: A device used to determine the correct exposure for the scene. The camera has an in-build light usually known as an exposure meter.


Macro Lens: A dedicated lens optimized to focus at extremely short distances. Usually used for photographing microscopic subjects like pollens and insects.

Manual: A mode in camera that allows the photographer to determine the proper exposure for the scene by manually controlling aperture, shutter speed, and iso.

Megapixel: A unit of the resolution of an imaging device. One megapixel has one million pixels.

Metering: A camera technique used to determine the exposure of the scene.

Mirrorless Camera: A camera that does not have a mirror, which is present in the DSLR. The light goes straight through the lens, onto the sensor.

Monochromatic: An image containing only a single color and its tones.

Multiple Exposure: A technique to superimpose two or more images to create a single image.


NEF: Abbreviation of Nikon Electronic Format. Raw image format used by Nikon.

Neutral Density Filter: A filter used to reduce or block the light. Usually used for photographing long exposure shots without overexposing them.

Noise: A digital artifact in an image that appears due to the high ISO.


Optical Viewfinder: A viewfinder, which displays the preview of the scene with the help of mirrors and prism. Usually found in DSLRs.

Optical Zoom: A zooming effect achieved by actually zooming on the subject.

Overexposure: An over bright image with very less or no shadows and blown up highlights.


Panning A technique used to shoot the moving subject by keeping the subject in focus while the background is blurred. The effect generates a sense of speed. Usually used for photographing vehicles.

Parallax: A difference or shift in the position of an object when seen from two different positions. The phenomenon can be observed while moving on the road, where nearby trees seem to zoom past while trees in the distance appear to slowly drift by.

Pentaprism: A five-faced prism placed on the roof of DSLRs to make an inverted image straight when seen through the viewfinder.

Pincushion Distortion: A type of optical distortion resulting in straight lines curving outwards from the center. Usually apparent while using telephoto lenses due to higher magnification.

Pixel: Abbreviation of Picture Element. The smallest element of an image that records the image in raster format.

Pixelation: An effect caused by over enlarging the image which breaks it up into pixels.

Prime Lens: A lens with fixed focal length and fixed or fast aperture.


RAW: An image format that contains minimally processed and uncompressed data. Raw images give greater control of the image parameters during editing.

Red-eye effect: Red-eye appears when a direct camera flash is reflected from the retina. The light illuminates the blood vessels thus producing the red color in the eyes.

Resolution: It refers to the number of details in an image. It determines how much the picture can be enlarged without pixelation or blurriness.

RGB: Abbreviation of Red Green Blue. A color model used for digital display devices.

Rule of Thirds: A composition technique in which the image is divided into 9 equal parts by 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines. Keeping the subject at the intersections or along these lines creates a visually appealing composition.


Saturation: Refers to the intensity of a color. More saturation gives vivid colors while less saturation gives dull colors.

Shutter: A device that covers the sensor and allows the light to pass to expose the sensor. Higher shutter speed gives less light and sharp images. Lower shutter speed gives more light and blurry images. Shutter speed is measured in second and fractions of a second.

Shutter Speed: Also known as exposure time, it is the amount of time for which the sensor is exposed to the light.

Shutter Priority: Known as a Time value (Tv) in Canon and Shutter (S) in Nikon cameras. This mode allows the photographer to control the shutter speed values manually while aperture value is determined automatically.

sRGB: Abbreviation of Standard RGB. A color space that comprises a range of colors that can be used for both digital and print purposes. It is the most widely used color space and supported by most printers and display devices. Created by HP & Microsoft.

Sync Speed: Refers to the fastest shutter speed a camera can use while using flash.


Teleconverter: A form of magnifying lens used between the camera body and lens to get extra magnification by increasing the apparent focal length.

TIFF: Abbreviation of Tagged Image File Format. A file format that stores the uncompressed raster images along with greater quality and higher color depth.

Time-lapse: A technique to capture a series of images of a particular scene at different timings and later combining them into a video to create a sense of elapsed time.

Tonal Range: The range of tones between the lightest (white) and the darkest (black) areas of an image.

TTL: Abbreviation of Through The Lens. Refers to the camera’s metering system that measures the intensity of light reflected by the subject to determine the exposure.


Underexposure: An over-dark image with very less or no highlights and darker shadow areas.

UV Filter: A filter used to reduce the ultraviolet rays in the light. Often used to protect the front element of the lens.


Vibrance: Refers to increasing the intensity of the dull colors in an image while keeping the well-saturated colors untouched.

Vibration Reduction: A technique used in the lens to minimize the blur caused by camera vibrations. Usually used in Nikon lenses.

Vignetting: Refers to the reduced brightness or darkening towards the corners of an image. It either can be an optical vignetting (introduced by the lens) or intentionally introduced vignetting to give more depth to the image.


White Balance: It determines how accurately the colors are rendered in an image. It reproduces the color scale from white to black as seen by our eyes.


Zoom Lens: A lens with variable focal lengths.

I hope this glossary will help you as a ready reference while exploring more of the photography.

I look forward to returning soon with the new blog on another interesting topic. Till then, step out, practice and experiment to produce beautiful images.

If you have any questions or wish to share your reviews about the article, feel free to leave a comment below. I will be more than glad to help you.


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Pashmina Chitre
Pashmina Chitre
Mar 10, 2021

Very Helpful content

Alok Katkar
Alok Katkar
Mar 10, 2021
Replying to

Thanks a lot Pashmina.

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