Photo Jargon.

  • January 30, 2013
To photograph is to frame. To frame is to exclude – Susan Sontag…

Below you will find a list of 51 photographic phrases commonly used in an around  the world of digital photography. Each phrase is accompanied with a brief explanation. If you do not find what you are looking for, please feel free to contact us .



Aperture refers to the setting of size of the iris within the lens. This determines the amount of light allowed to enter, hit the sensor and form the image.

Autofocus (AF)

AF is exactly what it says. It is the cameras way of automatically focusing on the point you are targeting the camera at. To assist with this, many cameras have what is called “focus points”. This takes a fraction of a second. The other alternative method is to manually focus and believe you me, this is by far a great deal slower than AF.

Aperture Priority (A, A/V)

The way in which this facility works is to allow you to set the aperture control and in turn the depth of field and the camera automatically calculates the shutter speed. In other words the shutter speed will automatically internally calculate and follow the aperture setting.

Auto Focus Lock (AFL)

AFL is a function, which allows you to hold and remain the focus point on a said subject in the composition whilst re-composing the final image.

Auto-exposure (AE)

The camera automatically sets the cameras aperture and shutter settings


This is when the sun or the brightest point of illumination is coming from behind your image. For example this would make a silhouette.

Blown out

This where a highlight in your image is totally over-exposed, to the extent there is absolutely no detail. For example, no detail in the feathers of a swan. On some camera there is a “highlight alert” in the menu and the point in question in the image flashes on your cameras monitor. Switch it on if you have on.

Blocked out

This is where the darker colours and blacks in your image are totally under-exposed, to the extent there is absolutely no detail. For example, no detail in a rock or trees on the side of a mountain.

Close-focusing distance

The “close-focusing distance” is the minimum distance you can lock on to in auto focus to enable the picture to be taken.


This is the picture you are viewing through the viewfinder. One way in which you can simply alter the composition is by adjusting the focal length of your lens (zoom). Alternatively turn the camera to the “portrait to view” position.


This refers to an adjustment in the colour, I personally would always recommend this be undertaken in the post production which takes place in you computer.

Depth of Field

This is achieved by adjusting the aperture/exposure settings on your camera and determines the range of sharpness of your image from back to front, which part is sharp and which part is blurred.

DSLR Camera

DSLR stands for “Digital Single Lens Reflex” , these cameras allow you to view your image through your lens.


This is the amount of light which is allowed to pass through the lens pending the exposure setting, ie the diameter of the iris and the operating speed of the shutter.

Exposure Compensation

This facility is more commonly found on the medium to more highly priced cameras and can in some cases be a live saver!! Exposure compensation allows you to adjust for the extreme points of brightness or darkness and is especially useful when used in conjunction with “Highlight Alerts”.

f-stop or f/numbers

“F stops” represent the size of the aperture of the iris in the lens, each alteration re calculates (unless in manual) the exposure setting which in turn re-determines how much light is allowed down the lens.


A filter is a piece of glass which is attached to the front of the lens, usually screwed or slipped in to an adaptor. This will influence your picture depending upon which filter(s) you have selected. There are many different types and quality available.

Fixed Lens

A Fixed lens, otherwise known as a Prime lens is in know way adjustable as a zoom lens is. The only way the distance between you and the subject matter can be adjusted is by you personally altering the distance between you and the subject.

Focal Plane

This is the distance which is seen to compose the image and is displayed on the body of the lens.


The word “format” has two meanings: The first being the manner in which you are storing your images. The most commonly found in-camera formats are “Jpegs” and or Raw”. Jpegs are of a lower resolution than Raw images but the master are destructible. A “Raw” image is of a much higher resolution and is indestructible. You will also require a “Raw Convertor” piece of software. However be warned “Raw” will take up far more space on your memory cards and hard drives. It is very often found that amateurs’ use Jpegs where as pro’s always use Raw images.


Framing is principally the same as composing the image.


A word often used when referring to a lens. For example a 500mm f4 lens would commonly be referred to a large or big piece of glass.


These are the very bright points in an image which sometimes may be unrecoverable.

Highlight Alert

This facility is more commonly found on the medium to more highly priced cameras and can in some cases be a live saver!! When set correctly will flash at any point which is over exposed on the cameras rear LCD display, in turn giving you the opportunity to adjust your compensation and retake before leaving the location.

This is adjusted with the aid of “Exposure Compensation”.


A histogram can once again be found on the medium to more expensive cameras and displays the light measured in the form of a graph, from the ultimate black point, to the ultimate white point. Therefore this will once again give you the opportunity to make any adjustments via the exposure compensation controls.


ISO stands for “International Standards Organization” and is a scale used to control the sensitivity of the cameras sensor and how much light is allowed to be recorded. This also works in conjunction with the exposure settings on the camera. A low ISO setting is recommended for minimum noise or grain where as a high ISO will most certainly generate much more noise or grain the higher you set the camera. There is various packages of noise reduction software available.


This phrase refers to an image shot in the horizontal position.

LCD Screen

This stands for “Liquid Crystal Display” and can normally be found on the rear of a digital camera and in some cases on the top as well. These are used to display the setting, histograms, camera settings, histograms and if you are lucky a mini picture.

Lens speed

This can often be found on the lens along with the focal length of the lens. For example 70mm to 200mm f2.8 or 100mm to 400mm f4/f5.6

In the case of these two lenses the 70/200mm f2.8 would mean the largest aperture available throughout the full zoom length. The largest aperture available on the 100/400mm f4/5.6 would be f4 at 100mm, this would automatically adjust to a maximum of f5.6 when extended to 400mm.

Light meter

These are built into the camera and automatically measures the amount of light you are working with and which is coming up through the lens.


Used for extreme close up photography such as insects, floral, forensic etc. This often produces an image at a ratio of 1:1

Manual Focus

This is where the photographer takes 100% control such as when working in a studio environment.


Please see “ISO”


This is caused by the sensor receiving too much light which is reflecting of the white parts in the image and may be caused by the exposure settings being incorrect. Very often found in extremely bright situations and parts of the image will be in risk of being burnt out. For example the sun shinning down on the wings of a Mute Swan.


You will see lines, perhaps vertical walls of a building, looking as though they are falling backwards.


A filter which is attached to your lens to reduce the glare of water or to saturate the colours in a sky.

Portrait to view

This phrase refers to an image shot in the vertical position.


To focus on a said subject such as a post, then as and when an object passes the post take the shot. (see AF Lock) 

Program mode (P)

This is effectively when the camera takes control of all your settings and all you will have to do is to compose the image and press the button.


This is an indestructible photographic format in which many high end cameras offer to record the image as well as the opportunity of using Jpegs. However be warned “Raw” images will take up more capacity, may require you to purchase an additional piece of software, a “Raw Convertor”. Raw images will also take more time to produce the finished images.

Rule of Thirds

This method of composition is very often seen as a rule to assist in making the image appear more balanced.

Self Timer

A feature which can be found on some cameras and when activated delays the point when the shutter is operated.

Shutter button

The button that you depress to take the picture.

Shutter Priority

The way in which this facility works is you to set the shutter speed (TV) and the camera automatically calculates the size of the aperture.

Shutter speed

The speed at which the iris closes and reopens


This is when the main point of focus appears to be slightly blurred or out of focus. This can be caused by incorrect camera settings, camera movement, or it may be because that is what you want and have fitted a “soft filter”.

Telephoto Lens

This lens enables you to magnify your images, therefore appearing to be much closer. These usually start from around 70mm.


A tripod is a three legged device for your camera to be mounted on, especially when taking such pictures as landscapes and the shutter speed may be extremely slow as well as weddings and portraits.


This is the exact opposite to that of an image being over-exposed and is effectively when the sensor does not receive sufficient light on certain areas of you image such as trees, rocks etc. This can once again be corrected with the assistance of the exposure compensation control.

Wide open

This is when the photographer shoots at the lenses lowest f-stop number. For example on a 70-200mm f-2.8 lens and the cameras aperture setting would be set to 2.8


A zoom lens provides a more flexible way of composing the picture by zooming in and out as and when so desired.

Many thanks, have fun and

“Keep on Clickin”

John F.