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Part 1. Common Photography Terms & Meanings | A-F

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Do you ever get confused when faced with some photography terms? This happens to all of us at times so here's a list of some of the more common terms and abbreviations that you might come across.


  • Aberration - a defect in a digital image mostly caused by the lens

  • Ambient light - the available light present in a scene

  • Aperture - the opening in the lens that allows light to pass through. Aperture also controls the depth of field

  • Aperture priority - a semi-automatic exposure mode where the photographer sets the aperture and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed

  • AWB (Auto White Balance) - the camera automatically selects the white balance (the colour temperature) for the shot based on its reading of the light in the scene


  • Backlight - when the primary light source is behind the subject pointing towards the camera

  • Back button focus - normally obtained by reprograming a button on the rear of your camera to be used as the focus button by depressing with your thumb.

  • Barrel distortion - when your lens, usually a wide-angle lens, appears to curve otherwise straight lines. E.g. in landscape shots, the horizon may appear to curve.

  • Blown out or burnt out - when you overexpose parts of an image leaving them white

  • Bokeh – a term used to described the blur or out of focus parts of a photo

  • Bracketing - shooting several images of the same scene at different exposure settings


  • Centre weighted metering - light metering based on the exposure reading from the centre of an image

  • Chimping – regularly checking the image on the screen of your camera after shooting

  • Chromatic aberration - coloured fringes that appear around the edge of objects, caused by light of different wavelengths (colours) coming to focus at different distances from the lens.

  • Clipping - when detail is lost in the highlight and/or shadow areas of an image

  • Colour temperature - the measure of the temperature of light in degrees Kelvin (K)

  • Composite - an image created by combining two or more images together


  • Depth of field (DOF) - the amount of the photograph that is perceptively sharp and in focus

  • Diffuser – a covering across the front of a light source (normally a flash or lamp unit) for the purpose of creating a softer light

  • DSLR – Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera. Called this due to how its mechanism works

  • Dynamic range – the range of brightness and colour depth in an image. An image with a higher dynamic range will have more detail in the highlights and shadows


  • EV (exposure value) - A single number given to the permutations of aperture, shutter speed and ISO that produce the same overall exposure. A change of 1 EV is the same as a change of 1 stop

  • Evaluative metering – Canon’s term for the light metering pattern taking the whole scene into account

  • EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) - refers to the metadata captured by your camera, recording the camera model, lens used, focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO

  • Exposure – the exposure of an image is how light or dark it is

  • Exposure compensation – if zero is correctly exposed then minus compensation is under exposed (darker) and plus compensation is over exposed (lighter)

  • Exposure triangle – a term used to describe the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture


  • F-number (f-stop) - a term used to refer to the size of the aperture in a lens e.g. f7.1

  • Fill flash – when flash is used to lighten any shadow areas on the subject

  • Filter - a piece of glass placed in front of your lens to modify the light entering it

  • Flash sync speed - the fastest shutter speed that you can take a photo with while using a flash. Often this is 1/200 or 1/250 of a second

  • Focal length - the distance measured in millimetres where the light rays converge in your lens to form a sharp image on the camera’s sensor. A low number gives a wider field of view and a higher number will give you a narrow field of view

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