Portland Street

Digital marketing insights for a blogging community

Photography is a crucial element of blogging and it’s something that most bloggers have to get to grips with pretty quickly if they want their site to stand out from the crowd. Your camera will soon become your best friend, but there’s no point investing hundreds of pounds (or possibly thousands!) in top-quality kit if you always revert to automatic settings.

Here, we bust some of the jargon surrounding photography in our A-Z dictionary of photography terms. Let us know if there are other words and phrases that baffle you and we’ll keep updating the page. And don’t forget to sign up to Portland Street for more tips and tricks on photography for bloggers (we like to call this ‘phoblography’).


Aberration - Unusual rendering of lines around the edge of the picture where they appear to bend, usually a result of cheaper lenses and more prominent on wider lenses.

AF - Auto focus, uses the camera’s sensors to decide which subject in the frame to focus on and adjusts the lens accordingly.

Aperture - A changeable value that control the amount of light entering the camera through the lens, generally written as an f-number or f-stop, for example, f/5.6. Works in the same way that your iris controls the amount of light entering your eye.

A/Av/Aperture Priority - Capture mode that allows the photographer to choose a particular aperture/f-stop while letting the camera choose shutter speed.

APS-C - Common sensor type found in many digital cameras of varying types.

Aspect Ratio - The shape of a picture/sensor, usually expressed as something like 3:2 or 6:4

Auto mode - Capture mode that uses the camera’s built-in sensors to set various settings for correct exposure.

Blur - Can be used interchangeably with bokeh in some instances, fuzziness created when an area of the picture is out of focus see also, “Motion Blur”.

Bokeh - Lens blur created by using a wide aperture, different lenses will produce different bokeh patterns and strengths.

Bridge Camera - Type of camera that sits roughly between a compact/point & shoot and DSLR, typically has a larger sensor than compact but not as many features as a DSLR

Burst Mode - Capture mode that allows pictures to be taken in rapid succession, usually expressed as a FPS (Frames Per Second) figure such as 7FPS.

Canon - One of the largest camera companies in the world, produces a wide range of cameras for different applications from compact up to very high end DSLRs and Medium Format cameras.

CCD - Charged-Coupled Device, a type of sensor which commonly produces very low noise but consumes a lot more power than a CMOS sensor-type

CMOS - Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, the most common type of sensor, low power consumption but higher noise produced compared with a CCD. Generally cheaper than CCD.

Continuous Mode - See “Burst Mode”.

Contrast - The difference between the darkest black and the lightest white in an image.

Compact - AKA Point and Shoot, generally feature-light, easy to use cameras that give the user little control over the eventual image. Small sensors and cheap price make them a good starting point but not for the more serious photographer.

Crop - The act of cutting a photo to a different size by removing edges, etc. May be done to reduce unwanted elements or to change the aspect ratio.

Darkroom - Room used for developing film, a non-controlled exposure to light would make the film come out completely white meaning any pictures would be erased, so development is generally done in complete darkness.

Depth Of Field - or DOF, used to refer to the area of focus, expressed as two distances, for example, 5m - 15m. Points beyond this maximum and minimum will be out of focus and blurry. Often also referred to as “shallow” for a short distance between max. and min.

Digital Zoom - A form of zoom that crops the image, this will reduce the quality of your final picture.

DSLR - Digital Single Lens Reflex, a camera type that uses a mirror to reflect what the sensor will see up into the viewfinder to allow for accurate framing and focusing.

DVF - Digital ViewFinder, see Viewfinder.

Dynamic Range - See “Contrast”.

EXIF/Meta-data - Information stored in the image file at the point of capture, usually contains time and date stamps, as well as camera type and settings used. Often used forensically by police officers!

Exposure - Used to refer to the amount of time the sensor is open to light, can also be another word for photographs. Some cameras offer the option to artificially increase or decrease perceived exposure without changing other settings, usually expressed as a + or - figure, e.g. +2 exposure.

Film - The old way of taking pictures, there are still a lot of avid film users out there (see the hashtag #believeinfilm for a thriving community!) Film was loaded into a camera in place of a sensor, the camera exposed the film in the same way it does the sensor, once complete the film was developed using chemicals in a darkroom which created a negative. This was then reversed to create the image and printed on photo paper. Longer process but lots of fun!

Fisheye - A type of very wide angle lens, gives the effect of looking out of a fish bowl, hence the name. Can be a very interesting effect when used creatively.

Fixed Lens - See also “Prime lens”, a lens that does not allow the user to change focal length, for example, 50mm lens.

Flash - Light unit, often using a strobe light, that will give enough brightness to light up what is in front of the camera, not effective above a certain distance, which will change dependent on the flash in question. There are often different modes available on more advanced DSLRs.

Fn. - Function, usually a button that can be reassigned to perform a shortcut on your camera or held to change the function of a scroll wheel.

Focal Length - Expressed in millimetres, shorter lengths give a “wider” image, capturing more of the area than a longer lens. Used to express the distance that a subject appears from the lens.

Focus - Action of rotating the lens until the subject of your image stops appearing blurry.

Framing - The art of getting the subject into the image, there are lots of different techniques, both artistic and practical for framing a photograph, see also “Rule Of Thirds”.

Fujifilm - Japanese camera manufacturer, well known for producing less expensive cameras that perform well in low light conditions.

Grain - Used to describe the appearance of film particles, which have a “grainy” look. Can be added as an effect in many image processing applications to give a “film” look. Often wrongly attributed to Digital Noise. See also “Noise”.

HDR - High Dynamic Range, a type of photography that often uses a combination of two or more images taken at the same time then combined in-camera, gives an unnaturally high contrast and captures much more detail in the shadows and highlights than would be achievable in a single shot.

Hot Shoe - Where the Flash is attached to the camera. The camera will send a signal via the hot shoe to the flash unit telling it when and how to fire.

ISO - How sensitive the sensor is to light, can be adjusted. Lower ISO means less sensitive so better for use in brighter conditions, higher ISO will result in greater noise. Expressed as a number, e.g. ISO400.

JPG/Jpeg - The most common compressed image format, quality depends on the type and amount of compression. Some cameras will allow you to save different file formats, such as RAW/TIFF as well, which are uncompressed, therefore, better quality. However, watch the file size as these can fill up your memory card very quickly!

Leica - A very highly regarded camera manufacturer, expensive but have what some consider to be a unique quality that other manufacturers just can’t capture. Based in Germany.

Lens - A tube that contains various glass elements as well as aperture blades through which the image will be focused before reaching the sensor.

Lens Flare - Effect that happens when bright light hits the lens at an undesirable angle, usually produces a multi-coloured shape across the image.

Lens Hood - An attachment that can be screwed/clipped onto the end of a lens to protect it from light entering at undesirable angles and causing lens flare

Macro - Close-up photography, often requires the camera to be within a few centimetres of the subject. It’s possible to buy specialist macro lenses, but a cheaper solution is to use extension tubes to modify your existing lens as they usually don’t contain any glass and simply move the lens further from the sensor/film plane.

Medium Format - Very high quality [read: expensive] photography format, again, the name comes from film when this was between the most common 35mm format and “Large Format”. Shot on 120 film, now primarily used when the image is required at a very high quality for large billboards, etc.

Megapixels - One measure of image quality, this is the number of pixels a sensor has in total, expressed as 24MP, for example, would be 24 million pixels. More is not necessarily better in every case so don’t let this be the only deciding factor when purchasing!

Memory Card - Where your photographs will be stored, some even come with built in WiFi connections that mean you can share the image from your camera to a laptop or phone instead of connecting a cable.

Metering - Your camera will have a built in light meter which measures the amount of available light and adjusts settings automatically to allow for what the camera deems to be the correct exposure, not always the most reliable!

Monopod - Single-legged stand for your camera which will allow you to keep it steady while shooting. See also “Tripod”.

Motion Blur - Different to Bokeh as this is caused by either movement of the subject or the movement of the camera, can be used as an effect when trying to convey speed.

Neutral Density (ND) Filter - A filter that can be screwed/clipped onto the front of your lens to evenly reduce the amount of light entering the lens allowing for a wider aperture setting or lower shutter speed than would usually be possible. Great for getting the correct exposure in bright conditions.

Nikon - The other of the “Big Two”, along with Canon, one of the most popular manufacturers. Also based in Japan.

Noise - Unnatural colours which start to appear at higher ISOs/darker conditions, sensors will struggle to recreate realistic colours with less available light so have to estimate based on what they can see.

Optical Zoom - A form of zoom that uses the movement of lens elements to increase the size of the subject, this method will not reduce quality of your image.

Parallax - The difference seen between the viewfinder and the eventual image, sometimes you’ll find corner elements in your viewfinder that represent where the eventual image will be cut off to allow for proper framing.

Pixel - Tiny dot that will change colour depending on what it is representing, millions of these will make up your eventual image, if you zoom in on an image enough, you’ll start to see the individual pixels. Shortened term for “Picture Element”.

Polarising Filter - A filter that can be screwed/clipped onto the front of your lens to reduce glare and haze in your photo, generally come in two variations “Linear” and “Circular”. For modern cameras, it’s best to avoid Linear as this can confuse your camera’s built-in autofocus.

Prime Lens - See “Fixed lens”.

Processor - In the same way that your computer will have a processor to interpret data, your camera will use a processor to translate the data being sent from the sensor to turn it into an image file.

Program (P) Mode - A camera mode that allows you to modify any element while the camera takes care of the rest.

RAW - File format that is uncompressed, usually large size but the highest quality your camera is able to produce, useful if you intend to crop the image later.

Red Eye - Usually a problem that comes with flash photography, the red eye effect is actually a reflection of the flash off the back of the eyeball, caused by the iris not reacting quickly enough to the brightness of the flash. Can be reduced by enabling “red eye reduction” mode, which will fire the flash several times in quick succession before the final shot is taken.

Rule Of Thirds - A framing technique which has been used by artists for centuries, involves slicing the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically in order to place your subject.

Saturation - How vividly the colours will appear in a photo.

Sensor - The part of the camera that “sees” the image and turns it into an image file.

Shutter - The part of the camera which opens and closes to expose the sensor to light,

S/Tv/Shutter Priority - A camera mode that allows you to set the shutter speed while the rest of the settings are adjusted automatically to give you the correct exposure.

Shutter Speed - The time taken for the shutter to open and close again, usually expressed as a fraction of a second, e.g. 1/250 (one two hundred and fiftieth of a second)

SLR - Now usually used to refer to a Single Lens Reflex film camera. SLRs have a mirror which reflects the image up into the viewfinder, this flips up to expose the film plane/sensor. See also “DSLR”.

SD/SDHC/SDXC Card - Different types of memory card available, (SD = Secure Digital, SDHC = Secure Digital High Capacity, SDXC = Secure Digital eXtreme Capacity). It’s worth checking not only the size of a card but also it’s data transfer rate, expressed usually in MB/s (megabytes per second) as this will affect how quickly the camera can store photos and how quickly you are able to transfer a large batch onto your computer.

Sensitivity - See “ISO”.

Sports Mode - Usually a setting that will choose a high shutter speed setting allowing you to freeze a fast-moving subject.

Telephoto - Type of lens that is usually above 75mm focal length. Useful for portraits, wildlife and landscape photography.

Tripod - A three-legged stand for your camera, will usually be foldable to make it easy to carry, some will feature a quick release option that allows you to attach a “foot” to your camera where the tripod would usually screw in (on the bottom of your camera) and will allow you to quickly attach and remove the camera without having to screw it in every time. Can come in two sizes so it’s worth checking the mount size before purchasing. See also “monopod”.

Viewfinder - The part of the camera you look through to frame your shot, usually gives a live image of what the sensor will eventually capture.

Vignette - Darkening of the edges around a photo, usually circular in nature, now used more as an effect as modern lenses are designed to reduce this as much as possible.

White Balance - Setting that allows you to adjust for different lighting conditions. Will often have examples to allow you to choose the correct setting, can be used as an effect too.

Wide Angle - A type of lens that will give the effect of pulling the centre of the image forwards while pushing the edges back. Usually considered to be any lens below 35mm focal length.

Zoom - See “Digital Zoom” & “Optical Zoom”.


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