Glossary of Photographic Terms

Glossary of Photographic Terms

absorption materials partially absorb light falling on their surface. The selective absorption of light of different wavelengths, and the reflection of others, gives a subject its colour.
additive colour synthesis a method of producing images containing a full range of colours by mixing light of the three primary colour wavelengths, blue, green and red. Mixed in equal proportions they produce white. Mixed in varying proportions they can produce all the colours of the spectrum.
aesthetic conventions of perception and belief.
ambiguity property of a configuration whereby it can be ‘read’ in more ways than one, (though not simultaneously), especially with regards to its inter-relationship, (see configuration, reading, figure-ground).
angle of incidence the angle formed between a light ray striking a surface and an imaginary line at right angles to that surface.
angle of reflection the angle formed between a ray of light reflected from a surface and an imaginary line perpendicular to the surface.
angle of view area that a lens sees or a light meter reads. A telephoto lens takes in a narrow view, whereas a wide-angle takes in a wide view. A spot meter reads light from a narrow angle, and an averaging meter reads from a wider angle.
angle of view the angle subtended at the lens between the outer limits of the image area seen by the lens.
aperture circular hole in front of or within a lens that restricts the amount of light passing through the lens to the photographic material. On the majority of lenses the size of the aperture can be varied, and controlled by an iris diaphragm. This can be set to a series of ‘stops’ calibrated in f numbers by rotating an external ring.
aperture-priority camera semi-automatic camera exposure system in which the user selects the aperture and the camera meter then automatically sets the shutter speed.
artificial light film colour film balanced for used in tungsten artificial light, usually of 3200 Kelvin. Packs are usually marked ‘Tungsten’ or ‘Type-B’. Such films will only render colour correctly in daylight if used with a colour conversion or CC filter over the camera lens, to alter the colour temperature of the light. See also Type A colour film.
asymmetry lack of symmetry.
autofocus an automatic focusing system featured on some SLR cameras, enlargers and projectors. The subject is electronically focused without manual adjustment.
available light the light condition that the photographer finds existing at the subject position. The term usually implies an indoor or nighttime light condition of low intensity, requiring fast film, large lens aperture, and slow shutter speed.
balance equalised arrangements of forms (in terms of their direction, frequency, mass tension, etc.) either side of a vertical axis
between-the-lens shutter a shutter of several metal blades placed between two elements of the lens; also called a leaf shutter.
bounce light flash or flood lighting reflected from ceiling, wall, or other surface.
box camera the first hand-held roll film camera, introduced in 1888 by George Eastman, consisting of a lighttight box fitted with lens, shutter, and viewfinder, as well as rollers for advancing and registering the film.
bracketing a technique of taking a series of exposures at regular, stepped exposure levels, in order to obtain the ‘best’ one. Normally the steps are in 1/3 or 1/2 stops, over and under the estimated exposure level.
brightness range the difference in brightness — or luminance — between the lightest and darkest parts of a subject.
brilliance the intensity of light reflected from a surface.
built-in meter a light meter that is built into the camera which enables the exposure to be determined while holding the camera.
cable release flexible cable screwed into the camera shutter release so depressing a plunger in the end of the cable can trip the shutter. Used to reduce the danger of jiggling the camera, especially with B settings.
camera from the Latin for ‘room’, a lighttight box fitted with a lens to admit, by the action of a released shutter, a selection of light rays so as to cause them to form an image on a field of light-sensitive material.
camera obscura from the Latin for ‘dark room’, a lighttight box or room with a tiny hole or lens in one wall that projects light rays upon the opposite wall to form there an upside down and reversed image of the scene outside. Long used by artists for viewing and sketching, the camera obscura developed into the modern camera when materials of suitable light sensitivity had been invented.
cassette cylindrical metal or plastic film spool container. A light trap allows handling and film threading in the camera in daylight.
cast overall bias toward one colour in a colour photograph.
CC filters: colour-compensating filters, intended for use in colour photography to modify the overall colour balance of the image. They are available in six colours and several degrees of saturation.
CdS meter an exposure meter that employs a cadmium sulfide cell as its light-sensitive element.
center-weighted meter light meter that combines an average and a spot reading, but give more value to the spot reading in recommending the exposure.
chromatic hue any colour other than black, grays, and white.
chromogenic refers to films with chemical dyes rather than silver compounds making up the negative image.
click stops settings on the diaphragm or shutter scale that are indicated by a slight bump and/or click as the ring or lever is moved.
close-up lens accessory that is attached to the front of a lens, like a filter, and allows the subject to be focused at a close distance.
close-up photography the techniques and practice of using supplementary lenses, extension tubes, bellows units, etc., to take pictures at closer ranges than the normal focusing adjustment of an ordinary hand-camera will allow. Refers to image magnification ratios of up to, perhaps, 2X, and therefore overlaps photomacrography, which see.
collage a two-dimensional work of art in which found objects are glued to a flat surface.
colour balance adjustment in colour photographic processes ensuring the accuracy of subject colour rendering under lighting of a particular colour temperature.
colour balance colour balance is achieved when a neutral scale of grey tones is reproduced without a colour cast.
colour contrast the apparent difference in brilliance between two, adjacent colours.
colour negative in colour print photography, the activation of dyes in the film
process to release colours that are complementary to those in the original scene. A positive print in the original colours is then created from this negative.
colour positive (reversal) process in the creation of colour transparencies, a series of steps which culminates in the release of magenta, cyan, and yellow dyes in the film’s three layers. These mix to form the colours of the original when the developed film is seen in the light.
colour separations in printing, coloured images are broken down into screens of certain primaries (in a four-colour process, they are magenta, cyan, yellow, and black) which, when superimposed, and printed, will yield an approximation of the original colours.
colour temperature a method of describing a light source’s colour quality in terms of a temperature scale, usually expressed in degrees Kelvin (K). Red light has a lower colour temperature (about 1800K) than blue (about 6000K). Normal sunlight has a value of 4500-5000K.
colour wheel a circular, two-dimensional model showing colour relationships, originating from Sir Isaac Newton’s bending of the straight array of spectral hues into a circle.
complementary colour the hue most opposite to a given colour. For blue, green, and red light complementaries are yellow, magenta, and cyan, respectively.
continuous spectrum light that contains an appreciable amount of all the visible wavelengths or colours. See discontinuous spectrum.
continuous tone in printing, referring to any image with a range of gradually changing values.
continuous-tone image pictures that have a continuous range of graduated tones.
contrast of hue contrast between main hues in pure undiluted state (i.e., mid-values): primary contrasted with primary, secondary with secondary, or primary with secondary(complementary contrast). It is important to note the inherent contrasts of comparative warm/cool and the natural order of light/dark. (Also called contrast of saturation, though this term usually includes the use of diminished as well as main hues – i.e., when saturation varies.)
contrast of warm/cool: only fully demonstrated when full ranges of each hue are

established to stretch the range of the hue from warm to cool – e.g., violet red (cool) to orange red (warm) – while maintaining a purity of saturation. The warm/cool contrast is one of the most important concepts of basic colour articulation.

covering power the circle of even illumination that a lens projects.
coupled rangefinder system, which links the rangefinder and the focusing mechanism of a lens, so that the lens is automatically focused as the rangefinder, is adjusted.
cropping removing unwanted areas of an image by trimming a print or masking a slide.
curtain shutter a shutter variety in which a slit or opening in a strip of metal or cloth is made to travel past the film surface to effect the exposure. See leaf shutter.
daylight sunlight or skylight or any mixture of the two. For the purposes of colour photography, daylight is considered to have a colour temperature of from about 5500ºK to 6000ºK; this condition is likely to exist when the sun is high and slightly overcast. Under other conditions the colour of daylight is likely to be quite different from the ‘norm’ and must be filtered if ‘normal’ colour rendition is desired.
dedicated flash flashgun designed for use with a specific camera or group of cameras. It links directly into the internal camera circuitry, for example reprogramming the shutter, using the TTL meter, receiving ASA data.
definition subjective term used to describe the clarity of an image. Focusing lens quality, graininess, contrast and tone all affect the definition of an image.
density general descriptive term for the amount of photographic deposit (silver or dye) produced by exposure and development. Strictly, measurement is based on light-stopping ability (opacity) and is usually expressed as the logarithm of this opacity.
depth of field the distance between the nearest point and the furthest point in the subject which can be brought to relatively sharp focus at any one-focus setting.
diaphragm the assembly of thin metal leaves usually incorporated into the lens barrel or shutter assembly that can be adjusted to control the size of the lens aperture. Same as Iris Diaphragm.
diaphragm shutter between-the-lens shutter which is also the diaphragm of the lens. Its interleaving blades open for a pre-determined time at the selected aperture when a picture is taken.
diffraction the bending of light waves around an obstacle or through a narrow slit on such a way that fringes of light and dark or coloured bands are produced.
diffuser a translucent material that scatters light. Used to soften hard illumination.
directional lighting illumination that creates a shadowed area one side of the subject and lit surfaces on the other, as seen by the camera.
distance symbols symbols used on the focusing control of simple cameras.
distortion sometimes referred to as linear distortion or curvilinear distortion, it is an aberration of the lens characterised by variable magnification of the image. The effect increases toward the edges of the image areas and will cause straight lines near the edges of the subject field to be formed near the image margins as curved lines. Two forms are identified, Pincushion and Barrel Distortion.
documentary photography photography intended to record social, environmental and/or political situations, to provide information and often, by implication, to make a comment.
double complementary colour combinations in which hues adjacent to each other on the colour wheel are used with their respective complementaries. See split complementary.
DX-code system using electrical contacts in the camera’s film chamber to sense checkerboard pattern printed on film cassette. Automatically sets camera for film speed and length.
electronic flash a photographic light source that produces a brilliant flash of light by the discharge of electricity through a gas-filled glass or quartz flash tube. The flash duration is very short, usually less than 1/500 seconds, and there is no firing delay. Most flash tubes produce a light that approximates daylight in colour; therefore, only minor filtration is required for use with daylight colour films. Electronic flash is commonly referred to as Strobe; an inaccurate nickname derived from stroboscope, a related but different device.
elevation two-dimensional projection of the front, back or side of a solid.
emulsion the light-sensitive layers (basically silver halides in gelatin) forming the pale side of the film. After processing, the emulsion carries a permanent, visible image.
exposure latitude the range of over — or underexposure — over which a light-sensitive emulsion will still, produce an acceptable result.
exposure meter instrument for measuring the amount of light falling on or being reflected by a subject. Generally taken to mean hand meter.
facsimile exact copy.
fast film film that is particularly sensitive to light; the higher the ASA rating, the faster the film.
fast lens one that opens wide to allow a lot of light through. A lens with a maximum aperture of f 1.4 is “faster” than one with a maximum aperture of f 2.
field camera a large-format sheet-film camera (4 x 5, 5 x 7, 8 x 10 inches; 10 x 12.5, 12.5 x 17.7, 20 x 25 cm) which folds up into a neat, compact package suitable for easy transportation.
figure-ground (relationship, inter-relation): phrase used in perceptual psychology to denote relation between object, form, image (figure) on the one hand; and background, space, setting (ground) on the other.
film generally, the familiar light-sensitive material used in cameras in the practice of photography. It normally consists of a flexible, thin, transparent sheet or strip of acetate or polyester plastic coated on one side with a light-sensitive emulsion, and on the other with a dyed layer of gelatin to reduce curl and halation.
film format negative size, such as 35 millimetre, 2_ x 2_, and 4” x 5”.
film plane plane in the camera back behind the lens along which the film rests and the image is focused.
film speed the sensitivity of a film to light, expressed as a speed rating number such as ASA, DIN, or ISO. The higher the speed rating number, the more sensitive the film is to light, and the ‘faster’ it is.
filter piece of glass, acetate, or gelatin usually placed in front of a camera lens to protect the lens, or alter the nature of the light reaching the film. Filters are used for such purposes as darkening sky tones and reducing unwanted reflections. They can also be used in printing with variable-contrast papers to control print contrast.
fisheye lens an extremely wide-angle lens, covering a field of about 180º and reproducing a circular image with pronounced barrel distortion.
fixed focus camera lens offering no methods of focus setting adjustment.
fixed lens lens that is permanently attached to a camera body.
flash synchronisation the adjustment of the timing of the application of firing current to a flashbulb and the actuation of the shutter release so that the peak flash intensity occurs while the shutter is open.
flat lighting low contrast. Can also mean frontal, flat-on lighting.
f-number the number that indicates the aperture setting in a scale common to all lenses. When focused to infinity, and set to a given f-number, all lenses transmit the same amount of light. Exposure is halved for each step to the next highest f-number.
focal distance the distance from the lens to the plane of the focused image. In practice, it is usually measured from the plane of the lens diaphragm.
focal-plane shutter a curtain with a slit that exposes the film as the slit moves across the film at the film (focal) plane.
focus to adjust a camera, for example, so that an image is formed precisely on the film plane. Also a term applied to the adjustment of such instruments as binoculars and microscopes so as to provide a visual impression of sharpness in the image. Generally, the adjustments of any positive lens system so that light rays passing through it converge at a desired point. The convergence of light rays to a point.
focusing screen plastic or glass screen built into SLR cameras at the same distance from the lens as the film. Allows both viewfinding and focusing.
frame one individual picture. Frames of 35-mm film are numbered for identification; the numbers followed by A are for identification of shots taken with a half-frame camera.
freezing motion technique, which allows a moving subject to be photographed as a sharply focused, unblurred image either by use of fast shutter speed or by lighting the subject with electronic flash.
Fresnel moulded plastic sheet used beneath many focusing screens to improve evenness of illumination. Consists of a series of concentric rings, shaped to direct light toward the viewfinder eyepiece.
f-stop numerical indication of how large a lens opening (aperture) is. The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the opening; for example, f 16 represents a smaller opening than f 2.
gelatin a jelly-like protein substance isolated by boiling the hides, horns, bones, and hooves of animals and used as a binder for the halides contained in light-sensitive emulsions. Its transparent and flexible nature, plus its ability to absorb water, makes it ideal for other purposes as well, including the top protective layer of film, the support for the dyes in filters, and for many of the non-silver processes such as carbon/carbro processes.
graduated filter a toned filter which progressively reduces in density towards the centre line, leaving the second half clear.
graininess term used to describe the grainy appearance of a photograph caused by the clumping together of exposed and developed silver halides, and of dye molecules in colour photographs. This effect is visible on photographic enlargements, and is more prominent on higher speed films.
ground glass in view and reflex cameras, a plate of glass frosted on one side to provide a translucent screen capable of stopping light rays to reveal the image formed on the focal plane.
halogen lamp a tungsten lamp with a small amount of iodine or bromine in the atmosphere within the bulb. When the lamp burns, this halogen combines with any tungsten thrown off by the hot filament and re-deposits it there. Light output and colour temperature, therefore, remain constant throughout the life of the lamp and its life is extended. Also known as tungsten-halogen, quartz-iodine, and quartz-halogen lamps.
high key describes a photograph dominated by pale tones, giving light, desaturated colour in colour prints and slides.
highlights brightest, lightest areas in the subject or photograph. They may be general — such as pale-toned, brightly-lit surfaces — or locally extreme, such as points of reflected light from glass or water.
hot shoe fitting on top of a camera body to hold a flashgun. It contains electrical connections, which automatically contact between flashgun and shutter synchronisation circuit when the shutter release is fired, operating the flash.
hue title of a colour. The property (colour wavelength) that distinguishes one pure saturated colour from any other, i.e. red as distinct from purple.
image two-dimensional representation of a real object produced by focusing rays of light.
image plane the plane behind the lens, commonly at right angles to the optical axis, at which a sharp image of the subject is formed. The nearer the subject is to the camera, the greater the image plane-to-lens distance. To bring closer subjects to focus on the film plane, the lens must be racked forward to accommodate this greater distance.
incandescent light illumination generated by a heated substance, such as the glowing filament of a light bulb, which derives its energy from electric current.
incident-light meter a light meter that reads the light falling on the subject. See incident light.
incident light reading the measurement by exposure meter of the amount of incident light reaching a subject. The meter is held close to the subject, pointing toward the main light source.
indoor film a colour film made to be exposed with either 3200ºK or 3400ºK bulbs, not daylight.
infinity focusing setting (often-marked µ or inf.) at which the lens gives a sharp image of very distant objects, such as the far horizon.
infinity (•) in photography, the lens renders the area farthest from the camera in which objects in sharp focus. This usually begins at 40 or 50 feet (12 or 15 m) in front of the camera and continues into the distance as far as? yards (275 m). Infinity focusing derives from the phenomenon of light rays seeming to travel parallel to each other over great distances rather than at angles to one another, as over short distances.
infra-red invisible band of wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum beyond visible red. Infra-red film is sensitised to a range of these invisible radiations and records colours not normally associated with a subject.
iris diaphragm a set of interleaving blades that controls the size of the aperture.
ISO International Standards Organisation. A film speed classification system that uses identical numbers to the now defunct ASA system. A doubling in the ISO number represents an increase in sensitivity of x2. Thus ISO 100 film requires twice the exposure under the same conditions as ISO 200 film.
Kelvin (K) the unit of temperature measurement used to describe the colour quality of a light source.
large format camera a camera that has an image area of 5×4 in or more.
latent image photochemical change created in silver halide emulsion by the action of light; it is invisible but forms the basis for the developed visible image.
latitude the range between the least and the greatest exposures that give acceptable negatives. The length of the straight-line portion of the characteristic curve indicates latitude. Generally the faster the film the greater the latitude, and the less the subject contrast the greater the latitude.
latitude (of exposure) the degree of underexposure and overexposure that a photographic emulsion will tolerate with acceptable results.
leaf shutter a mechanism for controlling exposure, usually located in the lens or just behind it, whose assembly is a concentric arrangement of overlapping metal leaves that, when activated, rotate toward the outer rim of the circle, thus admitting light, and then close.
lens hood a detachable accessory for the camera designed to shield the lens from the extraneous light capable of creating the problem of fare.
lens mount the part of the camera housing the lens and all its elements.
light primaries the three light colours – red, green, and blue – which, when mixed together, produce a colour we recognise as white. Mixtures of any other colours can produce none of these colours, but appropriate mixtures of the primaries can make any colour desired.
linear perspective the apparent convergence with increased distance of parallel lines in a two-dimensional image, creating the illusion of depth.
liquid crystal display a thin-film device whose surface can be selectively polarised by weak electric currents to display patterns such as letters and numerals. Although they are not as brilliant and easy to read as LED display devices, and are susceptible to damage from extreme heat, cold or physical shock, LCD are becoming increasingly popular as digital readouts in watches, exposure meters, and some cameras, because of their very low power consumption.
long lens a lens whose focal length is at least twice that of the normal lens for a particular camera. It produces a larger image on the negative than a normal lens and optically reduces the depth of space separating objects located in the field before the camera. Such a lens can render a clear and large image of subjects relatively distant from the camera. A long focal length lens.
low key an image comprised of mostly dark tones.
macro lens a lens — typically 50 or 100 mm — designed to give best image resolution at close subject distances. The lens barrel allows extended focusing movement.
macrophotography the photographing of objects close-up when the image size in the camera is the same size (1:1) or larger than the actual object.
main light the light in a studio setup, usually the brightest one, that establishes the light and shadow pattern on the subject and thus describes the forms. Also sometimes called the modeling light.
manual override the feature on an automatic camera that lets the photographer set the exposure manually if he prefers to do so.
microprism a device in the viewing screen in some single-lens reflex cameras that enables the method of focusing to be similar to that of a rangefinder. In the center of the viewing screen is a circle with an image split when out of focus that comes together when the camera is in focus.
midtone area of brightness midway between shadows and highlights.
mid-value or middle value each hue has a group of pigment sources which come within its scope, all having different characteristics of warmth, coolness, lightness, darkness and intensity. Therefore, for example, to describe yellow, we could say that all yellow pigments come within the scope of yellow but only one – the mid-value – shows in its purest, most saturated yellow state.
mirror lens telephoto lens using mirrors in its construction to allow an extremely long focal length to be accommodated within a short barrel. The aperture is usually fixed. Such lenses are also known as reflex or catadioptric types.
mode the programmed operating function of automatic SLR cameras, for example aperture-priority mode or shutter-priority mode.
modeling light a continuous light source built into studio electronic flash heads for visualising lighting effects. Also refers to light used to create a three-dimensional effect through the play of light and shadow.
module/modular standard unit of measurement: unit of length for expressing proportionate of line or area, coherent relationship of elements so based.
monochrome single coloured. Most frequently applied to black and white photographs.
montage composite image formed from a number of photographs either overlaid or set side by side.
motor drive a battery-powered accessory which, when attached to a camera, permits automatic film advance for single-frame exposures as well as continuous, rapid sequence exposures at the rate of several frames per second.
multicoating an improved method of lens coating, employing more than one coating layer on one or more of the lens surfaces.
negative developed photographic image with subject highlights dark and shadows light. With colour materials, each subject colour is represented by its complementary hue.
neutral density filter a gray filter used to reduce the amount of light entering the camera when aperture and speed settings cannot be altered. This filter has equal effect on all colours of the spectrum and so does not affect the colour content of the light.
normal lens lens with a focal length approximately equal to the diagonal of the picture format. On 35 mm cameras this is usually 50 mm (SLRs), and 40 mm or 35 mm (compacts). Also known as a standard or prime lens.
object generalised term for an element in a scene. Often interchangeable with subject.
opaque the characteristic of matter that makes it resist the passage of light. Also, tempera paint that when applied to a negative can block the passage of light.
open flash a method for using flashbulbs or electronic flash when shutter synchronisation is not possible. It consists of opening the shutter (assuming the level of the light is too low to produce an independent exposure and the subject is not in motion) and then firing the flash.
orthochromatic photographic emulsion sensitive to blue and green light but insensitive to red.
overexposure exposing film or paper to more light than the meter or test strip recommends.
panchromatic film film that is sensitive to all colours of the spectrum. Usually applied to black and white film.
panning moving a camera in the direction of a moving subject to keep the subject sharp and cause the rest of the picture to blur.
panoramic camera camera with a special type of scanning lenses which rotates about its rear nodal point. It produces an image on a curved plate or film and can cover a very large angle of view.
parallax error the difference between the image area seen through the camera’s viewfinder and that recorded by the film. Through-the-lens viewing systems avoid the error.
pentaprism five-sided prism in viewfinders of single-lens reflex cameras to turn the image right side up and properly oriented laterally.
perception become aware of by one of the senses.
perspective-control lens a wide-angle lens made for 35mm single-lens reflex cameras that may be moved slightly off the lens axis, producing the same movement as the rising front or sliding front on a view camera. It is useful for photographing architecture.
photo-electric cell light sensitive cell that either generates electricity when light falls upon it (selenium cell) or offers a resistance to a small electric current produced by a battery according to the light received (for example, a cadmium sulfide cell). The response of either type relates to the strength of light falling upon it, and thus becomes a means of measuring light intensity. Both types of cell are used in exposure meters.
photoflood photographic lamp with a tungsten filament bulb giving light of 3400K.
picture plane an imaginary transparent vertical plane on a picture drawn in linear perspective, the distance of which from the beholder is governed by the nearest object of which he or she is aware. Thus it becomes a plane of reference by which he or she judges all recessions within his or her field of vision.
pigment primaries the primary colours in the subtractive colour system — normally considered to be red, yellow, and blue, but in photography specifically magenta, yellow, and cyan.
pinhole 1. A very small aperture in the front panel or lens board of a modified or contrived camera for the purpose of forming an unfocused but useful image on the film.

2. A small transparent spot, usually circular, in a negative image, marking the position of an air-bell that, by shielding the emulsion from the developer, prevented the formation of silver in that area.

pixel in computer graphics, one of many tiny points on the computer screen determined by intersections of x and y-axes.
plane of focus the position of the focused image in space, the image plane, as distinguished from the film plane which will usually, but not necessarily always, coincide with it. Actually, the term is misleading, since the image of any three-dimensional subject closer to the camera than infinity is not plane but three-dimensional; even the image of a flat subject is plane only under unusual conditions, usually being warped into one or more spherical curves.
polarising filter a filter that restricts the plane of vibration of light and is used to reduce specular reflections and increase colour saturation.
portrait attachment another name for close-up lens.
portrait lens a lens with a focal length approximately twice that of a normal lens used specifically for portrait photography. (Some portrait lenses also produce a slightly diffused effect.)
power winder accessory that attaches to the bottom of a camera body and rapidly advances film after each exposure. Similar to a motor drive, but slower.
primary colours In light, red, green, and blue, or the hues that together add up to create white light (all colour) in darkness, where no light existed, and that in various combinations are capable of creating any other hue.
psychological aspect of colour deals with human interpretive and associative responses to colour.
purity in video, another word for saturation.
quartz light also quartz-iodine light or quartz-halogen light. An incandescent electric light of small size and high efficiency employing a tungsten filament burning in an atmosphere of iodine or bromine vapour and enclosed in a quartz envelope. Characterised by long life, exceptional resistance to blackening or dimming with age, and uniform colour temperature.
red eye effect where the pupils of a subject’s eyes appear red in colour photographs taken with certain flash illumination set-ups.
reflection the rebounding of light from a surface, especially a plane polished surface. Also the image seen by reflection, such as the image ‘in’ a mirror.
reflex camera a type of camera in which the viewfinder image is formed by a lens and reflected by an inclined mirror onto a groundglass screen mounted in the top of the camera body. See single-lens reflex and twin-lens reflex.
retro-focus lens a type of wide-angle lens, supplied for reflex cameras, which has a back focus greater than its focal length. This is made possible by special reversed telephoto design and provides clearance for the reflex mirror.
reversal 1. the transformation of the original tonal scales from negative to positive or vice-versa, which occurs whenever a conventional photographic emulsion is exposed and developed.

2. a special process by which exposed film is made to produce a positive image of the original subject. This is actually a double reversal of the subject tones; the film is first developed to form a conventional negative image, which is then bleached out of the emulsion. The remaining unexposed silver halides are then fogged by exposure to raw light or chemical treatment and developed to form the final positive image.

shadow area any region of a photographic image that corresponds to an area of shade or shadow in the original subject. Loosely, any dark area of a positive or light area of a negative image.
sharpness the subjective impression of clarity of definition and crispness of outline in the rendering of detail and texture of the photographic image.
sheet film film supplied in individual pieces; also called cut film.
short lens a lens of less-than-normal focal length; a wide-angle lens. See wide-angle lens.
shutter a mechanical system for controlling the time variable of the exposure of film.
shutter priority a semi-automatic exposure system in which the photographer selects the shutter speed and the camera then sets the aperture.
shutter release the button or lever which operates the shutter.
shutter speed the length of time the shutter is open, producing exposure. The numbers on a shutter speed dial indicating the various shutter speeds.
silicon photo-diode a type of light sensor used in some built-in light meters on SLR cameras. It is characterised by fast response time, freedom from memory effects, and sensitivity extending well into the infrared.
silver halides compounds formed between silver and alkali salts of halogen chemicals such as bromine, chlorine and iodine. Silver bromide, silver chloride and silver iodide are the light-sensitive silver halides used in photographic emulsions to record the image.
skylight filter a pale pink correction filter used on the camera when taking colour slides, to eliminate blue casts found in dull weather or when subjects are lit only by reflected blue sky light.
slide film direct reversal; normally colour film used in cameras for full colour projection positives. Sometimes called colour transparency film.
slow film film which has a low sensitivity to light; usually ISO 50 or less.
SLR the abbreviation for single-lens reflex cameras.
soft-focus a technique used to produce diffused image detail with a slight loss in sharpness.
spectral hues those colours seen in a rainbow or in the spectrum created when white light passes through a prism.
spectrum the band of colours formed when a beam of light passes through a prism; the range of hues.
split-image a variety of rangefinder in which the opposite halves of the image
rangefinder are displaced along a dividing line when the instrument is not properly focused. Correct distance is indicated when the image halves are adjusted to match. See Rangefinder and Superimposed Rangefinder.
spot-meter a light meter with a narrow angle of coverage – usually in the order of 10º or less – for taking reflected light readings, usually at some distance from the subject.
star filter a glass disc etched or scratched in a regular pattern, intended for use over the camera lens for the purpose of producing radiating streaks around the highlights of the image. A square of shiny window screening or a stretched piece of nylon stocking will produce a similar result.
still-life a static subject specially arranged to produce an aesthetically pleasing and self-contained image. Such a composition discovered by chance is called a found still life.
strobe contraction of stroboscope, a light that flashes repeatedly, automatically, and rapidly. Strobe light is often used; however, to refer to electronic flash units used in still photography that do not automatically repeat.
studio camera a large format camera allowing camera movements, for studio work.
style intent on superficial form rather than matter.
subtractive colours in light, those hues known as the secondaries – cyan, magenta, and yellow, or the complementaries of the primary colours red, green, and blue — that give the effect of specific colour by subtracting from the totality of white light all wavelengths but those for the colour revealed. Because they function in white light — unlike the additive colours, which create colour only in darkness where no colour existed — the subtractive ‘primaries’ are the basis for modern processes of colour reproduction.
subtractive colour synthesis way of producing colour images by subtracting appropriate amounts of unwanted primary colours from white light by means of yellow, magenta, and cyan dyes.
subtractive primaries (of pigment) red, yellow and blue.
subtractive secondaries (of pigment) orange, green and violet. Theoretically, secondaries are produced from the primaries: red + yellow = orange; yellow + blue = green; red + blue = violet.
superimposed rangefinder the type of rangefinder with two images that overlap in the center area of the viewfinder. The camera is properly focused when the two images are made to coincide because the viewfinder is coupled to the focusing mount.
surface outward aspect of material or immaterial things.
symmetry equalised arrangement about an axis. Alternatively: the subjection of all measurements within a configuration to a common mathematical discipline. (See Golden Section).
telephoto a type of lens constructed in such a way that its physical length is unusually short in relation to its focal length. Telephoto lenses are usually more compact, and sometimes lighter in weight, than conventional lenses of similar aperture and focal length. They are invariably used as long lenses, since their angular coverage is inherently restricted, and they are more likely to suffer from distortion and chromatic aberrations than are conventional lenses.
texture the degree of roughness or smoothness of a surface; its tactile quality.
textured lighting light which falls at an oblique angle to a surface, highlighting its texture.
time exposure (T) exposure made with the shutter set at T, which causes the shutter to remain open after it has been pressed for release until it is pressed a second time. This permits exposures of durations longer than those made by the automatic settings.
tonal scale the range of tonalities in a photographic prints.
toner chemical that changes the colour or tone of a print.
transparency a photographic image in a medium, such as film, whose transparency permits it to be projected by means of light beamed through it.
transparent transmitting light so that something behind or beyond can be seen.
tripod a three-legged stand, usually adjustable in height and provided with a tilting and swiveling head, on which a camera can be fastened for support and stability during use.
TTL through the lens. A TTL meter measures subject’s exposure through the taking lens.
tungsten light generally, the light emitted by a heated tungsten filament such as is contained in conventional electric light bulbs. Sometimes used to refer specifically to the light of special photographic tungsten- filament bulbs, which are designed to burn at either 3200ºK or 3400ºK. Also often used loosely to apply to artificial light in general, as distinguished from daylight.
tungsten light film colour film that is balanced for use with tungsten illumination and other light sources with a colour temperature of 3200K.
twin-lens reflex a type of reflex camera using separate but similar lenses in separate compartments of the camera body for the individual functions of viewing and recording the image. See single-lens reflex.
ultraviolet a band of wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum next to and shorter than those for blue-violet and too short to be visible, but detectable by specially sensitised photographic materials.
variable focus lens alternative term for a zoom lens.
view camera a large camera so-called for the ground-glass viewing screen whose location on the same plane as the film permits it to receive light directly from the taking lens, thus showing the photographer precisely what the film will record.
viewfinder system for viewing the subject, showing the field of view of the camera lens. There are several types including the direct vision frame, optical frame ground glass screen and reflex mirror.
warm colours colours which by association suggest warmth, namely red, orange and yellow.
wavelength method of identifying a particular electromagnetic radiation considered as rays progressing in wave-like form. Wavelength is the distance between one wave crest and the next. Different electromagnetic radiations have different wavelengths. In the case of light, wavelength is measured in manometers (nm) or Angstroms (A). Different wavelengths or radiation in the visible spectrum are seen as colours.
white light light comprising of an equal mix of blue, green and red wavelengths. Also daylight with a colour temperature of 5500K.
wide-angle lens lens whose focal length is less than the diagonal of the film format with which it is used.
X symbol for the electronic flash shutter setting on a camera.
zooms lens a type of lens of very complex structure, which can be adjusted in use to provide a continuous range of focal lengths within its design, limits. They are very popular with cinematographers and are also widely used in still photography with small cameras.

2 thoughts on “Glossary of Photographic Terms

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