Glossary of Camera Terms
Photography has a jargon. Here are some essentials.
AC adapter charges a camera and its accessories from a standard AC outlet. Adaptors also are known as plug packs, plug-in adapters, adapter blocks, domestic mains adapters, line power adapters, power adapters, and wall-warts.
Nikon P510 courtesy Nikon USA
Aperture range describes a camera's lens opening from its largest setting to its smallest. The greater the aperture range, the more control available to the photographer over light and focus. It is expressed in f-stop numbers. Examples are f/3.3 or f/5.9.
Audio is sound that is recorded with videos and reproduced.
Autoexposure is a system in which a camera automatically sets the lens aperture and shutter speed to allow the correct amount of light to strike the sensor.
Autofocus is a camera's ability to focus automatically.
Backlight strikes the subject from behind. The subject is backlit and likely to appear without detail as a dark silhouette.
Backlight compensation adjusts the exposure to prevent the subject from being too dark when the light source is behind it.Batteries for digital cameras typically are rechargeable. They are made from chemicals such as lead-acid, nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), lithium ion (Li-ion), and lithium ion polymer (Li-ion polymer). They ome in many different shapes and sizes.
Burst mode is a means of continuously shooting. When the shutter release button is depressed and held, the camera captures multiple shots in rapid succession. It's used when shooting subjects in motion.
Camera dock is a fitted connection device that holds the camera, transfers images from camera to computer, and charges the camera's battery.
Candid is an unposed, spontaneous photograph of a subject or subjects.
Catchlights are those small bright-spot highlights in a subject's eyes, that are reflections of the light source.
CCD is a charge-coupled device, a small electronic integrated circuit that is a digital camera's equivalent of film. A CCD has rows of sensors that measure light energy and store it digitally.
Color is the human visual perception of wavelengths in the spectrum of light as it interacts in the eye light receptors and the brain. Colors include red, green, blue and others. White is the perception of all colors while black is the absence of any colors. See: light and white balance (below).
Color saturation is the relative brilliance with which an image reproduces a subject's colors. Photos with more intense colors are said to have high saturation.Composition is the process of framing and positioning of a subject while setting up a visually appealing photograph.
Contrast is the difference between a subject's tones, shades, colors and light quality.
Correct exposure is the right amount of light that must strike a digital camera's sensor to produce the best picture quality.
Cropping reduces and shapes the proportions of an image.
Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear to be in focus in an image.
Diffused light is softened by cloud cover or some other translucent element.
Digital zoom is not a true zoom. Rather, it merely simulates zoom by enlarging the image's pixels by cropping. The actual length of the lens does not change. Digital zooming results in reduced image quality. For example, a lens' digital zoom range might be 2x or 5x. An optical zoom is preferred. See: zoom lens (below).
Exposure is the amount of light that strikes the sensor as you take a picture.
Exposure control is camera settings that regulate the amount of light entering the camera lens, which affects how light or dark an image will be. Exposure compensation allows you to manually alter the autoexposure.Face detection is a camera feature that determines the locations and sizes of human faces in digital images. It detects facial features and ignores anything else in the image.
Programmed AE (automatic exposure) is a control feature in which a camera chooses the best shutter speed and aperture. In many cameras it is flexible including shutter-priority auto and aperture-priority auto, as well as manual.
Flash is a light source built into a camera. It fires in a burst. Common flash modes include automatic, in which the camera decides when a flash is needed, red-eye reduction, which minimizes eye reflections, and fill flash, which reduces deep shadows in bright sunlight.
Flash range is the distance that light from a camera flash will travel to light a subject. For example, 15 to 25 feet.Fluorescent light is generated by a gas-discharge tube that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor.
Flash ready lamp is a small light beside the viewfinder window or next to the viewfinder frame, it blinks red or orange when the flash is charging and glows steadily when the flash is ready to fire.
Focal length refers to how wide or narrow a section of a scene the lens includes in a picture and how big or small it makes the subject.
Focal length - normal is a lens that reproduces the most natural-looking size relationships in a scene. See: telephoto lens, wide-angle lens and zoom lens (below).Focusing adjusts the lens to make the subject sharp in the image.
Focus lock is accomplished by pressing the camera's shutter release button halfway down and holding it there to prevent the camera from refocusing incorrectly as you compose the final scene.Frame is the rectangular image you see when you look at or through the viewfinder. It is used for composing the subject. Frame lines are light or dark lines or brackets inside the viewfinder frame indicating the area of the scene that will be recorded.
Focus OK lamp is a confirmation light beside the viewfinder window that blinks when the camera can't focus on a subject. It glows steadily when correct focus has been achieved.
Focus points are small brackets, lines, or circles seen in the middle of a camera's viewfinder indicating where the camera is focusing.
Focus range is the distance over which a camera is capable of focusing on a subject. Close-up or macro usually is from around 1 inch to 18 inches. Normal is from around 18 inches to infinity. See: depth of field (above).
Frame counter displays how many images have been recorded.
Hard light creates strong contrast and casts heavy shadows on a subject. Focused light produces harder-edged shadows. Hard light occurs when the light source is small relative to the subject.
HD is the high-definition video mode, which many digital cameras are capable of recording. Minimal is 720 and best is 1080.
Image is a picture, a photograph, a visual representation of something as recorded by a camera. Images can be still or depict motion. Image file formats include JPEG, WAV, MOV, MPEG-4, MPO and others
Image resolution is a pair of numbers that reveal the clarity of a digital image. It is calculated by multiplying the number of pixels wide by the number of pixels high. For example, an image size might be 640 x 480 or 1280 x 960 pixels.
Image stabilization digitally compensates for camera shake so images appear steady.
Imaging sensor is an element in a camera that converts light to a digital image. The most common types of sensors are charge-coupled devices (CCD) and complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS). The size of the CCD or CMOS image sensor is measured in fractions of an inch. For example, 1/1.8 inch or 2/3 inch. The larger the sensor, the better the picture quality.
Infinity lock causes the camera to focus as far away as possible.
Interface is the connection used to transfer digital images from a camera to a computer. A common digital camera interface is USB 2.0, with a small USB port on the camera and a USB cable to the computer.
LCD is a liquid crystal display panel used on cameras as viewfinders and to display status and settings. A viewfinder LCD screen is a monitor on the back of a camera for composing photos before an image is recorded. The size of the LCD screen is measured in inches diagonally from corner to corner. For example, screen sizes might be 2.5 inches or 3 inches.
Lens is a cylinder of shaped pieces of glass or plastic at the front of a camera that projects a small image of a subject onto the digital sensor.
Lens aperture is the hole, or window, in the lens that lets light through to the sensor. It can adjust its size automatically to control the exposure. The size is called the f-stop.Light in photography generally is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye and responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has a wavelength between the invisible infrared and the invisible ultraviolet. In physics, light often refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not.
Lens focal length is the distance in millimeters from a camera's image sensor to its lens. Cameras with optical zoom have a range of focal lengths, while cameras without optical zoom have a fixed focal length. Focal length often is given in terms of a 35mm film camera equivalent. For example, a digital camera with a 4.3-180mm focal length is equivalent to a 35mm camera with a focal length of 24-1000mm (35mm is an older type of camera film that used liquid chemicals to develop pictures as negatives and positives). See: telephoto lens, wide-angle lens and zoom lens (below).
Light meter in the camera measures the amount of light and calculates the correct exposure setting.Megapixels is a number representing the camera's image sensor resolution measured in millions of pixels, which are tiny dots. For example, a sensor might have 12 or 16 megapixels. Effective megapixels, the number of megapixels actually used to capture an image, is slightly slightly fewer than the number of total available megapixels.
Light quality can be hard or soft. See: hard light (above) and soft light (below).
Light source is the origin of a scene's light, such as the Sun, a window or a lightbulb. See: fluorescent light (above) and tungsten light and white balance (below).
Memory is the capacity a camera has for storing photos. Cameras usually have a small amount of built-in memory and a slot to accept large-capacity memory cards. The number of images that can be stored in a digital camera's built-in memory or on a removable memory cards varies depending on the resolution of each image. The higher the resolution of an image, the more storage space it takes up.
Memory card capacities include storage capabilities such as 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 GB (gigabytes).Mode refers to settings that cause a camera to perform a specific function or operation in a preset manner.
Memory card formats include Secure Digital (SD), Secure Digital Expanded Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC), Memory Stick PRO Duo, PC Cards, CompactFlash, and others.
Monopod is a stand with one leg used to support and steady a camera. A tripod is a stand with three legs.
Movie mode is a feature of a still-photography camera that captures motion video with sound.
Muddy prints lack detail, contrast, and color brilliance. They have gray or brown casts.
Optical zoom is a true zoom lens. The greater the optical zoom, the closer you seem to be to the subject you want to photograph. Optical zoom is recommended to ensure crisp, detailed photos. For example, a lens' optical zoom range might be 10x or 30x. Optical zoom is preferred over digital zoom, which is not a true zoom. See: zoom lens (below).
Panorama mode is a setting in which the camera produces an elongated very-wide-view image.
Pixels are picture elements, tiny points of color and tone that form a digital image.
Prefocusing is locking the focus before completing the shot. See: focus lock (above).
Resolution is the measurement of photographic sharpness. See: image resolution (above).
Scanning reads a photograph and translates it into a computer image file.
Self-timer is a mode in which the camera delays taking a picture by a specified time interval after the photographer presses the shutter release button. The self-timer delays release of the camera shutter for several seconds so the photographer has time to get into the picture. Typical delays are 2 seconds and 10 seconds.
Sensor is an element in a camera that converts light to a digital image. See: imaging sensor (above).
Shake is movement of the camera by involuntary hand motions. It causes pictures to be blurry and not sharp.
Sharpness is the degree to which distinguishable details of a subject are seen clearly in an image.
Shutter is a component in a camera that allows light to enter the camera by opening and closing an aperture.
Shutter release button is an object on the camera body that the photographer presses to take a picture. It also activates and locks the focus when pressed halfway down.Smile mode is a setting in which a camera detects that people in the shot are smiling.
Shutter speed is the rate measured in fractions of a seconds at which a camera shutter opens and closes to capture an image. Slow shutter speeds allow more light to strike the camera's sensor and are used in low-light conditions. Fast shutter speeds allow less light to the sensor and are used for action shots. Examples of shutter speeds are 1/8 second or 1/2000 second.
Soft light creates delicate tones and minimal, pale shadows on a subject. Soft light seems to wrap around objects, casting diffuse shadows with soft edges when the light source is large relative to the subject The closer the light source, the softer it becomes. The larger the source, the softer it becomes.
Telephoto lens magnifies a subject, making it appear bigger than normal in the image frame.
Thumbnails are small images of photos. They often are used to index images on a computer screen or Web page.
Toggling refers to pressing a button repeatedly to turn something on or off or to advance through a menu.
Touchscreen enables the user to interact with the camera by touching areas on the LCD viewfinder screen.
Tripod is a stand, either with one leg or three legs, used to support and steady a camera. A monopod is a tripod with only one leg.
Tripod mount is a threaded socket in the bottom of camera used to attach it to a monopod or tripod.Tungsten light is artificial light from household lightbulbs.
Video mode is a feature of a still-photography camera that captures motion video with sound.
Video outputs are ports or jacks that allow a camera to be connected to a TV for viewing images. Examples of video output formats include NTSC, PAL, and HDMI.
Viewfinder is a rectangular window to a scene that shows the photographer what the lens is seeing and allows composing of the subject. Many cameras have optical viewfinders through which the photographer peers at the picture content before snapping the photo. Digital cameras usually have an electronic viewfinder, which is a color LCD panel that shows the picture before the photograph is made.
Viewfinder LCD screen is a monitor on the back of a camera for viewing photos before an image is recorded. The size of the LCD screen is measured in inches diagonally from corner to corner. For example, screen sizes might be 2.5 inches or 3 inches.White balance is a setting that compensates for the color of light in a scene to ensure true-to-life color. Most digital cameras have automatic white balance settings. They also can be changed manually for cloudy, daylight, flash, fluorescent, and incandescent lighting.
Wide-angle lens sees relatively large sections of a scene.
Zoom is the ability of the camera lens to reduce or enlarge the field of view.
Zoom lens has an adjustable focal length. The photographer zooms in or out to increase or decrease the lens's magnifying power, making the subject bigger or smaller in the frame.
Zooming in sets a longer focal length, to make the subject bigger in the picture.
Zooming out sets a shorter focal length, to include more of the scene in the picture.
Resources for Courses »
Camera Basics pdf Photoshop Basics pdf How To Write and Shoot for the Web pdf Shooting Videos With Smartphones & Tablets pdf
© 2012 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke 910.521.6616 e-mail home page