Camera Terms and Acronyms for Dummies

Not open for further replies.


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Oct 7, 2008
Reaction score
Brooklyn, NY
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
For you people that don't know the terms we use :p. And yes some of these are going to sound stupid :D (the things in brackets are dummy definitions :p, if no brackets then its just my definition) (Sticky much?)
Ambient Light

The available light completely surrounding a subject. Light already existing in an indoor or outdoor setting that is not caused by any illumination supplied by the photographer. [Light the photographer didn't create ie. Sunlight, lightbulbs already in the room etc.]
Angle Of View

The area of a scene that a lens covers or sees. Angle of view is determined by the focal length of the lens. A wide-angle lens (short-focal-length) includes more of the scene-a wider angle of view-than a normal (normal-focal-length) or telephoto (long-focal-length) lens. [What the lens sees, kind of like what you see when you look at something]

Lens opening. The opening in a camera lens through which light passes to expose the film or sensor. The size of aperture is either fixed or adjustable. Aperture size is usually calibrated in f-numbers-the larger the number, the smaller the lens opening.[the f/ number thing, controls exposure and depth of field, also know as the blade things inside the lens]
The visual aesthetic quality of the out of focus part of the photo achieved with a shallow depth of field.
Shooting 3 or more shots with an equal exposure difference between each one to ensure at least one of the 3 exposures is accurate. Many DSLR cameras have an automatic bracketing feature.
Chromatic aberration
Commonly seen as color fringes at the edge of subjects caused by the inability of the lens to focus all wavelengths of light at a single focal point. Will also affect sharpness. Low dispersion glass is used to correct this. Canon L series, Nikkor ED, Sigma DG, Sony G, also labeled as APO.
The pleasing arrangement of the elements within a scene - the main subject, the foreground and background, and supporting subjects. There are various composition guidelines like the Rule of Thirds, Golden Spiral, Golden Triangles, Golden Section, and otyhers.
Crop Factor Sensor

Size of the sensor is smaller than a 35mm film frame. Most common crops are 1.3X, 1.5X (Nikon), 1.6X(Canon), and 2.0X(3/4ths systems)
Cutting away part of the original image, usually for a more pleasing composition. May also refer to the framing of the scene in the viewfinder.
Depth of Field

The amount of distance between the nearest and farthest distance from the camera that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. Depth of field depends on the lens aperture, the focal length of the lens, the distance to the point of focus, and the size of the image sensor in the camera.

The quantity of light allowed to act on a photographic material; a product of the intensity (controlled by the lens opening) and the duration (controlled by the shutter speed or enlarging time) of light striking the film or paper, and the light sensitivity (ASA or ISO) of the film, paper, or image sensor.
Exposure Compensation
A technique for adjusting the exposure indicated by the in-the-camera exposure meter.
Fast lens
Refers to a lens that has a very wide maximum aperture ... generally f/1 to f/2.8 ... In general, the faster a lens the more it costs.
Fill flash
A technique used to to brighten shadow areas by using a flash.
Fisheye Lens
Lens that gives a distorted (a lot of field curvature or barrel distortion) very wide angle view.
Internal reflection or scrattering of light caused by air gaps between lens elements. Usually manifesting itself as a bright image region, and/or a reduction in contrast and saturation. Lens hoods are used to shade the lens and help minimize lens flare. Adding a filter(s) to the front of a lens often promotes lens flare by adding an additional air gap(s).
Focal Length
The distance between the film and the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused on infinity. The focal length of the lens on most adjustable cameras is marked in millimeters on the lens mount.[the amount of zoom of the lens, more mm more zoom]

Adjustment of the distance setting on a lens to define the subject sharply.[sharpness]
Focus Point(s)
The dots/boxes inside your viewfinder where you select the camera to focus at, can be set to manual or automatic. The boxes in the viewfinder indicate the approximate location in the scene of the actual focus sensors which are in the auto focus module, which is usually in the bottom of the camera.
Full Frame Sensor
Size of the sensor is the same as a 35mm Film Frame (135 format).
Film Grain
The sand-like or granular appearance of the light sensitive sliver halide crystals embedded in the film emulsion. Graini becomes more pronounced with faster film and the degree of enlargement. Digital photos are not made using silver halide crystals and cannot have grain.
Grey card
Usually a flat card colored neutral grey having a 18% reflectance across the visible spectrum. Used to provide a standard reference for exposure. Also used for white balance. Neutral gray means all 3 of the RGB color model colors - Red, Green, Blue - have the same value so none of the 3 dominates.
A graph showing the distribution of the pixels in a digital photo. The vertical axis of the graph shows how many pixels and the horizontal axis shows luminosity bright on the right and dark on the left.
Hyperfocal distance
The focus point where all objects from some distance from the camera to infinity can be brought into acceptable focus..
IF - internal focusing
Focusing mechanism in which the front lens group is not moved making the lens longer. A further consideration for lens filter uses is if the front lens element rotates or not as the lens is focused.
ISO Speed
The sensitivity of the recording medium (film or digital) as determined by the standards of the International Standards Organization.
One or more pieces of optical glass or similar material designed to collect and focus rays of light to form a sharp image on the film, paper, or projection screen.[The thing you mount on a dSLR]
Lens Shade/Hood
A collar or hood at the front of a lens that keeps unwanted light from striking the lens and causing image flare and/or a loss of contrast. May be attached or detachable, and should be sized and shaped to the particular lens to avoid vignetting.
Lens Speed
The largest lens opening (smallest f-number) at which a lens can be set. A fast lens transmits more light and has a larger opening than a slow lens.[See Aperture]
Looking Space
Commonly associated with portrait and automotive photography, also links in with "Rule of Thirds". Making sure your subject has looking space means to allow some blank space in front of your model or car's face for them or it to "look" into.[Also referred to as breathing space]
Macro Lens
A lens that provides continuous focusing from infinity to extreme close-ups, often to a reproduction ratio of 1:2 (half life-size) or 1:1 (life-size).[Lens to shoot really close, great for bugs and flowers]
Measurement of light on the subject using desired setting in camera or an external light meter. Helps determine exposure.
A single leg usually used for heavier lenses while shooting for a long time. Used to take the weight off of one arm.Noise
Colorful dots you see on the photo when using too high of an ISO.
Normal Lens
A lens that makes the image in a photograph appear in perspective similar to that of the original scene. A normal lens has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view than a telephoto lens, and a longer focal length and narrower field of view than a wide-angle lens.[Usually a 50mm lens on a Full Frame Body]

A condition in which too much light reaches the film, producing a dense negative or a very light print or slide.[Too Bright]Panning
Using a longer exposure to show motion in a photo, usually used for fast moving objects like cars, sports players. Focus is on the subject and the background is "smeared".Post Processing

A technique used to accentuate motion of a moving subject by following the motion of the subject (though the viewfinder) for the duration of the exposure.
Polarizing filter
Transmits light of a particular polarization while absorbing light that is of a perpendicular polarization. Light reflected by shiny materials is partly or fully polarized. Polarizing filters are turned to change the polarization direction.
Prime Lens
Lens that you can't zoom on, usually has great image quality.
Rule of Thirds
The common technique of putting the subject slightly off-centre, about a third of the way from either the left, right, upper or lower part of the photograph. Not always the best option, but generally can help a photograph's composition. [For example, if your subject was a tree, you might have the trunk a third of the way from the right-hand side of the viewfinder to help composition].
Stopping Down
Changing the lens aperture to a smaller opening; for example, from f/8 to f/11.[Changing the aperture down]Teleconverter
Something you mount between the lens to increase the focal length of a lens. Usually come in 1.4X and 2.0 flavors. The benefit is that you have a longer focal length without buying a new lens, the draw back is that you lose 1 stop of light with the 1.4X and 2 stops of light with the 2.0X.
Sync speed
Usually referred to as the maximum shutter speed usable for flash photography.
Telephoto lens
A long lens, usually above 70mm, also meaning the physical lens is shorter than it's focal length.Tripod
Three legged thing that you put your camera on. Used for heavy lenses or night shots to prevent motion shake.Vignetting
A fall-off in brightness at the edges of an image, slide, or print. Can be caused by poor lens design, using a lens hood not matched to the lens, or attaching too many filters to the front of the lens.[Black thing in the corners of photos]
Wide-Angle Lens

A lens that has a shorter focal length and a wider field of view (includes more subject area) than a normal lens.[What people call fisheye...and they are wrong]
White Balance
Color Temperature of the image. Setting depend on the lighting available.
Zoom Lens
A lens in which you adjust the focal length over a wide range. In effect, this gives you lenses of many focal lengths.[Not Prime lens]
Acronyms used on TPF
If I missed something tell me

f/#= f/ number/aperture
OOF= Out of Focus
PP= Post Processing
C&C= Critique and Comments
CC=Same as above
ROT= Rule of Thirds
TPF=The Photo Forum
IQ=Image Quality
IS=Image Stabilization(Canon) \
VR=Vibration Reduction(Nikon) -- These are all the same ;D
OS=Optical Stabilization(Sigma) /
AWB=Auto White Balance
ETTL=Evaluative through-the-lens(Canon) \
iTTL=intelligent through-the-lens(Nikon) -- Also same thing
TTL=Through the lens
P&S=Point and Shoot
EXIF=Exchangeable image file format
SLR=Single Lens Reflex
HSM=Hyper-Sonic Motor (Sigma Lens)
USM=Ultrasonic Motor (Canon Lens)
VC=Vibration Compensation (Tamron Lens)
EOS=Electro-Optical System (Canon Camera series)
EF=Electro-Focus (Canon Lens)
EF-S=Same as EF, S stands for "short back focus" (Canon Lens)

If You have any other questions ask them.
Last edited by a moderator:
I wonder if you should add specific manufacturer acronyms ..


Excellent list with understandable definitions - nice write up Jaszek.

White Balance, Metering, Focus Points and Bokeh off the top of my head.
Ok I'll add both of your, it's not easy to think with the though of Finals starting in school tommorow lol.
Manufacturer acronyms would be good. While you're at it, might as well poke fun at them being absurd and using different acronyms for the same functions, like IS and VR, or ETTL and iTTL.
Hyperfocal distance
Polarizing filter
Depth of field preview
Metering modes - Matrix, Avg, Spot
Can you guys post the words with the definitions already? lol. My ehad is starting to hurt from looking at the screen for too long and im about to go to like an hour lol. It's funny how most of the words you are giving me I was thinking of putting up but I didnt :p.
Contrast! Ahhh! *runs*

Sorry, just that I've been reading Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers. Who knew a concept as simple as contrast could get so complicated and intricate? *explodes*

I request that when you add "SLR", you note that all it refers to is the mechanism in the camera that allows you to see through the lens. It doesn't mean the camera is somehow better by default; there are now P&S' that are SLRs too. o_O
Looks like a really helpful list! Should be plenty helpful for newcomers to this forum. Can't really think of anything else to add, it's really all covered. Ah, apart from "Rule of Thirds" (comes up a lot in individual posts, might be nice to have a definition on a thread like this):

The common technique of putting the subject slightly off-centre, about a third of the way from either the left, right, upper or lower part of the photograph. Not always the best option, but generally can help a photograph's composition. [For example, if your subject was a tree, you might have the trunk a third of the way from the right-hand side of the viewfinder to help composition].

Damn, I've thought of another now :D. "Looking space":

Commonly associated with portrait and automotive photography, also links in with "Rule of Thirds". Making sure your subject has looking space means to allow some blank space in front of your model or car's face for them or it to "look" into.
This is very helpful to a newbie/noob like me. I have also seen "ca" used here. I was wondering what that stood for. TIA
Not open for further replies.

Most reactions