Photography glossary - A man holding a camera in his hand

Compact Glossary of Digital Photography

Glossary: The 20 Most Important Terms in Digital Photography

In photography and especially in digital photography, terms and concepts are often used that can stump even the pros. In order for you to be able to use and understand the jargon yourself, we’ll present you the 20 most important terms in the world of digital photography from exposure bracketing to zoom.

A graphic on exposure times – Depiction of motion sharpness and blur with various exposure times

1. What is exposure bracketing?

2. How long should the exposure time be?

Tip

In general, a not-too-skilled photographer can use an exposure time as long as 1/60 of a second and hold the camera in their hands without camera shake. For taking photos with longer exposure times, it’s necessary to use a tripod.

An example of moving motifs and long exposure times – A dynamically captured waterfall

3. What is image resolution?

Resolution isn’t only important when printing photos. Image resolution describes the detail fidelity of the camera, which is characterised by the number of image elements (pixels) used. Depending on the given application, image resolution is depicted as the number of image elements (pixels), dots per inch (dpi), or dots per centimetre (dpcm).

In digital photography, the term pixel is typically used. For printed images, on the other hand, the dpi value is especially crucial.

Tip

In order to end up with a good print result in 20cm format, the resolution should be at least 2400x3600 pixels, i.e. 10 MP.

4. What determines the image quality of photos?

5. What is an image stabiliser?

Tip

Since too high of an ISO value can cause image noise, it’s not recommended to use digital image stabilisation.

Image stabilizer switch on a lens

6. What does the aperture do?

Aperture graphic – Opened and closed apertures

7. What determines the focal length of a camera?

8. What is dynamic range?

9. What is Exif?

Exif stands for exchangeable image file format. When using Exif, additional image information is automatically added to the camera’s digital photos. Examples of this are the date the photo was taken, aperture, exposure time, camera type, or focal length.

10. What is colour balance?

Colour balance is the distribution of colours within an image and an image is only in balance when there is no colour cast visible. Thus, colour balance is only present when all colours are nearly uniformly saturated.

Counterexamples are, for instance, a red colour cast or green colour cast in the image.

11. What is colour depth?

12. What is the “golden ratio”?

Golden ratio partitioning – Four points of intersection
Golden ratio partitioning – Four points of intersection

13. What does HDR stand for?

An image with a high dynamic range – HDR

14. What is the optimal ISO value?

Tip

An ISO value between 400 and 800 is normally no problem to use in cloudy weather. When photographing at night, ISO values over 800 are also common. After raising the ISO value, however, you should take a close look at the first couple of photos on your display in order to be sure that no image noise appears later when editing photos on your computer.

General guidelines for setting the camera’s ISO value

15. What does JPEG mean?

16. What does lens speed mean?

Notice

The smaller the minimum f-number, the faster the lens is.

Lenses with an especially high lens speed are called “fast lenses” since the higher quantity of light that hits the sensor allows for the exposure time to be shortened. The maximum aperture of most camera lenses today is between 1:1.4 and 1:5.6. Ultrafast lenses with a value between 1:1.0 and 1:0.7 are only used for special applications in science.

Besides the advantage of a shorter exposure time, less camera shake appears when freehand photographing with a fast lens. A brighter display image can be depicted and the autofocus can focus faster and more exact even in poor weather conditions. However, these lenses are not only larger and heavier, but they are also more expensive.

17. What is RAW format?

If, while photographing, the RAW format is used instead of the JPEG format, the image data from the sensor is saved without being processed and no data is lost. The larger amount of data and colour depth allows more in-depth image editing of the photos at a later point in time.

18. What is depth of field?

White balance graphic – Various colour temperatures in Kelvin

19. How does white balance work?

White balance adjusts the camera’s exposure colour to the colour temperature of the surrounding ambient light. This makes the colours appear more realistic. Without the use of white balance, which is automatically done by many digital cameras, the image may appear artificial.

20. What kinds of zoom are there?

A woman photographing in nature with an SLR

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