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Every effort has been made to make this glossary as plain-English as possible, however some terms only make sense in their technical context.

The list of terms here is in no way exhaustive, but rather aims to provide those terms essential to the serious photographer without lumbering you with techno-babble. A more comprehensive glossary can be found here.

© Beren Patterson. All Rights Reserved. A glossary of common photographic terms explained in plain English. This is part of the photography course.

The opening in the lens controlled by a series of small, metal blades. This gives you control of the amount of light coming in through the lens as well as your depth of field.

The speed of the film or rating of the films sensitivity to light. Also measured in ISO and DIN.

Bounce Flash
Where you point the flash at the ceiling, walls or other reflective surface to create a soft light effect

Taking a series of different exposures of a single scene. This is especially useful in a difficult metering situation. Some cameras can do this automatically for you.

When a photograph has an overall tinge of a particular colour. Pink, red and oranges may indicate badly heat effected film.

Depth of Field
The area of sharp focus on a photograph. There are three contributing factors: the aperture or ƒ stop on the lens, the distance between the camera and the actual point of focus and the focal length of the lens.

The speed of the film. Also measured in ISO and ASA.

The light sensitive layer of the film

The amount of light the film is exposed to. The shutter speed and the aperture (ƒ stop) control this.

Fast Film
A fast film is generally considered to be 400 ASA or faster. Films can be purchased up to 3200 ASA, however fast films have more grain than their slower counterparts.

Fast Lens
A lens with a wide aperture that lets a lot of light through. Fast lenses are especially useful in low light situations and when you want a very small depth of field.

Fill Flash
Where the flash is used to help balance areas of the exposure or to remove harsh shadows. See Lighting section for more details.

Technically when the focal length of the lens is divided by the diameter of the aperture. These are then marked on you lens in a series of ƒ-stops (ƒ5.6, ƒ8, ƒ11 and so on).The difference between one ƒ-stop and the next is half or double the amount of light from the next or previous ƒ-stop. So, for example, if you have your lens on ƒ8 and you open it up one ƒ-stop you are then on ƒ5.6 and so long as the shutter speed remains the same you the film will get twice the exposure (i.e. twice as bright). Conversely, if you are on ƒ8 and you stop the aperture down one stop you are now on ƒ11 and the resulting photograph will be half as bright.

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Focal Length
Technically the distance in millimetres between where light from infinity is focused and the optical centre of the lens. A 35mm SLR camera has interchangeable lenses that can range in focal length from around 7 to 17mm which are usually fisheye, 17 to 35 are considered wide angle. 50mm is called the standard lens as it has the same equivalent focal length as the human eye. Anything longer is a telephoto lens.

Grain is the speckled effect you sometimes see on photographs. It is a natural part of the photographic process as all photographs are made up of a series of small dots.

Hard Light
Where there are dark shadows or bright areas of contrast. Midday on a bright, sunny day would create hard light.

Hot Shoe
Sometimes also called the accessory shoe it allows you to put a flash and other devices onto your camera.

The speed of the film. Also measured in DIN and ASA.

Long Lens
A lens where the focal length is longer than 50mm.

A technique where you follow the subject with the camera as you take the picture. This can cause the background to streak while the subject remains sharp.

Rule of Thirds
See the Introduction for examples and a diagram.

Where the camera hasn't been held steady during the exposure causing the image to streak or look out of focus. Use a tripod and/ or faster shutter speed to help this problem. If you are shooting in a darker area you may want to use a faster film.

Where the image or subject is in focus.

Single Lens Reflex camera. A camera, usually with interchangeable lenses, where you can look through the lens giving you the most accurate focal and framing control.

Soft Light
Where there are no hard shadows or bright areas of contrast. Early morning or late afternoon light is often soft.

See ƒ-number, but also refers to shutter speeds. Read So what is a 'stop' here.

Through The Lens. Refers to metering off the light that actually passes through the lens, and in some cases is even read off the film plane during the exposure giving precise exposure readings. Very useful if your flash also works via TTL as it will control the flash exposure actually in the milliseconds as the flash is going off.