35mm or "35 millimeter film" is the standard photographic film format for analog still cameras and motion picture cameras.

Ambient light

Ambient light is often referred to natural light, or the light without adding any flash or light modifiers.


Aperture ("F-stop") is the opening through which light passes through the lens to enter the camera. Its size can be modified to control how much light reaches the sensor or negative film. The sequence of f-stops go as following: 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, etc. The smaller the number the wider the opening, the larger the number, the smaller the opening.


An archive is a collection of past photographs.

Art Director

Art directors determine which photographs, art, or other design elements to use. They are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions.

Artist Representation / Agent

A photographer's rep, or agent, sells the photography products of the photographers they represent. They will  negotiate the terms of a contract between their photographers and the clients at hand. They also handle the marketing for their photographers.

Beauty Dish

A beauty dish is a metal reflector that can be attached to a studio light. Light fired into the dish hits a reflector directly in front, bounces back and then off the curved metal surface towards the subject. It's a often used piece of equipment on a set.


A bid is a proposal that a photographer submits to obtain a contract or assignment.

Blue hour

Blue hour is the short period of time before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is just below the horizon.


Bracketing is the action of capturing the same shot using different exposure values to make sure the whole scene is exposed properly.


Bulb is a camera setting that holds the shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is pressed. In some cases, the shutter release needs to be pressed once to open the shutter and once to close it, rather than remaining pushed down.

Cable release

A device that allows the camera to be fired without pressing the shutter button or touching the camera. Helps eliminate camera movement during long exposures.

Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration is a common optical problem in lenses where colors are not focused on the same convergence point in the focal plane. As a result, the image shows fringes of different wavelength colors around the edges where bright and dark sections meet.


CMYK refers to the four inks used in color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). CMYK is for subtractive color mixing.


A color calibration target consisting of a cardboard-framed arrangement of 24 squares of painted samples. These are used before a shoot for white balance correction.


Commercial, or "commercial photography", is a genre that encompasses any photos used for a business or brand with future sales in mind. This is often the kind of photography that pays handsomely, but has little creative control.


A comp or "composition" is a result of combined elements that are positioned within a photo. Complex comps can be done by a retoucher or photo illustrator.

Contact Sheet

A contact sheet is a piece of photographic paper featuring a set of thumbnail images. These images come from a roll of film after the photographer cuts it into multiple strips. They are often created to better compare single frames against one another.


Contrast defines the range of tonal difference between the shadows and lights of an image. As the contrast becomes higher it emphasizes these variations, resulting in stronger textures and colors. Pictures with lower contrast may be perceived as dull, as a smaller difference between lights and shadows results in a muted appearance.


A digitech, also called the DIT and digital imaging technician, is a person is accountable for managing all the images files, sorting and tracking and often processing imagery in real time for the clients to see throughout the shoot.


DNG, or “Digital Negative" is container file, it not only consists of the image itself. It also holds non-destructive editing information. They offer more future compatibility than RAW files.


DOF, which stands for Depth of Field, is the distance between the closest and farthest object within the focused zone of an image. It is determined by focal distance, aperture, and distance to the subject. The higher these numbers are, the more shallow the DOF will be.


DP is a title for a Director of Photographer in the film industry.


DPI, which stands for Dots Per Inch, is used for measuring the resolution of an image. It means the dot density found within an inch of an image both in print and on-screen.

Dynamic range

Dynamic range is the range of luminance of an image between its highest and lowest light intensities, usually pure white and pure black. The dynamic range of a digital sensor is slightly narrower than that of film photography, and both of them are significantly limited in comparison to what the human eye can perceive. Scenes with a wider dynamic range than that of the camera sensor will result in images that are either overexposed or underexposed.

Exclusive (usage rights)

Exclusive licensing gives usage rights to a sole licensee so that your image cannot be used by anyone else or for any other types of materials. This type of exclusivity allows you as the photographer to charge a higher fee for your work.


Editorial, or "editorial photography", is a genre that encompasses any photos used for a publication or story. This is often the kind of photography that has a lot of creative control, but may not pay as well as commercial.


Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor and it determines how light or dark an image is. The exposure of an image is determined by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

EV compensation

EV compensation, or exposure value compensation, allows photographers to modify the exposure on automatic and semi-automatic modes. Generally, the values can be changed through 1/3, 1/3, or full stop increments.

Fill light

The light source that is secondary to the key light. Used to “fill” in the shadows. Can be produced with a flash, a reflector, or a studio strobe.

Focal length

Focal length is the distance in millimeters between the center of a lens and the camera sensor.


FPS stands for frames per second, and determines the speed at which a camera can take photos.

Grey Card

A grey card is a card with a color of 18% grey. Photographing this before any photographic shoot will help you ascertain a correct white balance from the light found in the scene. This goes hand in had with a ColorChecker.


Another word for camera lens.

Golden hour

Golden hour, also commonly referred to as ‘magic hour,’ is the period right before sunset and after sunrise. During this time, the sun is low on the horizon so light takes on a redder shade than when it’s higher up in the sky.

Hard light

Harsh, or non-diffused, light such as that produced by bright sunlight, a small speedlight, or an on-camera flash. Creates harsh shadows with well-defined edges, contrast, and texture (if used at an angle to the subject).


HDR, which stands for high dynamic range, is a technique that gives images a wider dynamic range than the one captured by the camera. The goal of this technique is representing a scene as close as possible to how it was seen by the human eye. HDR images are created by combining multiple photos with different exposure values.


High-key lighting is achieved by using a lot of light or whites in a photographed scene. This way you can eliminate dark tones and shadows from your image. High-key photos usually give a clean and positive impression and feeling.


Lightest areas within an image which still contain details.


Histogram is the visual representation of the luminance of an image. The left side of the graph represent the shadows, while the right side belongs to the highlights. The height of the histogram shows how many pixels there are for each specific luminance level.

Hot Shoe

A hot shoe is a holding area for a flash or other device that allows a connection between the camera and the device.


HMU is an umbrella term for a "Hair & Makeup" team.


Hyperfocal is the distance at which the focus point provides a deeper depth of field. It is often used by landscape photographers to ensure their scenes are as sharp as possible.


ISO represents the sensor’s sensitivity to the light. The higher the number, the most information will be captured. Higher ISO numbers are best in low-light situations.


JPEG is an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is the standard format in which pictures are compressed. Due to this compression, JPEG files are smaller and carry less information.

Key light

The main light source for a photograph. It could be the sun, a studio strobe, a flash, a reflector, or something else.


A photography license is a contract in which the photographer grants specific usage rights to the client who wants to use your image(s) for an amount of time. The client is free to use the photos in any way that doesn't go beyond the scope of the agreement.

Light Box

A light box is an enclosure with translucent sides that provides a simple, solid environment for the object you're photographing within it. Its purpose is to diffuse bright incoming light from multiple sources.

Light meter

Light meter is a device that measures the scene’s luminosity in order to determine the best exposure value. The vast majority of cameras have a built-in light meter that relies on reflective readings through the lens.


Low-key lighting is achieved by using a lot of darker tones, shadows and blacks in a photographed scene. For this, you usually need a dark background and a light source which only highlights specific areas. This way you can keep your subject in the shadow and highlight some parts. Low-key photos are dramatic and mysterious.


Macro is the name given to extreme close up photography, usually capturing really small organisms or objects. In this kind of photos, the size at which the subject appears on the sensor is larger than it is in real life.


Manual is the camera mode in which the photographer controls all exposure settings. Shooting manual offers complete creative control over the shot, and is therefore considered a “must” for professional photographers.

Medium Format

Medium format is any camera format that makes use of the 120 film size or utilizes a digital imaging sensor that mimics that size.


Metadata, also known as EXIF, is the essential information about the image. This includes dimensions, resolution, keywords, camera settings, focal length, copyright owner, etc. Most of this information is automatically added to the photos, but some fields can be added or modified in post-production.


Noise is a visual distortion that looks like tiny colored specs on a photo. It is especially visible in images shot at high ISO or very slow shutter speeds. Noise is the digital photography version of film grain.

Non-Exclusive (usage rights)

Non-exclusive licensing allows you as the photographer to license your work out to more than one user. This means that the licensee is not the sole holder of usage rights for this particular work.

Opening Up

Opening up translates to decreasing the number of the f-stop. The lower the number, the larger the aperture. By opening up, more light will enter the lens.


Overexposure occurs when the exposure value is higher than it should be, resulting in a loss of information highlighted areas.

Photo Editor

Photo editors review and select photos for promotion, publication, and dissemination. They identify relevant images, edit photos to make them more appealing, and arrange them in a suitable layout. Photo editors also assign projects to photographers to meet the organization's photography needs.

Photo Director

Photo Directors have a similar job to Photo Editors but usually exist in a commercial space, as opposed to an editorial space. They are also parallel to Art Directors.


Pixel is the smallest unit of programmable color represented on a digital display.

Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is usually placed on the front element of the lens. It can help to eliminate reflections, stop glare and even darken skies.


Portfolio is, basically, a current collection of work.


Post-production is a process in which a photographer covers cropping and leveling, adjust the colors, contrasts, shadows in the photos to create a photographic masterpiece, after their shoot.


Pre-Production is the preparation part of the shoot process that involves planning location permits, casts, crew details, and the creative brief.

Prime lenses

Prime lenses are those with a fixed focal length. These lenses are usually smaller and faster, as they have a smaller number of moving parts and a less complicated lens formula.


A producer is the person who leads the pre-production process. There are producers for the post-production process as well.


RAW is a file format that saves the image as it was captured by the sensor, with minimal processing and no compression. This allows photographers to take complete control over the creative edition of the photo.


A reflector is a piece of equipment, bouncing the light back into the scene without using an extra light. The reflector tends to bring a softer light and is a cheaper option.


The RGB color model is supplementary in nature. Red, green, and blue lights are, in different ways, mixed together to create a wide range of colors. RGB is used on screens as it operates with the colors of the light. These colors are added together to produce different colors (this is what is called additive color mixing).

Rights-Managed (usage rights)

Rights-managed licenses are typically reserved for images that encompass a specific time period or place and can be used as historic imagery. This license limits and restricts the use of the image and labels it as exclusive to the license owner.

Royalty-Free (usage rights)

A royalty-free license allows licensees to purchase the image at a flat rate while avoiding usage specifications. These images are non-exclusive and more affordable to the typical purchaser but offer less revenue for you as the photographer.


Saturation refers to the color intensity of an image. As their saturation increases, colors appear more vivid and are considered more pure. Decreasing saturation results in muted colors, with full desaturation giving a monochromatic version of the image.


Seamless refers to "seamless background drops", which are standard backgrounds for photoshoots.


Darkest areas within an image that still contain details.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time a camera sensor is exposed to light when taking a photo. Slow shutter speeds capture the blur of subjects in motion, making it highly valuable for night and landscape photographers. On the other hand high speeds allow photographers to freeze a single millisecond in time.

Soft light

Diffused light, such as that from an overcast sky, north-facing window with no direct light, or a large studio softbox. This type of light produces soft shadows with soft edges, lower contrast, and less texture.


A small, portable flash that can attach to your camera’s hot shoe or stand on its own when activated remotely.

Spot Metering

A type of light metering used to read reflected light in a concentrated area of any given scene. It looks at where your focus is placed, and evaluates the light only in that area, ignoring everything else.


A studio strobe is a flash unit that has lightning-fast recycle times. So strobes can flash fast many times in a row. They also provide brighter and stronger light than a simple flash.

Sunny 16

On sunny days, at an aperture of f/16, your shutter speed is the inverse of your ISO value. This means that if you are at f/16 and ISO 400, your shutter speed should be 1/400.


A teleconverter is used to further extend the focal length of a telephoto lens. They come in x1, x2 and x3 options. A 200mm telephoto lens with the teleconverter x3 turns your lens into the equivalent of a 600mm lens. They sit between the camera body and the lens.

Telephoto lens

Offers a tighter field of view than a normal lens (i.e., it takes more magnified images). Generally from around 70mm to 300mm. A super-telephoto lens is usually 300mm or longer.


Tethered photography is the process of tethering your camera to a computer, using a cable, so that you can see the photos as you take them. This is a great way to ensure that you get the perfect shot, since you can make any changes you need without having to retake the photo.


TIFF or “Tagged Image File Format” is a file format. It’s flexible, allowing for a ton of different compression rates and algorithms, bit depths, and other variations. It can also contain layers that Photoshop and other editors can read. The size of a TIFF image can range anywhere from a few megabytes to multiple gigabytes. This format is useful for printing as it doesn’t lose data during post-processing.

Tonal range

Tonal range is the total number of tones in an image, from its darkest to its brightest area. A wider tonal range allows for a higher variety of shades, which translates into more detail.


TTL or "through the lens" it refers to the metering system in regard to flash exposure.


Underexposure means that the exposure value was lower than necessary, resulting in a photo that is too dark to produce normal contrast.

Unlimited Use (usage rights)

An unlimited use license allows a client or company to use the image or images across all digital and print media. There are essentially no boundaries on this type of license. While many photographers may steer away from this type of license due to lack of control, it’s important that, if you do choose to allow unlimited use, you charge a price that’s appropriate.


Vibrance is a post-processing photography term coined by Adobe used to describe a “smart” saturation setting. Unlike the saturation slider, which increases all colors’ pureness equally, vibrance only affects those colors that are less saturated than the rest.


Vignetting is a common occurrence in photography in which the edges of an image appear less bright and desaturated, specially on the corners. Nowadays, most post-processing programs can automatically detect a lens that is vignetting and correct it seamlessly.

White balance

White balance is the adjustment done to an image in order to compensate for the temperature of the light illuminating the scene. Digital cameras offer a few pre-set values based on the most common types of illumination, but it can also be set manually during or after the shot.

Wide open

Wide open means using your lens with the aperture at its widest setting (f/1.8, for example).