Digital Photography Terms

Glossary of Photography Terms

Want to know more about apertures and f-stops, shutter speeds, understanding depth of field and how you can use them to take better pictures? In this section many of the digital photography terms you’ll encounter are explained in detail.

To create effective images, photographers must not only develop creative skills, they also need to master the technical side of photography.

Many of the commonly used terms of digital photography are listed below and briefly defined. Linked items will take you to a more detailed article on the topic.



Apertures and f-Stops : An aperture is a hole that lets a controlled amount of light reach the camera’s image sensor during exposure. The aperture size is measured in f-stops.

Shutter Speed : A shutter controls the time of an exposure. The shutter speed controls the exact length of time that the image sensor is exposed to the light coming into the camera.

Digital Camera ISO : The ISO (International Standards Organization) number on your digital camera refers to the image sensor’s sensitivity to light. Your camera has ISO settings like 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. Changing the ISO setting from 100 to 200 means you have doubled the sensitivity, so a faster shutter speed and/or smaller f-stop can be used.

Lens Focal Length : Focal length is a term that refers to the optical length of a lens. It is the distance, measured in millimeters (mm), from the optical center of the lens to the image sensor or film plane.

Depth of Field : Depth of field is that area of an image that is considered acceptably sharp … in other words it appears to be ‘in focus’. The two primary factors that affect DOF are: the distance from the lens to the subject and the f-stop being used.

White Balance : The white balance feature on digital cameras is designed to correct for different kinds of light, such as sunlight, shade, indoor light, etc. Each of these types of light have different variations of color temperature and the camera must correct for this.

Image Sensor : The image sensor in a digital camera is a device that captures light (photons) and converts them into electric signals (electrons). Digital cameras typically have either a CCD image sensor or a CMOS sensor.

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