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Questions about specific terms used within photography

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

120
votes
3answers
38k views

What do all those cryptic number and letter codes in a lens name mean?

Then looking at a lens name there is a lot of acronyms in the name describing it's features (often specific to the manufacturer). Examples, Nikon: Nikon AF-S DX 16-85mm VR f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED Nikon ...
92
votes
7answers
7k views

What is bokeh, exactly?

I understand that "bokeh" refers to out-of-focus areas of an image — but there is obviously more to it than that. What does the term mean exactly? How well is bokeh really understood? Is it purely ...
47
votes
4answers
3k views

What exactly determines depth of field?

There are several questions here about the definition of depth of field, about focal length, and about subject distance. And of course there's the basic how does aperture affect my photographs. And ...
46
votes
5answers
10k views

What is “angle of view” in photography?

I read on the Lens Buying Guide @ neocamera: Focal-length determines the angle-of-view seen through a lens for a given sensor-size. With a full-frame sensor a lens gives the same angle-of-view ...
41
votes
8answers
17k views

What does “expanded ISO” mean?

The ISO specification for the Canon EOS 7D reads as follows: High ISO For handheld shooting in low light, the EOS 7D offers ISO speeds of up to 6400. Expandable to ISO 12800, for low light ...
35
votes
8answers
28k views

What is aperture, and how does it affect my photographs?

How does aperture affect my photographs? Why should I care about the aperture with which a photo was taken?
33
votes
5answers
8k views

What does it mean for a photograph to be “high key”?

As I learned the term, a high-key image is one where the shadows are effectively eliminated, and the mid-tone detail pushed into brighter zones. My question is simple: is this an accurate definition, ...
32
votes
7answers
2k views

What is “Hyperfocal Distance”?

I'd like a clear & easy-to-understand (especially for non-physics-types) explanation of what Hyperfocal Distance is, how it affects photographs, and what determines its value.
30
votes
3answers
12k views

What does the number of elements and groups in a lens mean?

All lens specifications include a statement of how many elements the lens contains, and in how many groups, for example: Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300 mm 1:4,5-5,6G: 17 elements in 12 groups (two ...
29
votes
1answer
3k views

Why does every digital camera save photos in a directory called DCIM?

It seems like every digital camera that I have ever used creates a folder called DCIM on its removable storage to save photographs into. Can anyone tell me what this name (DCIM) stands for (if ...
28
votes
3answers
160k views

What does STM mean on a Canon lens?

The Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 has a designation of STM on the lens. What does this mean? What are the advantages of having it and does it replace an older technology? We have a terminology thread that ...
27
votes
4answers
10k views

What is a macro lens?

I've read a few threads on here that mention some elementary descriptions of macro lenses and found some marketing fluff in the box for my Canon about them as well, but being a complete novice I was ...
27
votes
2answers
3k views

What is a pancake lens?

I've read about a "pancake lens" but don't really understand what that means. What the pros and cons of having a pancake vs. another type of lens? I'm thinking of getting a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 ...
26
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the definition of a “prime lens”?

There are many discussions of differences between prime, zoom and macro lenses. I have not heard about prime lenses until recently. Could someone explain what exactly a prime lens is? Is it ...
26
votes
7answers
5k views

Does a photographer take pictures or make pictures?

Most people speak of the process of photography as taking pictures. However, many serious photographers instead refer to making pictures. One might be inclined to dismiss this as jargon, but there's ...
25
votes
2answers
3k views

How does exposure fusion work?

I understand that "exposure fusion" is a method for combining different exposures into a single image. How exactly does it work, and how is it related to HDR?
24
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of “white balance”?

I would like to understand the term white balance. My camera has settings for white balance with the following options: Auto white balance Daylight Cloudy Shade Flash Incandescent lights White set1 ...
24
votes
2answers
5k views

What do Hue, Chroma, Saturation, Value, Tones, Tints, Shade, etc. mean?

I've read several online tutorials about color theory but I'm still confused about how to "visually" catch color concepts and use them efficiently. The only thing I seem to understand is "hue" which ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

What is exposure compensation?

What does exposure compensation do? If I take a photo with a given shutter speed, aperature, and ISO, and then take the same shot with +1EV or -1EV, what is actually happening? Is this just a gain ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

What makes a DSLR camera “entry-level”?

When I look around the questions on this site, I feel everyone can clearly tell what makes a DSLR camera "entry-level". But I have no clue on how to tell. What makes a camera model "entry" level or ...
20
votes
6answers
6k views

What is one “stop”?

I always hear this term, e.g., I had to go down one stop Increasing X by Y raises Z by one stop I turned down the flash/the light two stops This lens/sensor/strobe/Photoshop tweak raises X by ...
20
votes
4answers
3k views

What is focal length and how does it affect my photos?

What is focal-length? Are focal-length and zoom synonymous? How does the focal length of a photo affect it?
19
votes
7answers
4k views

What makes a camera “professional” vs. amateur/hobbyist?

I will be attending a music festival (Lollapalooza) this weekend, and according to the site's FAQ page, attendees are not allowed to bring in "professional" recording equipment. From the site: ...
19
votes
3answers
15k views

What does TTL mean?

I'm new to photography and I see the term TTL all over the place. What does it mean? And how do I use it to make my pictures better?
19
votes
1answer
1k views

What is decentering?

I have heard of a condition in imperfect lenses known as "decentering". What is decentering? When a lens is decentered, what exactly is wrong with the optical elements? What are its symptoms and ...
19
votes
1answer
2k views

What is background compression?

What does the term "background compression" mean? How would you tell you're achieving it, and how would you achieve it? Ideally, the right answer would also explain how this is related to ...
18
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the distinction between a professional and amateur photographer?

I describe myself as an amateur photographer to other photographers and avoid using qualifiers like "pro" or "amateur" when talking to clients, but after reading a number of articles in Rangefinder ...
18
votes
4answers
504 views

Is there construction-agnostic term for a lens with a long focal length?

Turns out that telephoto refers to a specific construction of a long-focal-length lens, i.e., one where the lens is physically shorter than the focal length. Is there a generic term for referring to ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

What makes a camera an “SLR”?

My question, specifically: why is the Fujifilm HS 10 not an SLR?
17
votes
3answers
2k views

What does it mean for light to be soft or hard?

I've heard of "soft lighting" and "hard lighting". What do these mean? How can I control how soft a light is?
17
votes
2answers
6k views

What is T-number / T-stop?

Usually, when discussing aperture of a lens, F-stop and F-number are used for quantifying. But some photographers, and especially videographers, also mention T-stop. The concept and numbering used ...
17
votes
5answers
699 views

What is an ultra-wide lens?

What is the point at which a lens is considered "ultra-wide angle" vs just wide angle?
17
votes
4answers
14k views

What are shutter actuations?

I was just reading the question How many actuations are "too many actuations"? and trying to figure out what a shutter "actuation" actually is. The only thing I can guess is that it's the number of ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

What is “micro contrast” and how is it different from regular contrast?

What is micro contrast, and why is it important? How is it different than regular contrast? Matt Grum mentioned it in his answer about larger-format cameras: There are other advantages to medium ...
17
votes
4answers
706 views

What is ISO and how does it affect my photos

What is the ISO setting on my camera? What does it represent? What should I be aware of with regards to ISO when taking photographs
16
votes
5answers
2k views

How can aperture be f/11 on a lens with an aperture range designation of 3.5-5.6?

I made a series of outdoor shots with Nikon D5000, with the 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR kit lens. On some shots, I see in the EXIF info f/11, and in another shot, f/9. How can that be, that the f-number ...
16
votes
2answers
8k views

What is a kicker?

In lighting, what is a kicker and when should I use it? (And is it any different from hair light?)
16
votes
4answers
6k views

What is “100% crop?”

I use the term "100% crop" to mean a portion of a picture that has been cropped but not resized, but I have also seen some confusion around that term. Is there an accepted definition for "100% ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Where does the term “f-stop” come from?

Does anyone know the origins of the term?
16
votes
1answer
532 views

Why are photographic gels called “gels”?

This question has been bugging me for a while, as I've been digging through filters on Adorama and B&H and various other sites for days now. I keep seeing numerous types of filters often tagged as ...
15
votes
7answers
3k views

How do you pronounce “bokeh”?

I've had a lot of trouble working out how to pronounce "bokeh". Amusingly enough, I've thus far been unable to get any of the small handful of photographer friends I have to ever say it out loud, ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a “fast” lens?

I've been reading lots of camera reviews lately and have ran across several references to "fast" lenses. What exactly is a fast lens and what are its advantages compared to other lenses?
14
votes
6answers
926 views

Why is chimping a derogatory term?

Chimping - the act of reviewing the picture you just took on the camera's LCD, is used as a way to disparage shooters. I heard that chimping might refer to proudly showing off a shot after you taken ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What is a parfocal lens and how beneficial is it to photography?

I heard someone say that after using a parfocal lens for the first time, they would never switch back. What is a parfocal lens, how is it different from any other lens, and what are the advantages and ...
14
votes
2answers
10k views

What does DPI mean?

What does DPI mean and how does it affect images displayed on screen versus printed?
14
votes
3answers
752 views

What does “Strobist” in Photography mean?

I often come across this term "Strobist" in Macro Photography and other equipment related to it. What does Strobist actually mean?
14
votes
1answer
8k views

What do “Frontfocus” and “Backfocus” mean?

I've read those terms in a couple of lens reviews, and not even Wikipedia has an article about it. So my questions are: What is back/frontfocus? What causes back/frontfocus? Is there any preventive ...
14
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the difference between luminance and illuminance?

The more I read about this, the more confused I become. Illuminance, as I understand it, measured in lux, is the perceived brightness of light on a surface. It's what you'd measure with an incident ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the meaning of “stopped down”?

Was reading this answer (emphasis mine): It also tells us that the lens was stopped down, as if it were wide open there would be no corners to cause diffraction, regardless of the number of ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Retrofocus lens? What's that?

I saw that in Why do some people prefer 50mm to 35mm prime lenses? , in @MattGrum's answer: ... The 50mm is a simpler design compared to the retrofocus 35mm ... What's retrofocus?