Commons:Photography terms

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While looking at pages relating to photography and images on Commons, users often encounter terms that might be difficult to understand. This is particularly true if the user's knowledge of photography is very basic, or if they are not a native speaker of English. This page aims to explain several of these terms in basic English, with the help of images. If you meet a term that you do not understand, please add it at the bottom of this page. If you know what one of these terms mean, please explain it is as simple a language as you can. Please provide:

  1. a definition allowing one to understand what is being talked about (a link toward wikipedia is welcome)
  2. an explanation of why/when this is important in photography, and possible how to get a good result on this aspect.

Please try and write in basic English: most users are not Native English speakers, nor are they photographers.

Creation on commons

Photography Terms[edit]

Angle of view[edit]

A term used by some lens manufacturers, although generally the term Field of View (FOV) is used. FOV is the viewing angle in degrees covered by a given lens. A 12 mm. wide angle lens may have a FOV exceeding 120º, while a 300 mm. telelens will typically have a FOV less than 35º.


Blur: this circle is sharp on the left, but blurred on the right

An image is "blurred" when it is not displayed sharp and clear. To avoid blur and get clear images, it is generally neccessary to set the focus distance precisely to the correct value, which can usually be done automatically via autofocus.

See also Focus on Wikipedia


DSLR camera[edit]

a Digital SLR Camera

Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex). This is like a film camera, but instead of a film, there is an electronic sensor. It has a view finder. When you look through the view finder, a mirror lets you see through the taking lens. When you take a photograph the mirror moves out of the way. You can buy extra lenses to fit onto a DSLR. They can be very expensive. These lenses let you take photographs in very poor light, and very difficult situations, such as taking photographs of fast cars or sportsmen.

Compact camera[edit]

a Compact or "point and shoot" digital camera

A compact camera is a "simple" camera. It is fully automatic and does all of the settings for you. It is easy to use and to carry. These cameras sometimes have extra controls to meet more specific needs, such as poor lighting conditions, but otherwise they work best in good light.

"Bridge-type" camera[edit]

A "bridge-type" camera is a relatively new term. It is a camera with some controls, yet still has an automatic mode. The lens of these cameras cannot be changed. There is a view finder but it is an electronic screen. The camera is very flexible and generally good value for money.

Close-ups of 1:1[edit]

A 1:1 closeup is a photograph take with a magnification such that the image formed on the film or sensor is the same size as the original object.


To focus[edit]

To focus means to adjust the lens so that one part of your photograph is sharp. This is usually done automatically; some people choose to do it manually, although it is possible only with a DSLR camera.

To focus on[edit]

To focus on something means to choose a part of the photograph in which you are interested, and thus want to be sharp.

In focus[edit]

When a photograph is taken in focus, it means a part of the photograph is sharp.

Out of focus[edit]

When a photograph is taken out of focus, it means the whole photograph is blurry.

Focal length[edit]

How focal length affects photograph composition. One subject remains the same size, while the other changes size.

A way of describing the properties of the lens. In the past, it referred to the way the lens was made. Now we say that a wide angle lens has a focal length of 35mm or less, a standard lens has focal length of 55mm, a portrait lens has a focal length of 90mm (this is also called a medium zoom). A zoom lens will have a focal length of over 135mm. A 300mm lens is a zoom lens.

Today all cameras allow you to change the focal length you are using. A second meaning of zoom, is to change the focal length. You say you are zooming in to 300mm, and zooming out to 35mm. The reason for this is historic.


Panning following the subject.

Panning means moving the camera in order to follow a moving subject, take a clear picture of it, while the background will be blurred by movements.

Depth of Field[edit]

Depth of Field (or DOF) is decided by the given lens opening (aperture) or f/stop. A small aperture (large f/number: f/16, f/22, etc.) will give "large DOF"; the image will be sharp/in focus from the foreground to infinity. A large aperture (small f/number: f/1.8, f/2.8, etc.) will give "shallow DOF". Depending on the type of lens used, DOF can be as shallow a a few millimeters, for example when using Macro lenses or extension tubes. Good photographers know how to make use of DOF and/or use selective DOF to make their images more interesting. Some types of special lenses, known as "Lens Baby" can generate a very specific type of selective DOF, reminiscent to the imperfections of turn of the XIX century lenses, where the image gets blurred and/or distorted towards the edges. With a "Lens Baby" however, this selective focus blur/distortion can be controlled.


A Macro photo of a needle
See Commons:Macro

Technically, a macro image is an image taken with 1:1 or greater magnification at the sensor/film plane. This means that if the object were 30mm across, it would measure 30mm across on the film negative. Greater than 1:1 magnification is possible with true macro lenses, for example a 4:1 macro setting would enable a 5mm object to be 20mm across on the negative/sensor. The term has become misappropriated and used to refer to 'close up' photography in general, particularly by manufacturers of point and shoot cameras, whose lenses are rarely if ever come capable of anything close to true 1:1 macro magnification. Modern digital cameras have a macro mode. This is a mode which enables close focusing, allowing the maximum possible magnification from the camera/lens.


See: Photographic lens, Lenses for SLR and DSLR cameras)

The lens or set of lenses converts light toward the camera eyes. The quality of the lens allows for a clear image instead of a blurred one ( ex: Good lens on the left, bad one on the right : Cercles.jpg )

Extension rings/tubes[edit]

Used on both digital and film SLR's as well as Mid-Format cameras (6×6, 4.5×6, 6×9 cm.) to achieve close focus in close-up and macro photography. To achieve close focus on large format (4×5″, 8×10″) technical cameras, bellows are used.


Sharpness describes how accentuated/contrasted the edges of objects are. If not sharp enough, lines and edges appear blurry but when viewed in reality they have clear boundaries. Overshaprening in software can cause halos/glowing margins around edges. The term is often misused when someone meant to describe resolution.


Resolution of an optical system describes how close objects in real life can be while still being discernable as being separate in the resulting photograph. Because of varying acceptable levels of blurryness, resolution is not so easy to measure definitevely.


Still needs defining.


It is the ability to show you things in a bigger view.

  • explained above two different meanings.
  • optical zoom is the zoom ability by the Lens.
  • POV For a digital camera and Macro photos this "optical zoom" is the only important one, since the digital zoom is simply "cropping" the image to display a part in full screen. The digital zoom imply lost of quality in the produced image file, while the optical zoom doesn't.
  • digital zoom, selects only the centre of the image, which makes it appear if it was taken with a lens of a greater zoom. It does this by cropping. If you are saving the photograph at the cameras maximum sensitivity- (12M on a 12M camera) see Megapixel- then there is a loss of quality. If you are saving your photographs at a reduced sensitivity (3M on 12M), then there is no loss of quality. Photographers who upload their photographs onto Wikipedia rarely work at 12M, so it is not a problem.

External Links[edit]