Glossary – Photography


Optical limitations in a lens that lead to distortions in image quality of color.


The size of the opening of the lens. Measured in f-stops, a small f-stop, for example f/2, lis wide opening, which lets in more light than a large f-stop. Aperture also impacts how much of the image is in focus. Wide apertures lead to unfocused background, narrow apertures keep the image sharp.


Image compression or interpolation induced distortions


Out of focus lights/background created by wide apertures.

Depth of field

How much of the image is in focus. Portrait shots often have a shallow depth of field, soft, unfocused backgrounds. Landscapes tend to have a big range of distance that stays sharp, which is a large depth of field.


How light or dark an image is. Too dark – underexposed. Too light – overexposed. Determined by ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

Focal length

Distance between lens and image it forms. Informs angle of view, how much will be captured, and the magnification, how large things will appear.


How sensitive camera is to light. ISO 100 is low sensitivity, good for daylight shots. ISO 3200 is high sensitivity, good for low-light. High sensitivity can lead to grainy shots with less detail. Proper exposure is achieved by balancing aperture and shutter speed.

Prime Lens

Fixed focal length lens. See link for pros / cons of prime lens vs zoom lens.

Shutter Speed

Part of camera that opens and closes to let light in. Speed is measured in whole seconds, or fractions of a second.

White balance

Using the right white balance will lead to what looks white in the subject, look white in the image. White balance can be automatically set, or manually set based on light source.

Zoom Lens

Variable focal length lens. See link for pros / cons of prime lens vs zoom lens.