The Learning Center

HCPG’s Learning Center comprises everything needed for the aspiring photographer, including a listing of books as well as a glossary of photography terms and definitions.


Photography Glossary

Aperture Mode – Usually denoted as “A” or “Av” on the mode dial.  Aperture mode is a setting on some cameras that allows the user to set a specific aperture value while the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to match it based on lighting measured by the camera’s light meter.

Auto Focus Mode – A focus setting mode in which the camera sets the focus automatically.

Automatic Mode – Usually denoted as “A” on the mode dial.  Automatic Mode allows the camera to choose the optimum shutter speed, ISO, and Aperture settings for your shot.

Center Weighted Metering – A method of metering where the circular area in the middle of the frame averages everything it finds there,

Compact Flash Card – Similar to an SD Card, a compact flash card is an ultra small flash memory device used to offer high storage capacity in a small size.

Continuous Focus Mode – A shutter release setting that allows for multiple exposures to be taken within a period of a few seconds by pressing and holding the shutter release button.  Primarily used for action/sports images, but can be used in all photography.

Depth Of Field – The measure of how much of the background and foreground area before and beyond your subject is in focus.  Setting your lens to a smaller aperture will allow for a larger depth of field, while larger aperture will decrease it.

DSLR – Digital single lens reflex camera. Any digital camera with interchangeable lenses where the image is viewed using a mirror and prism, and the image is taken directly through that lens. What you see in your viewfinder is what the lens sees.

Exposure Triangle – is a common way of associating the three variables that determine the exposure of a photograph: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. One must balance all three of these to achieve a desired result, an adjustment of one requiring adjustments of at least one of the others.

Flash – A bright light used to light a dark scene.  Many DSLR cameras have a built in flash, however there are numerous flashes that can be attached to your camera or setup up separately and triggered remotely.

Focal Point  – A point of interest that makes a photograph unique.  The main subject or focusing point, that the viewer is attracted or pulled to by an image.  For example, in the image below, the flower is the focal point of the image as it immediately draws the viewer’s attention.

Focus – The position at which rays of light from a lens converge to form a clear and sharply defined image on a focal plane.

F-Stop – The measurement of the aperture.  The larger your F-Stop setting is, the smaller the aperture.  Faster lenses will have a much wider aperture which allows for a faster shutter speed. A slower lens will have a more narrow aperture, which allows for slower shutter speeds.  F-Stop is generally measured using the following stops: F/1.4, F/2, F/2.8, F/4, F/5.6, F/8, F/11, F/16, & F/22.  Some cameras may give you the option of half steps, or other F-Stop options.

Histogram – a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image. In other words, it shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness).

Image Composition – The act of creating what appears in your image, where they appear, and how they appear.  Composition is the very core of your image.  How you compose your image will directly affect how a viewer views and interprets your image.

ISO – Stands for “International Organization Of Standardization.”  A number indicating an image sensor’s sensitivity to light.  The higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor is.  Remember, when setting your ISO, the higher your ISO is set, the more grain you will have in your image.

JPEG – A commonly used method of lossy compression for digital images.  The compression can be adjusted, allowing a tradeoff between storage size and image quality.

Leading Lines – When looking at a photo, our eye is naturally drawn along lines.  By thinking about where and how you should place these lines when composing a photo, you can affect the way the viewer actually views the image, pulling them into the picture, towards the subject, or on a “journey through the scene.”

Manual Focus Mode – A focus setting mode in which the photographer manually adjusts the focus by turning the focus ring on the lens.

Manual Mode – Usually denoted as “M” on the mode dial.  Manual Mode allows the photographer to set aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and other settings manually without help from the camera.

Matrix Metering – The default metering mode for most DSLRs.  Matrix Metering works by dividing the entire frame into multiple “zones” and analyzing them on an individual basis for light and dark tones.

Megapixel – A megapixel contains 1,000,000 pixels.

Metering – Metering modes indicate how the camera’s built-in light meter detects and reads light.  Matrix metering, for example means the camera is reading the light from the entire scene whereas Center-weighted metering considers only what’s at the center of the frame.  A third type of metering, Sport metering, measures the light based on where your focal point is located.

Mirrorless Camera – A mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a reflex lens, which is a key component of DSLP cameras.

​Monopod – A one-legged stand used to provide stability while maintaining mobility.  Although used most commonly in sports/action photography, it can be used for any type of photography.

Noise – The appearance of color artifacts in a digital image. I.E. grain, shadows, etc.

One Shot (Single Focus) Mode – A shutter release mode in which the shutter opens one time per press of the shutter release button.

Patterns – A Pattern occurs when similar shapes, symbols, or other elements repeats itself at regular intervals.  Notice in the image below how the pattern of the fabric repeats itself at regular points.

Pixel – A unit of measure used to describe the size of a sensor in a digital camera.

PNG – Similar to a JPEG, a PNG is a file format for storing digital images that allows for adjustable compression.  Typically, an image in PNG format can be 10%-30% more compressed than JPEG. 

Program Mode – Usually denoted as “P” on the mode dial.  Program Mode allows the camera to set both the shutter speed and the aperture automatically.

RAW Files – An image file type that contains all of the data captured during exposure in an unedited format, unlike TIFF, JPEG, and other formats that contain only part of the data.  When processed, RAW files can be adjusted and edited far more extensively than images in other formats.

Reflector – A device that is used to reflect light, generally back towards the subject. It can be a professional made reflector or something as simple as a piece of white cardboard.

Rule Of Odds – A composition rule that suggests that having an odd number of subjects in your image will be more appealing and easier to focus on for viewers than an even number of subjects.

Rule Of Thirds – A composition rule that suggests that dividing an image into three sections both horizontally and vertically and placing your subject on the intersections between these imaginary sections will create a more appealing image than simply placing the subject in the center.  In the example below, the cheetah is place at the intersections of two different imaginary lines, thus putting him towards the side of the image rather than the center and creating a more interesting photograph.

Sensor – An electronic device that converts an optical image into an electronic signal.

SD Card – Stands for Secure Digital Card.  An ultra small flash memory card designed to offer high capacity memory in a small size.

Shutter Mode – Usually denoted as “S” on the camera’s mode dial.  Shutter Mode is a setting on some cameras that allows the user to choose a specific shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture.

Shutter Speed – The length of time the shutter remains open when taking a photo.  It is most commonly expressed in fractions of a second.

Spot Metering – Metering mode in which measurements are made from a spot about the size of the center focusing bracket.  Everything inside the spot is averaged for exposure determination.

Symmetry – Symmetry occurs when two or more parts are identical after a flip, slide or turn. 

TIFF – Stands for Tagged Image File Format.  A computer file format for storing images.  It is a popular format for deep color images.

​Tripod – A three-legged stand used to stabilize your camera. Tripods are generally stationary and used for long exposures or to provide stability for very long lenses.

White Balance – The camera’s ability to correct color cast or tint under different lighting conditions, including daylight, indoor light, fluorescent light, and others. Commonly known as “WB”, most digital cameras offer an auto white balance mode that is usually, but not always, accurate.  White balance is based on the color white, and what the camera perceives the color white to look like.  Manually setting your white balance involves holding a sheet of white paper or other white object and adjusting your camera’s settings to base its color settings of off that shade of white.  Some photographers prefer to do this with a shade of gray rather than white.