Understanding Terms Used in Photography – Part 1

Understanding Terms Used in Photography – Part 1

Common terms used

There are many terms used in photography that can seem a little baffling. As there’s so many different terms used, I will begin here with part 1 of this tutorial to explain some of the most common terms you may come across.

Crop factor

In the days before digital cameras, most SLR’s (film cameras) had 35mm film, the equivalent on a DSLR today would be considered ‘full frame’. The image sensors on most of todays DSLR’s are smaller (except, of course the full frame DSLR).

When taking photos with a DSLR with a smaller sensor, it shows a smaller area of the scene than a full frame dslr and so appears ‘cropped’. Depending on what size sensor your dslr has, the crop factor could be cropped by: 1.3x, 1.5x or 1.6x.


The image above shows what the crop factor would look like assuming the whole image was taken on a full frame camera.If you took the same photo with a dslr which had a sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x then all you would see is the part of the image within the black frame; a sensor with a crop factor of 1.5x within the red frame, and a sensor with a crop factor of 1.6x within the yellow frame.


If you’ve looked at a photograph, lets say, of  a portrait of someone taken with a dslr with a telephoto lens, and the photographer has used a low F/stop (to get a shallow depth of field), the background and the foreground will appear blurry and out of focus; that blurry and out of focus area is called the bokeh; you may of heard photographers use the term of a particular lens as having a ‘nice creamy bokeh’.

Bokeh can be particularly flattering with portrait shots,where it lets the subject stand out, perhaps from a cluttered background such as a crowd of people.

© A Webber

The reeds in the background in the image above, give a pleasant bokeh


The word ‘pixel’ is made up from the words picture element. They are basically dots which are used to display images on a screen, or on printed matter such as a photograph. The total number of pixels in an image is referred to as its resolution, the higher the resolution the more difficult it is to distinguish between individual pixels.

© A Webber
© A Webber

On the image above of the falcon, I zoomed in on the eye to about 1300% until the pixels could be easily seen,when zooming in on a dslr with a lot lower resolution the pixels would appear much sooner. One of the advantages of a dslr that has a high pixel count is that it’s more difficult to distinguish between individual pixels.


In photography, a raw image file contains minimally processed data from an image sensor of a digital camera. A RAW file (sometimes called a digital negative)  can be compared to undeveloped film.

RAW files  are stored with metadata information embedded in them; containing  info such as the time and date the photo was taken, the camera model used, lens, shutter speed, metering mode and more. this can be handy when you want to compare your more successful photographs with those that are not.

For more information on RAW in photography check out our other post: Beginners guide to shooting in RAW