Digital Photography Terminology Glossary: Basic TermsThat You Need to Know

Page content

Basic Terms

Like most fields of art and technology, digital photography has a language all its own. You will find digital photography glossaries all around the internet, often full of very technical words that you may want to use in professional settings. For most people, what they need out of a digital photography terminology glossary are basic terms to get them up to speed in this changing world of digital imaging. Here is a basic digital photography terminology glossary with jargon that all people are going to need to know if they want to be involved with digital photography in some way.


DSLR simply means Digital Single Lens Reflective camera, and this non-digital SLR is the standard professional film camera that has been used for years. The idea of the SLR camera is that you can look straight through it and view an image that is comparable to the image that the camera will receive without much alteration or image conception on your part. This is somewhat different from the point-and-shoot cameras that you use in the lower-end digital consumer world. This is because here you have adjustable settings as well as the ability to add lenses and generally a higher quality camera. DSLR cameras are the cornerstone of digital photography. They are used in 90 percent of digital shooting at a significant level.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to how fast the shutter opens or closes, exposing the sensor to the light bouncing off the subject you are photographing. The faster the shutter speed you have, the less light is let in and the less motion blur will be captured. If the shutter speed is slower, the shutter is open longer. More light is let in and there is more ability for motion to occur in front of the camera as it takes a single image. You have to negotiate the shutter speed with the aperture and the ISO when trying to get the right exposure with your DSLR.

RAW Files

In digital cameras, especially DSLRs, you can get a RAW image file instead of a compressed image file. The RAW files come directly from the camera’s sensor and are in both a very high quality and a format specific to the camera developer. For example, the Nikon RAW files are called .NEF files and have trouble being recognized by software that is not built to handle it specifically such as Adobe Photoshop. This may make it difficult to have RAW files printed in a conventional setting, so you may want to edit and convert them before using them in a practical situation.


The ISO is one of the primary ways that you negotiate the exposure in your DSLR image. It refers to how sensitive the sensor will be to the light in your image. The higher the ISO setting the more sensitive it will be to the available light. This will degrade the image somewhat and bring in noise to the image. If you have a lower setting, it will need much more light but your image may come in crystal clear. The ISO choice that you make will be determined by the type of image you want, the exposure you need, the light you have, and the settings you use for shutter speed and aperture.

Megapixel and Resolution

In the world of digital photography, the resolution refers to the clarity of the image. In technical digital photography terminology glossary terms, it actually refers to the number of pixels that are in a digital photographic image. This is often broken down into megapixels, which is a well-known term because it is used to compare cameras against each other in commercial settings for consumers. A megapixel is really just a million pixels, so this term is actually a way of stating how high the resolution is capable of being on a digital camera.


Compression is a very common feature of digital photography and of digital media in general. What photo compression does is attempt to lower the overall file size by reducing the resolution of a photographic image. This can usually take the form of reducing the number of available pictures in the image, which does lower the quality of the image in general. Since most DSLR camera shoot on a RAW format, you will find that you have to use image compression on most of your photos when they are actually being distributed.


Source: Author’s own experience.

Glossary of Digital Camera Terminology.

Some Digital Camera Terminology.

This post is part of the series: Learning Digital Photography

Different articles to teach you about, or inform you about educational opportunities around, digital photograpy.

  1. Wedding Photography Home Study Course DVD
  2. Help for Amateur Photographers
  3. Digital Photography Terminology Glossary
  4. Modern Photography
  5. Ethnic Photography