Digital Photography Terms

Recently I've had to explain a few photography terms to clients and friends. Here's what I've come up with.

© Mikdam
10 MP CAMERA - A camera capable of shooting an image measuring ten million pixels in size.

MEGAPIXELS - A measurement of digital photo quality. A one-megapixel image is made up of one million pixels.

PIXELS - A contraction of the term "Picture Element". It is the smallest element of a digital image, a single "dot" of light or ink.

PIXEL COUNT - The number of pixels that go into making each image. The higher the pixel count the more realistic an image is likely to appear.

PPI - An acronym for "pixels per inch", and is used to describe an element in picture quality. The higher the number of pixels displayed per inch, the better the picture will appear to the human eye and the less easily viewers will notice individual pixels.

JPEG - The term used to describe a type of digital compression used for digital images. This particular compression ratio was fixed by the Joint Photo Experts Group to reduce the picture size. This reduction, however, results in considerable loss of picture quality.

TIFF - An acronym for "Tagged Image File Format". While there is no loss of information in this format, the resulting file sizes are also very large.

RAW/NEF - The uncompressed image as shot by a digital camera. Canon introduced the RAW picture format, while Nikon calls this format NEF.

MEMORY - The electronic storage space built into digital cameras for the purpose of storing pictures.

APERATURE - The opening behind the lens that permits light to travel to the camera's interior where the sensor is located.

DIGITAL ZOOM - The process of digitally enlarging a portion of the picture. This function is performed within the electronics of the digital camera without any physical adjustment of the lenses, and results in a loss of picture quality.

OPTICAL ZOOM - As opposed to digital zoom, this is the process of changing the focal length and magnification of the lens physically, without altering the quality of the recorded digital image. Superior to digital zoom.

SENSOR - The digital strip within the camera that converts incoming light into an electrical signal. It performs the role of "re-useable negative" within a digital camera.

SHUTTER SPEED - The duration for which the camera's aperture is opened, thereby allowing light to stream in. Longer shutter speeds leave the aperture open longer, letting more light in and resulting in more exposure.

WHITE BALANCE - Human eyes compensate for lighting conditions with different colors of light. A digital camera, however, requires a reference point that represents white. It then calculates all other colors based upon this setting.

If I've missed something, please add it to the list. Thank You!

Photo credits: Jakub Navrátil, Mikael Damkier.


Your article must be written in English



Wow! I'm confused, need to improve the language. Your blog is very useful but I've missed some things.


what about light metering? we have touched on it a little in college, my nikon D50 has three options, matrix, centerweighted and spot, i'm not 100% sure what they do, but i can see the effect on my images!!


you meant ppi?
Huh, I'm confused...


They say the bigger DPI (more ink dots per inch), the better colors. It don't affect image size. If you reduce PPI you gonna get larger printed image, but colors remain the same. PS: I'm not the wise one, I cribbed.


Oh wise one has to answer: I have no idea, but I try to figure it out. :)


Question about megapixels and megabytes: can you have an image which megapixels number is greater than megabytes number and another image which megabytes number is greater than megapixels number? If yes, then what's the difference between those images?


Did you know, that if you were printing a 300 PPI image with 1200 dpi printer, then every pixel would be made up of 16 smaller ink dots (1200 DPI x 1200 DPI / 300 PPI x 300 PPI) and if you were printing it with 600 dpi printer, every pixel would be made up of 4 ink dots (600 DPI x 600 DPI / 300 PPI x 300 PPI)? Question is: what is the difference between printouts?


Wow! Just wow.
PS: Don't put that in your glossary. ;)


Oh, you camera nerds are at it again....Thanks, that helps me know what to tell people so I'll seem smart. Only thing is, I can't remember the stuff!


Great blog! You know, you missed one keyword - MEGABYTE, and an explanation what's the difference between MB and MP ;)) Oh and a difference between ppi and dpi :)
Just kidding... very useful blog!


Hello Richard, Thank you for taking the time to define these terms. Your blog is very helpful whether as a refresher for some or for those just starting out with many "what does that mean?" questions. Cheers, Marilyn

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