Food Photo 101 Glossary


In optics, an aperture is a hole or an opening through which light is admitted. More specifically, the aperture of an optical system is the opening that determines the cone angle of a bundle of rays that come to a focus in the image plane. …. A special element such as a diaphragm (can be) placed in the optical path to limit the light admitted by the system (lens). In general, these structures are called stops, and the aperture stop is the stop that determines the ray cone angle, or equivalently the brightness, at an image point.

In some contexts, especially in photography and astronomy, aperture refers to the diameter of the aperture stop rather than the physical stop or the opening itself. (learn more)


Film speed is the measure of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light. Stock with lower sensitivity (lower ISO speed rating) requires a longer exposure and is thus called a slow film, while stock with higher sensitivity (higher ISO speed rating) can shoot the same scene with a shorter exposure and is called a fast film. (learn more)

Color Cast

A colour cast is a tint of a particular colour, usually unwanted, which affects the whole of a photographic image evenly.

Certain types of light can cause film and digital cameras to have a colour cast. In general, the human eye does not notice the unnatural colour, because our eyes and brains adjust and compensate for different types of light in ways that cameras cannot. (learn more)

Depth of field

In optics, particularly film and photography, the depth of field (DOF) is the distance in front of and beyond the subject that appears to be in focus. (learn more)

depth of field

(Effect of aperture on blur and DOF. The points in focus (2) project points onto the image plane (5), but points at different distances (1 and 3) project blurred images, or circles of confusion. Decreasing the aperture size (4) reduces the size of the blur circles for points not in the focused plane, so that the blurring is imperceptible, and all points are within the DOF. source)

Diaphragm (optics)

In optics, a diaphragm is a thin opaque structure with an opening (aperture) at its centre. The role of the diaphragm is to stop the passage of light, except for the light passing through the aperture. Thus it is also called a stop (an aperture stop, if it limits the brightness of light reaching the focal plane, or a field stop or flare stop for other uses of diaphragms in lenses). The diaphragm is placed in the light path of a lens or objective, and the size of the aperture regulates the amount of light that passes through the lens. The centre of the diaphragm’s aperture coincides with the optical axis of the lens system.

Most modern cameras use a type of adjustable diaphragm known as an iris diaphragm, and often referred to simply as an iris. (learn more)

Diffuse Reflection

Diffuse reflection is the reflection of light from an uneven or granular surface such that an incident ray is seemingly reflected at a number of angles. It is the complement to specular reflection. If a surface is completely nonspecular, the reflected light will be evenly spread over the hemisphere surrounding the surface. (learn more)


A digital single-lens reflex camera (digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera that uses an automatic mirror system and pentaprism to direct light from the lens through the viewfinder.

The basic operation of a DSLR is as follows: for viewing purposes, the mirror reflects the light coming through the attached lens upwards at an approximately 90 degree angle. It is then reflected by the pentaprism to the photographer’s eye. During exposure (when the photograph is taken), the mirror swings upward, allowing the lens to project light onto the image sensor.

This is a major difference from an ordinary digital camera (digicam), which typically exposes the sensor constantly to the light projected by the lens, allowing the camera’s screen to be used as an electronic viewfinder. In contrast, the mirror arrangement in a DSLR usually precludes the ability to view the scene on the LCD display screen before the photograph is taken. However, many newer DSLR models feature live preview, allowing LCD display to be used as a viewfinder in the same way as a normal digicam, although with certain limitations and with the optical viewfinder disabled. (learn more)

f-stop (f-number)

In optics, the f-number (sometimes called focal ratio, f-ratio, or relative aperture[1]) of an optical system expresses the diameter of the entrance pupil in terms of the effective focal length of the lens. It is the quantitative measure of lens speed, an important concept in photography. (learn more)

Focal Length

The focal length of an optical system is a measure of how strongly it converges (focuses) or diverges (diffuses) light. A system with a shorter focal length has greater optical power than one with a long focal length. Focal lengths are usually specified in millimetres (mm), but older lenses marked in centimetres (cm) and inches are still to be found. The angle of view depends on the ratio between the focal length and the film size. Due to the popularity of the 35 mm standard, lenses are often described in terms of their “35 mm equivalent” fields of view. This is the difference between a normal lens (e.g. 50 mm), wide-angle lens (e.g. 24 mm), and telephoto lens (e.g. 500 mm). This is particularly common with digital cameras, which generally use sensors smaller than 35 mm film, and so require correspondingly shorter focal lengths to generate equivalent images. (learn more)

Image Sensor

An image sensor is a device that converts a visual image to an electric signal. It is used chiefly in digital cameras and other imaging devices. It is usually an array of charge-coupled devices (CCD) or CMOS sensors such as active-pixel sensors. (learn more)

A discussion on the size of the sensor in your camera and the impact that has on your photographs. SOURCE

See a tutorial on the structure of a camera sensor SOURCE

Inverse-Square Law of Light

The intensity (or illuminance or irradiance) of light or other linear waves radiating from a point source (energy per unit of area perpendicular to the source) is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source; so an object (of the same size) twice as far away, receives only 1/4 the energy (in the same time period).

More generally, the irradiance, i.e., the intensity (or power per unit area in the direction of propagation), of a spherical wavefront varies inversely with the square of the distance from the source (assuming there are no losses caused by absorption or scattering).

For example, the intensity of radiation from the Sun is 9140 watts per square meter at the distance of Mercury (0.387AU); but only 1370 watts per square meter at the distance of Earth (1AU)—a threefold increase in distance results in a ninefold decrease in intensity of radiation.

Photographers and theatrical lighting professionals use the inverse-square law to determine optimal location of the light source for proper illumination of the subject.

The fractional reduction in electromagnetic fluence (Φ) for indirectly ionizing radiation with increasing distance from a point source can be calculated using the inverse square law. Since emissions from a point source have radial directions, they intercept at a perpendicular incidence. The area of such a shell is 4πr2 where r is the radial distance from the center.

The law is particularly important in diagnostic radiography and radiotherapy treatment planing. Though this proportionality does not hold in practical situations unless source dimensions are much smaller than the distance r.(learn more)

ISO (digital)

For digital photo cameras (“digital still cameras”), the ISO standard 12232:2006[2] specifies several definitions of the speed rating depending on the sensor sensitivity, the sensor noise, and the appearance of the resulting image. The digital ISO speed ratings are related to the conventional film-speed ratings in how a standard 18 percent reflective surface would appear in an image under given lighting conditions.

First of all, ISO speed ratings of a digital camera are based on the properties of the sensor and the image processing done in the camera, and are expressed in terms of the luminous exposure H (in lux seconds) arriving at the sensor. (learn more)

JPG (jpeg)

In computing, JPEG (pronounced JAY-peg; IPA: [ˈdʒeɪpɛg]) is a commonly used method of compression for photographic images. The name JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the name of the committee that created the standard. The group was organized in 1986, issuing a standard in 1992, which was approved in 1994 as ISO 10918-1. JPEG is distinct from MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), which produces compression schemes for video. (learn more)


A megapixel is 1 million pixels, and is a term used not only for the number of pixels in an image, but also to express the number of sensor elements of digital cameras or the number of display elements of digital displays. For example, a camera with an array of 2048×1536 sensor elements is commonly said to have “3.1 megapixels” (2048 × 1536 = 3,145,728). (learn more about pixels)

Raw image format

A raw image file (sometimes written RAW image file) contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of a digital camera or image scanner. Raw files are so named because they are not yet processed and ready to be used with a bitmap graphics editor or printed. Normally, the image will be processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal colorspace where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to an RGB file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation. (learn more)


In photography, a shutter is a device that allows light to pass for a determined period of time, for the purpose of exposing photographic film or a light-sensitive electronic sensor to light to capture a permanent image of a scene. A shutter can also be used to allow pulses of light to pass outwards, as in a movie projector or signal lamp. (
learn more)

Shutter Speed

In photography, shutter speed is the length of time a shutter is open; the total exposure is proportional to this exposure time, or duration of light reaching the film or image sensor.

The term “speed” is used in reference to short exposure times as fast, and long exposure times as slow. Shutter speeds are often designated by the reciprocal time, for example 60 for 1/60 s.

Shutter priority refers to a shooting mode used in semi-automatic cameras. It allows the photographer to choose a shutter speed setting and allow the camera to decide the correct aperture. This is sometimes referred to as Shutter Speed Priority Auto Exposure, or Tv (time value) mode.

Slow shutter speeds are often used in low light conditions, extending the time until the shutter closes, and increasing the amount of light gathered.

Shutter speed is measured in seconds. A typical shutter speed for photographs taken in sunlight is 1/125th of a second. In addition to its effect on exposure, shutter speed changes the way movement appears in the picture. Very short shutter speeds are used to freeze fast-moving subjects, for example at sporting events. Very long shutter speeds are used to intentionally blur a moving subject for artistic effect. (learn more)

Specular reflection

Specular reflection is the perfect, mirror-like reflection of light (or sometimes other kinds of wave) from a surface, in which light from a single incoming direction (a ray) is reflected into a single outgoing direction. (learn more)

White Balance

In photography and image processing, color balance (sometimes gray balance, neutral balance, or white balance) refers to the adjustment of the relative amounts of red, green, and blue primary colors in an image such that neutral colors are reproduced correctly. Color balance changes the overall mixture of colors in an image and is used for generalized color correction.

Most electronic cameras have a means to select the type of illumination under which the photography is being done. Another option on some cameras is a button which one may press when the camera is looking at a gray card or other neutral object, to capture a “custom” color balance. A very common option is “automatic white balance” (AWB), which may be based on a scheme such as Retinex, an artificial neural network or a Bayesian method. (learn more)


Note on use of text and images from the English Wikipedia:
All text on all Wikimedia projects, except for Wikinews, is owned by the original writer and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Some individuals have also licensed their own contributions under additional licenses.

Wikinews is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license (CC-BY).

Images taken from Wikimedia Commons will be under a free license — possibly the GFDL, possibly something else. See Commons:Licensing.

Clicking on an image in any project will take you to the information page for that image. This will list information supplied by the uploader, including the copyright status, the copyright owner, and the license conditions.” (source)

GNU Free Documentation License

When I use a wiki image, I will link to the image page with the attribution and license notice.