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Glossary of Photographic Terms (Members only)

Albumen print

Invented in 1850, by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, the albumen print is a type of photographic print made from paper coated with albumen (egg white), salt and potassium iodide.

The albumen print became popular because it produced a rich sharp image and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on paper from a negative. The process involves coating a sheet of paper with egg white, making the paper’s surface glossy and smooth. It is then coated in a solution of silver nitrate. The albumen and the silver nitrate form light sensitive silver salts on the paper. When a glass negative is placed directly on the paper and exposed to light, it forms an image on the paper.



Aperture refers to the opening of a lens's diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures. The lower f/stops create a shallow depth of field and the higher f/stops create a large depth of field (DOF).



Archival is a feature of some materials used in presenting or storing fine art works. Acids in paper, cotton, cardboard, wood, inks and other materials will, over time, cause deterioration in the artwork. Archival materials are acid-free, and sometimes include a buffer to prevent acidic penetration of material. The term archival is sometimes used with respect to certain color photographic techniques to describe their longevity or color fastness. The Archival quality of a product is affected by the way it is handled and stored.



Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means "blur" or "haze", or boke-aji, the "blur quality."



Bracketing involves taking multiple images of the same scene, usually in 1/3, 1/2, or full-stop increments, to create a choice of exposure options. Many cameras offer the option of bracketing as a custom function. An advanced application of bracketing is HDR imaging (High Dynamic Range) in which several bracketed images are sampled in-camera and selectively combined into a single, optimized image file.


C-Type (Chromogenic)

A C-type (a colour photographic print), also known as a Chromogenic print, is a photographic print made from a colour negative or slide. The colour negative or slide is exposed to photographic paper that contains three emulsion layers, each of which is sensitised to a different primary colour. The print is then submerged in a chemical bath, where each layer reacts to the chemicals to create a full-colour image.
C-type was originally the trademark process used by Kodak for making prints from colour negatives, but it is now standardly applied to all colour photographic prints.



Cyanotype (cyan from the Greek for blue and type meaning print) is a photographic printing process that produces a blue print. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Together they create a photosensitive solution, which can be applied to various materials. Objects or negatives are placed onto the canvas and exposed to UV light, then simply washed in water.

Invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842, the cyanotype or ‘Blue print’ was used extensively as a copying process for engineers and architects due to its inexpensive and simple printing process.



Daguerreotype, was the first successful form of photography, named for Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre of France, who invented the technique in collaboration with Nicéphore Niépce in the 1830s. Daguerre and Niépce found that if a copper plate coated with silver iodide was exposed to light in a camera, then fumed with mercury vapour and fixed (made permanent) by a solution of common salt, a permanent image would be formed. A great number of daguerreotypes, especially portraits, were made in the mid-19th century; the technique was supplanted by the wet collodion process.
Each daguerreotype is a remarkably detailed, one-of-a-kind photographic image on a highly polished, silver-plated sheet of copper, sensitized with iodine vapors, exposed in a large box camera, developed in mercury fumes, and stabilized (or fixed) with salt water or “hypo” (sodium thiosulfate).


Depth of Field

The zone of acceptable sharpness in front of and behind the subject on which the lens is focused. Depth of field varies according to focal length of the lens, chosen aperture and shooting distance.


Digital C-Type Print

A digital C-type print is the same as a C-type but instead of being made from a colour negative or slide, the process is digital. These prints are true photographs and have continuous tone in the image detail.

The picture is made from a printer that uses lasers or LEDs to expose an image from a digital file onto light-sensitive photographic paper. It is then developed in a processor using conventional, silver-based photographic chemicals.

Digital C-types are sometimes described by the digital enlarger that exposes them such as a Pegasus or Lightjet print.


Dye destruction print

A dye destruction print (Cibachrome print, Ilfochrome print) is a print made using a photographic printing process in which colour dyes embedded in the paper are selectively bleached away (destroyed) to form a full-colour image.

The paper used for this process has at least three emulsion layers and each layer is sensitised to a primary additive colour of light. The layers contain a dye related to that colour. During exposure to a colour transparency, each layer records different information about the colour make-up of the image, and in development the silver and unnecessary dyes are destroyed to form the image. Dye destruction prints are characterised by their vibrant colour and durability.


Fibre paper

Also known as Bayta, is a type of black and white photographic paper used for archival printing.

Hard light

Harsh or undiffused light such as produced by bright sunlight, a small speedlight, or an on-camera flash. It produces harsh shadows with well defined edges (edge transfer), contrast, and texture (if used at an angle to the subject). Emphasizes texture, lines and wrinkles, and used to create a more dramatic type of portrait (character study).


A common printing process that recreates a digital image by spraying ink onto various types of paper. The process is commonly described by the term Giclée, being the French word meaning ‘to spray’. The process is not inherently archival. Archival pigment inks must be used to ensure archival quality.



Stands for International Standards Organization and represents the sensitivity of film or your camera’s digital sensor to light. The lower the number (ISO 100), the less sensitive, the higher the number (ISO 3200) the more sensitive. A higher ISO allows you to shoot in low light conditions. The higher the ISO the larger the grain size, 400 ISO and greater is deemed a high ISO.


Kelvin is the absolute measurement of colour temperature. On your camera under the White Balance settings you make see a “K” setting. This allows you to adjust the colour manually by degrees kelvin. The lower numbers represent warmer colours like orange (tungsten light) and the higher numbers are cooler (blues). Play with this scale to create different affects.


Light meter

A device that measures the amount of light in a scene. If your DSLR has one built-in, it uses reflective readings (light bouncing off the subject coming back through the lens) to judge exposure, shutter and aperture settings.


A photogram is a photographic print made by laying objects onto photographic paper and exposing it to light.
The technique of creating photographic prints without using a camera (photograms) is as old as photography itself – but emerged again in various avant-garde contexts in the early 1920s.


Photographic Print

Refers to a C-Type print or a Silver Gelatin print where the image has a continuous tone in the image detail.


The camera obscura developed from the pinhole camera by placing a closed box behind the hole. This allowed copying of the image produced by the pinhole. The image of a pinhole camera is reversed. Light that enters the pinhole from the top of the object ends up at the bottom of the screen, and vice versa.



A Polaroid print is a positive print that is produced almost instantly shortly after exposure by a Polaroid camera. The first Polaroid cameras, invented by Edwin H. Land, were marketed in 1947 and produced black and white images. Polaroid instant colour prints and slides were launched in 1963. Due to the digital photography revolution, Polaroid stopped making Polaroid film in 2008.


Prime or fixed lens

Any lens that does not zoom and is a set focal length such as a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera and a 80mm lens on a 120mm camera. Prime lenses tend to be of higher quality than zoom lenses and have a larger f-stop range.

RGB Color (Red Green Blue)

RGB is an additive color model in which red, green and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors for representation and display as images on computers and other digital devices.


Salt print

The earliest photographic process for making positive prints.
The image seems to be in the paper, not resting on the surface. The fibers are noticeable and seem to be part of the image. The salt print usually has a matte surface and is brown or sepia color.



A mechanism in the camera that controls the duration of light transmitted to the film or sensor devices.


Sliver Gelatin

A gelatin silver print, or just “silver print” refers to prints made on paper having silver chloride emulsion. Most contemporary black and white photographs are gelatin silver prints.

SLR (Single-Lens-Reflex)

A camera that utilizes a prism and mirror system to project the image seen by the lens onto a focusing screen located below the prism housing. The image the user sees in the viewfinder is identical to the image being recorded.


Soft light

Diffused light such as from an overcast sky, north facing window with no direct light, or a large studio softbox. This type of light produces soft shadows with soft edges, lower contrast, and less texture. Generally preferred by most wedding and portrait photographers as it flatter the subject more.


A technique that involves exposing a partially developed photograph (or negative) to light, before continuing processing, creating halo-like effects.

The technique was discovered accidentally by Man Ray and Lee Miller and quickly adopted by Man Ray as a means to ‘escape from banality’. He often applied the technique to photographs of female nudes, using the halo-like outlines around forms and areas of partially reversed tonality to emphasise the contours of the body.


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