The PhotoNotes.org Dictionary of Film and Digital Photography.

About the dictionary, grateful acknowledgements, a list of software used to build the site and a note on spelling.

And if you’re wondering what the experts think of this dictionary, have a look at the reviews.


Goals of the dictionary.


The traditional domain of dictionaries and glossaries - what a word means. The most basic requirement for any such work.


But I want to move beyond mere definitions and include brief descriptions of why words mean the way they do. Sometimes that means including some theoretical background to the term, sometimes a description of some historical concept in photography.


Another area where most dictionaries and glossaries fall short is that of providing specific examples. This isn’t meant to be a how-to book by any means, but practical examples are always invaluable forms of explanation.


Many photographic books were published during the heyday of amateur 35mm photography - in the 1970s and 80s - and are now pretty out of date. This is fine for traditional black and white photography, where things haven’t really changed much for decades, but these books frequently have little to say about modern automated cameras and nothing at all about digital photography.

In this dictionary, digital and film photography are equal citizens. I don’t see any point in separating the two areas - both are interesting and useful and concepts frequently apply to both modes of photography.

Whether your idea of photography is using a 50 year old manual camera and developing your prints yourself or whether it’s plugging your brand new digital camera into a personal computer, this dictionary has something for you.


This dictionary is intended to be quite comprehensive, covering common photographic terms that you might run across when looking at camera manuals, advertising, specifications and so on. I want more than just a cursory overview of common terms, but I also want to avoid extremely unusual and arcane terms.

Note, however, that the emphasis of this work is on still photography. I generally don’t list terms related to other fields such as motion pictures and printing, except such terms that are related in some way to photography.


Finally, this work is meant to be accurate, readable and accessible.

There’s a pretty big stretch of real estate between eye-glazingly technical manuals, packed with buzzwords, and fluffy, cheerful and totally useless writeups. And hopefully this dictionary avoids either extreme.

Announcement mailing list.

If you’d like to subscribe to or unsubscribe from an announce-only mailing list for PhotoNotes.org you can do so right here.

Your email address: 

The privacy policy for this list is very simple: PhotoNotes.org will not knowingly give or sell your email address to any other party without prior confirmation from you. Spam sucks.

Remember that this is an announce-only mailing list - it isn’t a discussion list. And it’s also going to be very low-volume. I’ll probably just send out a note every few months with anything new of note.


The dictionary was written and designed in its entirety and mainly programmed by NK Guy. However, the contributions of many other people are gratefully acknowledged.

Mysql database modelling and perl scripting assistance from Gunther Schmidl and perl god Dan Shiovitz. Hosting was for many years courtesy the generous David Cornelson.

Art Haykin offered all kinds of corrections and suggestions. Additional corrections came from Roger Carbol, Richard Cochran, Patrick Dumais, Stephen Granade, Arthur Morris, Mark Overton, Emily Short, Jim Strutz, Glyn Thomas and Ellis Vener. However, any errors and omissions are entirely my own.

Additional thanks to John Cater, Andrew Schepler, Ryan Freebern, Tyson Boucher, Mark Musante and Ola Sverre Bauge.

And Jennifer Savage put up with me working on the thing for years.

Thanks, everyone!

Note on spelling.

The English language has a bewildering and illogical variety of spelling options, and many words are spelt - not to mention spelled - differently according to national or regional traditions. (eg: colour and color).

While I’m Canadian, I wrote most of this material in the USA and am currently living in Britain. When spelling options exist in the term itself I list the usual Commonwealth/UK form first followed by the usual US form. I default to a mix of Canadian and Commonwealth spellings in the body of the document itself. This can seem to be something of a random hybrid of US and UK spelling, (eg: analyze and colour) but I’m sure you’ll all understand what I’m saying.

Finally, speaking of UK/US stuff, I’ve used the antiquated convention of referring to corporations in plural form (as groups of people) rather than independent entities. Just thought I should mention that, since everyone seems to think I’m just making grammatical errors (noun verb concordance problems) rather than a feeble ideological point.


Please use my feedback form if you'd like to contact me about the PhotoNotes project. General questions and requests for advice or help are best directed to the forum, however.


This site is run mainly from open source code.


Web server - Apache.


Scripting language - perl.


Database - MySQL.


Search engine - SWISH++.

Thanks to all these unsung developers for creating such high-quality freely available software!


If you’d like to support this site, please go to the Donations page. It costs a lot of time and resources to build and maintain this site, so donations are very much appreciated. This site is funded entirely out of my own pocket along with some reader donations.


This dictionary is copyright © 2002-2007 NK Guy, PhotoNotes.org. This information is provided with neither warranties nor claims of accuracy or completeness of any sort. Use this information at your own risk. All trademarks mentioned herein belong to their respective owners.

I wrote this work in the hope that others in the Internet community might find it useful or interesting. However, I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone else to earn money from - or take credit for - my work.

Therefore you may copy and print this work for your own personal use. You may not, however, reprint or republish this work, in whole or in part, without prior permission from me, the author. Such republication includes inclusion of this work in other Web sites, Web pages, FTP archives, books, magazines or other periodicals, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM compilations or any other form of publication or distribution.

Please send feedback if you find this article to be of interest or value or if you have any comments, corrections or suggestions.