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Photography has plenty of words, terminology, and products. There could be the odd thing that we are not to sure about, so we have put together a glossary of terms, just take a look and we might be able to help out.

Glossary of Terms


A measure of the sharpness pertaining to the edge of an object. Acutance developers can help improve the sharpness of the negative.


The act of gently moving developing chemicals in a uniform motion to evenly process film or photographic prints


A key part of any lens. It’s an iris mechanism, which controls the amount of light that gets through the lens. It also affects the depth of field. The relative size of the aperture is described by the f-number. The f-number (or f-stop) is the ratio of the lens opening and the focal length. As the number decreases, the aperture physically gets wider. More light passes and depth of field gets thinner. The Aperture and Shutter Speed combination is determined by the films ISO rating


Bracketing is the action of capturing the same shot using different exposure values to make sure the whole scene is exposed properly. Bracketing can be done manually or using the auto exposure bracketing (AEB) function. In most cameras, AEB allows photographers to select the exposure compensation for the additional shots, which are taken automatically as you press the shutter release. For most compositions, a 1/3 exposure compensation is the way to go.


You will notice that a lot of cameras have a bulb mode. Basically the feature lets you hold your shutter open for as long as you want while pressing down the shutter button. Lets say you have your camera set up on a tripod , with the camera pointing at cars driving by with their lights on. You would press the shutter and hold it down. For the length of holding it down your picture is being taken. Once you let go of the shutter the picture stops. This would then capture images that have streaks of light from the cars lights, as the picture has captured the car while it is moving.

C-41 Film

The most common colour film originally created by Kodak. Today, most films are processed in C-41 chemicals to create colour negatives.

Colour Negative

When using colour film, the exposed negative will show exactly the opposite of the original colour. But when printing to photography paper, the negative colours will become positive colours, showing the exact colour on the photograph.


A completely unlit room used to develop and process film and prints.

Double Exposure

This is a combination of two images where one image is overlaid onto another image. If you don’t wind the film on this is how double exposure can be achieved. Most cameras have double and multiple exposure settings so photographers can create artistic images.


The chemical that is used to create the silver from the latent image inside the emulsion from film or photographic paper.

Developing Tank

A small plastic or stainless steel tank that is used to place 35mm film rolls or 120 film rolls on spiral reels, for processing. They have a lightproof top that allows you to pour chemical solutions in to the tank without exposing the film to light.


Reducing the strength of a liquid chemical by mixing it with an appropriate quantity of water.

Drying marks

The residual marks that water drops form as they dry on the surface of a film. Can be stopped by using wetting agent after the film has been washed

Dynamic range

Dynamic range is the range of luminance of an image between its highest and lowest light intensities, usually pure white and pure black. The dynamic range of a digital sensor is slightly narrower than that of photographic film and both of them are significantly limited in comparison to what the human eye can perceive. Scenes with a wider dynamic range than that of the camera sensor will result in images that are either overexposed or underexposed.


Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the film emulsion or camera sensor and it determines how light or dark an image is. The exposure of an image is determined by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.


A strip that is covered with emulsion, which captures light when exposed and leaves a negative or positive image that can be further processed into photographic images.

Film Leader

The extra small tab of film at the front of a 35mm film canister. The leader can help you load your film into the camera.


Chemical solution used during film and print processing after stop bath to remove any unexposed silver, making the film or print no longer sensitive to light.


ISO, International Organization for Standardization, represents the film sensitivity to the light. The higher the number, the most information will be captured. Higher ISO numbers are used in low-light situations or action photography. Each film roll has a predefined number ISO number e.g 200, 400, 800. Depending on the black and white film developer you can ‘Push’ (make the ISO higher) or ‘Pull’ (make the ISO lower). High ISO film’s will be more grainy than low ISO films.

Latent Image

An invisible image that is captured on a silver halide film emulsion and must be made visible by development.


Producing the image from an exposed film or photographic paper using processing chemicals to develop it.


A solution used to top up and maintain part used processing chemicals. This solution is used to extend the life of used stock.


Lights that are commonly used in a darkroom that will not expose light sensitive materials. Warning: Film should not be exposed to any light before development, not even the mentioned safelights.

Silver Halides

The light sensitive element of film and paper photographic emulsions.

Stop Bath

Acid solution used after development to instantly stop further development.


Overexposure occurs when the exposure value is higher than it should be, resulting in a loss of detail in highlight areas.


The word photography comes from two old Greek words “phos” meaning light and “graph” meaning to draw.  So photograph literally means to draw with light, or a drawing made with light.  So photography is the art of drawing with light.


Quality is one of the most widely used and yet more vague photography terms. One way to consider the quality of an image is looking for aberrations or information loss. Another, more subjective, one is to evaluate its composition, sharpness, exposure, etc.

Shutter speed

The amount of time the shutter is opened during an exposure. The shutter speed controls motion. Use a fast speed (like 1/2000th of a second) to freeze motion, or a slow one (1/4 of a second or longer) to blur moving objects. Get the blur right and your photos can look awesome.

Tonal range

Tonal range is the total number of tones in an image, from its darkest to its brightest area. Analogue photography is continuous tone where as digital photography has ‘steps’ between tones. A wider tonal range allows for a higher variety of shades, which translates into more detail. In black and white photography, this translated into shades of grey. If you process a negative that has a flat grey look this will have fewer tones than a more punchy contrasty image. In digital photography, tonal range is directly affected by dynamic range.


Underexposure means that the exposure value was lower than necessary, resulting in a photo that is too dark to produce normal contrast.

Yellow filter

Yellow filter is one of the most popular types of colour filters on black and white photography. When shooting monochromatic pictures, colour filters are used to block a specific colour from reaching the sensor in order to modify the image’s tonal qualities.


Last part of the processing cycle, which removes residual chemicals and soluble silver complexes from the emulsion.

Water Bath

Large water filled containers used to maintain processing trays, tanks or chemicals at the correct temperature.

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