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Digital Photography Glossary

Photography Glossary - S

Understand the terminology of digital photography, digital printing and digital imaging so that you will become a better photographer. Photographic terms such as Saturation, Self-timer, Sensitivity, Shadow, Shutter, Shutter Lag, Shutter Speed, SLR, Softbox, Split Toning, and more.



Saturation refers to the actual amount or strength of color that is apparent in a photograph. Saturation describes the purity and intensity of a given color or set of colors. Color that has a low saturation level appears washed-out or pastel-like, because it has a lot of white light mixed in the color. Completely unsaturated is grey, while very saturated color is intense and contains little or no white light.



Self-timer is a timing device in which the camera releases the shutter after a given interval; thus allowing the photographer to step away from the camera while the photo is taken.



ISO Sensitivity and Image Quality

Sensitivity is a measurement of how something (in the case of digital photography, the image sensor) responds to light. The image sensor's sensitivity is a key component is establishing an exposure. On DSLRs the sensitivity can be increased with the touch of a botton, however, when one increases the sensitivity, the output of the image sensor is amplified, so less light is needed for an accurate exposure. Unfortunately this also amplifies the undesired noise (grain in the case of film).

Click here to learn more: Learn How ISO Sensitivity Works



Shadow is the area of a photograph where the light is least intense, but you can still make out object details.



Reflected Light is the light that is being reflected off of an object, and represents a softer and different level of intensity than the light that is hitting a subject.



Shutter is the physical mechanism that holds back light from hitting the image sensor or film frame. The shutter is comprised of two curtains that open at slightly different times to allow for light exposure.


Shutter Lag

Shutter Lag is the actual delay in time between when the shutter release is pressed and the camera actually records the image (can be considerable with some digital cameras).


Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter Priority mode is a camera shooting mode in which the operator controls and sets the shutter speed, and the camera's computer selects the optimal aperture setting to achieve an effective exposure (usually at 18% gray).


Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed Comparison

Shutter Speed is the speed, in fractions of a second, at which the camera's shutter opens and closes to expose the film frame or image sensor to the light entering the lens; i.e. 1/60th, 1/250th.


Side Lighting

Side Lighting is a lighting technique, in which the light source is aimed at the subject from the side. This technique allows for establishing volume and third dimensionality of a subject.



Silhouette is a visual phenomenon in which the background is much brighter than the subject, therefore overwhelming the image sensor, film frame or human eye, and casting the main subject in deep shadow.


Single Lens Reflex (SLR)

Single Lens Reflex (SLR) is the type of camera system which uses a moving mirror that allows for the operator to see precisely and exactly what will be recorded on film or by the image sensor.



A Snoot is a lighting unit attachment that fits on the front of a light and narrowly directs the light, typically allowing only the hotspot to be directed at a subject.



A Softbox is a lighting unit that directs the light in a single direction and typically diffuses the light by having fabric or gel diffusion in front of the light fixture.


Split Toning

Split Toning is a printing technique, process in which the warm tones and the cold tones are both represented in a single image at the same time.


Spot Metering

Spot Metering Mode

Spot Metering is the metering mode in which the Through-The-Lens (TTL) light meter (or specific handheld light meter) measures light via small angle of exposure (usually between 1 to 3% of the viewfinder; only a few degrees with a light meter).

Click here to learn more: Learn all about Exposure Metering Modes



SRGB (sRGB) is a standard ICC color space profile created by Microsoft and HP to be more accurate when calibrating color reproduction on their devices (i.e. Microsoft software, HP displays and printers) and on the internet. SRGB produces slight variance in colors in comparison to regular RGB (or Adobe RGB as it's called).



Stop is a term that denotes a given exposure value in relation to a specific shutter speed, aperture size and image sensor (or film stock) sensitivity rating. Stop is also used when talking about light intensity.


Stopping Down

Stopping Down is the jargon-term for reducing your exposure value by a given number of f-stops (i.e. stopping down two stops or 1 1/3 stops).

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