The Complete A-Z of Photography Acronyms
As humans, we always want to make things easier which is probably why acronyms exist in the first place. However, when you are learning something new being bombarded with acronyms you do not understand can slow you down. Photography is no exception and when I started 18 months ago, I spent most of my time on Google trying to figure out what they all mean. So, to help you, I have created a list of all of the common photography acronyms I know, along with a brief explanation of what they mean.
All the acronyms below are ordered alphabetically and have an explanation. One tip to get around the page quickly is to use the search feature (Ctrl+F on Windows or CMD+F on Mac). You can search for an acronym and be taken directly to the area of the page where it can be found. This is not a prescriptive list so if there are any acronyms you feel are missing, please put them in the comment section below and I will add them to the page.
A – Aperture Priority – (also see Av for Canon Cameras) – This is a semi-manual mode on most cameras. It allows you to set the aperture value, while the camera selects the shutter speed and ISO that will result in a correct exposure based on the cameras light meter.
AE – Automatic Exposure – A system within the camera that sets the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO based on the camera’s metering of a particular scene.
AE-L – Automatic Exposure Lock – This allows you to lock the exposure from any part of your scene (to set your exposure for a bright part of your scene for example). You’ll often find the button for this on the back of any DSLR camera.
AF – Auto Focus – This is the system within your camera that ensures your chosen subject is in focus. On most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, you will have multiple focus modes such as Single-Point, Zone, and Tracking for example.
AF-A – Auto Focus Automatic – Some DSLR and Mirrorless cameras have an automatic autofocus mode that will decide whether to use AF-S or AF-C depending on how the camera perceives the scene.
AF-C – Auto Focus Continuous – In this mode, while holding down the shutter, the camera will continually focus on your chosen subject. This is great for moving objects such as cars or animals.
AF-L – Auto Focus Lock – Allows you to lock the focus on a specific point in the image, allowing you to recompose before you take the photograph.
AF-S – Auto Focus Single – Focuses once on your chosen subject when pressing the shutter button. This is better for non-moving objects.
APS-C – Advanced Photo System – Refers to an image sensor format that is smaller than 35mm standard film. Cameras with these sensors are referred to as having “crop sensors”.
Av – Aperture Priority – (also see A for Nikon and Sony Cameras) – This is a semi-manual mode on most cameras. It allows you to set the aperture value, while the camera selects a shutter speed that will result in a correct exposure based on the cameras light meter.
Auto-ISO – A setting on most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras that allows the camera to set the ISO of a photograph based on the reading from the cameras light meter.
AWB – Auto White Balance – An automatic setting on most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras that allows the camera to set the white balance of a photograph based on the cameras reading of the scene. (See WB for a definition on White Balance).
B – Bulb Mode – A shutter mode setting used for taking long exposures. In bulb mode, the camera allows you to take photographs with shutter speeds over 30 seconds (usually the limit on most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras).
BBF – Back Button Focus – A method of focusing which separates the action of focusing from the shutter button. While traditionally half-pressing the shutter button will activate the cameras autofocus, back button focus maps the activation of the camera’s autofocus to a separate button (usually the AE-L or AF-L buttons on the back of the camera).
B&W – Black and White – Refers to photographs that are black and white only.
BKT – Bracketing – A photographic technique that involves taking several photographs of the same scene at different camera settings (usually different exposures). These can be combined outside of the camera to create images with a higher dynamic range than would be possible in one photograph.
CA – Chromatic Abrasion – This refers to when a lens fails to focus all of the colours to the same point. This usually shows up on the edges of objects that separate light and dark parts of the image as “fringes” of colour.
CCD – Charged Coupled Device – An older type of image sensor technology which is renowned for delivering high-quality low noise photographs when compared to new CMOS sensors. Despite benefits in quality, they consume 100 times the power of a CMOS sensor.
CF – Compact Flash – A type of flash memory that is popular within many professional-level DSLR cameras. CF cards are larger than other forms of flash memory such as SD cards.
CSC – Compact System Camera – Typically refers to a mirrorless camera.
CMOS – Complementary Metal-Oxide Semi-conductor – Refers to the type of image sensor in your camera. CMOS sensors are typically newer technology when compared to CCD sensors.
CPL – Circular Polarising Filter – A polarising filter which typically screws in-front of the lens element. These filters can be twisted to increase/decrease the polarising effect.
DoF – Depth of Field – refers to the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a photograph that is in acceptable focus.
DNG – Digital Negative Graphic – Adobe image-standard – a lossless RAW file format created by Adobe. It is an open file format and can be used across different pieces of software.
DPI – Dots per Inch – Is a measure of print density. The higher the number of dots per inch the higher the quality of the print.
DR – Dynamic Range – Refers to the difference between the lightest and darkest tones of an image.
DSLR – Digital Single Lens Reflex – The digital version of an SLR camera. It uses a single lens and a reflex mirror to bend the light to the optical viewfinder for viewing.
DX Nikkor – Nikon Crop sensor camera and lens designation branding.
EC – Exposure Compensation – Adjusting the exposure of a photograph in-camera using the cameras built-in light meter.
EF – Electro Focus – One of Canon’s lens mounts. It is called Electro Focus because these lenses feature a built-in motor for focusing.
EF-M – Electro Focus Mirrorless – Canon’s first mirrorless specific lens mount. EF-M lenses can be used on cameras such as the Canon EOS M6.
EOS – Electro Operating System – Canon specific term to describe its cameras, both DSLR and Mirrorless.
EVF – Electronic Viewfinder – Found in mirrorless cameras and are a replacement for optical viewfinders. They consist of a small LCD screen and provide a live view of the exact exposure the camera is photographing.
EXIF – Exchange Image File Format – Describes metadata that is written to your photographs when you take them. This can include information such as the model of camera, lens, camera settings, as well as location.
FF – Full Frame – Cameras that have a sensor that is the equivalent size of a 35mm piece of film. A full-frame sensor has more than 2.5 times the service area of an APS-C sensor and as a result, can deliver lower noise photographs and a shallower depth of field.
FP – Focal Plane – Is the point in the camera where light is focused to a point. In digital cameras, this is where the sensor is positioned.
FOV – Field of View – The area of a scene that is captured by a camera. This is often manipulated by changing the focal length of a lens.
FPS – Frames Per Second – In photography it refers to the number of consecutive images a camera can capture per second.
F-Stop – A system which describes the measurement of a lenses aperture.
FX – Nikon Full Frame – Nikon’s branding for its full-frame cameras and lenses.
GND – Graduated Neutral Density Filter – a neutral density filter which transitions from low light transmission to high light transmission. Also known as a graduated filter.
HDR – High Dynamic Range – A type of photograph which usually combines multiple exposures to achieve a higher range of luminosity than possible with a single photograph.
HSM – Hypersonic Motor – Sigma’s (lens manufacturer) branding for its silent focusing motors within its lenses.
HSS – High-Speed Sync – a flash mode that allows you to use higher shutter speeds than the native sync speed for a flash (1/250th of a second).
IBIS – In-Body Image Stabilisation – the system that reduces the effect of camera shake that is built into the camera body rather than the lens.
IQ – Image Quality – refers to the photographic quality of an image. In the context of a camera lens, this can refer to aspects such as chromatic aberration, distortion, and vignetting.
IS – Image Stabilisation – the mechanism within a lens or camera body that actively reduces camera shake. This allows photographs to be taken a lower shutter speeds handheld than typically possible.
ISO – a measurement of the gain the sensor applies to the light collected by the sensor. A common misconception is that ISO refers to a sensor’s sensitivity to light which it does not.
JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group – a lossy compression file format for digital images.
K – Kelvin – a unit of measurement for colour temperature.
LED – Light Emitting Diode – A type of semiconductor that glows when voltage is applied.
LR – Lightroom – A popular RAW photo editor made by Adobe.
M – Manual Mode – The mode on most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras that allows a photographer full control of the camera’s settings.
M43 – Micro 4/3s – A smaller sensor found in cameras such as those from Olympus and Panasonic. These sensors are even smaller than APS-C.
MMC – MultiMedia Card – a type of memory card created by SanDisk and Siemens. They are not very common in devices as of 2019.
MF – Manual Focus – refers to them using the manual focus ring on a camera in place of the autofocus mechanism.
MP – MegaPixel – refers to one million pixels. A 24mp camera is therefore capable of producing 24,000,000 pixels in an image.
ND – Neutral Density – A type of filter that reduces the intensity of light that reaches the sensor of a camera. These are typically used for long exposure photography.
NR – Noise Reduction – The reduction and removal noise within a photograph. This can be done in-camera as well as in post-processing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
OCF – Off-Camera Flash – A flash which is not connected to the camera and activated by a wireless receiver.
OOF – Out of Focus – Refers to an image or part of an image which is not in focus.
OIS – Optical Image Stabilisation – a stabilisation mechanism which is built into the camera lens itself.
OVF – Optical Viewfinder – A traditional viewfinder found on DSLR cameras. It uses a mirror between the lens and the sensor to direct light into an eyepiece allowing you to see the image you are about to capture.
P – Program Mode – A mode that exists on most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. It is somewhere between automatic and aperture/shutter priority in terms of control. Typically, this mode lets you set the ISO while the camera dictates the aperture and shutter speed required.
PPI – Pixels per Inch – The number of pixels within a one-inch square. The higher the PPI the better the quality of the image.
PNG – Portable Network Graphics – A raster-graphics file format that provides lossless data compression.
Post – Post-processing – Photo editing done using a piece of software to manipulate the photograph.
PS – Adobe Photoshop – Adobe’s popular pixel-level photo editor.
RAW – an uncompressed image file that contains all of the data captured by the camera’s sensor. Each brand has its own RAW file format: (Adobe = DNG, Canon =.CR2, Fuji = .REF, Nikon = .NEF, Sony = .ARW).
RGB – Red Green Blue – primary colour space that is used by most computer monitors to display colours.
S – Shutter Priority (also see Tv for Canon Cameras) – A semi-manual mode which allows the user to set the shutter speed for a photograph. The camera will then adjust the aperture and ISO to provide the correct exposure based on the shutter speed chosen.
SD – Secure Digital – Flash-based memory card. Now mostly been replaced by SDHC cards which allow for higher capacities.
SDHC – Secure Digital High Capacity – High capacity flash-based memory cards commonly used in most digital cameras.
SLR – Single-Lens Reflex – Typically refers to film cameras as opposed to DSLR. Both DSLR and SLR cameras use a mirror between the lens and film/image sensor and provide a focus screen. This allows the image you see in your viewfinder to be the same as that captured by your film or camera sensor.
SooC – Straight out of Camera – Refers to photographs that have had no post-processing done to them, hence the phrase “straight out of camera”.
SS – Shutter Speed – The length of time the camera’s shutter is open for when you take a photograph.
TC – Teleconverter – A device that goes between the camera and a lens to provider further magnification.
TIFF – Tagged Image File Format – a flexible file format for handling images and data within a single file.
TOG – Short for photographer i.e. Wedding Tog would mean wedding photographer.
TTL – Through the Lens – A metering method that measures the light intensity through the lens.
Tv – Shutter Priority (also see S for Nikon and Sony Cameras) – A semi-manual mode which allows the user to set the shutter speed for a photograph. The camera will then adjust the aperture and ISO to provide the correct exposure based on the shutter speed chosen.
UV Filter – Ultraviolet Filter – A filter that attaches to the front of your lens and blocks UV rays. They were previously important for film photography, but most photographers now use them to protect their lenses.
VC – Vibration Control – a stabilisation mechanism which is built into the camera lens itself (Tamron branding).
VR – Vibration Reduction – a stabilisation mechanism which is built into the camera lens itself (Nikon branding).
XQD – Memory Card format – A high-speed flash memory card format developed to replace traditional CompactFlash cards.
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