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"C" terms

"C-41" to "CYC wall"

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C-41 - Kodak’s standard photochemical process for developing color negative film.

CABLE RELEASE - A flexible cable with a push-button on one end that, when depressed, forces a wire through the cable to depress a camera’s shutter release button. The cable release attaches to the camera directly over the shutter release button. A cable release has minimal effect on camera movement, and is therefore especially handy for the photographer who wishes to avoid blur in time exposures.

CALCULATOR DIAL - Adjustable scale on an electronic flash unit that, once it is set with the film speed or your digital camera's ISO sensitivity setting, is used to determine the appropriate aperture for the flash-to-subject distance.

CAMERA - A device for taking photographs that typically consists of a lightproof enclosure that has an aperture containing a lens (usually shuttered) through which an image is focused and, when the shutter is open, permits light to strike a photosensitive film, plate or digital sensor, thereby recording that image.

CAMERA ANGLE - Same as “shooting angle” or “viewpoint”. The position of the camera relative to the position of the subject.

CAMERA JITTERS - The nervousness many people show when being photographed.

CAMERA OBSCURA - A Latin term that means "dark room" or perhaps "dark chamber." A camera obscura is a device used by early artists (centuries before Christ) to display a scene on the wall of an otherwise-darkened room so that it could be more-easily copied. In a manner similar to the pinhole camera, a small hole placed in an opposite wall permitted light to enter the room (the “camera”), and the scene outside became transmitted inside, and was shown inverted on the rear wall or sometimes on a screen. The camera obscura is the origin of the modern camera.


CAMERA SHAKE - Slight movement of the camera when the exposure is being made.

CANDID - Candid pictures (sometimes referred to simply as "Candids") are unposed and often (but not necessarily) taken without the subject's knowledge.

CAPACITOR - A device used for accumulating and holding a charge of electricity. (Also called a condensor.)

CAPACITY - When referring to a memory card or a computer drive, capacity is the amount of its storage space, typically measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), but sometimes also indicating the number of images that can be stored.

CAPTION - Descriptive text above, beside or beneath an image.

CARD READER - A digital memory card reader used in transferring data, including downloading of image files from a camera's removable media card, to a computer drive.

CARTRIDGE - Film container, generally one that is factory-loaded, and light-proof, enabling it to be handled in light without exposing the film. (See "Cassette.") A metal cartridge for 35 mm film is sometimes known as a "magazine."

An unassembled CASSETTE that is used to hold 35 mm film.
An unassembled CASSETTE that is used to hold 35 mm film.

CASSETTE - Better known as a film cassette, and sometimes called a cartridge, this is a light-proof container of metal or plastic into which film manufacturers (and bulk film loaders) roll strips of unexposed 35 mm film. APS film is also loaded by manufacturers into a cassette.

CATCHLIGHT - The reflection of a light in the subject’s eyes in a portrait.

CCD - Charge Coupled Device - A digital camera records an image on its sensor, a light-sensitive receptor that is the digital equivalent of film. A CCD is a type of sensor. CMOS is another type. See CCD versus CMOS sensors.

C DRIVE - Your computer's main hard drive, on which your operating system is found, among other applications and files.

CD - Compact Disc.

CD-R - Stands for "CD-Recordable" - a CD on which you can record data, including pictures.

CD-ROM - Stands for "CD-Read Only Memory." This is a CD that cannot be over-written, such as any CD on which software is provided.

CD-RW - Stands for "CD-ReWritable" - a CD on which you can record data more than once.

CENTER OF INTEREST - (or center of focus). All good pictures have a center of interest, a point or feature that draws the eye's attention. Visit Center of interest for more information.

CENTER-WEIGHTED - Refers to a camera’s exposure meter mode in which reflected light in the center of the view frame is measured so that it has more influence on the exposure reading than light at the edges, generally 60 to 80% more. Some cameras permit the photographer to adjust the size of the central area so that more or less light at the center is measured.

CF - See Compact Flash below.

CFL - Compact fluorescent lamp.

CHANGE BAG or CHANGING BAG - A bag that is light-tight and fitted with arm holes that are elasticized to block light. It is used when it is necessary to work with unprotected film in a lighted area so that it doesn't become exposed to light.

CHARGE-COUPLED DEVICE - Also known as a CCD, it is the light-sensitive device in many digital cameras (and scanners) that captures the image - i.e. It converts light entering the camera into digital data that can be recorded as a picture.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION – Color fringing that occurs when a lens does not focus different wavelengths (colors) of light equally.

CHROMOGENIC - From the Greek, meaning "as color." Refers to black and white film that can be processed and printed as color film.

CIBACHROME - A process used to make color prints directly from transparencies.

CIRCLES OF CONFUSION - Discs of light formed by the lens from points of light in a scene being photographed. The smaller the discs (“circles of confusion”) are, the sharper the image appears. When the circles of confusion can be seen as discs rather than points of light, that portion of the image is considered to be unsharp.

A CLOSE-UP image is photographed closer than one would normally expect, and usually fills the frame.
A CLOSE-UP image is photographed closer than one would normally expect, and usually fills the frame.

CLANDESTINE PHOTOGRAPHY - Commonly referred to as surveillance photography, clandestine photography is the photographing in secrecy of a person, object, activity or location.

CLEARING AGENT - Chemical that neutralizes hypo in film or photographic paper. Its effect is to cut down wash time and assist in giving a more stable image.

CLIPPING - Occurs where the intensity of light in an area of a digital image falls outside the minimum and maximum intensities that can be captured or displayed. The area may be too bright due to blown-out or flared highlights. The clipped area is usually completely white (overexposed), but when only one color channel has been clipped, the area may appear as having an altered color, such as a sky that appears greener or yellower than it actually is. A small amount of clipping is not at all unusual, especially when it appears apart from the subject, such as a small specular highlight or reflection off a shiny surface. Note that there may be a noticeable border where a clipped area adjoins a non-clipped area.

CLIPPING PATH - A shape created with image-editing software that is used to crop part of an image. Anything inside the shape (the clipping path) is retained; anything outside the path is removed.

CLIP TEST - Clip testing involves the cutting off of a short section of exposed but as yet undeveloped film (done in total darkness, of course) and developing it to test whether the film has been exposed as expected, or to determine if development changes should be made to improve the quality of the resultant negatives. The number of frames clipped is usually about three, from the start of the roll.

CLONING - A digital image-editing technique in which pixels from one part of an image are copied and pasted ("cloned") onto another part of the image or onto another, completely-separate image.

CLOSE-UP - Generally, a picture of a subject that fills the frame, usually with the subject looking particularly close to the camera.

CLOSE-UP LENS - (1) An attachment lens that fits on the front of a camera lens, allowing photography at closer distances than than normal for that lens. (2) Also refers to a "Macro lens" - a camera lens that permits macrophotography.

CMOS - Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor - CMOS is a type of sensor, the light-sensitive device in many digital cameras and scanners that captures the image. It functions like a CCD (see above) while using less power and creating less heat. See CCD versus CMOS sensors.

CMYK - An acronym for the ink colors used in four-color process printing - Cyan (process blue), Magenta (process red), Yellow and Key for black. (Some folks incorrectly believe the "K" refers to the last letter in BlacK). The primary colors of light (not of the inks used in printing) are red, green and blue, known by the acronym RGB.

COATED LENS - A lens that has a thin layer of transparent substance applied to its surface to reduce light reflection.

CODEC - Derived from compression decompression. An algorithm for compressing and decompressing files, employed for example with .jpeg image files.

COLD COLORS - Blues and cyans, as opposed to "warm colors" such as reds. (See Cool colors below.)

COLOR BALANCE - (1) The manner in which color film reproduces a scene's colors under different types of lighting (daylight or tungsten). (2) The adjustment of colors in making color prints.

COLOR BREAK - The edge where two areas of color in an image meet.

COLOR CAST affects an entire image. It is typically avoided by correctly setting your camera's white balance.
COLOR CAST affects an entire image. It is typically avoided by correctly setting your camera's white balance.

COLOR CAST - An overall color that uniformly affects an entire image. An unwanted color cast can often be avoided by correctly setting a camera's white balance. A photograph with a color cast can sometimes be corrected using image-editing software.

COLOR CORRECTION - The adjustment of colors to obtain a desired image.

COLOR-CORRECTION FILTER - A filter attached to a lens to either warm or to cool the image.

COLOR GAMUT - (1) the definitive, complete range of colors in photography and image-editing that can be accurately represented in a particular situation, such as within a certain color space, or (2) the complete range of colors in an image.

COLOR GRADATED FILTER - A filter that gradually changes color density across the filter’s field.

COLORIZE - To add color to a black and white (grayscale) image.

COLOR MODE also known as Image Mode - Similar colors in an image are represented differently in different color modes. RGB - Red, Green Blue - (millions of colors for use on the internet including in emails to reduce file size while maintaining color integrity), CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black - (four colors required for printing in full color), Greyscale essentially 256 grays between black and white), and Bitmap two colors) are the four most common ways in which an image represents the colors it contains. Color modes determine how an image will be represented on a computer monitor or when being printed. An image’s color mode determines how colors combine. Different color modes result in different levels of color detail and file size.

COLOR NEGATIVE - (Sometimes called "Print film.") Refers to film designed to produce a negative or reverse-color image that requires subsequent printing onto photo-sensitive material (generally paper used in making photographic prints) in order to view the true colors as a positive image.

COLOR REVERSAL - Refers to film designed to make a positive image when exposed in the camera (slide film or transparency film). Light must be transmitted through such film in order to view it, whether it is lit from behind when viewing or the light is projected through the film’s image onto a viewing screen.

COLOR SENSITIVITY - Measurement of a film's response to different wavelengths of light, usually in reference to black and white film.

COLOR TEMPERATURE - The light spectrum is scientifically described in terms of color temperature, and is measured in degrees Kelvin (°K). Photographers use three standard light color temperatures. The first is called "daylight" for natural outdoors light (5500 degrees K), while the other two are incandescent (artificial light) color temperature standards: 3200 °K (tungsten studio lamps) and 3400 °K (photo lamps or photofloods).

COMPACT CAMERA - Commonly refers to a point-and-shoot camera. Sometimes referred to as a "CSC," a Compact System Camera.

COMPACT FLASH or CF - Brand name for one type of digital camera's re-usable memory card on which images taken by the camera are stored.

COMPLEMENTARY COLOR - A complementary color is one of a pair of primary or secondary colors that are in opposition to each other on a color wheel. Complementary colors display maximum contrast, one to the other. For pigmented colors, like paint, complementary color pairs include: orange opposed to blue, green opposed to red, and violet opposed to yellow. For the colors of light, complementary colors include: blue opposed to yellow, green opposed to magenta, and red opposed to cyan. CMYK complementary colors are cyan-red, magenta-green, and yellow-blue.


COMPOSITE PHOTOGRAPHS - Also called photomontages or montages, are made by combining pictures from different sources into a single image.

COMPOSITING - The technique of assembling a composite photograph. It may be done manually by cutting, overlapping, and gluing different images together into one final composition, or digitally using an image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop.

COMPOSITION - The arrangement of the elements (subject and other objects) in a scene or photograph.

COMPOUND LENS - A lens made up of two or more lens elements.

COMPRESSION – Image files containing all the information recorded on a digital camera's sensor can be quite large. "Compression" results in a smaller file that contains almost all the same information. The most popular compressed formats used by cameras are .jpg or .jpeg formats. If there is a loss of information from compression, it is called "lossy compression." Saving an image as a .jpg or .jpeg is a method of lossy compression, since some information is discarded. RAW files are uncompressed. Many digital cameras permit the photographer to select the degree of compression (e.g. Standard, Fine, Extra-Fine or Superfine) for an image the photographer is about to take. A "Standard" image will show more loss of image detail than an "Extra-Fine" or a "Superfine" image, which will show minimal detail loss.

COMPUSERVE GIF - More commonly known simply as a "GIF" [Graphics Interchange Format], it is a small image file format that is constrained to a maximum of 256 colors, generally making it a poor choice for your digital images. When it was created, most computer video cards were able to display no more than 256 colors. It is used mainly on the internet for graphic images that don't require subtle or gradual change in tones. It was created for viewing online images from the CompuServe network.

CONCAVE LENS - An inwardly curved lens.

CONDENSER ENLARGER - Photographic enlarger with an undiffused light enabling high contrast and definition in a print.

CONFLICTING SHADOWS - Shadows that point in the direction of the main light in a studio lighting set-up.

CONTACT PRINT - A print made with the negative in contact (held tightly against) the photographic paper so that both negative and print are the same size.

CONTACT SHEET - A contact print made from several negatives at one time, usually an entire roll or whatever number of frames will fit on the print paper. The negatives actually come in "contact" with the printing paper, or as close as possible to the print paper when in a contact-printer negative holder.

CONTINUOUS AUTO-FOCUS - A camera mode that automatically adjusts the lens to keep a moving subject in focus.

An image with high CONTRAST has bright highlights and dark shadows.
An image with high CONTRAST has bright highlights and dark shadows.

CONTRAST - (1) the range of difference between highlights and shadow areas in an image. Many factors affect an image’s contrast, including the degree of development and the contrast grade of the paper on which an image is printed. (2) The range of brightness in a scene or in the light striking a subject. (Sometimes contrast is also referred to as "Density.")

CONTRAST FILTER - A colored filter that attaches to a camera's lens when photographing in black and white that lightens or darkens an object or an area of the scene.

CONTRAST GRADE - A scale using numbers (generally 1 to 5) or terms (soft, medium, hard, extra-hard and ultra-hard) that refer to the contrast level of photographic papers. (A high contrast negative printed onto low-numbered or soft contrast grade paper will more closely reproduce the normal contrast of the original scene, and vice-versa.)

CONTRAST RATIO - The difference between the darkest and lightest areas of a subject, stated in a mathematical ratio.

CONTRASTY - A scene or an image that has an abnormally wide range of differences between the amount of light in highlight areas and the amount of light in shadow areas is said to be “contrasty.”

CONVERGING LIGHT RAYS - Light rays that approach and tend to unite at one point. (Note: A focus is that point at which converging rays meet.)

CONVEX LENS - A lens that curves outward, as if it is bulging.

COOL COLORS - Blues, greens and violet shades. Some color experts say that "neutral" tones such as gray and silver are also cool colors. Psychologists consider that they have a calming effect. Cool colors appear smaller than warm colors in an image and seem to recede in a print or on a screen, while red can visually overpower them, dominating over even an equal amount of a cool color.

COPYRIGHT - A legal right accorded to the creator (for example, the author, composer, photographer, playwright) or the owner (for example, a person, publisher or distributor) to the exclusive publication, production, display, sale or distribution of a work, such as a photograph.

CORRECT EXPOSURE - that amount of light that makes an acceptably-good image without being over-exposed or under-exposed.

CORRECTION - All lenses have aberrations (defects) to a degree. Minimizing them is known as correction. High-quality lenses have greater correction. The effect of their aberrations is less evident.

CPU - Central Processing Unit. Sometimes called the Central Processor, the Chip or Microprocessor. The CPU is a computer's critical component that contains the circuitry necessary to interpret and execute software application instructions.

CR2 - One of Canon's two proprietary RAW image file formats in some camera models (CRW being the other).

CRASH - Occurs when a computer suddenly and unexpectedly ceases to function.

CRITICAL FOCUS - An image's most sharply focused point.

CROP FACTOR - A number used to multiply a lens's actual focal length to express how much of an apparent increase you can expect in the effective focal length of any traditional 35mm SLR lens you use on a dSLR camera. Also called the Focal Length Multiplier or FLM, and sometimes referred to as the Format Factor. Typical crop factors are in the range 1.5 or 1.6 to 2.0.

CROPPING - (1) Removal of parts of an image in order to improve the image’s composition. Cropping occurs when an area that is smaller than the entire image frame is printed or reproduced. Digital image editing programs have a cropping tool that facilitates the task. (2) Cropping is sometimes also used in reference to a photographer moving closer to a subject, thereby eliminating (cropping) unnecessary surrounding elements from the composition.

CROPPING removes portions of an image to improve its composition. Photo submitted by Pattabi Raman.
CROPPING removes portions of an image to improve its composition. Photo submitted by Pattabi Raman.

CRW - One of Canon's two proprietary RAW image file formats (CR2 being the other).

CUT AND PASTE - A two -step process. (1) To remove and copy (cut) to the computer's clipboard an image or part of one using image-editing software, or text, and (2) to insert (paste) the image or text into another file.

CYCLORAMA - See "Cyc wall".

CYC WALL - A cyc wall (or cyclorama) is a term that is probably used more in cinematography or videography than in photography. It describes a curved, seamless wall and floor used as a backdrop. It can be as small as a table or a hundred feet long. Some people call it an "infinity" wall. "Cyc" is pronounced as "sike."

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