for glossary

Listed here are some of the most common terms associated with the art of photojournalism and with the teaching of journalism-related classes. Teachers, please feel free to print this list, use it as a handout, and even to create a multiple choice quiz from it.

Aperture — governs the amount of light entering the lens; numerically designated on cameras as f/2, f/5.6, f/16, etc. See f-stop

Available light — refers to the natural light or existing lighting conditions under which an image is made

Bird’s-eye view — letting the camera angle take the perspective of a bird, from above

Bracketing — the practice of taking several frames of the same scene at different exposure settings; necessary under difficult lighting situations

Candids — unposed photos, usually in social situations

Center of visual interest — the area of the frame the eye is most likely to go to when studying the whole photo; a principle of good photocomposition

CJE — Certified Journalism Educator, a designation available from the Journalism Education Association after completing requirements

Composition — arranging informational and/or artistic elements with a camera viewfinder so as to form a unified whole and impart an overall idea

Contrast — differences in brightness between adjacent areas of tone

Cropping — determining which part of the photograph to include on the printed page

Cutline — a written explanation of a photograph; same as caption

Depth of field — the portion of the image that is in sharp focus and which can be adjusted using a camera’s f-stop; a wide aperture, such as f/2, creates a shallow depth of field, while an aperture of f/16 or above allows for both foreground and background to be in focus

DSLR — shorthand for the newest technology in professional and semi-professional cameras, digital single lens reflex

Focus — the distinctness or clarity of an image as rendered by an optical system such as a camera

F-stop — size of lens opening; affects amount of light coming through the lens. See aperture

HD video –high-definition video; generally any video image with more than 480 horizontal lines

ISO — stands for International Standards Organization; indicates how well light is passing through the camera lens while the shutter is open; the lower the ISO number, the better the image quality

Leading line — an element of a photo, usually resembling a line, that directs the viewer’s eye away from or toward the center of visual interest

Media literacy — the ability to analyze, evaluate and create messages in a wide variety of media, genres and forms

Mergers — points in a photo at which objects mistakenly appear to be part of other objects, creating visual confusion

Photojournalism — using photographs to get to the heart of a story, in a way that transcends language and cultural boundaries

Photoshop — popular photo editing software by Adobe

Pixel — basic electronic element of a digital photograph, usually amounting to the thousands in a single digital photograph

Resolution — a measure of still image or video quality; the higher the resolution, the more detailed and sharp the image

Rule of thirds — when an imaginary grid of three horizontal and three vertical lines is placed over the frame, the photographer aims to place the center of visual interest at one of the intersections of those lines; a way to avoid the overused convention of centering the subject

Shutter — camera mechanism that controls the time allowed for image-focusing light to strike the film or affect the exposure

Street photography — pioneered by Henri Cartier-Bresson and others in the early 20th century, it captures people and things in the midst of ordinary urban life

Symmetry — balance and harmony in a composition through thinking about both sides of the frame

Visual rhetoric — understanding a photo or another visual genre for its storytelling impact and ability to convey ethos, logos and pathos

White balance — a camera setting that adjusts how colors are rendered, so that objects which appear white to human eyes come out white in the photograph

Wide-angle lens — camera attachment with an angle of view wider than that considered normal by the human eye

Worm’s-eye view — letting the camera angle take the perspective of a worm or crawling animal, to look upward; can require lying down or crouching when shooting the photo

Zoom lens — camera attachment that brings distant objects into closer view; sometimes called a telephoto lens


Classroom of Deborah Ross, CJE

Irby, Kenneth. “The Art and Language of Photography: A Photojournalism Glossary.”


The Free Dictionary.