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Digital photography jargon P is for......

  • Pixel
  • Post Process
  • Prime lens

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digital photography jargon

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Refers to “picture element” essentially the building block from which a digital image is formed.

Pixels can be thought of as a mosaic – when viewed from very close, the individual elements can be seen and the overall image may not be clear – but view the image from farther away and the individual pixels can no longer be observed and the image will appear to have continuous tone and fine details.

The number of pixels that form an image is known as resolution.

Resolution is limited by the display format – it doesn’t matter how many pixels the image was originally made from – it cannot contain more than the maximum resolution of the display.


A 5184 x 3456 image (18 mega-pixel) when displayed on a high definition monitor will only consist of the 1920 x 1080 pixels that make up the monitor resolution. So resizing the image to this number of pixels will have no adverse affect upon the image quality.

Any given image is likely to consist at many different pixel resolutions at different times -

  • on the electronic viewfinder
  • on the image sensor
  • on the camera lcd screen
  • on your computer monitor
  • on a mobile phone screen
  • In a printed photography

All of these will display the same image – but the image will be rendered for each with different pixel resolutions.

In a digital camera, the image is captured on an image sensor which is made from thousands of tiny “photo-sites” each one capturing a tiny fraction of light – which is then converted to digital data that can be “re-assembled” to form a digital image.

Each photo-site is referred to as a pixel – the total number divided by 1 million gives the oft quoted number of mega-pixels for the camera.

More mega-pixels does NOT mean higher image quality – only greater resolution, which would enable larger print size.

The physical size of individual photo-sites has a far greater impact upon image quality.

E.g. a tiny sensor (e.g. in a small compact camera) with 14megapixel is not going to give the same potential image quality as a 14megapixel Dslr with a larger sensor (and therefore larger photo-sites)

post processing

After taking and reviewing your digital photos, you will presumably want to prepare your “keepers” for display in order that they can be viewed by others.

Post Process describes this operation.

If you shot your photos in JPEG format, the photo will already have undergone some processing “in camera” with respect to factors such as white balance, sharpening and colour saturation or even conversion to black and white. Many cameras allow you to preselect a particular “picture style” which gives you some control over these image adjustments.

If you shot the images in RAW format, they will need to be processed by separate software prior to a copy being saved in a more universally recognised format such as JPEG or TIFF.

Once in JPEG or TIFF format it is possible to print the images or display them on a computer monitor or TV screen or send them via email.

However it is almost certain that the images can be further optimised by post processing software to best suit the chosen display format.

You may also wish to enhance or modify the photos prior to final display.

There are numerous commercially available software programmes that can perform these post process functions – probably the most widely known are Adobe's Photoshop, Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

Photoshop is available in various  versions at various levels of complexity and processing power (and purchase price) ranging from the entry level Photoshop Elements aimed at everyday consumers, to the full professional version – currently Photoshop CS 6.

Most digital camera manufacturers also supply the camera with some basic proprietary post process software.

There are also numerous free applications available on line.

For further information refer to the post processing section of this website.

prime lens

In digital photography, a prime lens is basically a lens of fixed focal length – i.e. one which has a fixed angle of view and offers no “zoom” capability.

Typically a prime lens will offer a larger maximum aperture than at an equivalent focal length on a zoom lens ( if a zoom DOES have an equivalent aperture you can be certain it will be considerably more expensive). This often gives prime lenses advantages in terms of low light photography (without use of flash) and ability to create very shallow depths of field – as often preferred to retain emphasis on the subject in portrait photography.

Prime lenses require less internal glass elements than zoom lenses and this means they are lighter and typically offer excellent optical quality.

The primary downside of a prime lens is the inability to “zoom” in or out to change the angle of view – although there is a school of thought that says forcing the photographer to physically move around to achieve desired composition is a positive thing!

Prime lenses are available in a wide variety of focal lengths to cover all the angles of view from ultra-wide (eg10mm) to super telephoto (e.g. 600mm).

The most popular size (with some excellent reasonably priced offerings from the main brands, Nikon and Canon) is are 50mm. On full frame cameras this focal length provides a very natural perspective (i.e. similar to human eyesight) and on “cropped” sensor Dslr's provide an angle of view equivalent to around 80mm on a full frame – which is a popular focal length for head and shoulder portraiture.


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