hdr photography glossary

HDR Photography Glossary

Are you new to HDR photography?

Too many big words that sound alien to you?

Here's a jargon-buster-glossary to help you kickstart your journey in the art of creating HDR images.

Anything that I missed?

Just leave a comment so I can add it to the list for the benefit of other HDR enthusiasts!

hdr photography glossary
  • 16-bit - More precisely, 16-bit/channel. This means each channel in RGB can hold up to 216 colors or 25536 colors.
  • 8-bitMore precisely, 8-bit/channel. This means each channel in RGB can hold up to 28 colors or 256 colors.
  • Automatic exposure bracketing - Commonly known as AEB. A built-in feature in most modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras to capture a series bracketed exposures with a single press on the shutter release.
  • Aperture priority - One of the shooting modes in digital cameras. You set the preferred aperture and the camera decides the required shutter speed to achieve the optimal image exposure.
  • Bit depth - The color information stored in the image. For example, 8-bit and 16-bit.
  • Blown highlight - Often refers to the overexposure of highlights in an image. More formally known as highlights clipping.
  • Bracketing exposure - Refers to the capture of multiple exposures with an exposure value (EV) interval set by the user.
  • Brightness - Also known as luminance, which is the absolute amount of light emitted by an object per unit area.
  • Clarity - An adjustment in post-processing that affects the midtones contrast, mimics the effect of sharpening.
  • Clipping - Refers to the captured tonal intensity that is outside the maximum and minimum tonal range.
  • Contrast - It's the difference between the brights and the darks in an image.
  • Digital blending - Merging different parts from multiple images to create a single image file.
  • Dynamic range - Refers to the total tonal range a device can record or display. Lear more here.
  • Exposure - Refers to the amount of light per unit recorded by the digital image sensor, determined by the aperture, shutter speed and brightness of the scene.
  • Exposure blending - Merging images with the same composition but different exposures together to create a single image file.
  • Extended dynamic range - Dynamic range that is extended beyond what a device can normally record or display.
  • Feathering - Refers to the smoothness of the transition between two tones.
  • Framing - Composing an image either via the viewfinder or through live view on the LCD screen.
  • Ghosting - Refers to the artefact in HDR images caused by movement while multiple exposures were being taken.
  • Graduated ND filter - Also known as graduated neutral density filter. A circular or rectangular filter that is placed in front of the camera lens. The filter is dark on one side but transparent on the other with a smooth transition in the middle.
  • Grungy HDR - Commonly refers to HDR images that are excessively processed, typically with high saturation, halo and unworldly tonal effect.
  • Halo - Typically refers to the bright line along the edges in an excessively processed HDR or sharpened image.
  • Hard selection - A selection made in post-processing that does not have any feathering.
  • HDR software - Software that are designed specifically to merge multiple exposures and tone-mapping to create HDR images.
  • High dynamic range scene - A scene with high contrast, such that the tonal range is beyond what the camera can capture without shadows and/or highlights clipping.
  • Highlights - Brightest of the brights in the tonal range of an image.
  • Histogram - A graphical tool in camera and image editing software that maps out the distribution of pixels across the tonal range.
  • Hue - Name of a color.
  • Image sensor - The part of a digital camera that converts light (photons) into electrical signal and eventually data.
  • HDR mode - A built-in feature in digital cameras that allow bracketing exposure and merging into HDR, all done in-camera. 
  • JPEG - Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, a lossy compression image file format that records image at a smaller file size compared to Raw file format.
  • Layer masks - An advanced image post-processing tool that allows non-destructive and stacking of adjustments and pixel layers for creative editing.
  • Layers - Typically refers to the fundamental structure of Layers panel in Adobe Photoshop.
  • Luminosity - Perceived brightness of an object by the human eye. 
  • Luminosity masks - An post-processing technique that creates layer masks based on the luminance of the image.
  • Manual exposure bracketing - Bracketing exposure by stopping up and down the shutter speed manually.
  • Marching ants - Moving dotted line that outlines the selection when it has been made.
  • Masking - Concealing part or the entire layer (either adjustment or pixel) using a layer mask.
  • Midtones - In general, it refers to tones that are in the middle 50% of a histogram. It is neither the brightest nor the darkest part of an image.
  • Multiple exposures - The results of bracketing exposures where there are at least two images of the same composition but different shutter speed, resulting in different exposures.
  • Natural-looking HDR - HDR images that reflect or closely match the true scene observed by the photographer.
  • Opacity - Level of visibility of a layer in post-processing. A high opacity (100%) means the layer is fully visible whereas a low opacity (0%) means the layer is transparent.
  • Overexposed - It is used to describe pixels that has a tonal value of or close to 256 where it is too bright with no visible details. Informally known as "blown highlights".
  • Pixels - The building block of a rasterized image. A single pixel contains one color information.
  • Presets - Tonal and/or color adjustments that are saved together as an exportable/importable file. Can be used to apply to other images to replicate the effect and shorten post-processing time.
  • Raw - The unprocessed, original data from the digital image sensor. Raw images are not viewable prior to Raw conversion in an image editing software such as Adobe Lightroom. Learn more here.
  • Saturation - Refers to the intensity of a hue, which can be reduced by adding varying amount of grey.
  • Selection - An area of interest in an image marked with a "selection tool" in post-processing. Adjustments applied while a selection is active will only affect the area within the selection.
  • Shadows - Darkest of the darks in the tonal range of an image. 
  • Soft selection - A selection made in post-processing with feathering.
  • Tonal range - Refers to the range of tones between the darkest and the brightest pixels of an image.
  • Tone-mapping - The process to re-map pixels of a high dynamic range image so that it can be displayed on a low dynamic range display.
  • Underexposed - It is used to describe pixels that has a tonal value of or close to 0 where it is too dark with no visible details. 

For more tutorials on HDR photography, check out the HDR resource page!