Reference » Glossary
ACCENT LIGHT Used to draw extra attention to one section of the subject, and add interest and sparkle
BACK LIGHT Used behind the subject and pointing toward the camera for separation
BACKGROUND LIGHT Aimed at the background for separation of subject and background
BARNDOORS Accessory mounted to the light, with adjustable leaves to block and confine light beam
BEAM SPREAD The width of the light beam from a reflector, the edge defined by the point at which light intensity is 50% of the maximum
BLUE BULB Common term for daylight balanced lamps - because they're coated with a blue film.
BOUNCE Lighting that strikes your subject after reflecting off another surface, so that it's softer and less directional
BROAD LIGHT A light unit with a wide beam spread.
CAMERA SHOE Also called "accessory shoe" or "hot shoe", a light mount on the top of the camera
COLOR TEMPERATURE The color quality of a light source. Higher degree kelvin sources -- such as the sun -- are bluer, and lower degree kelvin sources are more red. Films are designed to have true whites when exposed to light of a given color temperature
COPY WORK Photographing another photograph, painting or other 2-dimensional work
DAYLIGHT The color temperature of natural sunlight-- referring to light at about 5600 degrees K
DICHROIC FILTER A filter that alters the color balance of the light, generally to daylight
DIFFUSED LIGHT The scattering of light rays so that light is less directional and shadows are softer.
DIRECT LIGHTING Strong lighting in which the beams all travel in one direction and defined shadows are cast
DOUBLE EXPOSURE Exposing the same frame of film twice
FILL LIGHT Used from the side opposite that of the key light, this light softens the shadows created by the key and evens out the lighting ratio
FILTER Any material used on the lens or light to alter the quality of the light
FLAGS Dark cards placed between the light and subject to prevent light from striking certain areas
FLASH A light that fires only for an instant; as opposed to continuous lighting
FOCUSING SPOT A narrow-beam light with a variable-beam spread
FOOT-CANDLES A unit of illuminance, equals one lumen per square foot
GEL Translucent sheet of colored material placed in front of a light source to alter the color or intensity of the light
GUIDE NUMBER Number used to indicate the light output of a flash unit, affected by the type of reflector used
HAIR LIGHT Light source aimed at the subject's hair to create separation from the background and add sparkle & highlights
HARD LIGHT A very focused, directional light source
HONEYCOMB Accessory placed on the front of a light to make the beam very directional.
HOT LIGHT Common term for continuous light sources
INCANDESCENT A light bulb that puts off light by heating a filament -- your standard "lightbulb"
KELVIN The temperature scale used to measure the "color temperature" of light
KEY LIGHT Also "main light" -- the source providing the primary illumination and sense of the direction of the light
LIGHT BALANCING Controlling or altering the color temperature of a light source, so that true color renditions are achieved in an image
LIGHTING RATIO The ratio of the contrast from the most brightly lit area of the subject to the darkest area
LUMENS PER WATT The efficiency of a given lamp - the amount of light generated per unit of energy used
MASTER A flash unit used to trigger other flash units, which are called "slaves"
MODELING LIGHT A continuous burning light in the center of a flash unit used to preview the location of the illumination and shadows from the flash burst
MONOLIGHT AC flash unit with a modeling light
PC CORD The cord that connects a flash unit to the camera, allowing the release of the camera shutter to trigger the flash - also called synch cord
PHENOLIC A high-impact, temperature-resistant plastic used in some sockets and fixtures
PHOTOFLOOD Continuous burning lights (as opposed to flash) -- usually with incandescent lamps
QUARTZ HALOGEN High pressure incandescent lamps containing halogen gases. The filaments burn at higher temperatures with higher efficiency, producing more lumens per watt than a regular incandescent lamp
READY LIGHT The indicator on a flash unit that the unit is ready to fire
RECYCLE TIME The amount of time it takes a flash unit to fully recharge after firing
SAFETY GLASS Non-diffusing, heat-resistant glass in front of quartz lamps to protect subjects from flying glass should the lamp shatter
SAFETY WIRE A loop of wire used to secure the light when mounting overhead
SCRIM A wire screen that is used to decrease light output without diffusing it
SEPARATION LIGHT Light source used to create a visual distinction between the subject and the background
SKIM LIGHT A separation light striking the extreme side of the subject
SLAVE A flash unit that uses an infrared sensor to sense any other flash burst in the vicinity and flash simultaneously
SNOOT Cone-shaped accessory that mounts on the light to confine the beam to a very small spot
SOCKET The part of the light unit that accepts the lamp
SOFT LIGHT A light source that generates diffused lighting
SPILL Light that strikes areas where it's unwanted
SPOT LIGHT A light source with a narrow-beam pattern
TABLETOP Common term for product or small still life photography
TEST BUTTON A button on some AC flash units that allows you to manually trigger the flash
THREE-POINT LIGHTING The standard lighting system of key, fill and back lighting from which all other lighting set-ups evolve
TUNGSTEN LIGHT An incandescent lamp that generates light when a tungsten filament is heated by an electrical current. Emits light at 3200 degrees K, the color temperature to which "tungsten" film is balanced
UMBRELLA An accessory for bouncing light to create diffused lighting
WATT A unit of electrical power. A 250-watt light consumes 250 watts of power -- the light output depends on the type of lamp being used
WHITE BALANCE Electronic adjustment in video or digital cameras to achieve correct colors and whites in varying light conditions. Set manually by aiming the lens at a white card
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