Glossary of Nude and General Photographic Terms

  • achromatic

    A color without hue: white, any shade of gray, or black.

  • active space

    The space in front of a moving subject that he/she/it appears to be traveling toward.

  • aliasing

    A jagged, stair-step effect on curved or diagonal lines due to the limits of resolution of a digital image.

  • alignment

    (Gestalt) Lining up elements along their edges or centers, following a vertical or horizontal axis, to create a sense of order and purpose.

  • ambient light

    Indirect illumination caused by light bouncing off surfaces near the subject.

  • armature

    The fundamental lines of direction of flow that connect the main compositional movement to the picture plane. See diagonal armature, harmonic armature, rule of thirds.

  • audition

    An interview with a photographer, casting director, etc., to evaluate the model’s suitability for a specific job. At an audition you may be asked to show a portfolio or dress in a certain style.

  • background

    Parts of an image that are behind the main subject and not considered additional subject. Also see ground and negative space.

  • backlight (a.k.a. hair light)

    Typically above the subject, either directly behind or slightly to one side. Light colored hair can look great with backlighting.

  • backlit

    Subject illuminated from behind.

  • balance

    Equilibrium between compositional elements.

  • barn doors

    A lighting modifier consisting of two or four flaps that keep light from spilling out of the desired area.

  • beauty dish

    A lighting modifier that diffuses by means of two reflectors: One directly in front of the light tube and one around the light tube. The portion reflects light back into the rear portion so that no direct light escapes.

    beauty dish with grid

    beauty dish with grid

  • bisect

    (Composition) To divide into two equal or nearly equal parts.

  • blown-out

    Overexposed (highlights).

  • bodyscape

    An abstraction of the body composed to resemble a landscape (typically faceless).

  • Bokeh (or Boke)

    The aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photograph. Bokeh may be described as attractive or unattractive for a particular lens. (der. from Japanese).

  • book

    (noun): A portfolio.

    (verb): To arrange a shoot.

  • boom

    A light stand can hold a light above the model

  • bounced light

    Indirect, image-forming light that is reflected off a surface and onto the subject.

  • bounced light

    Indirect light that is reflected off a surface and onto the subject.

  • chroma

    See saturation.

  • chroma key

    A specifically colored background (e.g. green screen, blue screen) intended to aid in isolation of an image. Especially used in 3-d reference photography.

  • chromatic aberration

    The amount by which the red- and blue-channel components of the image are displaced from their “correct” position due to lens characteristics; results in color fringes where light and dark areas of an image meet.

    This image defect that is especially pronounced in certain zoom lenses.

  • closure

    The phenomenon by which the mind completes the missing pieces implied by a design.

  • closure

    (Gestalt) The phenomenon by which the mind completes the missing pieces implied by a design.

  • CMYK

    Color mode used in printing, comprised of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

  • color halo

    Residual color around the edge of the subject when isolating an image.

  • color scheme

    A set of colors combined for a purpose.

  • color space

    Color spaces help output devices such as printers and monitors to display colors accurately. The color space of most computer monitors is sRGB.

  • common contour

    Where two shapes share the same edge.

  • composition

    The arrangement of elements (line, shape, pattern) within a visual presentation.

  • constancy

    (Gestalt) The perceptual phenomenon in which an object appears to remain the same size regardless of its distance from the observer.

  • constancy

    (Gestalt) The perceptual phenomenon in which an object appears to remain the same size regardless of its distance from the observer.

  • contour

    A defined edge (line) between two distinct colors or tones.

  • daguerreotype

    An obsolete photographic process, invented in 1839.

  • depth of field

    The area in front and behind the main subject that is in focus.

  • dichotomy

    (Composition) A division into two halves, especially contrasting halves.

  • differential focus

    See selective focus.

  • diffuser

    A translucent material placed in front of a light to soften and reduce its intensity.

  • DSLR

    Digital Single-Lens Reflex, also see SLR.

  • EXIF data

    Exposure information and other data that a camera attaches to an image file.

  • figure

    The nude body.

    Figure/ground relationship: the subject of a composition.

  • figure modeling

    Nude modeling; more commonly used with art modeling than with glamour.

  • flare

    Non-image forming light entering the lens.

  • frame

    Noun: The outer borders of an image.

    Verb: The act of deciding what elements are included and omitted in the field of view.

  • Gestalt

    The Gestalt principles, or Gestalt effect, is the psychological recognition of whole forms versus a collection of lines and shapes.

    Also see alignment, closure, constancy.

  • GIMP

    Free alternative to Photoshop photo-editing and retouching software.

  • glamour nude

    (or glamor nude): Nude photography with a sensual mood. The emphasis is on the model, not on any product or clothing.

  • gobo

    Short for “go between” because it goes between the light and lens—a dark material for shielding a lens from excess light.

  • gobo projector

    A device for projecting patterns of light and shadow.

  • grayscale

    An image composed of shades of gray.

  • grid

    A honeycomb pattern grid that directs light in one direction. Usually more effective than barn doors. Each grid controls light to a specified angle (e.g. 20° or 40°).

  • ground

    In figure/ground relationship, everything that is not the main subject.

  • guiding line

    See line of force.

  • hard light

    Direct, undiffused light. Chiefly characterized by hard shadows. Also see soft light.

  • heads and pack

    Studio lighting consisting of a power pack and usually several lighting heads. Light heads are attached via special power cords.

    Pack and Head lighting system

  • honeycomb

    See grid.

  • hue

    The classification of color by wavelength (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, etc.).

  • incident reading

    A light-meter reading taken with a the meter positioned at the subject’s location and pointed towards the camera. Also see reflective reading.

  • juxtaposition

    The placement of elements near each other for purposeful contrast or balance.

  • key light

    The main (most powerful) light illuminating the front of the model.

  • kicker

    (a.k.a. accent light): At a low angle, placed to one side of the model, at least slightly behind (95-degrees, but not more than 135-degrees)

  • leading line

    See line of force.

  • line of force

    (Composition) A dominant line that guides the viewer to a point of interest. Also leading line or guiding line.

  • Mach effect

    A visual effect (optical illusion) where a band of gradation is seen where two contrasting tones or colors meet.

  • microstock

    Stock photography based on a larger number of less-exclusive contributors (crowd sourcing). Also see stock.

  • model zone

    My term for the area where the model can move and still be in desirable light and background.

  • modifier

    A device that controls the quality, quantity, and or direction of light. Also see reflector, softbox, snoot, beauty dish, umbrella, diffuser

  • monochromatic

    Having only one hue. A monochromatic image with a neutral hue is called grayscale. An image with a single hue is said to be tinted.

  • monolight

    See monolight.

  • monolight

    A portable, self contained light with flash tube and power in one unit, plugs directly into household power.monolight

  • motif

    See theme.

  • negative space

    The area around or between subjects, distinguished by edges. Important in establishing balance. Not to be confused with background; it can include the background, foreground, and other elements.

  • pan

    To move the camera laterally (e.g. on a tripod) while making an exposure.

  • penumbra

    A narrow gradation at the margin between a shadow and a lit area.

  • perspective

    The depiction of spatial relationships (e.g. depth), created by linear and atmospheric effects.

  • perspective compression

    The effect of a narrow field of view achieved by a long lens, that de-emphasizes the feeling of depth.

  • photomontage

    The combination of images, through physical or electronic means, to form a new image.

  • picture plane

    The proportion and scale of your image, square, rectangle, horizontal, vertical. The ratio of the picture plane sets the stage for the composition.

  • pin-up

    A form of modeling suitable for calendars, posters, and other glamorous displays of attractive models.

  • pixel

    The smallest element of an image that can be individually processed on a monitor.

  • Playboy style nude

    A style of nude typically seen in Playboy publications; used as a common way to explain the degree of explicit nudity required. Means non-pornographic nude work. This term is sometimes used to distinguish softcore nudity from harder core styles found in other magazines such as Hustler Magazine or Penthouse Magazine.

  • portfolio

    A showcase of a model’s or photographer’s best photographs, intended to win additional work.

  • portrait lens

    A lens of sufficient focal length to minimize distortion, and produce shallow depth of field, to be suitable for portraits.

  • portraiture

    The practice of capturing a (presumably favorable) likeness of a specific person. The term often implies the subject as client and the goal of flattery.

  • RAW file

    Unprocessed image capture. Does not have a color space or white balance associated with it. Recommended capture format to preserve all information before editing with software.

  • reflective reading

    A light-meter reading taken with a the meter positioned at the camera’s location and pointed towards the subject. Also see incident reading.

  • reflector

    A lighting modifier used to bounce light onto a reflectorsubject.

  • resolution

    The ability of a monitor, lens, or imaging sensor to render fine detail.

  • resolving power

    The degree to which a lens or image sensor is able to define the details of an image.

  • RGB

    Red, Green, Blue. These are the three primary colors of additive color used in digital displays and photo sensors.

  • rim light

    (a.k.a. rimmer): Placed behind the model, so that she blocks the light; points directly at the lens.

  • rule of thirds

    A framework that places subjects on dividing lines that are one third of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the picture plane.

    Also see: the golden mean, armature

  • saturation

    The intensity (purity) of a color. Also called chroma.

  • scrim

    A light diffuser used like a flag but to only block part of the light.

  • selective focus

    Using limited depth of field for compositional purposes.

  • selective vision

    A mental lapse of not noticing details due to concentration or distraction.

  • set

    A shooting area where the model, camera, photographer, scene, and lights will be.

  • silhouette

    A dark, mostly two-dimensional, subject against a lighter background.

  • silk

    See scrim.

  • SLR

    Single-Lens Reflex (camera).

  • snoot

    A lighting modifier that restricts the light to a narrow beam. Snoots usually telescope in length, and include a grid at the end to control the light.


  • soft light

    Diffused light, characterized by soft shadows.

  • softbox

    A lighting modifier that diffuses by means of a tent-like structure that is opaque on all but one translucent side. Attached directly to a light head.

    softboxSoftbox attached to a monolight


  • specular highlights

    Reflected light in the surface of the subject. Increased by the reflectiveness of the surface and the hardness of the light.

  • spot meter

    A light meter that takes readings from a very narrow angle of view, usually 1 degree. Usually a hand-held device (not built into a camera).

  • steep perspective

    Emphasizing spatial separation by including close and far objects in the same image.

  • stock

    Images that are photographed on speculation for sale as royalty-free or licensed distribution. Also see: microstock

  • stop down

    To select a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number.)

  • strobe

    A photographic flash.

    strobe head light

  • subject

    The subject of your photos, the model.

  • symmetry

    The correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of elements on opposite sides of a design.

  • t0.1

    The time it takes for 90% of the total power of a studio flash to dissipate. Often about three times as long as t0.5. Regarded as a critical measure of flash duration for stop-action photography.


  • t0.5

    The time it takes for 50% of the total power of a studio flash to dissipate. Typically if not specified, t0.5 is assumed.

    Also see t0.1

  • TFCD

    Trade For (photo) CD. Bartering a photo CD as payment for a model’s time.

  • TFP

    Trade For Photos, or Trade For Prints. Bartering photos as payment for a model’s time.

  • theme

    An idea or motif for a work of art or series of works.

  • tone

    A measure of lightness or darkness.

  • translucent

    Permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that people and objects on the opposite side are not clearly visible.

  • transparent

    Permitting light to pass enough that people and objects on the opposite side are distinctly seen.

  • umbra

    The main part of a shadow. A shadow without its penumbra.

  • umbra

    The main part of a shadow (excluding the penumbra)

  • umbrella

    A lighting modifier that may be a reflective diffuser or a shoot-through diffuser.

    shoot through umbrella shoot through umbrella

    reflective umbrella (silver) reflective umbrella (silver)

  • v-flat

    a v-shaped pair of set panels designed to sit on the floor and reflect or block light. Available in black, white, and other colors.

  • vantage point

    The location from which a photograph is taken.

  • vantage point

    The location from which a photo is taken.

  • vignetting

    A reduction in brightness at the edges of an image. Produced as a lens characteristic, a mismatched lens shade, or with software.

  • watt-second

    A measurement of power consumption used to approximate a photographic strobe’s output. The more watt-seconds, the more light is output.

  • zone system

    A system for pre-visualizing the values to appear in a photograph and for determining exposure , based on a scale of shade zones ranging from black to white.