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The Ultimate Photography Glossary for Beginners

Updated: Jan 19

Film photography is filled with lingos that might even confuse die-hard fans. As a beginner, it can be overwhelming to read different terminologies and understand what they mean. Now instead of bombarding you with a massive-sized photography glossary, here are some of the key terms and terminologies you need to know as a beginner, especially in film photography:

35mm (135 film)

The most common film format. If you are looking for a film roll you'd find that most of them are in this format. As the name suggests, 35mm film rolls are 35mm in width.


A film format used in various medium format cameras. On contrary beliefs, 120 films are not, in fact, 120mm wide. The term "120 film" simply came about because of the numbering system that Kodak put in place to keep track of all the film formats they manufactured.

Film rolls for analog camera


In photography, ASA and ISO are both measurements of film speed or sensitivity to light. ASA (American Standards Association) is no longer widely used. Most films nowadays are labeled by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). There is no difference in the film itself.


The most common color film processing created by Kodak. Most modern films are processed in C-41.

Consumer Grade Film

Consumer-grade film stocks, such as the Kodak Gold 200 and Fujicolor c200, are readily available and less expensive than most professional-grade film stocks. They are a great option if you have only recently started with film photography. Consumer-grade film normally has more grain and less saturated color than professional film.

Cross Process

Cross-processing (also known as X-Pro) is the deliberate processing of film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film. The resulting images typically have deeply saturated colors and high contrast, but they can also be unpredictable.


Literally, a dark room in which normal light is excluded so you can develop film without exposing them.

A resulting image of double exposure in film photography
A resulting image of double exposure

Double Exposure

A technique that layers two different exposures on a single image, so to expose a piece of film twice, combining two images into one. Double exposures can result in a surreal feeling in your photos and can be a fun experiment to try with your film camera.


The sand-like, granular appearance you see on a film photo. The lower the ISO the finer the grain, and vice versa.


ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a measurement of film speed, just like ASA. Each film roll has a predefined number. The higher the number, the most information will be captured. Higher ISO numbers are used in low-light situations.

Medium Format Cameras

Medium format cameras use 120 films.

Yashica-A is a medium format film camera
Yashica-A is a medium format camera


Overexposure occurs when too much light hit the film. Overexposed photos appear too bright, washed out, and have very little detail in their highlights.

Point and Shoot

A point-and-shoot camera has a fully automatic setting, allowing the user to take photos without adjusting the camera settings. A point and shoot's lens are not interchangeable.

Cosina CX 70 is a point and shoot film camera
Cosina CX 70 is a point and shoot camera

Professional Grade Film

Professional-grade films (Kodak Portra 400, Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro, Kodak Portra 160) are typically more expensive and less readily available than consumer-grade film. In general, professional films have more saturated colors and finer grain than consumer films.

Pulling Film

Pushing and Pulling is a technique of using a different ISO than what the film is designed for. When you pull film you are setting your camera to have a lower ISO rate than your film, therefore overexposing the film. This typically results in reduced contrast.

Pushing Film

Pushing a film means that you are setting your camera to have a higher ISO rate than the film, therefore underexposing the film. The resulting images have higher contrast and more grain.


A rangefinder camera, like the Ricoh 35 EFS, for instance, is one of the most common types of film camera and is often compared to the SLR camera. A rangefinder does not use mirrors in its mechanics, which causes you to only see an approximation of what your camera will capture. While this may give you less control over what you capture, rangefinder cameras are also often more compact, making it ideal for street photography.


Saturation refers to the color intensity of an image. As saturation increases, colors appear more vibrant. The lower the saturation of an image, the closer it is to grayscale.

Black and white photo has no saturation
A grayscale image has no saturation

SLR (Single-Lens Reflex)

Unlike a rangefinder, an SLR camera uses a series of mirrors that allows the photographer to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what will be captured. This gives optimal accuracy as you better understand the depth of field.


Underexposure is the result of not having enough light hitting the film strip. Underexposed photos are too dark to produce normal contrast and have very little detail in their shadows.

Wide Exposure Latitude

A film with a wide exposure latitude (such as the Kodak Gold 200) can record detail in a wide range of lighting conditions, from bright light to dark shadow, and still produces an acceptable negative.

Have any other photography terminology you would like to know about? Let us know in the comment section!


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