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Glossary of Photographic Terms

Glossary of Photographic Terms

Acid-free
Using acid-free mount boards prevents acid burns (yellowish-brown burn lines) from appearing on artworks over time.

Albumen Print
A process invented in 1850 by Louis-Desire Blanquart Evrard in which a contact print is made on a paper treated with a solution of egg white (albumen) and salt, then sensitized with silver nitrate, and exposed in sunlight. Because albumen prints are printed out through the direct action of sunlight on a sensitized paper without the need for chemical processing, their ease of production and ability to capture fine detail made them the most common type of photographic print in the nineteenth century. By the 1890s, albumen prints were supplanted by gelatin silver prints.

Aluminum mounting
The print is mounted to aluminum, which gives the effect that the print itself is floating when hung. Because the aluminum is so thin, it almost disappears. The face of the photograph is covered with a UV film lamination for protection. The artist's signature is affixed to the back of the aluminum mount.

Archival properties
Different types of photographic paper have varying degrees of susceptibility to fading over time. The main cause of this is exposure to UV light (although humidity, temperature, pollution and acidity are all contributing factors): exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided, and UV-resistant glass can be used when framing.

Chloro-bromide Print
Chloro-bromides share the features of all silver gelatin prints, giving deep rich blacks and crisp whites on a high gloss paper, as well as having good archival properties. Compared with silver bromides or silver chlorides, they have a warmer brownish-black tone.

Chromogenic print
Also called "dye coupler prints." This term represents the majority of the color prints made today. Part of the material that forms colored dyes upon development is included in the emulsion during manufacture. During development, the silver image is bleached out, leaving only the dye image. These prints are commonly referred to as a "Type C Print" if made from a negative and a "Type R Print" if made from a transparency. Introduced in 1936.

Cibachrome / Ilfochrome Classic
A particular type of reversal (R-type) color paper and printing process which gives strong colors (often with striking reds) and creates a long-lasting print. Printing in this way from a positive image results in exactly the same color saturation as the original, and greater contrast.

Collodion process
Introduced by Frederick Scott Archer in 1848, this process creates negatives using wet plates. Photographers abandoned the Daguerreotype method and almost all pictures from 1855-1881 were taken using the collodion process. Collodion is guncotton (an explosive) dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and ether. Carefully cleaned glass sheets are 'edged' with rubber solution then coated with iodized collodion. When the collodion begins to set on the surface it is placed in a bath of acidified silver nitrate. The plate is then drained, placed in a plate holder and rushed to the camera for the exposure - perhaps 5-10 seconds in bright sun. It is essential to develop the plate immediately after exposure before the collodion has fully dried. An acid developer is used and potassium cyanide (a poison) is the preferred fixer. Wet plate photographs are normally extremely sharp and grain-free.

Contact Print
A positive print made by exposing a large negative, or strips of small negatives, directly onto light sensitive paper. Large-format glass-plate negatives commonly used by nineteenth-century view photographers as well as the large-format camera work championed by such "straight photography"* artists as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were contact printed. Contact printing is the only method possible for photographic processes that require sunlight or ultraviolet light, such as salt, albumen, gum, and platinum, among others. These processes, the mainstay of photography's early technology, waned when smaller cameras, enlargers, and new emulsions sensitive to artificial light, were introduced during the 1880s. While contact printing was largely relegated to the task of producing contact sheets and work prints after the introduction of the 35-mm camera in the 1920s, a resurgence of interest in large-format camera work, and the earlier processes, has prompted many photographers to take up contact printing.
*"Straight photography" is a term applied to images in which neither darkroom nor digital manipulations are made to camera images.

CMYK
CMYK is an industry standard abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are the colors used in standard four color printing (as in inkjet and Iris printers).

C-type printing
C-type printing involves printing color paper enlargements from small, color negatives. This is the most common type of color printing found in the high street and mini labs.

Daguerreotype
An image formed on a silver-coated copper plate, sensitized by fumes of iodine. The image is developed in mercury vapor, which produces a unique direct positive image. Introduced in 1839 by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, who had developed this process after his partnership with Joseph Nicephore Niepce. This process was widely used until 1860.

Digital color coupler
Color coupler prints, or chromogene prints, are very similar to standard C-type prints, but the silver salts 'couple' with colored dyes, rather than being replaced by them. The end result is very similar to standard C-type prints. Color coupler prints have the benefit of using the same extremely light-sensitive silver salts as found in silver gelatin prints, but they form high-resolution color images rather than black and white ones.

Digital Inkjet
Digital printing that produces images directly to the material (can be canvas or special paper surfaces) from a digital file through a stream of very fine dye drops controlled by the computer system.

Digital interneg
An Interneg produced by digital means, rather than traditional photographic methods. Digital internegs are made by scanning an original negative or its positive image, then laserwriting the digital negative.

Dye-based inks
Dye, unlike pigment, dissolves completely in solution (pigment-based inks leave tiny particles floating in the solution). This means that dye-based inks are entirely absorbed into the paper that they are printed on - the image is in fact a highly controlled stain. The resulting images can thus appear very slick and even, with a vast range of subtle colors and extremely fine detail. However, dye-based inks are more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV light than pigment-based inks, and should be kept out of direct sunlight. And since they are soluble they should also be kept away from water, which would cause them to run. Images printed with archival dye-based inks onto archival paper (as all of eyestorm's dye-based-ink prints are) will last for at least 70 years if stored in the proper conditions.

Fiber-based paper
Fiber-based paper is normal photographic paper: a paper base without a plastic coating. Normally there is a layer of baryta (barium sulphate), an insoluble white coating, between the paper and the gelatin emulsion, which adds brightness and prevents the image sinking into the paper.
Fiber-based papers can have bromide or chloro-bromide emulsions and be available as multi-grade or single grade papers. Many photographers use fiber-based paper for high quality exhibition prints.

Fresson print
The Fresson print was invented in 1900 in France. This method of color printing produces an image that is characteristically diffused and subtle, reminiscent of pointillism Impressionist paintings with rich and deep tones. This process is extremely time-consuming, requiring from four to seven separate transparencies. Color pigments are used, and the print is developed in as solution of water and sawdust to give it the characteristic effects.

Fuji color crystal archive
A C-type color resin-based paper made by Fuji. It offers excellent color reproductions and has superior archival properties (over 70 years if kept in controlled conditions).

Fujiflex
A C-type color paper made by Fuji which offers an extreme gloss finish.

Giclee
See inkjet.

Gloss surface Lambda print
See Lambda.

High reflection print
A C-type print produced on resin-based paper with a supergloss finish - see Fujiflex.

Ilfochrome (previously Cibachrome)
Known correctly as Ilfochrome Classic. See Cibachrome.

Inkjet
A broad term for four color (CMYK) printing in which liquid inks are sprayed onto the receiving material in very fine droplets not visible to the naked eye. Inkjet printers can print onto a variety of materials, although not as broad a range as is possible through Iris printers.

Interneg
A negative produced to replace an original negative. If an original negative is lost, damaged or too valuable to use, then a new negative can be made by photographing a transparency or print of the original.

Iris
A type of digital inkjet printer that allows photographic quality images to be printed onto a wide range of materials (such as canvas and fine art papers). This can produce a richness and depth of color not possible on traditional photographic papers. As a relatively new printing process (developed in the early 80s) research is still taking place into the archival properties of Iris prints, with the key factor being the material that the image is printed onto. All eyestorm Iris prints have been purposely developed to have the highest archival potential possible: through the use of archival, acid-free papers and archival pigments.

Lambda
Regarded as the one of the best digital printers. It uses three lasers (Red, Green & Blue) to print digitised images onto traditional photographic paper. This allows consistent reproduction of large run editions with the same quality as traditional print techniques. This process typically uses C-type paper.

Lambda on crystal archive
See Lambda and Fuji color crystal archive.

Lambda on Gloss Fuji Archive
See Lambda and Fuji color crystal archive.

Linocut on paper
A type of relief printing. A plate of linoleum (soft metal) is cut into to produce an image. Everything but the image is cut away so the image stands in relief. The plate is then inked and printed.

Lithograph
The design of the image is drawn on a flat stone (eg. Limestone) or metal plate with a greasy, water repellent substance (eg. greasy crayon). Water is then spread over the surface and the application of ink follows. After the ink is applied the areas within the image retains the ink. Paper is placed onto the plate and the image is absorbed. Only one color ink can be applied at a time, which makes the process time-consuming.

Mordant dye toner
Mordant dye and color coupler toners are able to produce the dramatic color changes. These toners usually consist of two solutions. The bleach or activator solution is the "mordant" which alters the silver in the print to receive the dye. After a wash, the print is put into the dye solution, then cleared and washed. Different colors can be combined in one print by toning first in one color then another. Mordant dye and color coupler toners are not archival and the colors may fade with time from light exposure.

Negative
A sheet of transparent film coated with silver salts which react when exposed to light (usually in a camera). In black and white negatives, one layer of salts reacts to white light (the full spectrum of light). The result is a reversal of normal vision: the shadows are light, the highlights dark. In color negatives there are normally three layers, each reacting to either red, green and blue light.

NTSC VHS
VHS video format used in North America and Japan.

PAL VHS
VHS video format used in Australia and Europe (excluding France).

PFT
P.F.T.s, or Print Film Transparencies, are positive color reproductions from original negatives, produced as transparencies.

Photogram
A photogram is a photograph made without a lens or camera: objects are placed directly on top of a sheet of photographic paper which is then exposed to light. Where the objects obstruct the light, the paper remains unexposed (light in tone), while the rest darkens through exposure.

Photographic collage
A single image built up from several photographic prints.

Photogravure
Also known as heliogravure, photogravure is arguably the finest photomechanical means of reproducing a photograph in large editions. Copper plates are acid etched directly from an original silver print, the etched areas then hold differing amounts of ink in order to correspond to the tones of the original print. If prints remain untrimmed, the impression of the printing plate will remain on the paper (around the image). Blacks often appear as delicate charcoals, and whites - when printed on high quality paper - stay white. The photogravure technique results in incredibly beautiful prints, with excellent detail and sensitive tones.

Pigment-based inks
Pigment, unlike dye, is a powder made up of tiny granules that will not dissolve completely in solution. This means that pigment-based inks leave particles of pure color bonded to the surface of the paper that they are printed on. The resulting images can thus appear very rich and physical, densely saturated in color - although extremely fine detail may be compromised. Pigment-based inks are much more resistant to UV light than dye-based inks (they were originally developed for outdoor use) and will tend to keep their original colors longer. They are also less likely to run if they come into contact with water. Images printed with archival pigment-based inks onto archival paper (as all of eyestorm's pigment-based-ink prints are) will last for at least 150 years if stored in the proper conditions.

Platinum print
Similar to silver gelatin prints, but using iron and platinum instead of silver salts. Platinum prints are valued aesthetically for their range of tonal variations (typically silvery greys) and unrivalled archival properties, although the price of platinum makes them expensive to produce.

Polaroid
A manufacturer/trademark of a photographic system which gives 'instant' prints, by which film, paper and developing solution are combined in one unit. As soon as the film/paper is exposed the image begins to develop, developing fully within a maximum of 5 minutes. All Polaroids on eyestorm have been professionally 'stopped' and removed from their developing backs to prevent potential over-developing.

Polaroid
Polacolor 2
A type of Polaroid print.

Polaroid Polacolor ER
A type of Polaroid print.

Polaroid Polacolor Type 108
A type of Polaroid print.

Positive
A positive is, obviously, the opposite of a negative - that is, it is an image which is not reversed. Positive images are made through a double negative: silver salts react to light producing a negative which, when projected onto photographic paper (more silver salts), produces a positive.

Prestige print RA4 Ilford
A prestige print is a handmade print (as all non-digital eyestorm prints are). RA4 is the paper process used in printing color prints from color negatives.

Resin-based paper
Plastic-based paper type. The most common paper type for printing color images as it gives greater gloss potential than fiber-based papers (e.g. supergloss on Fujiflex).

R-type paper
R-type papers work in the opposite way to traditional papers. A transparency (positive) is projected onto reversal paper which thus develops a positive image.

R-type printing
R (or Reversal) type printing is a more expensive process than C-type, printing from a positive slide or transparency onto R-type paper to give exactly the same color saturation as the original image. This method can potentially heighten contrast by reducing shadows.

Screen printing
A stencil is made up for each color of the image and put over a fine fabric mesh that is stretched over a metal frame. The colored ink is spread over the mesh and stencil and the ink falls through the stencil to the underlying material (usually an art paper) to produce the image. The surplus ink is washed away. Once the ink has dried the next stencil (i.e. the next color) is placed and the process begins again.

Selenium gelatin photogram
See photogram and selenium toning.

Selenium toned gelatin print
See silver gelatin print and selenium toning.

Selenium toned photogram
See photogram and selenium toning.

Selenium toning
A type of toning using the metal selenium to replace silver salts. Done both for the aesthetic benefits of a slightly warmer tone and greatly improved archival properties.

Sepia Toning
Sepia toning involves replacing the silver in a black and white photographic print by silver sulphide, which is brown. The print is first bleached, briefly washed and then treated with the sulphide toning solution. A range of different browns can be obtained by varying the pH of the solution. Because silver sulphide is more stable than silver, sepia toning increases the archival properties of the photographic print.

Silk screen
A printing process in which ink or paint is brushed through a screen made of silk, on which areas have been 'masked off' to produce the image.

Silver bromide Print
Silver bromides share the features of all silver gelatin prints, giving deep rich blacks and crisp whites on a high gloss paper, as well as having good archival properties. Compared with silver chlorides or chloro-bromides, they have a neutral, deep black tone.

Silver chloride print
Silver chlorides share the features of all silver gelatin prints, giving deep rich blacks and crisp whites on a high gloss paper, as well as having good archival properties. Compared with silver bromides or chloro-bromides, they have a cooler, bluish-black tone.

Silver gelatin print
Silver gelatin prints typically give deep rich blacks and crisp whites on a high gloss paper. They have extremely good archival properties, lasting over 100 years without visible fading if kept carefully. There are three key types of black and white gelatin prints: silver bromide, silver chloride and chloro-bromide.

Silver salts
Silver salts are light sensitive chemical compounds. When exposed to light - either in a camera (in the case of film and negatives) or in the dark room (photographic papers) - the silver salts react by darkening in proportion to the amount of light reflected from the subject.

Sintra board
A plastic-based product that is extremely durable. It is often used as a mounting surface because it is stable, archival and not effected by humidity.

Straight dye toners
These are the simplest of the toners. Actually a tinting (link to definition) process, straight toners actually tint the paper base instead of dying the silver of the emulsion. This can decrease the contrast of the image, depending on the color and intensity used, so the image to be tinted usually needs to be printed with more contrast and/or darker than normal.

Surface finishes
Matt, gloss, supergloss, satin and pearl are all finishes available on different paper types. Satin and pearl are different names for the same finish - somewhere between gloss and matt).

Tinting or tinted prints
A process similar to toning, but involving the addition of a single color over the whole print. The effect is most visible in the image's highlights and mid-tones. Done purely for aesthetic reasons, tinting does not affect a print's archival properties.

Tintype
Also called Ferrotypes or Melainotypes. A variant of the wet Collodion process producing a direct positive image on a thin sheet of lacquered, or "japanned," metal, which was usually iron. Later, in the 1880s, the collodion was replaced by dry gelatin. Popular from 1855 to 1930.

Toned gelatin silver print
See toning or toned black and white and silver gelatin print.

Toning
Toning images allows an artist to alter the colors of a photographic print (by replacing the silver in the silver salts with another metal) and to increase the archival properties of the image. There are four basic types of toners: replacement, mordant dye, color coupler, and straight dye toners.

Transparency
See positive.

Verso
The back of a print. Signatures are usually found on the verso.

Vintage Print
An image printed around the same time that the negative was created. Most photography specialists limit the time span to ten years.



© 2005 Jeremy Noble