Teaching & Learning / Glossary

Here is an alphabetized list of some of the terms used to describe image-based media with explanations of their meanings. It will be expanded and updated…

COMPOSITE PHOTOGRAPH – modifying a photograph by adding elements from one or more other photographs.

FOUR CORNERS PROJECT – a templated use of the four corners of the photograph online, each corner containing specific kinds of information that can be accessed by placing the cursor on that corner (see fourcornersproject.org).

GUTTER – the central fold in a double page of a book or magazine.

HYPERTEXT – text-based non-linear narratives, usually situated in a digital environment.

HYPERMEDIA – the open-ended linking of various media to advance a non-linear narrative.

INTERACTIVE PORTRAIT – a portrait of another in which the subject is asked to comment on to what extent the image adequately represents them and this commentary, whether sound or text, is made available to the reader.

MULTIMEDIA – the use of two or more media in combination, often accomplished digitally and with an interactive component.

PARADIGM SHIFT – a fundamental change in thinking that leads to a re-conception, such as the conception by Ptolemy of the earth being the center of the universe which then underwent a paradigm shift when Galileo reconceived the universe as having the sun at its center. In media it is the transformative moment when a medium develops its own characteristics rather than borrowing from a previous medium, such as photography initially did with painting in its period of Pictorialism.  

PEACE PHOTOGRAPHY – a proactive use of photography that attempts to prevent or minimize damage, rather than the more typical use of photography that is reactive and reports on catastrophic events as they happen (such as war photography). It can be also used as a means to enable healing such as by using photographs to work with traumatized people in therapeutic ways.

PHOTO EDITING – a term that has long been used to describe the selecting of certain photographs from among a much larger group. Recently it has become to mean the post-production modification of the photograph with software, displacing terms such as “manipulation” and “enhancement.”

PHOTO REPORTAGE – an attempt to report upon and interpret a situation using photography as the primary medium.

POINT PICTURE – a photograph that is included to provide specific information, rather than one that is more emblematic of the situation.

PORTRAIT – a photograph that is made to explore a particular person. Portraits are usually posed by the photographer or by the subject in collaboration with the photographer.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION – a directed photograph in which people or things are used intentionally to illustrate a more general point. It may also be a composited or synthetic image used for the same purpose.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY – a directed photograph with conditions imposed by the subject or by the subject’s representative in an attempt to severely constrict the photographer’s interpretive possibilities.

PIXEL – a composite form of “picture element” that indicates each of the many small discrete squares that can be modified individually and together form a digital image.

RETOUCHED PHOTOGRAPH – altering specific parts or aspects of a photograph.

ROLL OVER – an image on the screen which conceals a second image or text underneath it, made visible when the cursor is placed over the primary image.

SELF-PORTRAIT – a photograph that attempts to explore and identify who the photographer is as a person.

SELFIE – a photograph of oneself, or that includes oneself, made by a digital device that is usually made to be shared on social media. It is frequently used to illustrate a pre-conceived notion of oneself rather than to ask questions of who one might be.

SIMULACRUM – a simulation that references nothing other than itself.

SYNTHETIC IMAGE – an image that is generated digitally, often to simulate a photograph of people and places that do not exist.

TAKING (or SHOOTING) PHOTOGRAPHS – the releasing of the camera’s shutter to expose film or digital sensors. MAKING PHOTOGRAPHS is an alternative term that can be seen as less aggressive.

TRANSMEDIA – the idea that digital media, being code-based, can be output as a variety of media, not only as the original medium, e.g. a digital image being output as sound or music.

TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING – telling a single story, or providing the experience of a story, across multiple platforms and formats.

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE – the mistaken assumption that photographs are read in the same ways in different cultures.