Glossary of Photography Terms

Some words to help you look differently at fine-art photography

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Albumen print A photographic printing process using egg whites in the emulsion.

Alternative Processes This term covers at least 35 distinct processes, some historic and some not; most having to do with processing the final print for unconventional effect.

Bromoil A highly involved process than can generate one print or, in a transfer variation, many copies. Its chief quality is a delicate painterly/etcherly look. Lithographic ink is applied with a special brush to a gelatinized paper surface that selectively resists or attracts the ink.

Cibachrome A process by which a photographic print is made directly from a color transparency. Noted for rich color, brilliant clarity and unprecedented archival quality for color prints. Also called Ilfochrome.

Cyanotype and Vandyke These methods, and others, made from metals combined with their ferric salts (platinum, palladium, gold, copper, etc.) can produce infinite monochrome variations with capacity to convey special moods.

Daguerreotype An early photographic process (invented in 1839) where the impression made on a light-sensitive silver-coated metal plate is developed by mercury vapor. Each is an original since no duplication process exists.

Dye transfer A method of making color prints or transparencies that gives the maximum control of color, balance and contrast. One of the most permanent color processes.

Gum Bichromate Often called "gum." An early process in which exquisite colored prints are made by printing on paper coated with layer(s) of sensitized and pigmented gum arabic.

Gumoil A recently discovered process which has the look and feel of some of the ancient processes. In combination with unpigmented gum, etching bleach and oil pigments, it is possible to build monochrome or polychromatic images.

Orotone An image printed on glass then backed in gold; also called gold-tone or curt-tone. It is often found in ornate, molded or gilded frames.

Pinhole An old, but currently popular way of taking pictures using a simple box without a lense, but with a tiny hole and a sheet of film pinned inside opposite the hole. Produces unique perspective and dreamy focus.

Platinum/palladium A print in which the final image is formed in platinum or palladium. Both of these processes are extremely permanent and have delicate rich tones and ranges of greys that are unattainable in silver prints. These processes are enjoying a revival today with a number of contemporary photographers coating their own paper.

Photogravure An intaglio printing process in which the image has been placed on the plate by photographic means using carbon tissues.

Polaroid Transfer It is possible to float off the emulsion layer of a conventional Polaroid print and apply it to a new paper support with interesting effects.

Silver print A generic term referring to all prints made on paper coated with silver salts. Most contemporary black and white photographs are silver prints.

Vintage A photograph printed within a very few years of the date when the negative was made. Prints made recently from original negatives that are old are called modern prints.

Compiled by Janet Russek and David Scheinbaum of Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd remote
Santa Fe private dealers and consultants in photography
with added terms by Karl P. Koenig.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 1

Related Pages

Alternative Process Photography article
Collecting Photography of the Southwest article
E. S. Curtis: The Shadow Catcher article

The 150th Anniversary of Photography article
New Mexico: Photographers' Eden article
Photography in New Mexico article
Platinum Photography article

Collector’s Resources


The Albuquerque Museum | 505-243-7255
Weyrich Gallery | 505-883-7410

Elsewhere in New Mexico

Galeria de Corrales 3923 Corrales Road | 505-890-4929
Corrales Bosque Gallery | 505-898-7203
Roswell Museum & Art Center | 575.624.6744
Las Cruces Museum of Art | 575-541-2137
Josie's Framery | 575-257-4156

Santa Fe

Arroyo rem | 505-988-1002
Kat Livengood Studio |
Gallery Chartreuse rem 216 Washington Ave | 505-992-3391
Gerald Peters Gallery + Peters Projects | 505.954.5700
Robert J. Kelly rem 229 Camino Del Norte | 505-983-3590
Ronnie Layden Fine Art Gallery | 505-995-9783
Vivo Contemporary rem 725 Canyon Road | 505-982-1320
Winterowd Fine Art | 505-992-8878


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