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The ABC of Photography – M



The term generally used to describe equipment for taking pictures at a closer shooting distance than usual, to provide a bigger image of the subject. Historically speaking, the term ‘macro’ refers to when the recorded image is life-size or larger than life-size, with a magnification

ratio that is 1:1 or greater.

Maddox, Dr. Richard Leach

Maddox (1816-1902) was an English photographer and doctor who invented the first successful gelatin dry plate for photography in 1871. Until then, photographers used wet plates, which had to be coated, exposed and developed in hazardous chemicals while still wet. Leach’s invention made photography much less dangerous and complicated and laid the basis for early film emulsions.


Magic Wand tool

A tool that selects pixels on the basis of their colour. Click a pixel, and more pixels of a similar colour or tone will be selected. The Tolerance setting will dictate how close in colour other pixels must be in order to be included.

Magnification ratio

The relationship between the size of the focused image and the size of the subject. If the image is life-size, the magnification ratio is 1:1.

Manual exposure

An exposure made after the photographer has selected shutter speed and aperture of their choice, usually after taking a reading from a built-in or hand-held light meter.

Manual focus

Adjusting the camera’s focus by turning the focusing ring on the lens barrel by hand. It’s often used to choose a particular focus point in macro photography. It can also be essential in certain lighting situations, for example, low light or mist, when autofocus can struggle to lock on to a subject.

Marching ants

The dotted lines that flicker around areas that have been selected with a Marquee tool in Photoshop.


The Marquee tools enable you to make regular-shaped selections such as ellipses or rectangles. The term ‘marquee’ is also used to refer to the animated dotted outline that indicates the border of a selection, which is also often referred to as ‘marching ants’.


Matrix metering

See evaluative metering.

 Maxwell, James Clerk

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a theoretical physicist who collaborated with photographer Thomas Sutton (1819-1875) to create the first colour photographic image in 1861. They photographed a tartan ribbon through red, green and blue filters. Then, at a lecture at The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, the three negatives were projected together on a screen, using the same coloured filters, and combined to make one colour image.


Medium-format camera

Any camera that uses film larger than 35mm, but smaller than 4×5 (large format) film. In digital photography, the term refers to cameras that use sensors larger than a 36 x 24mm image sensor. Current examples include the Pentax 645Z and Hasselblad H5D-200c (both with a sensor size of 43.8 x 32.8mm)


Megabyte (MB)

A unit for measuring the size of computer memory and storage capacity in hard disks. Largely outmoded by the larger gigabyte unit (roughly 1,000 megabytes) as technology has improved to offer larger sizes.



A measurement of the resolution of a digital camera, equal to 1,000,000 pixels.


Memory Stick

Family of removable memory cards used by some digital cameras. Pioneered by Sony.



A text information that describes an image file, such as EXIF camera settings and user-added captions.


Metered manual

An exposure mode in which shutter speed and aperture are set manually by the user, although information as to their suitability is provided by the camera’s own metering system.


Micro Four Thirds system

A standard for compact system cameras (CSCs) created by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008. It uses the same sensor as Four Thirds system D-SLR cameras but doesn’t use the mirror box or pentaprism. This allows a smaller, lighter and more compact body and lens design.


All the areas of an image that aren’t shadows or highlights. These are areas of brightness that, if the image were converted to black and white, would be a shade of grey rather than black or white. In a histogram, they correspond with the main central parts of the histogram graph.


As with minimalism in art, music and literature, this is a style of photography that uses a small number of elements to create its effect, and is often calm and contemplative. One contemporary photographer who consistently uses a minimalist style in his landscape work is Michael Kenna.

Moiré pattern

In photography, moiré occurs when a detailed or repetitive pattern in the subject is overlaid with the pattern of pixels on a digital sensor. The interaction of the two patterns produces a separate, often wavy, moiré pattern. The effect is reduced by the camera’s optical low

pass filter.



Although the term applies to images made using only one colour, or shades of one colour, in photography it usually refers to black-and-white images. The ‘monochrome mode’ on digital cameras enables you to record directly in black and white, instead of converting colour images at the post-capture stage.


A one-legged camera support. This doesn’t provide complete stability to the camera, but enables slower shutter speeds to be used than would otherwise be possible with a handheld camera. Used widely by sports photographers due to its maneuverability.

Motion blur

An out-of-focus streaking effect caused by the movement of the subject or camera during the exposure. Examples include a long exposure of a moving object passing through a static street scene at night, or panning the camera with a moving subject to create a background with blur.

Motor drive (or motor wind)

A camera facility for taking a number of pictures in rapid succession. The camera continues to take pictures as long as your finger keeps the release down, or until it runs out of memory.

Move tool

A tool used for aligning a layer by moving it around the canvas.


Taken from ‘mug’, the established slang word for ‘face’, the term originally applied to the stark police photographs of criminals, taken after arrest. It now refers to any simple head-and-shoulders portrait such as those found on a driving license or passport.

Multiple exposures

An image created by two or more superimposed images.

Multizone metering

See evaluative metering.


Sources:  Pixabay, NASA, Wikipedia, Susan Wingfield Lamar High School


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