Assignment 2: Part 2 – Depth-of-field/lens perspectives

DUE: Next Monday (2/12) in class


It’s important to learn how your choice of aperture and focal length can change the way your pictures look and feel. And practice staying out of “the middle!”

Assignment criteria for credit:

  • Make four different pictures of one subject.
  • Frame each picture the same way, with the subject’s face the same size in each image, in the same location, positioned in the bottom third of the frame to the left or the right. 
  • Make sure there is some kind of background element at least 10 feet beyond your subject (don’t use a wall or something featureless).

See the example (make sure you read the caption), and follow the directions for each picture below the example:


Try to compose your images for this exercise in a way similar to this photograph. Position your subject in the lower third of the frame (either side is okay) and make sure the subject’s head is the same size in ALL FOUR pictures.


Picture #1  

  • Find the shortest focal length of whatever lens you are using. If you have more than one lens, start with the one which has the widest angle of view (shortest focal length). If you are using the lens that comes with your university kit, that means 17 or 18mm. If you are using your own kit lens, that probably means 17mm.
  • Set your aperture to the widest setting, or smallest f-value (we call this shooting “wide open”). If you are using the university’s Tamron lens, that means f/2.8. If you are using your own kit lens with a variable maximum aperture, that probably means f/3.5
  • Set your shutter speed and ISO accordingly for a correct exposure.
  • Make several pictures. You may pose your subject for this. Try to pay attention to the background and shoot in a way that creates a visual relationship to your subject.

Picture #2

  • Shoot this at the same focal length, without changing your position and using the same composition, but now set your aperture to f/16, again, adjusting your shutter speed and/or ISO to maintain correct exposure.

Picture #3

  • Now, change your zoom (or lens, if you have more than one) to the longest focal length (50mm on a university lens, 55mm for most other kit lenses). If you have a T6i kit, the longest focal length of the Canon lens is 135mm. Now move back until you can compose the photo the same exact way as the first two. Don’t zoom back and forth to recompose! Simply zoom all the way out and leave it there. Adjust your composition by moving yourself back and forth.
  • Shoot wide open (widest aperture) again. This will still be f/2.8 on a university lens. If you have your a variable aperture lens, then f/5.6 will probably be your widest aperture once you zoom out to 50/55mm or 135mm.
  • Adjust your shutter speed and ISO to get proper exposure.

Picture #4

  • Shoot this final image from the same spot as #3, setting your aperture to f/16 this time (and, again, adjusting your shutter speed/ISO for proper exposure).

NOTE: Collect the same information for this subject that you did for your mugshots. You may use one of your mug shot subjects for this assignment, if you wish and he or she has the time.

You must complete BOTH parts 1&2 for credit. Just shoot both parts on the same card, and bring it to class, with your storage device on Monday (2/12)


If you are using a university camera kit for this assignment, start with the Tamron lens. You should see a fairly significant difference in depth-of-field between f/2.8 and f/16. Make sure you take a look at your images as you shoot them. If you are not seeing a noticeable difference in depth-of-field between f/2.8 and f/16, then you might need to move closer to your subject and reframe your image more tightly. Remember, zoom all the way in, and all the way out, and use your feet – move back and forth to reframe your image!

Basic kit lenses and the university’s Tamron lenses zoom out to only 50-55mm. This leaves out the telephoto range of focal lengths. If that’s the only lens you have, that’s fine. Just complete the assignment at the opposite ends of your focal length range.

However, if you check out one of the university T6i kits, I would encourage you to shoot the second two pictures (#3 and #4 above) with the Canon lens in your kit, zoomed all the way out to 135mm. Note that your maximum f-stop will be 5.6 at this focal length, so you will need to make exposure adjustments to compensate for less light reaching the sensor.  And you will have to stand even further back to compose your pictures the same way that you did with the first two.

Some of you may own zoom lenses that are capable of even longer focal lengths, such as 200mm or 300mm. Please try this exercise with those lenses zoomed out to their longest focal length so you can understand how your images look at these focal lengths.



Tips and advice

Be methodical! This assignment won’t take too long, but make sure you follow the directions and make sure you are seeing the difference in perspective and depth-of-field as you change your settings and position.

If you are not seeing fairly noticeable differences between your images, you might need to move a little closer to your subject, initially, and reshoot so all of your pictures are still framed the same way. Remember that distance between camera and your subject affects depth-of-field.

Think about printing out this assignment, or calling the post up on your smart phone, so you can make sure you are following the directions while you are shooting. If it helps, maybe have a friend read the directions for each photo while you are shooting. This way, you can concentrate more on your subject.

Again, keep shooting in manual mode with back button focus so you continue to become comfortable with changing your settings.

This assignment is key to practice the “focus/recompose” technique, since your subject will be off-center. Use your focus button to acquire sharp focus on your subject, then lift your thumb off the button so the lens stops focusing. Then recompose with your subject in the corner of the frame. Then, you only need to push the shutter release to take a picture.


Method to the madness!


No worries.

Assignment #1 is designed to get your feet wet. Just do it.

This course is designed to progressively add to your knowledge and skill set. It’s not random. There’s a method! While each assignment will include additional elements that you need to learn, the basics will still be reinforced from one assignment to the next.

Just know that the first FOUR shooting assignments will allow you to progress and hone your skills while shooting in manual mode. Don’t panic and think you have to get it all down by next Monday.

Just keep these things in mind:

Become familiar with your tools. You have to learn the combinations of buttons and dials to change your key settings (aperture/f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, and back-button focus). Again, it’s not intuitive at first. But the more you practice, the more intuitive it will become.

Remember that you have to lightly press the shutter release button just to activate the display in your viewfinder. You might have to keep pressing it (again, lightly) just to make changes. Really concentrate on using the viewfinder display, not the LCD on the back of the camera.

Work on remembering these combinations. Start to develop muscle-memory about which buttons to press with your thumb – to activate back-button focus, and to change your aperture/f-stop settings.

If it helps, get your correct exposure nailed down first. Once you do this, THEN you can concentrate on getting your subject in focus.

One thing at a time.

The goal is to make the technical stuff intuitive so you can concentrate on the content of your photos. But the content will not matter if your pictures are under/overexposed or out of focus. Now is the time to develop the necessary technique.

Be methodical. Make mental notes, at least. Note your settings when you start. Then note the changes necessary to obtain correct exposure and sharp focus. You will start noticing patterns. Write out your settings and the changes, if necessary. You might learn faster, that way.

For example, if you’re shooting a “noun,” concentrate on that one object or person until you’ve obtained sharp focus and correct exposure. Note your final settings, the conditions you are shooting in (light level, time of day, position of the sun, for instance), and the changes you made to get there. Once you do that, then – and only then – you can move on to your next subject.

Take your time. Use the display in your viewfinder to make adjustments. But keep checking your results on your camera’s LCD display after you’ve shot a picture (by pressing the playback button). Give yourself plenty of time to make mistakes and correct them. Again, don’t move on to your next subject until you’ve obtained correct exposure and sharp focus on your current one.

Focus tracking. Once you’ve finished with your visual nouns, start practicing by tracking moving objects or people. Remember that you have to hold down the button we’ve designated for focusing (the * button on the Canons, and the AE-lock button on Nikons) with your thumb while shooting pictures at the same time. For now, keep your focus point in the middle of your viewfinder.

Unlearn bad habits. Start by holding your camera/lens correctly. Cradle it. The weight of the camera and lens should be in the palm of your left hand. Use your thumb and middle finger to turn the zoom ring on the lens. Think underhand, not overhand. Keep your camera shooting mode in “M.” Don’t resort to the green “A” just because you’re struggling. Changing the shooting mode from M can undo many of the menu settings we set up.

You SHOULD be out of your comfort zone. We’re starting from scratch. Work with me, and you’ll get where you need to be. I’m looking for effort and progress, right now. Not perfection.

As always, contact me if you run into obstacles.


Exposure values: where to start?

The following video was included in the last post. But I wanted to re-post it so you might have an idea about the decision-making process about where to start with exposure values. It’s a short video, so please watch:


In most outdoor situations (again, you should be able to shoot every assignment for this class outdoors, in daylight hours), it’s not a bad idea to start with the maximum aperture for your lens (the smallest f-stop value printed on your lens).

Also, start with your smallest ISO value, too. (usually 100).

Then use your light meter to determine your shutter speed. Keep spinning your dial until you’ve “zeroed out” your light meter.

For a review about using the light meter in your viewfinder, watch this:


In direct sunlight at mid-day, you might end up with a shutter speed of 1/2000 or 1/4000 of a second. It will be slower in the shade or early-morning/late evening, as there is less available light on your subject. Just use your light meter to make your initial exposure.

THIS is your starting point! Make a picture. Then check the results on your camera’s LCD display (use the playback button).

If it is too dark or too light, make adjustments accordingly.

You also might decide you want MORE of your picture in focus. Then you need to “stop down,” or use a larger f-stop value. Try shooting at f8 or higher. Again, make adjustments to your shutter speed or ISO to obtain proper exposure.

It will take practice, and that’s what this shooting assignment is designed for.

Just keep making pictures. The process might not seem intuitive, at first. But the more you practice, the more intuitive it will become.



Review of the basic concepts in class (1/29)

I’m going to give you more pointers, but if you need to review the material we went over in class, here you go …

Here is a PDF version of the presentation, with my presenter’s notes:

Technical Control: Photography basics

I’m going to post some videos here, too, in case you want to review what we watched in class, as well as a couple of videos that go into more depth about what we discussed:

This is the first video we watched, so you can review the basics. The terminology is important:


Second, here is a video that goes into detail about aperture values and why some lenses have a range of maximum apertures vs. a fixed maximum aperture value. This might have been a little confusing. If you were confused, PLEASE watch this:


If you need to review how to shoot in manual mode and using your light meter, watch this:


Here is a video that helps explain the process of choosing the best exposure values (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) for your conditions:


If you want a primer about how to use your autofocus points, view this:


And here is the video on using back-button focus:


Shooting news photographs is a lot more like shooting wildlife than you might realize! If you want more info and details about using back-button autofocus, watch this (NOTE: this is especially good for Nikon users who don’t have a dedicated AF-On button – such as the D3000, D3100, and D3200 – but Canon users should watch this, too, because the technique is the same):


So, there’s a review.

Like I said, I tried to stuff a lot of info in your heads in a short time. If you left class still a little confused, read and watch everything, with your camera in hand. Just don’t wait too long to start shooting pictures.

Then contact me ASAP if you have any questions.

Assignment 1: Visual Nouns and Verbs


DUE: Next Monday (2/5) in class

I will follow up on this post with more pointers, but read this carefully!

Now is the time to start practicing the concepts I tried to stuff into your heads during class. Don’t be daunted, and definitely don’t give up. Just start shooting pictures!!! You will end up with a lot of terrible images. That’s how you learn, though.

Shooting in manual mode will allow you to understand the Exposure Triangle. Learning the Exposure Triangle will help you avoid over/under-exposed images, as well as blurry images caused by camera shake or subject movement.

By using back-button focus, you can better control your point-of-focus and focus-tracking rather than letting the camera choose for you.

When covering the news, there is more at stake than when you are shooting snapshots of your friends and family. You might only get one chance to capture that key, storytelling moment. Your audience is relying on you!

You will be uploading ALL of the images you shoot to a Google drive folder, which I will create for you. Look for an email invitation in your GS email account. Accept the invitation right away. You won’t be able to complete the assignment in class next week, if you don’t.

Assignment criteria for credit:

  1. Shoot at least 100 frames showing visual nouns
  2. Shoot at least 100 frames showing visual verbs
  3. Shoot in manual mode (you select the aperture, shutter speed and ISO)
  4. Use back-button focus (practice both focus/recompose and focus tracking)
  5. (Those with university T6i camera kits, please use the Tamron lens for this assignment)

You don’t have to shoot 100 visual nouns and 100 visual verbs. I’m more interested in the process and in progress. However, I need to see at least 100 frames shot in each category to demonstrate your effort in learning how to shoot in manual mode with back-button focus. I expect to see lots of out of focus frames, as well as underexposed/overexposed frames while you learn to use your camera’s light meter to obtain proper exposure. See the note in boldface type near the bottom of this post …

Next week, bring to class:

  1. A camera kit with the memory card, containing the pictures you shot, to class next Mon.
  2. A card reader (recommended)
  3. A clean (empty and formatted) storage device (a large capacity USB 3.0 jump drive or an external hard drive) to class

You will receive 100 points for completing the assignment – on time.

NOTE: Remember, if you checked out a university camera kit, you will need to return it by Friday because of the 5-day reservation limit. If you want more time to complete your assignment (many probably will), you might want to change your reservation and return the camera Thursday. Then you can make a weekend reservation. You can go ahead and do this now. If you have any questions about this, you can contact me, but the people in the Equipment Room can probably better answer your questions directly.

You can shoot anything, really. Soon, your choices of subject will be important, but for now, I want you to concentrate on becoming familiar with your camera and learning the basics of exposure and autofocus. So try to have fun with this!

Carry your camera with you wherever you go. That way, if you see anything that interests you, go ahead and make pictures. Trust me, you really don’t want to try and complete this assignment in one day. Give yourself plenty of time to make mistakes (and you will!) and correct them.

And, again, keep shooting until you achieve correct exposure and focus before you move on to your next subject.

If you run into some problems, contact me right away. You can even text or call me. I can’t promise to respond right away, but I will as soon as I can.

Like I said, try to have fun with this. More soon!

Using your camera kits for this class

So, here’s some things to keep in mind after you check out your camera kits from the Com Arts Equipment Room.

Look through the bag and make sure there is a battery charger. Take note of everything that is in the bag, and make sure everything gets returned when you’re done.

Battery care. Some advice about batteries: Keep your battery charged. You never want to start shooting an assignment and have the battery die on you. Plus, you just never know when you will run across an opportunity for a great picture. Always be ready! Top the battery off whenever you can (the charger has a wall plug-in), but don’t leave the battery on the charger once it’s charged – especially overnight. This will shorten the life of the battery.

Travel light. When we bring cameras to class, bring everything in the kit. But when you’re on assignment or just out-and-about, consider leaving the bag behind, unless you really need the extra lens and the battery charger. Travel light. Use the camera strap and carry your camera/lens over your shoulder – everywhere! Again, you just never know when life will present a great picture opportunity. Always be ready!

Be ready! Speaking of being ready, I recommend leaving the lens cap off. If you’re incredibly paranoid and if you it makes you feel better, then leave it on the lens. But, again, you are not ready to shoot pictures if there’s a lens cap on.

Treat your gear with respect and don’t be reckless with it. But you don’t have to baby it. It’s meant to be used as a tool – not an accessory.

Manual, Quick-start guide for camera kits

For those of you who will be checking out camera kits from Sanford Tuesday, here are links to the manual and quick-start guide:

Canon Rebel T3 Quick-start guide

Canon Rebel T3 instruction manual

All of you – start familiarizing yourselves with the controls and menus of your cameras. We’re going to start shooting – in class. Be prepared!

See you Wednesday and let me know if you have any questions before then.