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

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!”

NOTE: If you are using a university camera kit for this assignment, please use 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!


Find ONE subject and make four pictures of this subject, each one framed the same way, with the subject the same size, showing him or her from the shoulders up, 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). Example (make sure you read the caption):


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 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) and 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 own variable aperture lens, then f/5.6 will probably be your widest aperture once you zoom out to 55mm.
  • 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).

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.

OPTIONAL, but very highly encouraged!

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 you check out one of the university T6i kits, shoot two more pictures 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. Then shoot another picture at f/16, again, making necessary adjustments to your shutter speed and/or ISO.

Some of you may own zoom lenses that are capable of 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.


Assignment 2: Part 1 – the Mug Shot

The head shot – or mug shot, as it is commonly referred to in the newsroom – is the most rudimentary type of photograph used in the news business. It is often used to identify a subject and/or to add a small graphic element to a story. As photo staffs are shrinking in newsrooms, every journalist should know how to shoot a competent mug shot. Shy? This will help you get over it. As journalists, we constantly have to approach strangers and talk to them. Here’s your chance to practice.


Shoot mug shots of FIVE different people and gather their basic personal information. No more than 3 out of the 5 mugs can be students. For each person photographed, you should get this information:

  • Any title or designation, including the institution (institution first THEN title, no separator)
  • Name (First and last name)
  • Age (separated by commas, after name)
  • Hometown (full-time residence, town/city, state)
  • Contact info (phone # and/or email address) 

Example:  Georgia Southern University biology professor Jim Smith, 54, of Brooklet, Ga.  (

Why the contact info? It’s good journalistic practice. If you have contact info for the people you photograph, writers or designers can contact your subjects for quotes or to verify facts. Do we always do it? No. But it’s a good habit to get into, especially when you are starting out. It’s always better to have more information than you can use rather than not enough.

Also, as a student, teacher, and practicing journalist, I have known people to occasionally make up information for their own convenience. This is a major breach of ethics. Accuracy must be journalists’ continuing bond with their audience. There’s a good chance I may randomly contact subjects to verify their information.

NOTE: Type your IDs and save them in a text or Word document on your storage device before class. You will save time by copying and pasting them into your image files rather than typing them all in during class.


Watch your background

Try to find a clean, non-distracting background, but don’t stand your subject up against it! Get some separation between the subject and the background. Watch out for “hot spots,” or areas of extreme brightness in your background. The light in the background shouldn’t be brighter than your subject’s face, if you can help it. Have your subject pivot and move your position until you have a clean background, if necessary. Wide apertures (small aperture values) are usually best to utilize a shallow depth-of-field and make your subjects stand out from the background.

Fill the Frame!

Shoot VERTICAL, as the head has a vertical orientation. Don’t shoot a picture with a tiny head centered in the frame. However, try to leave enough space above and below the head so your frame can be cropped into a square without cutting any of the head off. This is important because head shots are often cropped in different ways. They tend to be vertical in print, but square seems to be most common in web templates.


Stand back and zoom in

It’s better to shoot mug shots with lenses in the normal to telephoto range of focal lengths. If you shoot in the wide angle range and are too close, facial features will begin to distort. With some camera and lens combinations, longer focal lengths can also help clean up your background by dropping it out of focus. If you are using your own kit lens or the university’s Tamron lens, stick to the longest focal length – 50 or 55mm.

Put your subject at ease.

Many people are uncomfortable being photographed, so it’s up to you to make them comfortable. Tell them to relax and be themselves, and shoot lots of pictures. Often, you’ll find that the more pictures you shoot, the more relaxed your subject becomes.

Wait for the moment

Yes, even mug shots can have moments. Be mindful of facial expressions. Even small changes can infer different meanings to readers. Try to capture different expressions (try not to coach too much), but make sure you have a shot with a neutral expression, because you never know what type of story that picture might be used with in the future. You don’t want to run a mug shot of a smiling public official after they’ve been indicted for embezzlement or misconduct.

Did I mention, shoot lots of pictures?

Make sure you shoot test frames to check your exposure and camera settings. Tell your subject what your doing.  A couple of test frames might help them relax. Make adjustments if necessary. Be methodical and don’t proceed until your test frames look acceptable. Once you get your exposure correct, then shoot away!

NOTE:  Be careful about letting your subjects view the results in your camera: some people will never be happy with the results. Those people often see this task as an opportunity for a personal portrait – your job is to capture their likeness for informational purposes – that’s it.

Bring something to take notes with!

Review the Nouns/Verbs assignment so you remember what to bring to class Wednesday.

First, we are going to learn the basics of creating an image workflow with Adobe Lightroom.

Creating images in the camera is only part of the task for a professional photojournalist. What happens to the images after capture is every bit as important. Simply dragging image files from your camera’s card into a folder on your computer to download them isn’t sufficient.

Creating a consistent workflow will enable you to efficiently deliver and publish images in a variety of ways and ensure that vital information is always embedded into the image files for future searches and archiving.

Please bring something to take notes with to class. Just so you know, I have a handout that I will distribute after the lesson, but you will better learn the steps if you first take notes as we go through the steps.

Taking notes is also important because we will move at a fairly brisk pace. After we process our Nouns/Verbs images and upload them to your Google Drive folders, we will learn about lenses, perspectives, controlling depth-of-field,  and writing captions. Then we get our next shooting assignment!

More helpful menu settings

In class, we covered the basic menu settings so we are ready to shoot in manual mode with back-button focus.

However, a few issues popped up, so I will try to address some of them here.

Display/Meter shutoff

First, a lot of us had to keep re-activating our camera’s displays and meter because the default shutoff/sleep time is set at about 30 seconds. As you discovered, this is an annoyance. You can change the amount of time the display/meter stays active. I recommend you do this so your camera’s display/meter doesn’t keep shutting down while you’re shooting. 5-10 minutes is a pretty good range before your camera goes to sleep.

On the Canon T3:

Navigate to the Setup menu 1 (first yellow menu). Find “Auto power off.” The default is 30 seconds. Change it to 8 minutes.

On the Canon T6i:

Setup Menu 2 (Yellow)/Auto power off/Choose 8 minutes

On the Nikon D3300 (and similar Nikons)

Setup Menu/Auto off timers/choose option “E: Long”/Ok

On Nikons, always remember to press “Ok” to save your changes.

Picture Style/Control

Note: this is why one student’s images and displays were in black and white!

There are menu items on both Canons and Nikons where you can set the look and style of your images. Folks who shoot video like to play around with these, but most are not suited for photojournalism. When you check out a camera, take a look at this menu item and always choose “Standard” or “Neutral.” Personally, I prefer neutral so the camera doesn’t change the contrast or the color saturation of the scene I am photographing.

T3 & T6i

Record Menu 2 (red)/Picture Style/choose Standard or Neutral


Shooting menu/Set Picture Control/choose Standard or Neutral/Ok

Problems with setting ISO

The Canon cameras have some menu settings that can interfere with setting your ISO manually. If you had problems, see if any of these fix the problem …

DISABLE “Highlight Tone Priority!” If turned on, this setting will not allow you to access the full range of ISO settings in Manual mode.

On T3: 

Setup Menu 3/Custom Functions/C.Fn. II-5 Highlight Tone Priority/Choose “-0: Disable”

On T6i

Setup Menu 4/Custom Functions/C.Fn. II:Image/C.Fn-3 Highlight Tone Priority/Choose “-0: Disable”

On the T6i, enable ISO expansion. If this is not enabled, you will not be able to access the full range of ISO speeds your camera is capable of. Word of warning! The highest ISO setting on most cameras produces poor image quality. For assignments in this class, you should avoid shooting at this highest setting (ISO 25,000). However, there are times when you simply need it to get the shot. You want to have the option. 

Setup Menu 3/Custom Functions/C.Fn-2 ISO Expansion/1: On

Nikon-specific settings

Make sure Auto ISO is turned OFF! If it is turned on, it will override your manual ISO settings.

Shooting menu/ISO sensitivity settings/Auto ISO/Off

Image quality settings: on Nikons, there are actually two menu settings you need to be aware of.

Shooting menu/Image Quality/JPEG/FINE

Shooting menu/Image size/Large

These are just a few things that came up. Let me know if you experience any other issues.

Follow-up on class: 1/25

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:


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


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


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


We skipped this video, but if you want a primer about how to use your autofocus points, view this:


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, D3200, or D3300 – but Canon users should watch this, too, because the technique is the same):


So, there’s your review.

If any of you missed class, this is where you need to start. Read and watch everything, with your camera in hand. Then contact me ASAP if you have any questions.

That goes for everybody, if you have any questions, contact me!

Assignment 1: Visual Nouns and Verbs


DUE: Next Wednesday (Feb. 1) in class


Now is the time to start practicing the concepts we learned in class.

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 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.

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)

Next week, bring to class:

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

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 (most probably will), make another online reservation for the weekend or for Mon-Tues. You can go ahead and do this now. You will still have to stop by the Equipment Room Friday, even if you are reserving the same kit. 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 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 the day before class. 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, have fun with this, and I’ll see you next week.

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.