Photography I

Robin Michals | COMD 1340 Photography 1 OL89 | FAll 2020

Week 12 – Portrait Basics

Needed for this class

  • Camera or cameraphone
  • A window w/daylight

Portrait Poses

There are three basic positions for someone’s head and face in a portrait.

  1. Front view
  2. 3/4 view
  3. Profile


For family photos a smile is a must but not so for a portrait. It is however important that your subject look comfortable. It is your job as the photographer to talk with your subject and make them feel comfortable.


When shooting a portrait, the subject’s eyes must be in focus. Full stop. period.

Generally, portraits are shot with shallow depth of field to separate the subject from the background. Be careful to have enough depth of field so that the subject’s face from what is closest to the camera to what is farthest is in focus.

If you are shooting with a cameraphone that has portrait mode, it will blur what it calculates to be the background to simulate shallow depth of field. You can also use an app such as Focos to simulate shallow depth of field.

Wide Angle Distortion

Wide Angle Distortion is created when using a wide-angle lens AND the camera is very close to the subject. The object close to the lens appears abnormally large relative to more distant objects, and distant objects appear abnormally small and hence more distant – distances are extended. 

Focal length and proximity to the camera affect how a person’s face looks in a photograph. A wide focal length and proximity between the subject and the camera create wide angle distortion and will distort a person’s features.

Photographer: Chip Simons

Think about selfie sticks. What are they for but to get the camera away from your face? This makes the photograph look more complimentary to the subject. This is really important with a cameraphone because it has a wide angle lens. The center of the lens and the sensor cannot be very far apart given the thin design of cellphones.


Lab Exercises

Please complete the following lab exercises, creating a post on Openlab with the category indicated to share your results.

Homework Assignment

Final Project: Shoot 1

Due: December 1, 2020, 8 am

Week 11: Food Photography

Needed for this class

  • A camera or cameraphone
  • Lightroom Classic or Lightroom Photoshop App
  • A light source preferably a window during the day
  • If working with a light, tracing paper or other material to diffuse the light
  • A few simple food items such as a muffin, a bunch of grapes, a head of garlic, etc
  • some flat items to serve as background choices like a place mat, fabric, a baking tin, a cutting board.
  • White cards or computer paper

Review – Light Quality and Direction

Food Photography

Food photography – the art of making food look good for the camera – often:

  • uses interesting backgrounds to create a mood and compliment the food.

  • uses natural light. A window can be a great source of diffused light.
Andrew Scrivani at work. Photo by Robin De Clerc.
  • is shot from an overhead or a three-quarter angle of view

  • uses either back or side light (or something between those two.)

  • uses shallow depth of field to draw attention to specific characteristics of the food.

Compare and contrast

Lab Exercises

The Background Matters

Back and side light for food photography

Homework Assignment


Week 10 – Light Direction

Needed for this class

  • camera or camera phone
  • a small stuffed animal or doll
  • a light source

Light Quality

Direct light or hard light – the rays of light are nearly parallel and strike the subject from one direction creating hard edged dark shadows with little detail.
Examples: a spotlight, sun on a clear day, or a bare flash

Alex Webb

Diffused light or soft light– the rays of light are scattered and coming from many directions. It appears even and produces indistinct shadows. Examples: overcast daylight, a light covered with tracing paper or other translucent material.

Jim Richardson. Scotland.

Directional/Diffused Light.   This light is a combination of directional and diffused light. The light is partially diffused yet it appears to come from a definite direction and creates shadows. The shadows are less harsh and contain more detail than in direct light. More subtle transition between light and dark areas. Examples: window light, sunlight on a hazy day, sunlight on a partly cloudy day or sunlight bouncing off a reflective surface.

Light Direction

Front light comes from in front of subject from the camera position and the shadows fall behind the subject not concealing any details.

Michael Christopher Brown. 2013.

Side Light comes from 90 degrees to the camera. it adds dimension and texture to the subject.

Andres Feininger, 10/29/1948

Backlight comes from behind the subject towards the camera.

Michael Kenna.



Fill the Frame

Lighting Direction


HW 7: Lighting Direction

Needed for next class

  • a camera or cameraphone
  • a window or clamp light
  • a piece of white cardboard or poster board
  • tracing paper
  • some simple food items that are not shiny – good choices are onions, garlic
  • a background such as a cutting board or the back of a baking sheet

Week 9 – Aperture/ Depth of Field

Needed for this class

  • camera or camera phone
  • app such as Focos to simulate shallow depth of field and/or portrait mode


Depth of Field-The distance between the nearest and farthest points that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. Depth of field can be shallow or extensive. While the term includes the word depth, depth of field refers to focus.

Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field is commonly used in portrait photography to separate the subject from the background and in food photography.

Extensive Depth of Field

Extensive depth of field is often used in landscape photography and photojournalism.

The depiction of space

Perspective-the representation of a 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional surface by converging lines, diminishing scale and/or atmospheric perspective.

Canyon, Broadway and Exchange Place. 1936.
Photographer: Berenice Abbott

Sometimes photos combine perspective and depth of field.

How to control depth of field (with a camera)

These four factors control depth of field:

  • lens aperture 
  • focal length
  • camera-to-subject distance
  • sensor size.

Aperture is the size of the opening that allows light to hit the camera’s sensor when the photograph is taken. 

  1. Aperture values are expressed in numbers called f-stops. A smaller f-stop number means more light is coming into the camera and will create shallow depth of field. A larger f-stop number will let less light into the camera and create extensive depth of field.
  2. The full stops for aperture are: F2, f28, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22, f3

Focal Length  is the distance from where the light converges in the lens to the sensor. If it is a short distance then the lens is a wide angle lens and shows a lot of the scene. If it is a long distance, the lens is a telephoto lens and it magnifies the scene. Wide angle lenses create extensive depth of field while telephoto lenses create shallow depth of field.

Camera-to-subject distance is how far the subject is from the camera. If everything is far from the camera, it is easier to achieve extensive depth of field. If the main subject is very close to the camera and the background elements are far from the camera, it is easier to achieve shallow depth of field.

Camera Phones and Depth of Field

Camera phones have a fixed aperture. For example, the aperture of the iPhone 7 is f1.8. This is one of the things that makes cameraphones so good in low light. You might think this wide open aperture would make it easy to get shallow depth of field with a cameraphone. However, the other factors involved make it quite challenging to achieve shallow depth of field with a cameraphone.

When you look at a phone, you can see the challenge for focal length. Focal length is the distance between where the light converges in the lens and the sensor and there just isn’t that much space. Even for cameraphones, we use the size of 35 mm film as the standard when discussing focal length. So the iPhone 11 has three lenses that are the 35 mm equivalent of 13mm, 26mm and 52mm. Earlier phones with one camera have one focal length. If working with a camera phone with more than one lenses, use the telephoto choice to create shallow depth of field.

Camera to subject distance is the factor that gives you the most control of depth of field when working with a camera phone. To create shallow depth of field bring the camera as close as possible to the subject. Allow for some actual space behind the subject

It is the small size of the sensor that makes cameraphones so good at achieving extensive depth of field. It is also the main reason it is so hard to get your cameraphone to achieve shallow depth of field.

Sensor size-the smaller the sensor the easier it is to achieve extensive depth of field. Bigger sensors allow for shallow depth of field.

 Bokeh-Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality.” Bokeh is pronounced BOH-Kə or BOH-kay. 

 — From

Lab Exercises

Shallow Depth of Field

Optical vs Digital Shallow Depth of Field



Needed for class on Nov 10

  • a small (6″ high or less) stuffed animal
  • a window that provides bright light or a clamp light. You should be able to get one if you don’t have one at your local hardware store for around $10. If you don’t have a bright window to work with, a clamp light will make the rest of the semester better as it get colder and be harder to work outside.
Clamp light

Week 5 – The Interplay of Light and Dark

Needed for this class

  • Camera or cameraphone
  • Lightroom Classic or Lightroom Photoshop App
  • Review: Light quality-direct and diffused, exposure compensation

Light and Dark

The word photography is rooted in Greek meaning “ writing with light “  One of the main concerns of photographers is how light illuminates a scene or subject. While we focus attention on light, it’s easy to not pay attention to shadows. Shadows, although dark, can be as dynamic as light. The shadows shape light, define texture, and act as compositional elements. 

Contrast: The measure of difference between bright areas (highlights) and dark areas (shadows) in a photo

High contrast : Large difference between highlights and shadows. Mostly lights and darks without many mid tones                

Photographer: Daido Moriyama

Low contrast :  Little difference between lights and darks. Mostly mid tones.

Sweating Glass, 1931, Photographer: Alma Lavenson

Shadows –  dark areas in photo that can range from black with no detail to dark tone with detail

Uses of light and shadow: Light and shadow are complementary elements in photography. The quality and direction of light affect how a subject looks while  producing shadows in various forms

  1. Contrast and Drama :  Shadows can be used to create contrast to produce a dramatic effect. Attention of the viewer is drawn to tonal contrast which can not happen without shadows. In this interplay of light and shadow, the lighting effect is enhanced by the shadows.  
  1. Shadows can be used to direct the viewer’s attention. Shadows can be be shapes that may be used as compositional elements  to direct attention to the center of interest in a photo. Also shadows can surround a light area to make it a center of interest.
  1. Reveal form: Using shadows will give form to subjects and make them look more three dimensional. The shadows don’t necessarily need to be black for this to happen. As long as one part of subject is light and one part is darker the photo will look more three dimensional. For dramatic effect, direct light will produce dark shadows. But for some subjects, dark hard shadows can be distracting or cause loss of detail. For subjects where detail is important, using partially diffused light will make soft shadows that will show form and maintain detail. 
  1. Reveal texture: Side light with shadow will show texture
  1. Shadows can be shapes and patterns that can be used to complete a composition.

How light falls on your subject is key to using shadows in photography. The best direction for a combination of light and shadow will be light coming from the side. For dramatic effect photograph when the light( direct light ) is at a lower angle which  will produce longer dramatic shadows. For less dramatic effect, use diffused light.

Exposing for photos that contain light and dark areas you will need to use exposure compensation. If there is large dark areas in the photo, the meter will over expose the light areas. In this case you need to use exposure compensation to lower the level of the lighter areas. 

Lab Exercises


Black and White


Light and Dark

Final Project Group Topics

Elijah Castra- Working on self portraiture centered around high and low contrast imagery.

Ilda Medel- Working on self portraiture centered around different styles of window- based lighting.

Samantha Loureiro- Working on series of windows and or reflections around neighborhood.

Alex Veras- Working on portraiture centered exclusively around dog throughout different times of day and performing different activities.

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