Robin Michals | COMD 1340 Photography 1 OL89 | FAll 2020

Category: Class Topics (Page 2 of 3)

Week 3 – Making Dynamic Pictures

Needed for this class

  • a camera or cameraphone
  • a small object and background
  • a group of similar tiny objects and background


Juxtaposition, angle of view

From America at Hunger’s Edge, The New York Times, September 2, 2020

Photos by Brenda Ann Kenneally


These compositional principals help you create a visual hierarchy in your photographs.

Diagonals – Sloping lines

Leading Lines – lines in the photograph that lead the eye to the main subject

Patterns – repeated elements. Break the pattern for visual interest

Symmetry – If you fold the image in half the two haves are very similar and have equal visual weight. Or make it asymmetrical to add tension to the composition.

Figure to Ground -the relationship between the subject and the background sometimes described as negative and positive space.


Lab Exercises

Negative Space

Breaking the Pattern

Homework Assignment

HW3: Hula Hoops

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 (γƒœγ‚±), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality.” Bokeh is pronounced BOH-KΙ™ 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 6 – Shutter Speed

Needed for this class

  • Camera or cameraphone
  • Lightroom Photoshop App
  • a window
  • a ball or other small object
  • Slow Shutter Cam or similar app

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is the length of time that the sensor is exposed to light to create the photograph. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second.

The full stops for shutter speed are: 30”, 15”, 8”, 4”, 2”, 1”, . sec, ., 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, 1/8000

Doubling the time, doubles the amount of light that reaches the sensor.

When shooting with a cameraphone and the Lightroom Photoshop app, you can set the shutter speed of your cameraphone between 1/10,000 and 1/4 sec.

A good rule of thumb when shooting with a camera is: Any shutter speeds slower then 1/60 require the use of a tripod. When shooting with a cameraphone, you will need a tripod to shoot at 1/15 or slower.


Capturing of Motion

Your choice of shutter speed will change the way motion is captured in the photograph.

Frozen Motion-Motion is stopped and captured in the frame with a fast shutter speed.

How to freeze motion:

  • Use a shutter speed of 1/ 500, 1/1000 or faster.

Blurred motion-moving elements blur with a longer shutter speed.

How to blur motion:

  • Use a slower shutter speed – 1/4 sec to 30″ or even longer
  • Direction-if the subject moves parallel to the picture plane there is more visible movement than if the subject moves toward or away from the camera.
  • Focal length-a subject will appear blurrier when photographed with a telephoto lens than when photographed with a wide-angle lens.


The exact moment that you take the picture is as important as how long the shutter speed is. This is often called:

The Decisive Moment: A term coined by Cartier Bresson- “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris. 1932
Photographer: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Lab Exercise

Exploring Shutter Speed

Motion Blur

Homework Assignment


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