Week 2 class recap – Composition…

In the end, though, having even the best equipment will not make you a good bird photographer any more than having a good set of paintbrushes would make you a good artist! Mike Atkinson

(Page number references from our textbook, Understanding Exposure, have been listed in parentheses so you can read further on each week’s subjects.)

In this week’s class we reviewed the 3 P’s. What are they? Practice, Patience and Persistance. The more photos that you take and the more you practice the concepts that you learn in class the better you will get at taking good photos. We also reviewed some of the ingredients to taking better photos. ISO, F-stop and shutter speed.

New things we talked about were:

  • Last week we learned about the different types of lenses and their uses. Zoom lenses (lenses that move from a wide angel to a telephoto or some variation) and prime lenses (a fixed mm lens) and the variations of each - wide, standard and telephoto. Here’s a link to some great articles about different lenses and how to choose the best one for what you like to shoot.
  • Lens compression (p. 53)

We will also look at your cameras mode dial and learn more about what those other letters mean.

  • Auto = Fully auto the camera does all the work
  • P = partial auto the camera allows you to set things like the ISO but controls the shutter speed and aperture
  • AV or A (depending on camera model) = Aperture priority you set the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed
  • TV or S (depending on camera model) = Shutter priority you set the shutter speed and the camera sets the aperture
  • M = fully manual you make all the decisions

Here’s a good description of the mode dial settings as well as the scene selection settings.

For our lesson we looked at slideshow on composition, the rule of thirds and depth of field.

Composition: Things to consider…

  • Horizontal or vertical
  • Perspective
  • Subject
  • Simplify
  • Negative space
  • Lines
  • Visual Weight
  • Fill the frame
  • Motion
  • Depth of Field

We talked about the Rule of thirds (think of your viewfinder as a tic tac toe board) and how it affects the composition and feeling of a photograph. We also talked about shallow depth of field and how it is used to isolate a subject from it’s surroundings. Also, how there are a combination of things that are needed to achieve the correct effect.

Professional photographers use depth of field (DOF) to isolate their subjects and throw a distracting background out of focus (p. 42). To create a nice blurriness/bokeh behind your subject you’ll need to use a combination of the following…

  • Use a long Lens (85 mm and up)
  • Have a wide aperture/f-stop (1.4, 1.8, 2.0, 2.8, 3.5)
  • Get close to the subject
  • Keep your subject away from the background

Here’s a link to an article with some good information on achieving shallow depth of field.

A nice slideshow on composition by Marlene Hieleme of the ImageMaven blog.

Here is a link to a page with a list of articles on composition and The Rule of Thirds, also known as “The Golden Mean”.

For your homework:

Please read the chapter titled Aperture in your book. It will help with understanding how aperture works.

Assignment Part One:

Take your every day object and, using what you learned about composition and depth of field in in class re shoot it to make it look more interesting. Take a bunch of shots from different angles and different lighting. I also want you to see how you can use depth of field (DOF) to enhance your subject. Pick out your best shot and have it printed for class next week. Don’t forget to bring your original photo as well so we can look at them side by side.

Part Two:

Depth of field: I want you to pick two objects, stuffed animals, potted plants, etc. They must be at least 12″ tall. No miniature objects, no people or pets, and set then up outside on bench or table.

  • Try not to shoot in bright midday sun. Early morning or late afternoon light is good as well as bright open shade (**see definition below).
  • If you have one, use your longer zoom lens for this assignment. Zoom in on your front object or physically get in close.
  • Make sure your items are spaced approx 3′-4′ apart and that you position yourself and camera so you can see both the front and back item.
  • Set your ISO for the lighting conditions. 200 for a sunny day. 400 an overcast day or a shady area.
  • Zoom in on your front object.
  • Set your aperture/f-stop to to your widest aperture for your zoom setting. Zero out your meter with the shutter speed and take the shot. Your front object should be in focus and your back object should be blurry.
  • Without moving your camera position, focus on the back object. If your light looked good in the first shot you shouldn’t have to change your settings. Take another shot.
  • Again, without moving your camera position, set your f-stop to a small opening. 9 or 11 should be fine. Focus on the front object, zero out your meter with your shutter speed and take another shot. Both your objects should be in focus. If not, set your f-stop to 16 or 22 re-zero out your meter and take anither shot.
  • Print all 3 shots and bring them to class next week along with your reshot everyday item.

Here are a few examples of depth of field and front and back camera focus.

Front Focus (Shallow depth of field) (ISO 400, F8, 1/90

Front and back in focus (Long depth of field)(ISO 200, f5.6, 1/350)

Front focus (ISO 200, f8, 1/250)

Back focus (ISO 200, f8, 1/250)

Check out this video where Jen Leman talks and what inspires her to become a better photographer.


In the spirit of getting you all to look at the world through your lens from different view points…check out all these wonderful shots taken from low angles in the Flickr Low Perspective group pool.

I want you to go here and read the blog post by David DuChemin.

Got a question? Just shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer it for you.

**Definition for “open shade”: This term is used to refer to large shades caused by things such as large buildings, trees, hills, etc. However, these shades allow a large light source to illuminate the subject. It is good for photography because you avoid harsh highlights produced by strong sources such as the sun.

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