Photography – basics


The smaller the f-stop, the less depth of field, or less focused with a blurry background. The higher the f-stop, the greater the depth of field and overall focus of the image.

Creating Bokeh in a photo

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.

Bokeh can be defined as the effect of a soft out-of-focus background (or blur) that you get when shooting a subject using a fast lens at the widest aperture.

Bokeh is affected by the shape of the diaphragm blades (the aperture) of the lens; a lens with more circular-shaped blades will have rounder, softer orbs of out-of-focus highlight. A lens with an aperture that is more hexagonal in shape will recreate that shape in the highlights it captures.

A fast lens and wide aperture such as f/2.8 to f/1.4 will produce an out-of-focus blur/bokeh.

Unit 1: Assignment 1 – Depth of field

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is responsible for the sharpness of an image. In particular, exposure, or brightness of an image, and creating dramatic effects by either freezing action or blurring motion.

Shutter speed is the length of time the camera shutter is open, exposing light onto the camera sensor; it’s how long the camera spends taking a photo. This has a few important effects on how images will appear.

A long shutter speed lets the camera sensor gather a lot of light, resulting in a bright photo. Another effect is motion blur – if the shutter speed is long, moving subjects in the photo appear blurred along the direction of motion. This effect is used quite often in sports photography (my favourite type) to convey speed and motion.

In contrast, a quick shutter speed exposes the camera sensor to a small fraction of light, resulting in a darker photo. A quick shutter speed also has the effect of freezing action. This can be a good effect for capturing birds in flight, a fleeting moment, knockout punch or a drop of water.

Unit 1: Assignment 2 – blurring, panning, light trails, and frozen/stop motion


There are a number of generally accepted rules when it comes to composition, including framing, structure or rule-of-thirds, leading lines, geometry, symmetry, angles, horizontal horizons, background, anything but eye-level, detail and cropping, and of course, creativity.

The general rule is that composition beats fitting everything in to a photo.

Unit 1: Assignment 3 – lines and repetition


Modern day’s understanding of colour dates back to the 1660’s with Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of the colour spectrum.

Colour is the action and reaction of the eyes to light. Vibrations of light meet our eyes, allowing us to see the phenomenon of light as colour. Light and color are inseparable; the type of light greatly affects the eye’s perception of colour; when the light source vanishes, colour also vanishes.

Defined by three properties, hue, value, and intensity; colour is remembered more easily than words; colour holds the power to evoke specific emotional responses, convey a message, meaning, symbols, concepts and thoughts; attract and hold attention, inspire, motivate, dazzle, disturb and depress.

Colour is a very powerful and visually compelling formal and emotional factor in art, design and communication.

Unit 1: Assignment 4 – Colour


ISO is a setting that can brighten or darken a photo. ISO is helpful when capturing images in darker environments – as the ISO number increases, photos get progressively brighter. However, a high ISO can also result in noise or graininess.

ISO also helps to be more flexible about aperture and shutter speed settings.

Unit 1: Assignment 5 – studio light and available light outdoors at night

Unit 1: Assignment 6 – ISO

Portrait photography

Unit 1: Assignment 7 – portrait photography

Safety First

For each of the above assignments, safety was a consideration, and something that we were taught to consider at all times when taking photographs in all manner of indoor and outdoor environments. From experimenting with composition, ISO and portraits in the studio and the internal area of the school building, including staircases, corridors and canteen areas; experimenting with shutter speed on a pedestrian bridge over the A316; to playing with available light around the dimly lit Richmond Green area. Safety is a major part of successful photography assignments. The following covers several important safety factors for photographers:

  • Situational awareness – pay attention to your surroundings, particularly in areas where there’s people and traffic (or animals). Be aware of the people around you as well as the flow of traffic. Take precautions to assess the area, keep an eye on the ground and take in a visual sweep for trip hazards, dips, holes, curbs, and street furniture. Be aware of where you position yourself and equipment – tripods in particular are a potential hazard for both the photographer and pedestrians. Also, Try not to use the camera when you’re on the move as it increases your chances of falling.
  • Securing equipment – ensure that the camera, tripod, lighting, other equipment and attachments are firmly secure so items do not suddenly come loose, break or fall over. In the worst case, this could result in the camera being damaged, items being lost or an assignment being interrupted by faulty equipment or an accident.
  • Trip hazards – ensure tight fittings of camera and lights on stands; and that cables are not trailing on floors. When indoors, move furniture and objects so there’s enough space to move around.
  • Use the camera strap – a well-designed strap saves your camera from being dropped. Always check the strap and keep it as tight as you can so it doesn’t snag on a hazard when shooting in tight quarters.
  • Use appropriate filters – shooting towards the sun can be harmful to the eyes. While being taught to keep the sun behind us, there are occasions when shooting towards the sun or a strong light source is intentional. When doing so, it is good practice to use the camera’s screen and keep your face and eyes shaded. When using flashes and artificial lights, ensure that your eyes are protected.
  • Use a tripod when possible – not only will you get better shots, but a tripod forces you to set up your shot in a place you’re less likely to hurt yourself. After all, if you rely on your tripod, you’ll be less likely to get yourself in awkward situations to get the shot.
  • Check the forecast – planning ahead for the weather is a vital part of outdoor safety for photographers. For instance, my photography classes took place on a Winter’s evening over several weeks. As a group, we went outdoors on assignments a few times, with each successive week getting darker and colder. Wearing the right type of clothing for the weather and having a clear plan on how much time you’re exposed to the elements, including protecting the camera from the rain, is a key part of a successful assignment. As a group, we found that we became consumed by the task at hand – completely focused on the assignment and not keeping track of time or the state of the weather. It is helpful to be clear about objectives, keep to a schedule, and not expose yourself to extreme conditions.
  • Expect the unexpected.