Rules of Composition in Photography

Some of us however want to take their photography one step further and turn it into a hobby which we can develop and improve. So we dispense with our point and shoot camera and stop using our phones and invest in a reasonably decent camera. Personally, although I had been taking pictures for almost 50 years, I only took it up as a serious hobby in 2010 when I purchased a Panasonic DMC-FZ38 prior to visiting Kenya on my first Safari.

To begin with, I looked at the 128 page manual, hardly understood a word, so set the camera to auto and went off on safari. I took some great photos but it was only after I joined a local camera club and started to learn about the art of composition that I began to actually look through the lens and think about what I was doing, instead of simply pointing the camera at an object and pressing the shutter.

Like me, I suspect that many new photographers get confused, or even totally put off, by such things as focal length, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, focusing, exposure, etc., etc., and while I believe that it is very useful to understand the more technical elements, I do believe that the most important element for a new photographer to get to grips with, is Composition. All digital camera manufacturers spend a large amount of time and money on software to help the user get the correct camera settings to capture that shot and, as I did initially, if you set your camera on auto, the vast majority of time you will get technically good results. However the one thing that no camera is able to do, no matter how much money you have spent buying it, is compose a photo that is attractive to the eye.

So what do I mean by Composition? Putting it into its very basic form, composition can be said to be the way to create a photo that is aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Google “composition in photography” and you come up with such results as:-
20 Composition Techniques That Will Improve Your Photos:
10 Top Photography Composition Rules
9 Top Photography Composition Rules You Need To Know
18 Composition Rules For Photos That Shine
5 Elements of Composition in Photography
5 Easy Composition Guidelines
The 10 rules of photo composition (and why they work)
12 Rules for Effective Composition in Photography: etc., etc.!

While you will undoubtedly learn by reading all of those articles, (and I would suggest that you do in time), I will concentrate on a few simple rules that I follow. Before I go further, while some of these are called rules, remember rules are there to be broken. What I am trying to do is to encourage you to think about what you are trying to achieve when looking through the viewfinder. I will start then with something that you have probably already come across:-

The Rule of Thirds.

Basically, if you imagine a photo divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, the main subject of the image should be where a vertical line cross a horizontal one.

Many modern cameras allow you to place a grid in the viewfinder which can be used to place the object where two lines intersect. While we are talking about the Rule of Thirds, it is generally best to place the horizon on one of the thirds, rather than in the centre of the frame, dependent on whether the main points of interest are in the sky or on the ground.

Leading Lines

These lead the viewers eyes into the picture either to the main subject or on a journey through the whole of the picture. Examples of leading lines could be a path wandering through the image, a fence line, a meandering road or a stream or river.

Symmetry

To demonstrate that the rules are no more than guidelines, the next one contradicts the Rule of Thirds. If your image is symmetrical, then it could benefit from being centred either on the horizontal, or vertical centre line. This works particularly well for reflections

Rule of Space

This rule is talking about giving the subject in the photo, space to move into the frame. This particularly applies to animals and vehicles. The object should have the most space in front of it, and not be right up to the edge of frame, giving it nowhere to go.

Rule of Odds

Generally speaking, it is thought that photos with an odd number of subjects is more visually appealing and natural looking than those with an even number, where the viewers eyes may flick around the image, unsure of where to settle. I tend to use the rule of odds particularly if taking a close up of flowers or the like.

I hope that I have given you a brief insight into composition and that when you next look through your viewfinder you will at least stop and think for a few seconds at what you are looking at and how the shot may be improved. But just remember, these rules, and all the others you will come across, are simply guide lines to help you go in the right direction, they are not railway tracks that you have to stick to rigidly. Finally I will end with the words of Pablo Picasso – “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pick the Ideal Digital Camera

If you’re an amateur photographer, keep to the low-end of cameras, one that you can afford. Then teach yourself about composing photos, exposure, along with other techniques.

Once you determine that you enjoy photography as a hobby and you would prefer some advanced functions, then you can sell your old equipment and graduate to higher-end models.

If you figure out that you’ve got a secret gift in taking great pictures and you’re thinking that you may genuinely wish to make some money from your talent, then you can spend more money on fancy equipment.

But your cash goes furthest if you get quality lenses. This will make a bigger impact than buying a costly camera body.

The biggest misconception when picking a camera is that the megapixels make a big difference in the quality of your images.

Unless your image is going to be plastered on a billboard, every camera presently on the market should be perfectly sufficient to satisfy your MP needs.

Instead, think about these distinctions between high-end DSLR vs. low-end DSLR vs. point-and- shoots.

  • Price (the difference between the top and bottom could be a few thousand dollars)
  • Response time (the time it will take the camera to take the photo after you hit the shutter)
  • Auto-focus
  • Functionality in low-light conditions
  • Video functionality
  • Weather-proof bodies

So here’s how to tell if you are a true photography buff: if you’re always snapping pics with your camera, particularly of things that many people probably would not consider photogenic, then you can consider yourself a real aficionado. In this case, you’re probably a person who would take advantage of the extra features of a DSLR.

So be honest with yourself and figure out exactly how much you will use your camera before you spend the money. If you plan to carry it with you constantly, then go for it!

Getting Expert Newborn Photography

First, there will be no other time when your kid will be this way – all curled up in a tiny bundle. These days, kids grow up very fast. And as a parent, it is a natural desire for you to capture the moments when your child is still an infant. Details like the tiny fingers closing in, the soft and tender movements that can easily melt your heart, and the innocent eyes that stare out at you can be brought to life in photos. In turn, this will allow you to relive those precious and priceless weeks.

Second, the photos can become more creative. As opposed to taking photos of your child through your mobile devices or cameras, a professional photographer can actually add a concept to the images. Items such as blankets, baskets and scarves can actually help in creating an attractive photo of your child. Apart from that, these experts can likewise try lifestyle images wherein the family can be included and interactions will be captured. In fact, experts say that this will result to more spontaneous, less posed images. For instance, parents along with the baby can be photographed together – this might even become their first family portrait.

Lastly, this photo session will offer memories that the family will definitely cherish forever. Photos do not just capture the moment; rather, they likewise serve as a reminder for the times when you were very excited to have your first child and a realization that you are now a parent.

Poster Frames

Standard sizes

Over the years, poster frames have gone through a lot of development on the basis of the size of concert posters, movie posters, and format art prints.

Construction

The border is made of plastic and a plexiglass that covers the poster. The back is made from cardboard, which makes the frame lightweight. For easy hanging, the back has a hook as well.

There is an option to install a mat as well. However, you won’t see double matting in these frames because they will add extra weight.

Snap Frames

Snap frames is another great option. Usually, snap frames load the photos from the very front, which allows you to replace the photo without removing the frame. For ease of access, all of the sides of the frame are open. They are good for movie posters.

Acid-free poster frames

When buying a poster frame, make sure you know whether it’s acid-free or archival. Ask yourself if you need to use a poster to beautify your room or you need to use one to preserve a memorabilia or a piece of art. If you want to use it for preservation purposes, you should give a go to a higher quality material.

Archival Poster Frames

If you want to preserve an artifact, you can take your poster frame to a professional to see if it is acid-free or not. This way you can rest assured that your pictures would be saved for a long term.

If you want to get started with archival picture frames, you may want to opt for one with the back of an acid-free paper. By definition, an acid-free paper has base pH of 7 or slightly higher. Besides, this type of paper is free of sulfur, which makes it an ideal choice for prints that tend to degrade with the passage of time.

How to Pose for Pictures

Angle your face

If you want to learn the basics of how to pose, you have to start with your face. This is the fundamentals of posing as the other parts of your body will follow suit if you have a glamorous pose that ignites the camera. Do practice looking in front of the camera as to find the best angle. Normally, professionals will tend to tilt their face a little, so that shadows can be casted along the cheekbones and your nose. More importantly, make sure that if you tilt and turn, do not make yourself appear as if the pose is forced, that will look very unnatural and could become the catalyst of a loud guffaw.

Find a place for your hands, do something

Knowing how to make use of your hands is the key to avoid looking stiff in a photo. If you are simply placing your hands by the side while taking a photo, you are doing it wrong. They may seem the easiest, but it will make your photo look lifeless and dead, much like a snapshot that was taken decades ago. You can choose to tuck your hands inside the pocket, put it on the hips or do some movements and gestures that will eventually look natural in the photo.

Get creative and focus on your strengths and assets

Instead of taking a standard photo, why not opt for something idiosyncratic? Something unique and true to yourself, instead of hopping on the “trends” set by your friends, which in short mean don’t blindly follow what they do. Let’s say you are good at dancing, show if off in your photo with an awesome funky dance move that you’re just good at it. Let’s say if you are proud of your voluptuous figure, then perhaps you can try wearing a skin-tight outfit that shows off your curves. Just remember to get creative, find the right pose, the right outfit and the lighting, which will help you stand out as an individual. Candid photos are creative too, as the moment when you are doing something naturally will be captured, rather than to purposely pose for the camera, some of these snapshots actually turn out great.

Maintain a good posture

Stand up straight, relax your shoulders and look confident. Trust me, you will look slimmer and taller and the photos will turn out better. Practice this for a period of time, and you will realize the significant difference and the importance of not slouching. People will perceive you differently when you radiate that confident vibe.

Nikon D3400 Mode Dial

In other words the camera will decide what the best exposure is for the picture you are trying to take. So you can see that it is quite important that you select the right mode but also that you understand what the mode is trying to do, so that when you find yourself in a circumstance where you want to take a picture a certain style or in a certain way, you can select the correct mode. We are going to go through all of them and I am going to give you a brief outline of what they do and what parameters are, and the things that you can change within those parameters and modes, and ultimately how you can take the best pictures possible with this camera.

So lets have a look at the first one on the Nikon D3400 mode dial – NIGHT PORTRAITURE. Now night portraiture is a mode which allows you to take a portrait at night. This is not as straightforward as it seems. First of all, it engages the flash to shoot what is called slow sync, and that opens the aperture and slows down the shutter speed, which allows the camera to get in as much of the light in the background of the picture as possible. Then, just before the shutter closes on the camera, the flash will go off to illuminate the subject in the foreground. That gives you a quite balanced picture where you have the subject well illuminated in the foreground but with the contextual background visible too. If you just shot with the flash then you would have the subject slightly overexposed in the foreground and just a black background. So by shooting it with night portrait it means that you get the background and some context in which the subject is standing and so it gives some meaning to the picture.

As with all of the semi-automatic modes – which are the ones that go up to M, A, S and P – essentially the ones that go up to the green auto mode, most of the presets are set and there is very little wiggle room. But when you are looking at each of them – particularly if you are looking on the back of the camera – there are certain things that you can change. It is worth knowing what you can change in each of the settings because you may want to change them just to slightly change the style of the picture that you are taking. So on the back of the camera you press the i button. It gives you the options that you can change when you are in each setting. So, for example, in NIGHT PORTRAIT we can change the quality and compression rate of the picture, the focus (autofocus or manual), flash compensation and exposure compensation. The final option open to you here is the ISO. That is set on auto and there is a very good reason for that when you are in night portraiture. The camera will set the aperture to be as wide as possible to get as much light into the sensor as possible, and it will also set the shutter speed to be at least 1/30th of a second, because any slower than that means there is likely to be movement blur when you take the picture. So that means that out of the 3 variables, ISO, shutter speed and aperture, you have basically fixed or minimized the options for two of them. So the ISO is the only variable that can move around with any great flexibility. In most cases the ISO probably will not go above 1000 or 1600. You will get an element of grain and noise in that shot, but it is a night portrait and to some extent that could and should be expected. So it is best to leave the ISO on auto in most cases. You can set it, but it does reduce the options for the Nikon D3400 and in this instance I think you should leave the camera to do what it does best which is to get the best exposure for your picture.

The mode just above the night portraiture on the Nikon D3400 mode dial is represented by a flower and is called CLOSE-UP MODE. It is a kind of macro mode which you can shoot even with the kit lens and it opens the aperture very wide which means that the subject in focus is very sharp but the background is blurred and that means that the subject stands out even more. The ISO is on auto for this and that is because you have set the aperture very wide, the shutter speed is set accordingly too for handheld photography and so the ISO is the only variable.

The one above close-up mode is the Running Man – the SPORTS MODE – and that prioritizes the shutter speed. It is very important when you are shooting sport or action that you have a fast shutter speed so that you freeze the subject in the frame and that means that you need at least 1/250th and probably 1/500th of a second shutter speed. So the ISO will go up accordingly, depending on the light, whether it is daylight or darker than that, it might go up to a 1000 or 1600 even 3200 and the aperture will be as wide as possible so that it can get as much light in and onto the sensor in that very brief period the shutter is open. The flash will not work and it will be on continuous which means that you will be shooting 5 frames a second, which is a good thing because it means that you are more likely to get a good frame out of any action that happens in front of you.

The one above sport on the Nikon D3400 mode dial is called CHILD MODE and it is ideal for candid photography. It is not a portrait mode but it is a mode which is designed for taking candid shots of people which also have plenty of the background in as well, to give that subject some context. It has quite a narrow aperture so that ensures that there is plenty of background in there. It means also that it slows down the shutter speed to give more depth of field. If it is deemed to be too dark, the flash will pop up. It also makes some of the colors a little more vivid but also focuses on getting the skin tones just right. Skin tones are really important in candid shots. When you look at a picture of person you look at their face or their features and the skin tones need to be just right. If it is not, it is really very noticeable. The colors of the clothes or the background can be slightly different from reality and the eye does not really register that provided the face and the skin look right and that is what this child mode is for – to shoot candid shots and get those skin tones right.

The one above child mode is LANDSCAPE MODE and this is designed for shooting landscapes. That means that you are trying to get a very deep depth of field – maximum depth of field in fact – and the very best quality. That means that the ISO is going to be as close down to 100 as possible and the aperture is going to be very small. Now that obviously has an effect on the shutter speed, which will be quite slow and that means that this mode is best for shooting with a tripod. Remember if you are shooting on a tripod you need to switch off the VIBRATION REDUCTION and you do that in the menus. This can produce very good landscapes. This mode also boosts greens and blues so that the landscape that you are shooting is quite vivid.

The option above landscape on the D3400 mode dial is PORTRAIT MODE and that really tries to do the opposite. It increases the shutter speed, it widens the aperture and it gives you a faster ISO. The reason it does that is because it is trying to get a very shallow depth of field. When you take a portrait you are focusing on the person’s face nearly every time and on the face you are focusing on the eyes and if the face is to one angle to you, you are focusing on the front eye. That is very important because when you shoot a portrait you want to blur out the background and so you need to have something something in that portrait – something in that face – which is pin-sharp, and as we all know when you look at somebody’s face you focus on the eyes first. So by having a very shallow depth of field the viewer is left in no doubt as to what is important in this picture. Portrait mode will also work well on skin tones and ensure that they are correct and if it is slightly dark then the flash will pop up.

The two modes above portrait mode are your AUTO MODES. These are essentially your point-and-shoot modes, if you come up from compact photography or even mobile phone photography, you will know that these are the modes where you can switch the camera on and press the button and it will take a half-decent picture. In both modes the Nikon D3400 is designed to get the best possible exposure. The difference between the two is that the green mode will use the flash if it thinks it is required – and it does not need to be that dark for it to decide that the flash is required – or the one below that is auto without flash and that takes perfectly good pictures but in situations where you may not want the flash to fire, perhaps you are in a museum or in the theater or you just do not want the distraction of the flash firing. On the back of the camera, if we press the ibutton, it is clear that we really are quite restricted in what we can change. We can change the quality and compression of the image, but we are then really limited to either changing the autofocus mode or the AF area mode. Nothing else can be changed in these modes, the camera does everything.

The semi-automatic modes on the Nikon D3400 mode dial are M, A, S and P. Strictly speaking M is manual and strictly manual but it is regarded as a semi-automatic mode because they are all grouped together. So the first one we come to is P – program mode – and it is the most appropriate, because it is the closest to the two Auto settings that are next to it. When you are in P mode the camera still tries to get the best exposure and still selects most of the presets, but it does allow you to choose a few more things. You can choose the shutter speed or the aperture. Now when you are in this mode you can change the shutter speed and aperture by rotating the dial on the top of the camera. That means that if you feel the shutter speed is not fast enough – or indeed is too fast – then you can change it. If you feel that the aperture is too wide or too narrow then you can change it and the camera will make other changes, to the shutter speed or to the ISO accordingly. When you are in this mode you will see the P at the top left hand corner on the Liveview screen and if you start to change the aperture or the shutter speed, then there will be an asterisk placed next to that to show that this is not the most appropriate mode that the camera thinks will get the best exposure, but that it will get the best exposure in the shutter speed or aperture that you have chosen.

The one above P mode is SHUTTER SPEED PRIORITY and that is really very useful, particularly if you want to control the shutter speed. Why would you want to? Well of course in sports mode I have explained that a fast shutter speed will catch the action, but if you want a faster shutter speed because the action is faster than sports mode expects, then you can set it up to from 1/500th, 1/1000th or 1/2000th up to 1/4000th of a second. Again it is a semi-automatic mode which means that the camera will change the aperture and the ISO accordingly. On the other hand if you are taking a picture of a stream or a waterfall you might want to slow the shutter speed down to say 1/15th or 1/10th of a second to smooth the water and give it a more smooth and relaxed feel to that picture. It does not actually freeze the water in midair but it gives you that element of motion blur, and if you are shooting night photography and you are shooting the night sky and you want to capture the stars, then you may want to slow that shutter speed down to five seconds, ten seconds – up to thirty seconds, which is easy to do with the Nikon D3400. So controlling the shutter speed can change the way the picture looks. That is why shutter speed priority is really useful.

The one above that is APERTURE PRIORITY. This allows you to prioritize the aperture. Why would you want to do that? Well we have spoken about aperture with regards to depth of field – if you want to have as much of that picture that you are taking in focus or sharp, then you would have a very narrow aperture and that means that the light takes longer to get in and hit the sensor and it means that the shutter speed needs to be a lot slower, etc. But it means that the picture is sharp, as much as possible, from front, mid and back. On the other hand, if you are trying to take a portrait, then you would want it to have quite a shallow aperture and so you can control it with aperture priority here. Now it is not always as simple as saying “oh why don’t I just put it on landscape” or “why don’t I just put it on portrait”. When you start to master your photography you will want to control what people see in your picture – what is sharp in your picture helps to tell the story and so it is important for you to be able to control all that depth-of-field, not just have everything sharp or hardly anything sharp. You might want to have the subject in the foreground and two people standing behind him sharp but two people standing behind them blurred because those front three people tell the story, not the five. Now that is quite difficult to achieve but, of course, you have the benefit of seeing the effect on the back screen. So it is important to be able to control your aperture because it does mean that you can use that in the storytelling of your pictures and how you use your pictures to tell the story that you are trying to tell.

Finally we come to Manual Mode on the Nikon D3400 mode dial. Now the beauty of manual mode is that you control everything. The camera no longer tries to get the best exposure – you are responsible for the exposure – and as a result of that you can change pretty much everything to get the sort of picture that you want. So manual is the thing that you progress to gradually. I would suggest that you start off with some of the basic settings so that you get a feel for the camera and then go on to P mode and then, as you become more confident, work through shutter speed and aperture priority. But manual then gives you the freedom to be as creative with your photography as you want to be. The difference, when you look at the back of the screen is that when you are in program or you are in shutter or aperture priority, when you try to change the shutter speed or the aperture then the rest of the settings change accordingly because the camera is still trying to set for the best exposure. When you are in manual, you can change the shutter speed or you can change the aperture and the other option does not change. So, in other words, the camera is not trying to manipulate the exposure because you have a completely free rein so that if you are in the back of the screen, by using the dial you can change the shutter speed, or by using the exposure button you can change the aperture by turning the dial. When you do that you will notice that when you are changing the shutter speed the aperture stays the same and when you are changing the aperture then the shutter speed does not move. This is real photography. It is why you bought a DSLR. Do not jump into it, but do not be intimidated by it either. This is a great way of exploring photography and doing great pictures – the ones you have always wanted to do.

Choose Family Photographer

There are so many seasoned photographers, but when taking family photos, you want to rely on a professional who has what it takes to give you the best. There are things that you must think through when making your selection if at all you are to end up in the arms of a good and reliable family photographer. Here are a few questions that can help you pick out a good photographer to handle your family photo needs?

  • Are they good with children? Remember that kids can be quite a handful, especially when you want them to be in a particular position. A good family photographer needs to be patient with children and should know how to best address them so they are able to capture the best photos even with kids who can hardly stand or sit in one position. Think about the experience they have in the family kind of setting, then invite them over to see how they relate to your kids.
  • How flexible is the photographer? The most precious photos are those taken on location and not necessarily at the studio. For instance, if you are going for maternity photography, you will want to have a photographer who can come to your home to capture the photos in the most ideal circumstances. The same goes for senior school photos that are best placed right at the school or holiday photos at the beach and others. Choose a family photographer who is flexible enough to come to where you want the photos taken or one who can easily follow your events to get the best images as per your requirements.
  • What photography style does your photographer use? When it comes to photography, there are so many styles and you should choose in relation to the final results you wish to have. It is also important to remember that photographer specialty can matter. To get the best family photos, choose a photographer who has some specialty in family photos and one who can combine the best styles so you have unique beautiful photos at the end of the shoot. Discuss any special requests you may have and find out whether the photographer will be in a position to fetch you the desired results. If you need to be completely sure, then ask to see a portfolio featuring different styles of photography they have done before.

Understanding Histograms

If you’re in the hunt for your first DSLR camera, or you’ve just purchased a DSLR and you’re new to digital photography, chances are you’ve been on the internet and watched one or two videos about things you should know or might want to know in order to get the most out of your camera – these are the “basics” or “fundamentals” type videos, of which there are a ton on YouTube. In some of these videos, they may have talked about something called a Histogram – usually telling you to look on your camera’s LCD screen, after you’ve taken a photo and “see what the Histogram is telling you”, as a way to know whether your photo has come out properly, or is otherwise either too bright or too dark, in which case you will need to make certain adjustments to your camera settings and try taking the photo again.

All well and good, but let’s say you’ve watched one or two of these videos and are still a bit flummoxed as to how to interpret these Histogram things. Well, this is the situation I found myself in for a few months – for a time, no matter how they phrased it, these different photography experts failed to get their know-how through my dense cranium. I hope to share with you how I eventually came to understand what these Histograms meant and how they’re actually very simple to work with, once you understand their meanings.

Right, here goes…

A Histogram is nothing more than a graph that tells you whether your photo has parts that are too bright (overexposed) or too dark (underexposed), to the extent that certain portions of your image data won’t be useable if/when you get your photo back into editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom, to finish processing your photos – trust me, when shooting in the recommended image format referred to as “RAW”, it’s amazing how much detail even the most sophisticated modern camera lenses fail to reproduce, and it’s only when you get your images into a program, such as Lightroom, that you can adjust various settings to bring out the richness and depth of the colors, lights and shadows, which, thankfully, the camera’s digital sensor DOES manage to capture. It just needs software to tease it out – in the pre-digital era, photographers used to do this in the “darkroom”; today, in the digital era, you don’t need to be in near total darkness in order to process your photos, you can do it in a nicely lit room, on your nicely lit computer… which is most probably the reason Adobe didn’t call their software Adobe Darkroom.

So, getting back on track, at very right edge of the Histogram graph, you have data for white; at the other end, over on the very left, you have the data for black. Everything else in between represents all the rest of the colors, or shades/tones of colors that can be present in any given image or scene. Each photograph you take will have its own Histogram assigned to it – this is a graphical record of all the highlights, shadows and colors (of varying shades and tones) in that one image.

Tricks for Event Photography

Take Some Pre-event Shots

You may want to capture some shots of the main room before the guests arrive. The event planner will be able to use these shots in order to sell their business services down the road. The pictures will be very valuable for your client and they may hire you again for your services. Therefore, taking some shots before the event starts is a stroke of genius and it will help you grow your business.

Don’t take too many photos

While you may want to take more shots than you need, taking photos unnecessarily is not a good idea. Taking amazing photos is the goal, but make sure you don’t spoil the mood of the guests. The attendees should be able to have a great time and it should be your priority.

The attendees would love to be photographed, but make sure you remember which ones you have had photographed. After all, you don’t want to take photos of the same guests over and over again.

Be Quick

You have to be really quick when taking photos. For instance, while taking photos of candids, make sure you take three frames and then move on. Taking more than three shots may annoy the guests. Moreover, when taking photos during a panel discussion, make sure you takes lots of photos with your DSLR. Although close shots look great, you should make sure that the faces of the guests look clear in the photos.

Edit Carefully and Deliver Fast

While editing, you may have to delete half of the shots. Usually, the shots are good but some shots may be a little better. Moreover, if you have taken three frames for the same pose, you may have to delete two of the frames. In other words, you want just the cream of the crop.

Guide to Camera Lenses

Focal Length

The main identifying feature of a lens is its focal length. Lenses with a single fixed focal length are known as prime lenses.

The focal length of a lens is a measure of how strongly it converges or diverges light. A lens with a short focal length is stronger than one with a long focal length. In other words, short focal lengths bends the rays more strongly, bringing them to focus in a shorter distance. Short focal length lenses have a wider angle of view. Conversely, a lens with a long focal length is weaker, and bends the rays more feebly, bringing them to a focus in a greater distance. Long focal length lenses have a narrow angle of view.

A lens with a focal length about equal to the diagonal size of the film format is known as a normal lens. For 35 mm film format cameras, the diagonal is 43 mm. While 45 mm was once a common normal lens focal length, 50 mm or 55 mm is more typical (and I have no idea why). A lens with a shorter focal length is often referred to as a wide-angle (typically 35 mm and less). A lens with a significantly longer focal length may be referred to as a telephoto (typically 85 mm and more).

There is much more to wide-angle and telephoto lenses than simply making a subject bigger or smaller (closer or further): they should be used to control perspective. Wide-angle lens exaggerate or stretch perspective. Near objects appear closer, while far objects appear further away. Telephoto lenses have the opposite effect and compress or flatten perspective.

Perspective control can be a powerful compositional tool in photography, and often determines choice of focal length lenses used. I would say more, but this article is an overview of lens options, and not about composition.

Aperture Sizes

Most lenses have an adjustable iris, which is made from a number of overlapping/interlocking blades (typically between five and eight) that open and close to adjust the amount of light passing through the lens. This structure is more commonly known as a diaphragm. Higher numbers of blades are generally better, since they create a rounder hole for light to pass through.

The diaphragm is used to set the lens aperture (literally the size of the hole through which light passes). Lenses with large apertures are said to be fast, because they can permit enough light passage to enable the use of a faster shutter speed. Conversely, lenses with a smaller maximum aperture are slow, because less light is transmitted, and a slower shutter speed is required.

Aperture sizes are referred to as “f-stops”. The numerical value of the f-stop is the result of the lens’s focal length (numerator) divided by the diameter of the aperture (denominator). In this equation, if a lens has a fixed focal length, as the aperture gets smaller, the denominator also gets smaller, so the f-stop number gets bigger as aperture become smaller (e.g. 50 cm/10 cm = 5. 50 cm/5 cm = 10). The results of these calculations are a common set of f-stop values: typically f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, where f/1.4 is the widest aperture and f/22 the smallest.

Each of these f-stop (as written) permits twice and much light to pass as the next f-stop to the right, and half as much light to pass as the f-stop to the left.

Lens aperture setting rings are commonly click-stopped for these aperture values. Some lenses have fractional stops. For example f/1.8 lenses are common, and of course, fractional stops can be set deliberately by ignoring click-stops.

The maximum aperture size, or speed of the lens, is the important factor, and usually emblazoned on the front on the lens along with the focal length and manufacture’s name. Not all aperture setting perform equally well, and generally, the best (more optically perfect and aberration free) overall aperture is somewhere around the middle of the range.

Depth of Field

There’s more to aperture size selection than simply controlling the amount of light entering the lens. Different aperture sizes have differing “depths of field”.

Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance at a time, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance. Depth of Field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear acceptably sharp.

Large apertures (such as f/2) have a shallow depth of field, while small apertures (like f/16) have a deeper depth of field. In many instances, it can be desirable control the depth of field. Sometimes, its good to have the entire image sharp, and in other instances, a small depth of field will emphasise the subject while de-emphasizing the foreground or background. In other words, these components can be blurred and out of focus.

Most lenses feature depth of field markings that show the depth of field for each aperture setting against the lens’s distance scale. They literally indicate the limits of acceptably sharp focus either side of the precise distance at which the lens has been focused.

Zoom Lenses

In the world of 35 mm photography, zoom lenses are relative newcomers. They are optically more complex, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s that zoom lenses achieved sufficient quality to become commonplace.

As explained in the section about aperture sizes, changes in the focal length of the lens alter the value of aperture sizes. This is why zoom lenses are normally identified by two maximum aperture values (for example, f/4 ~ f/4.5).

The point of a zoom lens is to combine the performance characteristics of equivalent prime lenses within its range, to offer move flexible control perspective. It’s an easier option than carrying and changing lenses, but isn’t a device to save the photographers from moving to the correct position to compose a shot. Sadly, this is often the way zooms are used.