Beyond Photo Basics: Sharper Photos | Sheila Foraker | Skillshare

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Beyond Photo Basics: Sharper Photos

teacher avatar Sheila Foraker, Learn Skills - Make Better Photos

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. Introduction to Sharper Photos

    • 2. Class Project: Use Manual Focus and Depth of Field

    • 3. Definition of Confusing Photography Terms

    • 4. Sharper Focus With Zoom Magnification

    • 5. Depth of Field

    • 6. Sharper Photos Final Thoughts

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About This Class

In this lesson I will guide you toward understanding three properties of lenses: focus, focal length, and depth of field. Understanding and applying these properties of lenses will help you use the lenses in your kit to best advantage.

This is part two of a four-part series, Beyond Photo Basics. This class is for photographers who have fundamental  skills in photography who are ready to explore more advanced topics. 

A DSLR or mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses is necessary to complete the Class Project.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sheila Foraker

Learn Skills - Make Better Photos


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1. Introduction to Sharper Photos: Lenses have come a long way since this Kodak Brownie camera was invented nearly a 100 years ago. In this lesson, I'll be guiding you towards understanding three properties of lenses, focus, focal length, and depth of field. Understanding and applying these properties will help you use the lenses that you already have in your kit to the best advantage. This class is Part 2 of a four-part series beyond photo basics. It's for photographers who already have a fundamental understanding of typography and are ready to move on to more advanced topics. But DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is necessary in order to complete the class project. I'm Sheila for Rucker. I'm an event landscape and nature photographer and I'm excited to share with you skills and techniques that I've learned along my photography journey. At the end of this class, you will have the skills to pull sharper focus for your photos and you will know how to use the lenses that you already have in your kit to the best advantage. And if you're shopping for lenses. So we'll give you some ideas on what to look for. In the next lesson, we'll talk about the class project. See you in a minute. 2. Class Project: Use Manual Focus and Depth of Field: There are four exercises in the class project that will help you understand and apply the concepts that will be taught in this class. I encourage you to do all four of the exercises because there's nothing like practice to boost your understanding and skills. Post your photos to the project gallery along with your questions or comments, and I'll get back to you and answer those questions soon as I can. Detailed instructions for the exercise is found in the resources section, along with a cheat sheet that I created that will kinda tie together all of the concepts that we talk about in the lessons throughout this class. Pulling sharp focus and depth of field are two topics that are often very confusing for photographers. These four exercises are designed to be set up in a controlled environment so that you can have complete control over the outcome and be able to learn and apply the concepts. Then you can take your new skills out into the field and apply them to your photography for greater creative expression. 3. Definition of Confusing Photography Terms: In this lesson, I will be defining some terms that are often confusing. Details will be explored in subsequent lessons throughout this class. Where one or more of these will come together in a specific topic because you can't really separate them in actual practice. So here's some definitions. Focus. Focus is appointed. Which rays of light converge. When the rays of light converge into a single point, the image is sharp. Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens through which light passes is expressed as f-stops. The larger number equals a smaller opening in the lens. And a smaller number would equal a larger opening. Depth of field. Depth of field is a zone of acceptable sharpness that appears in focus. It's the distance between the closest and farthest objects that appear acceptably sharp. Focal length. Focal length is the distance between where the light enters the lens and where it reaches the film or sensor. And this is expressed in millimeters. 4. Sharper Focus With Zoom Magnification: Cameras have had automatic focus feature for 40 or 50 years now. As technology advances, so does the accuracy of the automatic focus feature. Automatic focus is absolutely necessary for wildlife photography and fast-moving sports. It's absolutely an essential camera feature. Light enters the camera lens and it goes inside of the body of the camera, and then goes down into where the focus autofocus sensor is at the bottom of the camera. And then the autofocus sensor then determines if the subject is in focus and if not, it sends messages electronic wizardry to the motors in the lens to pull the subject into focus. Most of the time, there are some influences that will interfere with automatic focus. Low light is one of them. Poor contrast. And everything is the same green or everything is the same blue. Small subjects, and also a very shallow depth of field. These things can all interfere with automatic focus. Well, manual focus is the best solution for night photography and for Astro photography because well, there's very low light and you probably know that you can switch your camera from automatic focus to manual focus. And some lenses have that switch as well. So you make sure both of those are switched to the manual, manual setting. And also manual focus is the preferred method of focusing for most landscape photographers. Most of you know that you can look through your camera's viewfinder or the live view, like electronic viewfinder on the back of your camera. And you can use the manual focus ring with your camera set on manual focus to pull your scene in focus, pull your image into focus. Well, there's a more precise step that'll pull even sharper focus on stationary scenes or in low light. This involves using the magnifying Zoom feature in line view on your DSLR. Let me show you a way of pulling the focus using Live View is first junior camera to live view. So I will put the camera but a non-manual focus. So you have a button where you can change it to manual focus. And some lenses will have an option for manual or automatic focus. And so I've got switched from the autofocus to manual focus. And this is my focus ring right here. So if I come back here on the live view and up here at the top or somewhere on your camera, you're gonna have a little magnifying glass, one up and one down. So I'm gonna take this magnifying glass and it will start magnifying in. Watch this little red box. See how it's starting to zoom in on my subject. My subject. These mountains that are out here between I said because these mountains that are out here between those jackets. So I'm going to use this button right here to scroll my little box up and down. We move to tape. And I'm going to use my focus dial on the lens. I'm going to move that focus style until my image looks nice and crisp. And that mountain peak right over there as my target. It's a little hard to see on the camera right here. But I'm pulling that into focus and that actually looks pretty sharp. So I'm going to pull this back up. Hey, I'm getting some really nice light had across this valley here. Switch might have stuff I'm going to go to F11, forgot to mention, but not to F11. That way everything is going to be reasonably in-focus, acceptably sharp. From start, from foreground all the way out to my subject. Nephi 11, ISO one hundred and one fortieth of a second. Yeah, I think it looks pretty good. The only way to get good at this is to go out and practice. Go out and practice manually pulling, focus on your scenes. And also using the live Zoom feature that I just showed you. When I began using the zoom magnification. It was it was an amazing game changer. It cleared up a lot of the frustration and irritation that I was having when some of my landscape images were not the sharpest they should've been. Next, we're going to look at another often confusing topic, depth of field. See you in a minute. 5. Depth of Field: Many photographers have been taught that small F-stop, such as F 16, will produce an in-focus image from foreground all the way to infinity. Well, that's not true. The physics of optics, including camera lenses, permits focus on a single plane of focus at a time. When light rays converge on a single plane, all of the objects on that plane will be in focus. Anything ahead of it or behind it will be out of focus. It's commonly assumed that changing the aperture on your lens, we'll change the amount of the scene that is in focus. That's not quite true either. Again, only objects that are on that plane of focus are going to be sharp. Everything ahead of it or behind it are going to be out of focus. The light that converges in front of or behind a plane of focus are called circles of confusion. As you can see in this photo, the middle owl is perfectly in focus that L is on the plane of focus in it a sharp. The other l's, the one further back, and the one that is closer or out-of-focus. Smaller apertures reduce the size of the circles and confusion. Like in this picture right here, taken it f 16, making everything in the scene appear to be sharp or acceptably sharp. You probably heard that term exception acceptably sharp. This is where the myth originates that using a small aperture will create an image that is sharp from foreground all the way to infinity. When you zoom in and you look closely at the photo, you can see that only the owls that are only the elements in the middle on the plane of focus is sharp. The others before and behind her head up and behind. The plane of focus are actually out-of-focus. A smaller aperture does create smaller circles and confusion, thus giving the appearance of acceptable sharpness. In addition to aperture, there are two other factors that influence depth of field. Focal length and distance of the camera from the subject on the plane of focus. Focal length is the distance between where the light enters the camera through the lens and where it hits the sensor or the film plane inside the camera. And that is measured in millimeters. The longer the lens, the shallower the depth of field will be at any aperture. Focal length also influences the field of view. To illustrate, here are three photos. Each focal length is twice the length of the one before it. So we have a 24 millimeter lens, a 50 millimeter, and 100 millimeters. The camera was on a tripod. So the distance from where the camera was to the subject of Plainfield will remain constant. And all three photos were taken at the same f-stop, which is F8. The plane of focus is the same on all three photos, focusing on the pot of flowers a 24 millimeters. The wide-angle lens gives the appearance that everything is in focus from front-to-back. The 50 millimeter, as would be expected as somewhat in the middle. But at 100000000 million, but at 100 millimeters, that's where things really looked different and the difference is quite obvious. Yes, it is very close and magnified because of the 100 millimeter lens. But the most important feature is that the background is completely blurred out and there's no distinguishable detail in the background. The circles of confusion are quite different. At the same f-stop, which was F8. On these two focal lengths, the 24 and the 100 millimeter, the longer lens creates a shallower depth of field. Then the wide angle lens at 24. Both of those lenses having this, having the picture taken at the same f-stop. The third factor that influences depth of field is the distance from the camera to the plane of focus. For this illustration, I'm using a 50 millimeter lens at it for my plane of focus is still the flowers. And I'm about six feet away from the flowerpot. Next, I move the camera a half of the distance, which would be about three feet, still using the 50 millimeter lens and a four. As you can see in this photo, the closer to the plane of focus, the shallower the depth of field. The farther away from the plane of focus, the deeper the depth of field. Well, so that's a lot, right? So how do aperture, focal length and the distance from the subject all come together? Well, here's some takeaways, and the first one is the one ring that rules them all. Only the subject that is on the plane of focus will truly be sharp. Everything that is before it or after it will be out of focus to one degree or another. A larger aperture, such as F2 or F4, we'll create a deeper depth of field and that will produce larger circles of confusion. And this creates what we call bokeh, that nice out of focus background, very popular in portraits. A small aperture, f 11, 16. This produces a very shallow depth of field. And the circles of confusion are much, much smaller. And this gives the impression of acceptable sharpness, acceptable focus from front to the rear of your photo. Longer lenses will produce shallower depth of field because the light comes in at a narrower angle. Shorter lenses will create deeper depth of field because the light comes in at a wider angle. Moving away from the subject without changing the f-stop or the focal length will create smaller circles of confusion, thus rendering the scene acceptably sharp, moving closer to your subject without changing the f-stop or the focal length will create larger circles of confusion, which is, as I've already said, we'll create bokeh. Wide angle lenses focused into the distance will never have a shallow depth of field. Long lenses focused on something very close. We'll never have a deep depth of field. If you want a shallow depth of field, you need to use a long lens and a wide aperture and get as close to your subject as you possibly can. If you want everything acceptably sharp from foreground to infinity, you'll need to choose a wide-angle lens, a small aperture, and pull back as far away from your subject. And she can who? That was a lot. I created a cheat sheet that has all that on it. And you can find that in the resources section. Be sure to print that out along with the instructions for the class project so that you can refer to them when you do the project. Well, the only way to get good at something is to go out and practice it and apply it. So I encourage you to go out and try these different things. Try one, practice it, try another one, practice it until you're feeling very comfortable with it all. It's a lot to learn and you're probably not gonna get it all at once. I didn't. And I don't expect you to either. Alright, well, we'll see in a minute and we'll wrap up a few final thoughts. 6. Sharper Photos Final Thoughts: Thank you for sticking around with me to the end of this class. That was a lot to take in. And it can be confusing, and I get it. But please drop your questions and comments that you have into the comments section or into the the project section with your photos. And I'll get back to you with answers. Well, once you understand how focus and aperture, focal length and distance and all these things come together. You're well on your way to really capturing the photos that you want, the way you see them. As always, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I have other photography classes here on Skillshare, and I encourage you to check them out and invite your friends to watch them as well. Well, until next time. Thanks a lot and we'll see you soon.