Photography Techniques

Digital Photography Techniques

Let’s get into some technical photography stuff, things that I am in the process of learning here as well. Here are some techniques for all photographers. Some things we will go over in this article are focal length, depth of field, speed and aperture, and photography in low light settings. All of these are pertinent to achieving the perfect photos in all aspects of photography.

Focal Length

Focal length tells us the angle of the shot, how much will be seen in the picture we are taking. This can only properly be determined when the picture is properly focused on your subject. This is not something you necessarily pay attention to when taking photos, but instead when you first purchase a camera. This will tell you the angle you will get when you take a photograph. This factor affects what is in your shot and how small or large the subject is. The larger the focal length is, that means the farther the subject is and the less angle of view, which is how much will be in your shot. Inversely, the smaller the focal length, the smaller the subject, and the greater the angle of view. A larger focal length is a lower number, while a smaller focal length is a higher number. The focal length also corresponds to different types of lenses in photography, most of which have specialized areas to take specific photos.

Lens Sizes in Photography

There are many different types of lens lengths, ranging from 4mm to 300mm, and these vary in being fixed, zoom, or telephoto lenses. A fixed lens is one where there is no zoom option, the focal length is fixed therefore to get a clear photo, you physically move to the proper location. A zoom lens is one that the camera does the work for you, it is automatic in that way. Neither of these is better than the other, its more of a personal or philosophical question on which is better really.

The widest lens is the fisheye, these can range from 4mm-24mm and are used for landscape and architecture mostly.

The ultra-wide lens can range from 24mm-35mm on average and are also good for landscape and architecture. These lens are not the best for portraits because they often cause the subject to become distorted around the corners. The wide lens are better for portraits than the fisheye, though there are better options. This is a photo of a 15mm-30mm wide angle telephoto lens taken by Yann Gourvennec for reference.

Ultrawide photography
Ultra-wide Lens

The standard lens is the perfect everyday photography lens, sized 35mm-85mm, it can shoot anything well, but there are no specialties that this lens offers. In the AntiMuseum photography studio, Yann has an 85mm fixed camera lens which he uses to take portraits specifically. This is a fixed lens so he has to move around the studio and work with his subjects to create the perfect photo. Below is an example of one of Yann’s portrait photo’s he took for me,  for which he uses the 85mm. 

Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography

The telephoto lens is a long-photo lens that has a long focal length and narrow aperture. On these, the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length. These types of lens offer a narrow field of view and a shallow depth of field. This offers clear and precise photos, regardless of the distance from the subject. These lens are very popular to get photos from far away from the subjects, coming in both fixed and zoom options. These lens vary from 85mm all the way up to 300+mm. There are short, medium, and super telephoto lenses. This is an example of a photo shot by Yann using his 24-70mm telephoto camera lens.

Telephoto Lens used at concert at Notre Dame du Travail

The macro lens allows you to focus extremely close to the subject to make them appear large in the image. This lens has the ability to focus on extremely close objects and distances. The macro lens can vary from 35mm to 200mm, making this best for close up shots of objects that are visible to the naked eye. When using a macro lens, you will have a narrow depth of field. Below is a photo by Yann using his macro 105 mm lens.

Macro Photography – L’Haÿ Les Roses – Rose garden

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the part of the photo that will show up clear and focused, versus the parts of the photo that appear blurry. This is important to know so the viewer knows right away what should be in focus, and what is the focus of the photograph. Depth of field is important in photography because if you don’t have a proper depth of field for your photo, the viewers will not really know what they are supposed to be looking at. Sometimes, you want everything in focus if it is architecture or some landscape, which is deep depth of field, but this is not the case all of the time. When you want to easily recognize the subject of the photo, a shallow depth of field is used.

This photo below is Yann’s from a recent trip to London, which uses a deep depth of field to show the road, houses, the sky, and everything in between. Deep depth of field is good for landscape and architecture shots, it is most popular in landscape shots to show off all of the beauty you see.

deep dop
Deep Depth of Field in London

Inversely, below is a photo from London that was taken by Yann that shows narrow depth of field. Narrow depth of field is beautiful to me with showcasing a centerpiece but still appreciating the colors and shapes around it. Here, it’s just a ‘Private Gardens’ sign yes, but the green and purple flora in the background give depth to this piece.

shallow dop photography
Shallow Depth of Field in Garden in London

There is no one that is better than the other, rather it is what you prefer for the picture you are taking and what your plan is for creating a story through it.

Autofocus to find out, it will keep moving, autofocus is good for sports for continuous autofocus to follow players, but most like to use manual autofocus so you have the aspect of autofocus but you yourself can manually place the focus.

Speed vs. Aperture

Speed and aperture, both very important to the art of taking pictures, are different, yet very similar. To operate properly, you need to have a balance between the two. Speed controls the amount of time the shutter is open for a frame, this is also called exposure time. The aperture is the size of the opening that controls the amount of light let in for a frame, these are f stops. The fastest shutter speed is 1/1000 of a second, and the slowest shutter speed is 1 second. This will change depending on what you are capturing and how much light you need to let in during that time period. Aperture ranges from f 22, very small aperture, to f 1,4 which is the largest aperture. This controls the intensity of light that is let into the frame.

There are cases where speed will take priority over aperture to get the framing of the photo, or the opposite case to let enough light in, but without the proper speed no light will get in, and without the right lighting, what does the speed of the photo matter? These two can be tricky to balance, but finding the proper middle ground makes all the difference. The combination of speed and aperture together determine exposure, which are called f stops.

Below is a photo taken at the Longchamp horse races. This photo was taken with a 5.6 f stop for aperture, 1/1000 of a second speed, and 450 mm focal length with a multiplying factor to be able to attain this look. This was taken using a telephoto lens that ranges from 28mm-300mm.

horse race photography
Speed and aperture balanced in Photography showcased at Longchamp Race

Here is a link to a PDF full of Technical descriptions of all of these photos taken by Yann.

I hope this information helps you as much as it did for me. I’m still learning, and as I wrote this I learned even more. Stay tuned for pictures from my upcoming trip to Italy, and hopefully more photography tips down the road.

Emilie Leger
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