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Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

A camera is a device that imitates the human eye by recording images that can be stored directly,
transmitted to another location, or both.

These images may be still photographs or moving images such as videos or movies. The term camera
comes from the word camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber"), an early mechanism for projecting
images. The modern camera evolved from the camera obscura. In the fifth century B.C., the Chinese
philosopher Mo Ti noted that a pinhole can form an inverted and focused image, when light passes
through the hole and into a dark area.

Cameras may work with the light of the visible spectrum or with other portions of the
electromagnetic spectrum. A camera generally consists of an enclosed hollow with an opening
(aperture) at one end for light to enter, and a recording or viewing surface for capturing the light at
the other end. A majority of cameras have a lens positioned in front of the camera's opening to gather
the incoming light and focus all or part of the image on the recording surface. The diameter of the
aperture is often controlled by a diaphragm mechanism, but some cameras have a fixed-size aperture.

Most cameras use an electronic image sensor to store photographs on flash memory. Other cameras,
particularly the majority of cameras from the 20th century, use photographic film.

The still camera takes one photo each time the user presses the shutter button. A typical movie
camera continuously takes 24 film frames per second as long as the user holds down the shutter
button, or until the shutter button is pressed a second time.

Persistence of vision is a feature that allows us to see a picture and perceive motion. The human eye
perceives a picture if light mapped at the back side of the eye is processes in the brain inform of
pixels whereby the eye sees a collection of dots as pictures.

When the eye looks at pictures recorded at 16 pictures per second and above, it interprets this as a
motion picture.

The first electronic sensor was the CCD – coupled charged device made from a computer chip. It had
250 by 125 pixels ( black n white TV)

There are two major types of motion picture cameras:

i. Film cameras
ii. Video camera 2012© Page 1 of 77
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It uses chemically treated film as a sensor.


It uses an electronic sensor. It can record in real time and playback in real time.

There are three types of video cameras.

i. Consumer camcorders
ii. Professional camcorders
iii. Professional digital cameras


They are not for professional use.

They have one CCD i.e poor colour separation

Have a 1/6th inch CCD, Small sensor n lowest resolution ,this means they take in little light.

They are automatic i.e are operated by videographers ( untrained camera persons)

E.g sony digital camcoder


The human eye belongs to a general group of eyes found in nature called “camera-type eyes.” Instead
of film, the human eye focuses light onto a light sensitive membrane called the retina.

Here’s how the human eye is put together and how it works:

The cornea is a transparent structure found in the very front of the eye that helps to focus incoming
light. Behind the cornea is a colored ring-shaped membrane called the iris. The iris has an adjustable
circular opening called the pupil, which can expand or contract depending on the amount of light
entering the eye. 2012© Page 2 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
A clear fluid called the aqueous humor fills the space between
the cornea and the iris.

Situated behind the pupil is a colorless, transparent structure

called the crystalline lens. Ciliary muscles surround the lens.
The muscles hold the lens in place but they also play an
important role in vision.

When the muscles relax, they pull on and flatten the lens,
allowing the eye to see objects that are far away. To see closer
objects clearly, the ciliary muscle must contract in order to
thicken the lens. THE HUMAN EYE

The interior chamber of the eyeball is filled with a jelly-like tissue called the vitreous humor. After
passing through the lens, light must travel through this humor before striking the sensitive layer of
cells called the retina.

The retina is the innermost of three tissue layers that make up the eye. The outermost layer, called the
sclera, is what gives most of the eyeball its white color. The cornea is also a part of outer layer.

The middle layer between the retina and sclera is called the choroid. The choroid contains blood
vessels that supply the retina with nutrients and oxygen and removes its waste products.

Embedded in the retina are millions of light sensitive cells, which come in two main varieties: rods
and cones.

Rods are good for monochrome vision in poor light, while cones are used for color and for the
detection of fine detail. Cones are packed into a part of the retina directly behind the retina called the

When light strikes either the rods or the cones of the retina, it's converted into an electric signal that is
relayed to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then translates the electrical signals into the images
we see.

Camera Functions

Most domestic camcorders can do just about everything automatically.

All you have to do is turn them on, point, and press record. In most
situations this is fine, but automatic functions have some serious 2012© Page 3 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
limitations. If you want to improve your camera work, you must learn to take control of your camera.

This means using manual functions. In fact, professional cameras have very few automatic functions,
and professional camera operators would never normally use auto-focus or auto-iris.

Disadvantages of Auto-Focus

1. Although auto-functions usually perform well enough, there will be some situations they can't
cope with (e.g. bad lighting conditions). In these circumstances you may be faced with
unusable footage unless you can take manual control. More commonly, your shots will be
useable but poor quality (e.g. going in and out of focus).
2. Your camera can't know what you want. To get the best results or obtain a particular effect it is
often necessary to over-ride auto-functions and go manual.

1. Zoom

This is the function which moves your point of view closer to, or
further away from, the subject. The effect is similar to moving the
camera closer or further away.

Note that the further you zoom in, the more difficult it is to keep
the picture steady. In some cases you can move the camera closer
to the subject and then zoom out so you have basically the same
framing. For long zooms you should use a tripod.

Zooming is the function everyone loves. It's easy and you can do lots with it, which is why it's so
over-used. The most common advice we give on using the zoom is use it less. It works well in
moderation but too much zooming is tiring for the audience.


Auto-focus is strictly for amateurs. Unlike still

photography, there is no way auto-focus can meet the
needs of a serious video camera operator. Many people
find manual focus difficult, but if you want to be any good
at all, good focus control is essential.

Professional cameras usually have a manual focus ring at the front of the lens housing. Turn the ring
clockwise for closer focus, anti-clockwise for more distant focus. Consumer cameras have different
types of focus mechanisms — usually a small dial. 2012© Page 4 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
To obtain the best focus, zoom in as close as you can on the subject you wish to focus on, adjust the
ring until the focus is sharp, then zoom out to the required framing.


This is an adjustable opening (aperture), which controls

the amount of light coming through the lens (i.e. the
"exposure"). As you open the iris, more light comes in and
the picture appears brighter.

Professional cameras have an iris ring on the lens housing, which you turn clockwise to close and
anticlockwise to open. Consumer-level cameras usually use either a dial or a set of buttons.

The rule of thumb for iris control is: Set your exposure for the subject. Other parts of the picture can be
too bright or darks, as long as the subject is easy to see.

White Balance

White balance means colour balance. It's a function which tells the camera
what each colour should look like, by giving it a "true white" reference.
If the camera knows what white looks like, then it will know what all
other colours look like.

This function is normally done automatically by consumer-level cameras

without the operator even being aware of it's existence. It actually works
very well in most situations, but there will be some conditions that the
auto-white won't like. In these situations the colours will seem wrong or unnatural.

To perform a white balance, point the camera at something matt (non-reflective) white in the same
light as the subject, and frame it so that most or all of the picture is white. Set your focus and
exposure, then press the "white balance" button (or throw the switch). There should be some
indicator in the viewfinder which tells you when the white balance has completed. If it doesn't work,
try adjusting the iris, changing filters, or finding something else white to balance on.

You should do white balances regularly, especially when lighting conditions change (e.g. moving
between indoors and outdoors).


Virtually all consumer-level cameras come with built-in microphones, usually hi-fi stereo. These
work fine, and are all you need for most general work. 2012© Page 5 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
Getting better results with audio is actually quite difficult and is a whole subject in itself. We won't go
into it much here — you just need to be aware that audio is very important and shouldn't be

If you're keen, try plugging an external microphone into the "mic input" socket of your camera (if it
has one). There are two reasons why you might want to do this:

1. You may have a mic which is more suited to the type of work you are doing than the camera's
built-in mic. Often, the better mic will simply be mounted on top of the camera.
2. You might need to have the mic in a different position to the camera. For example, when
covering a speech, the camera could be at the back of the room with a long audio lead running
to the stage, where you have a mic mounted on the pedestal.

The level at which your audio is recorded is important. Most cameras have an "auto-gain control",
which adjusts the audio level automatically. Consumer-level cameras are usually set up like this, and
it works well in most situations. If you have a manual audio level control, it's a good idea to learn
how to use it (more on this later).

If possible, try to keep the background (ambient) noise level more or less consistent. This adds
smoothness to the flow of the production. Of course, some shots will require sudden changes in
ambient audio for effect.

Listen to what people are saying and build it into the video. Try not to start and finish shots while
someone is talking — there's nothing worse than a video full of half-sentences.

Be very wary of background music while shooting — this can result is music that jumps every time
the shot changes, like listening to a badly scratched record. If you can, turn the music right down or

One more thing... be careful of wind noise. Even the slightest breeze can ruin your audio. Many
cameras have a "low-cut filter", sometimes referred to as a "wind-noise filter" or something similar.
These do help, but a better solution is to block the wind. You can use a purpose-designed wind sock,
or try making one yourself.


At the beginner level you don't really need to use the shutter, but it deserves a quick mention. It has
various applications, most notably for sports or fast-action footage. The main advantage is that
individual frames appear sharper (critical for slow-motion replays). The main disadvantage is that
motion appears more jerky.

The shutter can also be used to help control exposure. 2012© Page 6 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop


Many consumer cameras come with a selection of

built-in digital effects, such as digital still, mix, strobe, etc. These can be very cool, or they can be very
clumsy and tacky. They require dedicated experimentation to get right. Like so many things in video,
moderation is the key: use them if you have a good reason to, but don't overdo it.

You should also be aware that almost every effect you can create with a camera can be done better
with editing software. If at all possible, shoot your footage "dry" (without effects) and add effects

Camera Terminology
Shot: All video is made up of shots. A shot is basically from when you press record to when you stop
recording. Like the individual photos which make up an album, the shots get put together to make a

Framing & Composition: The frame is the picture you see in the viewfinder (or on a monitor).
Composition refers to the layout of everything within a picture frame — what the subject is, where it is
in the frame, which way it's facing/looking, the background, the foreground, lighting, etc.

When you "frame" a shot, you adjust the camera position and zoom lens until your shot has the
desired composition.

There is a general set of rules in the video industry which describe how to frame different types of
camera shots, such as the ones illustrated below

VWS (Very Wide Shot)

Shows the subject's environment. 2012© Page 7 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

WS (Wide Shot)
Shows the whole subject.

CU (Close Up)
Shows a feature of the subject.

Transition: Shots are linked (edited) in a sequence to tell a larger story. The way in which any two
shots are joined together is called the transition.

Usually this is a simple cut, in which one shot changes instantly to the next. More complex transitions
include mixing, wipes and digital effects. A moving shot (e.g. pan) can also be thought of as a
transition from one shot to a new one.

The transition is very important in camera work, and you need to think constantly about how every
shot will fit in with the ones before and after it. The key is not so much how the transition is achieved
technically, but how the composition of each shot fits together.

Here are

few more important terms. They will be explained in greater detail later:

Pan Side-to-side camera movement.

Tilt Up-and-down camera movement.
Zoom In-and-out camera movement (i.e. closer and more distant).
The opening which lets light into the camera. A wider iris means more light and a
Iris (Exposure)
brighter picture.
White balance Adjusting the colours until they look natural and consistent.
Shutter Analogous to the shutter in a still camera.
Audio Sound which is recorded to go with the pictures. 2012© Page 8 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop


This is the most important step, and perhaps the most difficult to master. It should be where most of
your your energy is directed.

Camera work is only one skill in a larger process — the goal of which is usually to produce a
completed video, TV program, or presentation of some kind.

To be good at camera work, you must have a clear picture of the whole process, and some idea of
what the finished product should look & sound like.

If there's one thing that separates the amateurs from the pros, it's that amateurs "point and shoot",
whereas pros "plan and shoot". Obviously there are times when you don't have time to prepare before
having to record — sometimes the action begins unexpectedly, and you just have to go for it.

For general camera work, you can divide your plan into two parts: The "Shoot Plan" and the "Shot

In this case, the word shoot refers to a shooting session. If you think of everything you record as being
part of a shoot, and have a plan for every shoot, then you're well on the way to having better
organised footage.

First of all, be clear about the purpose of every shoot. Generally speaking, everything you do should
be working towards a larger plan. Exactly what this is will depend on many factors.

 If you're making a feature film, then the long-term plan is to gather all the shots required by the
 If you're making home videos, the long-term plan might be to create a historical archive for
future generations (for more suggestions on this topic, see our tutorial on Home Video
 If you're making a one-off project (such as a wedding video), you still have to bear in mind the
long-term implications for the shoot. 2012© Page 9 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
Planning means adopting an attitude in which you take control. When you get out your video camera,
instead of thinking "This will look good on video" and starting to shoot whatever happens, think
"What do I want this to look like on video?". You then shoot (and if necessary, direct) the action to
achieve your goal.

Plan the approximate length of the shoot: How much footage do you need to end up with, and how
long will it take you to get it?

Have a checklist of equipment, which could include: camera; tripod; tapes; batteries/power supply;
microphones and audio equipment; lights and stands; pens, log sheets and other paper work.

Planning to Edit

This is critical. If you think that this doesn't applies to you, then you're wrong. Everything you capture
must be shot with editing in mind. There are two basic ways to edit: Post-production and in-camera.

 Post-production (or just "post") editing means taking the shots you've recorded and re-
assembling them later using editing equipment. This is how the professionals work — it gives
you much greater flexibility when you're shooting and much better finished results.
To do simple post editing, all you need is your camera, a VCR, and a few connecting leads.
What it means for your shooting plan is that you can collect your shots in any order, and you
can get as many shots as you like. At the editing stage, you discard unwanted shots and
assemble the good ones however you like. This can be a time-consuming task (especially if you
don't have much editing gear), but it's usually worth the effort.
For more information see our editing tutorials.
 In-Camera editing simply means that what you shoot is what you get — there is no post-
production. The point here is that you're still editing. You still must decide which shot goes
where, and which shots you don't need at all. The difference is that you're making these edit
decisions as you shoot, rather than in post. This isn't easy, and it isn't possible to get it right all
of the time. It requires planning, foresight, and experience.

Note: There is one other situation which should be mentioned: the live multi-camera shoot. This is
where a number of cameras are linked to a central vision mixer, and a director cuts between cameras
(for example, a live sports presentation). In this case, you can think of the editing as being done in real
time as the shoot happens.

Whichever method of editing you use, there are fundamental rules to follow. Since understanding
these rules requires some knowledge of shot types and framing, we'll leave them for now and come
back to them later. 2012© Page 10 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

Shot Plan

Once you have a plan for your shooting session, you're ready to begin planning individual shots.

First of all, have a reason for every shot. Ask yourself: "What am I trying to achieve with this shot? Is
this shot even necessary? Have I already got a shot that's essentially the same as this one? Is my
audience going to care about this subject?"

Once you're happy that you have a good reason to get the shot, think about the best way to get it.
Consider different angles, framing, etc. The art of good composition takes time to master but with
practice you will get there.

Ask yourself exactly what information you wish to convey to your audience through this shot, and
make sure you capture it in a way that they will understand.

Take the time to get each shot right, especially if it's an important one. If necessary (and if you're
editing in post), get a few different versions of the shot so you can choose the best one later.

Also, for post editing, leave at least 5 seconds of pictures at the beginning and end of each shot. This is
required by editing equipment, and also acts as a safety buffer.

Shots are all about composition. Rather than pointing the camera at the subject, you need to compose
an image. As mentioned previously, framing is the process of creating composition.


 Framing technique is very subjective. What one person finds dramatic, another may find
pointless. What we're looking at here are a few accepted industry guidelines which you should
use as rules of thumb.
 The rules of framing video images are essentially the same as those for still photography.
 For more details, see camera shot types. 2012© Page 11 of 77
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Basic shot types

There is a convention in the video industry which assigns names to the most common types of shots.
The names and their exact meanings may vary, but the following examples give a rough guide to the
standard descriptions. The point isn't knowing the names of the shot types (although it's very useful), as
much as understanding their purposes.

Basic shots are referred to in terms relative to the subject. For example, a "close up" has to be a close
up of something. A close up of a person could also be described as a wide shot of a face, or a very
wide shot of a nose.
The subject in all of the following shots is a boy standing in front of a house.

EWS (Extreme Wide Shot)

In the EWS, the view is so far from the subject that he isn't even visible. The point of this shot is to
show the subject's surroundings. The EWS is often used as an establishing shot — the first shot of a new
scene, designed to show the audience where the action is taking place.

VWS (Very Wide Shot)

The VWS is much closer to the subject. He is (just) visible here, but the emphasis is still on placing him
in his environment. This also works as an establishing shot. 2012© Page 12 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

WS (Wide Shot)
In the WS, the subject takes up the full frame. In this case, the boy's feet are almost at the bottom of
frame, and his head is almost at the top. Obviously the subject doesn't take up the whole width of the
frame, since this is as close as we can get without losing any part of him. The small amount of room
above and below the subject can be thought of as safety room — you don't want to be cutting the top
of the head off. It would also look uncomfortable if the feet and head were exactly at the top and
bottom of frame.

MS (MidShot)
The MS shows some part of the subject in more detail, whilst still showing enough for the audience to
feel as if they were looking at the whole subject. In fact, this is an approximation of how you would
see a person "in the flesh" if you were having a casual conversation. You wouldn't be paying any
attention to their lower body, so that part of the picture is unnecessary.

MCU (Medium Close Up)

Half way between a MS and a CU. This shot shows the face more clearly, without getting
uncomfortably close. 2012© Page 13 of 77

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CU (Close Up)
In the CU, a certain feature or part of the subject takes up the whole frame. A close up of a person
usually means a close up of their face.

ECU (Extreme Close Up)

The ECU gets right in and shows extreme detail. For people, the ECU is used to convey emotion.

CA (Cutaway)
A cutaway is a shot that's usually of something other than the current action. It could be a different
subject (e.g. these children), a CU of a different part of the subject (e.g. a CU of the subject's hands), or
just about anything else. The CA is used as a "buffer" between shots (to help the editing process), or to
add interest/information.

Some Rules of Framing

 Look for horizontal and vertical lines in the frame (e.g. the horizon, poles, etc). Make sure the
horizontals are level, and the verticals are straight up and down (unless of course you're
purposely going for a tilted effect). 2012© Page 14 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
 The rule of thirds. This rule divides the frame into nine sections, as in the first frame below.
Points (or lines) of interest should occur at 1/3 or 2/3 of the way up (or across) the frame, rather
than in the centre.

 "Headroom", "looking room", and "leading room". These terms refer to the amount of room in
the frame which is strategically left empty. The shot of the baby crawling has some leading
room for him to crawl into, and the shot of his mother has some looking room for her to look
into. Without this empty space, the framing will look uncomfortable.
Headroom is the amount of space between the top of the subject's head and the top of the
frame. A common mistake in amateur video is to have far too much headroom, which doesn't
look good and wastes frame space. In any "person shot" tighter than a MS, there should be very
little headroom.

 Everything in your frame is important, not just the subject. What does the background look like?
What's the lighting like? Is there anything in the frame which is going to be distracting, or disrupt
the continuity of the video?
Pay attention to the edges of your frame. Avoid having half objects in frame, especially people
(showing half of someone's face is very unflattering). Also try not to cut people of at the joints
— the bottom of the frame can cut across a person's stomach, but not their knees. It just doesn't
look right.

Once you're comfortable with the do's and don'ts, you can become more creative. Think about the
best way to convey the meaning of the shot. If it's a baby crawling, get down on the floor and see it
from a baby's point-of-view (POV). If it's a football game, maybe you need to get up high to see all the

Look for interesting and unusual shots. Most of your shots will probably be quite "straight"; that is,
normal shots from approximate adult eye-level. Try mixing in a few variations. Different angles and
different camera positions can make all the difference. For example; a shot can become much more
dramatic if shot from a low point. On the other hand, a new and interesting perspective can be 2012© Page 15 of 77

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obtained by looking straight down on the scene. Be aware that looking up at a person can make them
appear more imposing, whereas looking down at a person can diminish them.

Watch TV and movies, and notice the shots which stand out. There's a reason why they stand out —
it's all about camera positioning and frame composition. Experiment all the time.

Basic Camera Moves

As with camera framing, there are standard descriptions for the basic camera moves. These are the
main ones:

Camera Pan

A pan is a horizontal camera movement in which the camera moves left and right about a central axis.
This is a swiveling movement, i.e. mounted in a fixed location on a tripod or shoulder, rather than a
dolly-like movement in which the entire mounting system moves.

To create a smooth pan it's a good idea to practice the movement first. If you need to move or stretch
your body during the move, it helps to position yourself so you end up in the more comfortable
position. In other words you should become more comfortable as the move progresses rather than less

Tilt: The framing moves up & down, with no horizontal movement.

A tilt is a vertical camera movement in which the camera points up or down from a stationary
location. For example, if you mount a camera on your shoulder and nod it up and down, you are
tilting the camera.

Tilting is less common than panning because that's the way humans work — we look left and right
more often than we look up and down.

The tilt should not be confused with the Dutch Tilt which means a deliberately slanted camera angle.

Dutch Tilt 2012© Page 16 of 77

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Dutch Tilt Shot

A Dutch tilt is a camera shot in which the camera angle is deliberately slanted to one side. This can be
used for dramatic effect and helps portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action,
intoxication, madness, etc.

A dutch tilt can be a static shot, or used with simultaneous panning, tilting and/or zooming.

Other Terminology

The Dutch tilt is also known as Dutch angle, German angle, oblique angle, canted angle and even the
Batman angle.


The Dutch tilt was used a lot in German films of the 1930s and 1940s. This is where the name German
angle came from. The Dutch term is said to have been a mistranslation of the German Deutsch.

A variation of the tilt is the pedestal shot, in which the whole camera moves up or down.

Pedestal Shot 2012© Page 17 of 77

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A pedestal shot means moving the camera vertically with respect to the subject. This is often referred
to as "pedding" the camera up or down.

The term comes from the type of camera support known as a pedestal (pictured right). Pedestals are
used in studio settings and provide a great deal of flexibility as well as very smooth movement. Unlike
standard tripods, pedestals have the ability to move the camera in any direction (left, right, up, down).

Note that a pedestal move is different to a camera tilt, which means the camera is in the same position
but tilts the angle of view up and down. In a ped movement, the whole camera is moving, not just the
angle of view.

In reality, like most camera moves, the pedestal move is often a combination of moves. For example,
pedding while simultaneously panning and/or tilting.

A zoom is technically not a camera move as it does not require the camera itself to move at all.
Zooming means altering the focal length of the lens to give the illusion of moving closer to or further
away from the action.

The effect is not quite the same though. Zooming is effectively magnifying a part of the image, while
moving the camera creates a difference in perspective — background objects appear to change in
relation to foreground objects. This is sometimes used for creative effect in the dolly zoom.

Zooming is an easy-to-use but hard-to-get-right feature of most cameras. It is arguably the most
misused of all camera functions. See our camera zoom tutorial for more information. 2012© Page 18 of 77

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Follow Shot
The Follow shot is fairly self-explanatory. It simply means that the camera follows the subject ot
action. The following distance is usually kept more or less constant.

The movement can be achieved by dollying or tracking, although in many cases a Steadicam is the
most practical option. Hand-held follow-shots are quite achievable in many situations but are not
generally suited to feature film cinematography.

Dolly Shot

Filming The Alamo (2004)

Photo by Sean Devine
A dolly is a cart which travels along tracks. The camera is mounted on the dolly and records the shot as
it moves. Dolly shots have a number of applications and can provide very dramatic footage.

In many circles a dolly shot is also known as a tracking shot or trucking shot. However some
professionals prefer the more rigid terminology which defines dolly as in-and-out movement (i.e.
closer/further away from the subject), while tracking means side-to-side movement.

Most dollies have a lever to allow for vertical movement as well (known as a pedestal move). In some
cases a crane is mounted on the dolly for additional height and flexibility. A shot which moves
vertically while simultaneously tracking is called a compound shot.

Some dollies can also operate without tracks. This provides the greatest degree of movement, assuming
of course that a suitable surface is available. Special dollies are available for location work, and are
designed to work with common constraints such as doorway width.

Dollies are operated by a dolly grip. In the world of big-budget movie making, good dolly grips
command a lot of respect and earning power. 2012© Page 19 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
The venerable dolly faced serious competition when the Steadicam was invented. Most shots
previously only possible with a dolly could now be done with the more versatile Steadicam. However
dollies are still preferred for many shots, especially those that require a high degree of precision.

Tracking Shot

The term tracking shot is widely considered to be synonymous with dolly shot; that is, a shot in which
the camera is mounted on a cart which travels along tracks.

However there are a few variations of both definitions. Tracking is often more narrowly defined as
movement parallel to the action, or at least at a constant distance (e.g. the camera which travels
alongside the race track in track & field events). Dollying is often defined as moving closer to or further
away from the action.

Some definitions specify that tracking shots use physical tracks, others consider tracking to include
hand-held walking shots, Steadicam shots, etc.

Other terms for the tracking shot include trucking shot and crabbing shot.

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Trucking is basically the same as tracking or dollying. Although it means slightly different things to
different people, it generally refers to side-to-side camera movement with respect to the action.

The term trucking is not uncommon but is less widely-used than dollying or tracking. Yet another
equivalent term is crabbing.

The example pictured here shows a simple, very mobile set of tracks used with a standard tripod to
create smooth trucking shots.

Crabbing Shot

The term crabbing shot is a less-common version of tracking, trucking and/or dollying. These terms are
more or less interchangeable, although dollying tends to mean in-and-out movement whereas the
others tend to mean side-to-side movement at a constant distance from the action.

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A dolly zoom is a cinematic technique in which the camera moves closer or further from the subject
while simultaneously adjusting the zoom angle to keep the subject the same size in the frame. The
effect is that the subject appears stationary while the background size changes (this is called perspective

In the first example pictured, the camera is positioned close to the subject and the lens is zoomed out.
In the second shot, the camera is several metres further back and the lens is zoomed in.

The Effect
Dolly zooms create an unnatural effect — this is something your eyes would never normally see. Many
people comment on the shot after seeing it for the first time, e.g. "That was weird" or "What just
happened there?".

The exact effect depends on the direction of camera movement. If the camera moves closer, the
background seems to grow and become dominant. If the camera moves further away, the foreground
subject is emphasized and becomes dominant.

The effect is quite emotional and is often used to convey sudden realisation, reaction to a dramatic
event, etc.

Invention of the dolly zoom is credited to cameraman Irmin Roberts. The technique was made famous
by Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo being the best-known example), and was used by Steven Spielberg in 2012© Page 22 of 77
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Jaws and ET. Many other directors have used the technique, which brings us to an important

The dolly zoom is often over-used by junior directors. Many film critics see it as a cliché, so be very
careful before you use this technique.

Other Terminology
The dolly zoom is also known as:

 Hitchcock zoom
 Vertigo zoom or vertigo effect
 Jaws shot
 Trombone shot
 Zolly or zido
 Telescoping
 Contra-zoom
 Reverse tracking
 Zoom in/dolly out (or vice versa)

Camera Angles
The term camera angle means slightly different things to different people but it always refers to the
way a shot is composed. Some people use it to include all camera shot types, others use it to
specifically mean the angle between the camera and the subject. We will concentrate on the literal
interpretation of camera angles, that is, the angle of the camera relative to the subject.

 Eye-Level
This is the most common view, being the real-world angle that we are all used to. It shows subjects as
we would expect to see them in real life. It is a fairly neutral shot.

 High Angle
A high angle shows the subject from above, i.e. the camera is angled down towards the subject. This
has the effect of diminishing the subject, making them appear less powerful, less significant or even
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 Low Angle
This shows the subject from below, giving them the impression of being more powerful or dominant.

 Bird's Eye
The scene is shown from directly above. This is a completely different and somewhat unnatural point
of view which can be used for dramatic effect or for showing a different spatial perspective.

In drama it can be used to show the positions and motions of different characters and objects, enabling
the viewer to see things the characters can't.

The bird's-eye view is also very useful in sports, documentaries, etc.

 Slanted
Also known as a dutch tilt, this is where the camera is purposely tilted to one side so the horizon is on
an angle. This creates an interesting and dramatic effect. Famous examples include Carol Reed's The
Third Man, Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and the Batman series.

Dutch tilts are also popular in MTV-style video production, where unusual angles and lots of camera
movement play a big part.

Lighting Equipment
Some common types of equipment used in video and photography lighting.

18% Gray 18% Gray Card

Card 2012© Page 24 of 77

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An 18 Percent Gray Card is a simple gray-coloured card which uniformly reflects 18% of
the light which falls upon it. Gray cards can be used as a reference to set the camera
exposure or to calibrate a light meter (light meters are used to determine which exposure
setting is required to produce a medium gray tone).

Gray cards are usually made from coated cardboard or polystyrene and come with a
protective cover. They are an inexpensive and useful addition to the photographers' kit.

How to Use a Gray Card

To set your exposure with a gray card, first make sure the camera is in manual mode or
is able to hold its settings when you half-depress the shutter button.

Position the card immediately in front of the subject, ensuring that the lighting on the
card is exactly the same as the lighting on the subject. If you are using a light meter, take
your reading now. Otherwise, half-depress the camera shutter button to save the
exposure setting until you fully depress the button (and take the picture).

(Note: This process is very similar to performing a white balance).


 At the start of your roll of film, take one photo of a gray card. This acts as a
colour correction reference for the film processor.
 Do not use any old gray piece of cardboard for a gray card. You really need a
professionally-made one.
 When you first purchase a gray card, run a series of tests to establish exactly how
it performs in both bright outside light and lower artificial light. Use slide film
rather than print, as slide film does not correct exposure errors.

Ballast A device used to control the electrical current in a light. 2012© Page 25 of 77

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Consoles Lighting Consoles

Lighting consoles are systems which control lighting - much as a sound mixer controls
audio and a vision switcher controls video. Consoles are typically a combination of
hardware and software.

Operated by a lighting technician, consoles are used in a wide range of applications

including stage, studio, film set, etc.

Modern consoles include options for automating certain tasks and effects. Complex
productions rely heavily on such automation.

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A light meter, also known as an exposure meter, is a tool used to measure light levels.
Light meters are commonly used in photography, motion film and video to help
determine the ideal exposure setting.

Many cameras have built-in light meters and this function is often carried out
automatically. However serious professionals still regularly take manual readings.

Reflector Reflector Board


Sometimes referred to as a "flecky board", this is a specially-designed reflective surface

which is usually used to act as a secondary light source. It is particularly useful as a fill
light when working in strong sunlight.

Reflector boards come in white, silver or gold surfaces. Many reflectors have a different
type of surface on each side, giving you two lighting options. Gold surfaces provide a
warmer look than silver or white.

If you don't have a reflector board you can improvise. Almost any suitably-sized object
with a reflective surface will do. Some examples include:

 Windscreen sunshades for automobiles

 Polystyrene sheets
 Tin foil on cardboard (try both sides of the foil for different effects)
 Whiteboard

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Reflector boards are lightweight and flexible, and are normally folded up for transport in
a small carry-case. They can be tricky to fold up — if you've never done it you may want
to read the instructions below and practice in private before having to do it in front of
the whole crew!

Hold the board with your left hand facing forward and
your right facing backward. Move your left hand forward and down, while moving your
right hand backwards and up.

Keep moving your hands in a smooth motion. 2012© Page 28 of 77

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The board will end up folded in a compact circle. You

can then return the board to its case.

Gels Materials which are placed in front of a light source to alter it's characteristics, e.g. colour
temperature or dispersion (see diffusion gels).
Spectrometer A professional-level instrument which measures the spectrum of light. Technically
speaking, a spectrometer analyses the electromagnetic spectrum and measures the
intensity of radiation as a function of wavelength.
Stands &

Common Lighting Terminology

Ambient The light already present in a scene, before any additional lighting is added.
Light Ambient light means the light that is already present in a scene, before any additional
lighting is added. It usually refers to natural light, either outdoors or coming through
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Ambient light can be the photographer's friend and/or enemy. Clearly ambient light is
important in photography and video work, as most shots rely largely or wholly on
ambient lighting.

Unfortunately ambient light can be a real nuisance if it conflicts with what the
photographer wants to achieve. For example, ambient light may be the wrong color
temperature, intensity or direction for the desired effect. In this case the photographer
may choose to block out the ambient light completely and replace it with artificial light.
Of course this isn't always practical and sometime compromises must be made.

On the other hand, many of history's greatest photographs and film shots have relied
on interesting ambient light. Unusual lighting can turn an otherwise ordinary shot into
something very powerful.

Incident Light seen directly from a light source (lamp, sun, etc).

Reflected Light seen after having bounced off a surface.


Colour A standard of measuring the characteristics of light, measured in kelvins.:

Colour Temperature Chart

Colour temperature is a standard method of describing colours for use in a range of

situations and with different equipment. Colour temperatures are normally expressed in
units called kelvins (K). Note that the term degrees kelvin is often used but is not
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Technically speaking...

Colour temperature means the temperature of an ideal black body radiator at which the
colour of the light source and the black body are identical. (A black body is a theoretical
radiator and absorber of energy at all electromagnetic wavelengths.)

Colour Temperature in Video

For video operations the relevant temperatures range from around 2,000K to 8,000K
— these are common lighting conditions. In practical terms this usually means selecting
lights, gels and filters which are most appropriate to the prevailing light or to create a
particular colour effect. For example, a camera operator will select a "5600K filter" to
use outside in the middle of a sunny day.


 When referring to the unit kelvin, it is not capitalised unless it is the first word of
a sentence. The plural is kelvins (e.g. "The light source is approximately 3200
 The symbol is a capital K (e.g. "The light source is approximately 3200K").
 When referring to the Kelvin scale, it is capitalised (e.g. "The Kelvin scale is 2012© Page 31 of 77

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named after William Thomson (1824 – 1907), also known as Lord Kelvin".

Degrees kelvin
According to the The International System of Units (SI), colour temperatures are stated
in kelvins, not in degrees Kelvin. The "degrees" part of the name was made obsolete in
1967. However, the "degrees" reference has remained in common use in media

Contrast Contrast Ratio is a measurement of the difference in brightness between the whitest
Ratio white and the darkest black within an image. A ratio of 300:1 means the brightest point
in the image is 300 times as bright as the darkest point. A higher contrast ratio therefore
means a larger difference in brightness.

Contrast ratio is of interest in two situations:

1. Cameras: When recording an image (video, film, photography)

2. TVs, Monitors, etc. When choosing or setting up a playback device (TV,
computer monitor, etc)

Key Light The main light on the subject, providing most of the illumination and contrast.
More Info: 3 Point Lighting
Fill Light A light placed to the side of the subject to fill out shadows and balance the key light.

Back Light A light placed at the rear of a subject to light from behind.

Hard Light Light directly from a source such as the sun, traveling undisturbed onto the subject being
lit.Bottom of Form

The Standard 3-Point Lighting Technique

The Three Point Lighting Technique is a standard method used in visual media such as
video, film, still photography and computer-generated imagery. It is a simple but
versatile system which forms the basis of most lighting. Once you understand three
point lighting you are well on the way to understanding all lighting.

The technique uses three lights called the key light, fill light and back light. Naturally
you will need three lights to utilise the technique fully, but the principles are still 2012© Page 32 of 77

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important even if you only use one or two lights. As a rule:

 If you only have one light, it becomes the key.

 If you have 2 lights, one is the key and the other is either the fill or the backlight.

Key Light

This is the main light. It is usually the strongest and has the most influence on the look
of the scene. It is placed to one side of the camera/subject so that this side is well lit and
the other side has some shadow.

Fill Light

This is the secondary light and is placed on the opposite side of the key light. It is used
to fill the shadows created by the key. The fill will usually be softer and less bright than
the key. To acheive this, you could move the light further away or use some spun. You
might also want to set the fill light to more of a flood than the key. 2012© Page 33 of 77

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Back Light

The back light is placed behind the subject and lights it from the rear. Rather than
providing direct lighting (like the key and fill), its purpose is to provide definition and
subtle highlights around the subject's outlines. This helps separate the subject from the
background and provide a three-dimensional look.

If you have a fourth light, you could use it to light the background of the entire scene.

Soft Light Light which appears to "wrap around" the subject to some degree. Produces less
shadows or softer shadows.

Spot A controlled, narrowly-focused beam of light.

Flood A broad beam of light, less directional and intense than a spot.

Tungsten Light from an ordinary light bulb containing a thin coiled tungsten wire that becomes
incandescent (emits light) when an electric current is passed along it. Tungsten colour
temperature is around 2800K to 3400K. Also known as incandescent light.
Halogen Type of lamp in which a tungsten filament is sealed in a clear capsule filled with a
halogen gas.

Fresnel A light which has a lens with raised circular ridges on its outer surface. The fresnel lens is
used to focus the light beam.

Incandescent Incandescent lamps produce heat by heating a wire filament until it glows. The glow is
caused by the filament's resistance to the current and is called incandescence.

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These are some common types of light you'll often hear about in film, video and photography. Note
that these definitions are not always rigid and some people may interpret them a little differently.

Blonde 1000-2000w, used as a key flood light for large areas.

A blonde light is basically a bigger version of a redhead. Power rating can be 1000 to
2000 watts, although the term generally refers to a 2000w open-face unit.

These are powerful lights, useful as key floodlights for lighting large areas.

The example pictured here is an Ianiro 2Kw blonde.

Note: The term "blonde" is often used loosely — there is no rigid definition.

Redhead 650-1000w, used as a key flood light for large areas.

Red Head is a term used to describe general-purpose lights common in visual media work.
Power rating is around 650-1000w, typically 800w.

Red heads can be used as a key flood light for large areas, but are also useful as fill and 2012© Page 35 of 77
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The example pictured here is an Arrilite 800w open-face focusing tungsten floodlight. The
beam is focused using the yellow control at the back — this adjusts the reflector rather
than the lamp, which should give the lamp a longer life because it is not being moved.

Note: The term "redhead" is often used loosely — there is no rigid definition.

Pepper 100-1000w, small light used as a more focused key or fill light.

Pepper lights are small lights, around 100 - 1000w (200w is common). They can be used
as key or fill lights in small areas, or to light a certain feature, create lighting contrast and
effects, etc.

Pepper lights can be also be used to accent a person's eyes.


HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide) is a type of light which uses an arc lamp instead
of an incandescent bulb to produce light. 2012© Page 36 of 77

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HMI lights are high-quality and correspondingly expensive. They are popular with film
and television production companies but their price puts them out of reach of those with
modest budgets.

HMI lights require a ballast, an electronic (or magnetic) device which provides the ignition
pulse and regulates the arc.

Advantages of HMI lights include:

 Efficiency: 2 to 5 times as efficient as incandescents. This means they use less power
and run cooler.
 Colour temperature: HMIs run at around 5600K, daylight temperature. This makes
daylight shooting easier, as well as eliminating loss of light from gels (which are
necessary with incandescents).
 Light Quality: Directors of photography speak highly of the light produced by

Halogen 150-500w, used as a key flood light for lighting large areas. This is a low-budget lighting
Work solution.
Halogen Work Lamp

Halogen work lamps are designed for workplaces and similar situations where a flexible
means of providing strong lighting is required, e.g. builders, mechanics, etc. Work lamps
come in various sizes and configurations, from portable units with handles to stand-
mounted multi-head versions. Power rating is generally 150w to 500w.

Halogen work lamps are sold by trade suppliers and DIY stores. 2012© Page 37 of 77

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Work lamps can be a cheap option for video lighting. They are useful as a key flood light
for lighting fairly large areas.

You must remember though, that these lamps are not specifically designed for video or
photography. They are not ideal and usually require a diffusion gel for the best effect. The
protective grills may also interfere with the light (you may be able to remove them).

You might also want to consider waterproof work lamps for extra safety, especially if you
are working o

Other Domestic light bulbs can be used at a pinch, ideally as a secondary light such as fill or
Lights backlight.
Many video cameras have built-in lights or the ability to mount a light — these are useful
in emergencies but provide poor quality lighting.

Chinese A low-cost light, useful in some situations.


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A chinese lantern is a paper ball (or cylinder, cube, etc) with a light bulb in the middle.
They are very cheap to buy and use a standard household light bulb.

For video and photographic work, chinese lanterns are obviously limited by the small
amount of wattage. However they do create a nice light that can be useful for close-up
shots. In a wider setting, multiple lanterns can be used for effect.

Being made of paper, chinese lanterns are potentially dangerous. They can catch fire so be
careful. For storage they can be collapsed to a disk the same diameter as the expanded

Instruments / Housing

Fresnel A light which has a lens with raised circular ridges on its outer surface which are used to
focus the light beam.

Fresnel Lenses

A fresnel lens (pronounced fre-NELL) is a special type of lens with raised circular ridges on
its outer surface. The illustration on the left shows a cross-section of a fresnel lens.

Fresnel lenses are much thinner than conventional lenses, so they are lighter and lose less
light through absorption.

Lights with fresnel lenses are often referred to simply as fresnels.

The light from a fresnel can be made to spread out (flood) or concentrate into a tight
beam (spot) by adjusting the distance between the lamp and the lens. 2012© Page 39 of 77

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The fresnel lens was invented by Augustin-Jean Fresnel in 1821 for use in lighthouses.
Modern uses include overhead projectors, projection televisions and solar energy systems.

DIY Lighting Kit

Professional lighting kits for video and photography are very expensive. Fortunately for the budget-
impaired enthusiast, it is possible to put together a perfectly adequate lighting kit for less than $US100.

A good beginner's lighting kit should include:

 Three (or more) lights with stands

 Reflector board(s)
 Power cables, extension leads and a multi-box.

The Lights

The standard budget light is the halogen work lamp which can be found at any hardware store or
purchased at for as little as $US10. These come with or without a stand and range from
around 150W to 500W.

The stand-less units have a small handle and can be rested on any solid surface such as a table or the
floor. This is not ideal for your main lights but it can be useful for fill lighting, backgrounds, etc. In any
case these units are so cheap that it can't hurt to buy a couple.

Lights with stands are more versatile and you should have at least one of these (preferably two or
three). Try to find a stand which goes up to around 2 metres (the height of a tall person). Taller than 2
metres would be even better but this type of light stand doesn't normally go that high.

Some lights (like the W12665 unit pictured) can be used with or without the stand, making them even
more versatile.

One drawback of these cheap lights is that the colour of the light is quite yellow. As long as you white-
balance your camera this isn't a huge issue, but if you want the best quality lighting you can try one of
these solutions:

1. Purchase a 32K white bulb (ask your hardware supplier).

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Speaking of gels, the other big drawback of these lights is that there is no built-in system for mounting
accessories like gels and diffusers. You can improvise by creating a wire holder or separate stand for

You will also find that you can't alter the spread of these lights, i.e. from floodlight to spotlight. This is
not a big concern for most people but if you do need this functionality you might need to consider a
professional video lighting kit.

Professional reflector boards are used to add or control light in a scene. You can make your own from
just about any large reflective object, although the exact colour and reflectivity will obviously affect
your lighting. Common suggestions for an improvised reflector include:

 Windshield sunshade (pictured)

 Sheet of foamcore
 Polystyrene sheet
 Stiff cardboard, or tin foil on cardboard (try both sides of the foil for different effects)
 Whiteboard
 Survival blanket (gold on one side and silver on the other)

Hobby shops have a lot of items which may be of interest. Online auction sites are also worth checking
as reflectors can often be found fairly cheap there.

You will need a few power extension cables of varying lengths, plus one or more multi-boxes with
built-in trip switches. It helps to have a separate carry case for power cables.

 Lights get very hot! Seriously, you can burn yourself badly or set fire to things.
 Lights can draw a lot of current so be careful not to overload power sources.
 If you're working outside, use an isolating transformer on your power. 2012© Page 41 of 77

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The aperture controls the amount of light that reaches a digital camera sensor. An aperture acts much
like the pupil of an eye. It opens wider as light decreases to let in more available light. It gets smaller
when light increases to reduce the amount of light entering the eye.
The combination of aperture and shutter speed are related, and effect the exposure value. The faster
the shutter speed, the larger the opening of the lens and visa versa.

The diameter of an aperture is measured in f-stops. A lower f-stop number opens the aperture and
admits more light onto the camera sensor. Higher f-stop numbers make the camera’s aperture smaller
so less light hits the sensor.
When an aperture is opened up by one f- stop, the amount of light which reaches the sensor is
doubled. F-stops are expressed in three different ways: f/8, f-8, and 1:8.
Aperture settings can be used creatively to control depth of field, how much of a photo is sharp in
front and back of where you focus on the main subject.
Using a wide aperture (small F-stop number) is a desirable technique for many close-up and portrait
Aperture Priority Mode
All digital cameras have exposure modes that automatically control the aperture and shutter speed. But
many allow you to manually change the aperture.
When using aperture priority mode, change the aperture and the shutter speed is automatically
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What is ISO?

ISO is the number indicating digital camera sensors sensitivity to light. The higher the sensitivity, the
less light is needed to make an exposure.
Digital cameras automatically select the ISO but most have a setting to change it manually. Auto ISO
generally works best for bright scenes.

ISO and the degree of light

Shooting at a lower ISO number requires more light than shooting at a higher number. Lower numbers
result in images with the least visible noise, which is desirable. The higher the number, the more noise.

Effects of high ISO

The amount and degree of noise varies from camera to camera. Noise, when present, can be seen
throughout a photo but usually appears most in dark areas.
Digital single lens reflex cameras produce images with the lowest noise at all ISO numbers compared to
compact cameras. This is because they have larger sensors. However, some consumer digital cameras
do better than others when it comes to noise.

Suggested ISO settings

AUTO ISO – digital camera automatically sets the ISO speed according the the brightness of the scene,
increasing or decreasing the sensitivity. User has no control over which ISO number is used.
ISO 80 – for taking photos in bright light; excellent for close-ups, landscape, and portraits. Produces
fine detail and image quality.
ISO 100 – for extra sensitivity with little, if any, reduced image quality.
ISO 200 – cloudy and overcast days. Acceptable image quality, with some visible noise.
ISO 400 – suitable for indoor photography whether or not a flash is used.Useful for “stop-action” and
sports photographs. Most compact digital cameras produce high to very high image noise. 2012© Page 43 of 77

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ISO 800, 1600 and above – useful for taking photos in very low light, or outside in good light when
increased shutter speeds are required. Results can be disappointing when shooting at these high
numbers with compact digital cameras, so take test photos before photographing an important event.

Click image to see differences between photo taken at ISO 100 and ISO 3200.
High Auto ISO mode
Some digital cameras have a High ISO scene mode, which uses a very high ISO number such as ISO
3200. If you use High Auto ISO mode, be aware that your camera may automatically reduce the size
of images shot in this mode.
Use High Auto ISO mode with caution and only if you have no other options such as using a tripod or
other camera support.

Note: Changing the ISO may also change the aperture and shutter speed, depending on
what exposure mode is used.

What is shutter speed?

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter remains open to allow light to reach a digital camera
Shutter speed is measured in seconds, or fractions of seconds.

Photographed at shutter speeds of 1/200th sec and 1/13th sec.

Using very fast shutter speeds “freeze” fast-moving subjects, such as birds in flight. Slow shutter speeds
are used to intentionally capture the movement of a subject.
How an image is exposed is determined by the combination of the lens aperture and shutter speed. A
fast shutter speed uses a larger aperture (small F-stop number) to avoid an under-exposed image. 2012© Page 44 of 77
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A slow shutter speed requires a small aperture (large F-stop number) to avoid over-exposure.
Typical shutter speeds are: 1/2000 second, 1/2000 sec, 1/500 sec, 1/250 sec, 1/125 sec, 1/60 sec, 1/30
sec, 1/15 sec, 1/8 sec, 1/4 sec, 1/2 sec and 1 second.
On some digital cameras you can manually set shutter speed a lot slower than a second for very long
For most, hand holding a digital camera at shutter speeds below 1/60th of a second often require use
of a camera support to prevent camera shake.

Exposure value
A cameras metering system can be fooled when taking pictures where large areas of a scene are very
bright, very dark or contain strong contrast. To help prevent a photo from under or over exposure,
adjust exposure values (EV).
Exposure values, represented by numbers with a plus or minus in front of them, override settings
automatically selected by a cameras exposure mode. When the main subject is darker than the
background, increase exposure value. If the subject is much lighter than the background, decrease
exposure value.

For overexposed subjects (too light), decrease EV.

For underexposed subjects (too dark), increase EV.

Suggested exposure value settings

 Bright sunlight coming over the back of you when taking a photo: -0.3 or -0.7 EV
 For shots with strong light coming behind the subject (back lit): +0.7 or +1.0 EV
 Scene with bright sun: 0 to -2 EV
 Snow, beach or highly reflected water: -2/3 to -2 EV
 Close-up of white or yellow flower: -1/3 to -1 EV
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 Land or seascape taken just prior to dusk: 0 EV to +2/3
 Very dark or black objects: + 2/3 to +1 1/3


Note that I did not mention focal length as influencing depth of field. Even though telephoto lenses
appear to create a much shallower depth of field, this is mainly because they are often used to magnify
the subject when one is unable to get closer. If the subject occupies the same fraction of the image
(constant magnification) for both a telephoto and a wide angle lens, the total depth of field is
virtually* constant with focal length! This would of course require you to either get much closer with a
wide angle lens or much further with a telephoto lens, as demonstrated in the following chart:

Focal Length (mm) Focus Distance (m) Depth of Field (m)

10 0.5 0.482
20 1.0 0.421
50 2.5 0.406
100 5.0 0.404
200 10 0.404
400 20 0.404
Note: Depth of field calculations are at f/4.0 on a Canon EOS 30D (1.6X crop factor),
using a circle of confusion of 0.0206 mm.

Note how there is indeed a subtle change for the smallest focal lengths. This is a real effect, but is
negligible compared to both aperture and focus distance. Even though the total depth of field is
virtually constant, the fraction of the depth of field which is in front of and behind the focus distance
does change with focal length, as demonstrated below:

Distribution of the Depth of Field

Focal Length (mm) Rear Front
10 70.2 % 29.8 %
20 60.1 % 39.9 %
50 54.0 % 46.0 %
100 52.0 % 48.0 %
200 51.0 % 49.0 %
400 50.5 % 49.5 % 2012© Page 46 of 77

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This exposes a limitation of the traditional DoF concept: it only accounts for the total DoF and not its
distribution around the focal plane, even though both may contribute to the perception of sharpness.
A wide angle lens provides a more gradually fading DoF behind the focal plane than in front, which is
important for traditional landscape photographs.

Longer focal lengths may also appear to have a shallower depth of field because they enlarge the
background relative to the foreground (due to their narrower angle of view). This can make an out of
focus background look even more out of focus because its blur has become enlarged. However, this is
another concept entirely, since depth of field only describes the sharp region of a photo — not the
blurred regions.

On the other hand, when standing in the same place and focusing on a subject at the same distance, a
longer focal length lens will have a shallower depth of field (even though the pictures will show
something entirely different). This is more representative of everyday use, but is an effect due to higher
magnification, not focal length.

Depth of field also appears shallower for SLR cameras than for compact digital cameras, because SLR
cameras require a longer focal length to achieve the same field of view (see the tutorial on digital
camera sensor sizes for more on this topic).

*Technical Note: We describe depth of field as being virtually constant because there are limiting cases
where this does not hold true. For focal distances resulting in high magnification, or very near the
hyperfocal distance, wide angle lenses may provide a greater DoF than telephoto lenses. On the other
hand, at high magnification the traditional DoF calculation becomes inaccurate due to another factor:
pupil magnification. This reduces the DoF advantage for most wide angle lenses, and increases it for
telephoto and macro lenses. At the other limiting case, near the hyperfocal distance, the increase in
DoF arises because the wide angle lens has a greater rear DoF, and can thus more easily attain critical
sharpness at infinity.


Another implication of the circle of confusion is the concept of depth of focus (also called the "focus
spread"). It differs from depth of field in that it describes the distance over which light is focused at the
camera's sensor, as opposed to the subject: 2012© Page 47 of 77

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Digram depicting depth of focus versus camera aperture. The purple lines represent the extreme
angles at which light could potentially enter the aperture. The purple shaded in portion represents
all other possible angles. Diagram can also be used to illustrate depth of field, but in that case it's
the lens elements that move instead of the sensor.

The key concept is this: when an object is in focus, light rays originating from that point converge at a
point on the camera's sensor. If the light rays hit the sensor at slightly different locations (arriving at a
disc instead of a point), then this object will be rendered as out of focus — and increasingly so
depending on how far apart the light rays are.


Why not just use the smallest aperture (largest number) to achieve the best possible depth of field?
Other than the fact that this may require prohibitively long shutter speeds without a camera tripod,
too small of an aperture softens the image by creating a larger circle of confusion (or "Airy disk") due
to an effect called diffraction — even within the plane of focus. Diffraction quickly becomes more of a
limiting factor than depth of field as the aperture gets smaller. Despite their extreme depth of field, this
is also why "pinhole cameras" have limited resolution.

For macro photography (high magnification), the depth of field is actually influenced by another
factor: pupil magnification. This is equal to one for lenses which are internally symmetric, although for
wide angle and telephoto lenses this is greater or less than one, respectively. A greater depth of field is
achieved (than would be ordinarily calculated) for a pupil magnification less than one, whereas the
pupil magnification does not change the calculation when it is equal to one. The problem is that the
pupil magnification is usually not provided by lens manufacturers, and one can only roughly estimate it
visual 2012© Page 48 of 77

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Understanding Metering and Metering Modes

Every modern DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex cameras (also named digital SLR or DSLR) are digital
cameras combining the parts of a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) and a digital camera back, replacing
the photographic film) has something called “Metering Mode”, also known as “Camera Metering”,
“Exposure Metering” or simply “Metering”. Knowing how metering works and what each of the
metering modes does is important in photography, because it helps photographers control their
exposure with minimum effort and take better pictures in unusual lighting situations. In this
understanding metering modes article, I will explain what metering is, how it works and how you can
use it for your digital photography.

1) What is Metering?
Metering is how your camera determines what the correct shutter speed and aperture should be,
depending on the amount of light that goes into the camera and the sensitivity of the sensor.

Back in the old days of photography, cameras were not equipped with a light “meter”, which is a
sensor that measures the amount and intensity of light. Photographers had to use hand-held light
meters to determine the optimal exposure. Obviously, because the work was shot on film, they could
not preview or see the results immediately, which is why they religiously relied on those light meters.

Today, every DSLR has an integrated light meter that automatically measures the reflected light and
determines the optimal exposure. The most common metering modes in digital cameras today are:

1. Matrix Metering (Nikon), also known as Evaluative Metering (Canon)

2. Center-weighted Metering
3. Spot Metering (Nikon), also known as Partial Metering (Canon)

You can see the camera meter in action when you shoot in Manual Mode – look inside the viewfinder
and you will see bars going left or right, with a zero in the middle, as illustrated below. 2012© Page 49 of 77

Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

Metering shown in Nikon Viewfinder

If you point your camera at a very bright area, the bars will go to “+” side, indicating that there is too
much light for the current exposure settings. If you point your camera at a very dark area, the bars will
go to the “-” side, indicating that there is not enough light. You would then need to increase or
decrease your shutter speed to get to “0″, which is the optimal exposure, according to your camera

A camera meter is not only useful for just the Manual Mode – when you choose another mode such as
Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Program Mode, the camera automatically adjusts the settings
based on what it reads from the meter.

1.1) Problems with Metering

Camera meters work great when the scene is lit evenly. However, it gets problematic and challenging
for light meters to determine the exposure, when there are objects with different light levels and

. For example, if you are taking a picture of the blue sky with no clouds or sun in the frame, the image
will be correctly exposed, because there is just one light level to deal with. The job gets a little harder if
you add a few clouds into the image – the meter now needs to evaluate the brightness of the clouds
versus the brightness of the sky and try to determine the optimal exposure. As a result, the camera 2012© Page 50 of 77

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meter might brighten up the sky a little bit in order to properly expose the white clouds – otherwise,
the clouds would look too white or “overexposed”.

What would happen if you added a big mountain into the scene? Now the camera meter would see
that there is a large object that is much darker (relative to the clouds and the sky), and it would try to
come up with something in the middle, so that the mountain is properly exposed as well. By default,
the camera meter looks at the light levels in the entire frame and tries to come up with an exposure
that balances the bright and the dark areas of the image.

2) Matrix Metering

Matrix Metering or Evaluative Metering mode is the default metering mode on most DSLRs. It works
similarly to the above example by dividing the entire frame into multiple “zones”, which are then all
analyzed on individual basis for light and dark tones.

One of the key factors (in addition to color, distance, subjects, highlights, etc) that affects matrix
metering, is where the camera focus point is set to. After reading information from all individual zones,
the metering system looks at where you focused within the frame and marks it more important than all
other zones.

There are many other variables used in the equation, which differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Nikon, for example, also compares image data to a database of thousands of pictures for exposure

You should use this mode for most of your photography, since it will generally do a pretty good job in
determining the correct exposure. I leave my camera metering mode on matrix metering for most of
my photography needs, including landscape and portrait photography. 2012© Page 51 of 77
Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop
3) Center-weighted Metering

Using the whole frame for determining the correct exposure is not always desirable. What if you are
trying to take a headshot of a person with the sun behind? This is where center-weighted metering
comes in handy.

Center-weighted Metering evaluates the light in the middle of the frame and its surroundings and
ignores the corners. Compared to Matrix Metering, Center-weighted Metering does not look at the
focus point you select and only evaluates the middle area of the image.

Use this mode when you want the camera to prioritize the middle of the frame, which works great for
close-up portraits and relatively large subjects that are in the middle of the frame. For example, if you
were taking a headshot of a person with the sun behind him/her, then this mode would expose the
face of the person correctly, even though everything else would probably get heavily overexposed.

4) Spot Metering

Spot Metering only evaluates the light around your focus point and ignores everything else. It
evaluates a single zone/cell and calculates exposure based on that single area, nothing else. I personally
use this mode a lot for my bird photography, because the birds mostly occupy a small area of the
frame and I need to make sure that I expose them properly, whether the background is bright or dark.
Because the light is evaluated where I place my focus point, I could get an accurate exposure on the
bird even when the bird is in the corner of the frame. Also, if you were taking a picture of a person
with the sun behind but they occupied a small part of the frame, it is best to use the spot metering
mode instead. When your subjects do not take much of the space, using Matrix or Center-weighted
metering modes would most likely result in a silhouette, if the subject was back-lit. Spot metering
works great for back-lit subjects like that. 2012© Page 52 of 77
Shang Tao Media Arts College Camera & Lighting Workshop

Another good example of using spot metering is when photographing the Moon. Because the moon
would take up a small portion of the frame and the sky is completely dark around it, it is best to use
Spot metering – that way, we are only looking at the light level coming from the moon and nothing

Some DSLRs like the Canon 1D/1Ds are capable of multi-spot metering, which basically allows choosing
multiple spots to measure light and come up with an average value for a good exposure


Understanding camera lenses can help add more creative control to digital photography. Choosing the
right lens for the task can become a complex trade-off between cost, size, weight, lens speed and
image quality.


All but the simplest cameras contain lenses which are actually comprised of several "lens elements."
Each of these elements directs the path of light rays to recreate the image as accurately as possible on
the digital sensor. The goal is to minimize aberrations, while still utilizing the fewest and least
expensive elements. 2012© Page 53 of 77

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Optical aberrations occur when points in the image do not translate back onto single points after
passing through the lens — causing image blurring, reduced contrast or misalignment of colors
(chromatic aberration). Lenses may also suffer from uneven, radially decreasing image brightness
(vignetting) or distortion. Move your mouse over each of the options below to see how these can
impact image quality in extreme cases:


The focal length of a lens determines its angle of view, and thus also how much the subject will be
magnified for a given photographic position. Wide angle lenses have short focal lengths, while
telephoto lenses have longer corresponding focal lengths.

Note: The location where light rays cross is not necessarily equal to the focal length,
as shown above, but is instead roughly proportional to this distance.

Many will say that focal length also determines the perspective of an image, but strictly speaking,
perspective only changes with one's location relative to their subject. If one tries to fill the frame with
the same subjects using both a wide angle and telephoto lens, then perspective does indeed change,
because one is forced to move closer or further from their subject. For these scenarios only, the wide
angle lens exaggerates or stretches perspective, whereas the telephoto lens compresses or flattens
perspective. 2012© Page 54 of 77

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Perspective control can be a powerful compositional tool in photography, and often determines one's
choice in focal length (when one can photograph from any position). Move your mouse over the
above image to view an exaggerated perspective due to a wider angle lens. Note how the subjects
within the frame remain nearly identical — therefore requiring a closer position for the wider angle
lens. The relative sizes of objects change such that the distant doorway becomes smaller relative to the
nearby lamps.

The following table provides an overview of what focal lengths are required to be considered a wide
angle or telephoto lens, in addition to their typical uses. Please note that focal lengths listed are just
rough ranges, and actual uses may vary considerably; many use telephoto lenses in distant landscapes
to compress perspective, for example.

Lens Focal Length* Terminology Typical Photography

Less than 21 mm Extreme Wide Angle Architecture

21-35 mm Wide Angle Landscape

35-70 mm Normal Street & Documentary

70-135 mm Medium Telephoto Portraiture

135-300+ mm Telephoto Sports, Bird & Wildlife

*Note: Lens focal lengths are for 35 mm equivalent cameras. If you have a compact or digital SLR
camera, then you likely have a different sensor size. To adjust the above numbers for your camera,
please use the focal length converter in the tutorial on digital camera sensor sizes.

Other factors may also be influenced by lens focal length. Telephoto lenses are more susceptible to
camera shake since small hand movements become magnified, similar to the shakiness experience while
trying to look through binoculars. Wide angle lenses are generally more resistant to flare, in part
because the designers assume that the sun is more likely to be within the frame. A final consideration is
that medium and telephoto lenses generally yield better optical quality for similar price ranges.


The focal length of a lens may also have a significant impact on how easy it is to achieve a sharp
handheld photograph. Longer focal lengths require shorter exposure times to minimize blurring caused
by shaky hands. Think of this as if one were trying to hold a laser pointer steady; when shining this
pointer at a nearby object its bright spot ordinarily jumps around less than for objects further away. 2012© Page 55 of 77

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This is primarily because slight rotational vibrations are magnified greatly with distance, whereas if only
up and down or side to side vibrations were present, the laser's bright spot would not change with

A common rule of thumb for estimating how fast the exposure needs to be for a given focal length is
the one over focal length rule. This states that for a 35 mm camera, the exposure time needs to be at
least as fast as one over the focal length in seconds. In other words, when using a 200 mm focal length
on a 35 mm camera, the exposure time needs to be at least 1/200 seconds — otherwise blurring may
be hard to avoid. See the tutorial on reducing camera shake with hand-held photos for more on this

Keep in mind that this rule is just for rough guidance; some may be able to hand hold a shot for much
longer or shorter times. For users of digital cameras with cropped sensors, one needs to convert into a
35 mm equivalent focal length.


A zoom lens is one where the photographer can vary the focal length within a pre-defined range,
whereas this cannot be changed with a "prime" or fixed focal length lens. The primary advantage of a
zoom lens is that it is easier to achieve a variety of compositions or perspectives (since lens changes are
not necessary). This advantage is often critical for dynamic subject matter, such as in photojournalism
and children's photography.

Keep in mind that using a zoom lens does not necessarily mean that one no longer has to change their
position; zooms just increase flexibility. In the example below, the original position is shown along
with two alternatives using a zoom lens. If a prime lens were used, then a change of composition
would not have been possible without cropping the image (if a tighter composition were desirable).
Similar to the example in the previous section, the change of perspective was achieved by zooming out
and getting closer to the subject. Alternatively, to achieve the opposite perspective effect, one could
have zoomed in and moved further from the subject. 2012© Page 56 of 77

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Two Options Available with a Zoom Lens:

Change of Composition Change of Perspective

Why would one intentionally restrict their options by using a prime lens?Prime lenses existed long
before zoom lenses were available, and still offer many advantages over their more modern
counterparts. When zoom lenses first arrived on the market, one often had to be willing to sacrifice a
significant amount of optical quality. However, more recent high-end zoom lenses generally do not
produce noticeably lower image quality, unless scrutinized by the trained eye (or in a very large print).

The primary advantages of prime lenses are in cost, weight and speed. An inexpensive prime lens can
generally provide as good (or better) image quality as a high-end zoom lens. Additionally, if only a
small fraction of the focal length range is necessary for a zoom lens, then a prime lens with a similar
focal length will be significantly smaller and lighter. Finally, the best prime lenses almost always offer
better light-gathering ability (larger maximum aperture) than the fastest zoom lenses — often critical
for low-light sports/theater photography, and when a shallow depth of field is necessary.

For compact digital cameras, lenses listed with a 3X, 4X, etc. zoom designation refer to the ratio
between the longest and shortest focal lengths. Therefore, a larger zoom designation does not
necessarily mean that the image can be magnified any more (since that zoom may just have a wider
angle of view when fully zoomed out). Additionally, digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom, as
the former only enlarges the image through interpolation. Read the fine-print to ensure you are not


The aperture range of a lens refers to the amount that the lens can open up or close down to let in
more or less light, respectively. Apertures are listed in terms of f-numbers, which quantitatively describe
relative light-gathering area (depicted below). 2012© Page 57 of 77

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Note: Aperture opening (iris) is rarely a perfect circle,

due to the presence of 5-8 blade-like lens diaphragms.

Note that larger aperture openings are defined to have lower f-numbers (often very confusing). These
two terms are often mistakenly interchanged; the rest of this tutorial refers to lenses in terms of their
aperture size. Lenses with larger apertures are also described as being "faster," because for a given ISO
speed, the shutter speed can be made faster for the same exposure. Additionally, a smaller aperture
means that objects can be in focus over a wider range of distance, a concept also termed the depth of

Corresponding Impact on Other Properties:

f-# Required
Light-Gathering Area
Shutter Depth of Field
(Aperture Size)

Higher Smaller Slower Wider

Lower Larger Faster Narrower

Typical Maximum
Relative Light-Gathering Ability Typical Lens Types

Fastest Available Prime

f/1.0 32X Lenses
(for Consumer Use)

f/1.4 16X
Fast Prime Lenses
f/2.0 8X

Fastest Zoom Lenses

f/2.8 4X
(for Constant Aperture)

f/4.0 2X Light Weight Zoom 2012© Page 58 of 77

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Lenses or Extreme
f/5.6 1X
Telephoto Primes

Minimum apertures for lenses are generally nowhere near as important as maximum apertures. This is
primarily because the minimum apertures are rarely used due to photo blurring from lens diffraction,
and because these may require prohibitively long exposure times. For cases where extreme depth of
field is desired, then smaller minimum aperture (larger maximum f-number) lenses allow for a wider
depth of field.

Finally, some zoom lenses on digital SLR and compact digital cameras often list a range of maximum
aperture, because this may depend on how far one has zoomed in or out. These aperture ranges
therefore refer only to the range of maximum aperture, not overall range. A range of f/2.0-3.0 would
mean that the maximum available aperture gradually changes from f/2.0 (fully zoomed out) to f/3.0
(at full zoom). The primary benefit of having a zoom lens with a constant maximum aperture is that
exposure settings are more predictable, regardless of focal length.

Also note that just because the maximum aperture of a lens may not be used, this does not necessarily
mean that this lens is not necessary.

Lenses typically have fewer aberrations when they perform the exposure stopped down one or two f-
stops from their maximum aperture (such as using a setting of f/4.0 on a lens with a maximum
aperture of f/2.0). This *may* therefore mean that if one wanted the best quality f/2.8 photograph, a
f/2.0 or f/1.4 lens may yield higher quality than a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8.

Other considerations include cost, size and weight. Lenses with larger maximum apertures are typically
much heavier, larger and more expensive. Size/weight may be critical for wildlife, hiking and travel
photography because all of these often utilize heavier lenses, or require carrying equipment for
extended periods of time. 2012© Page 59 of 77

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Measuring Light
There are many different units for measuring light and it can get very complicated. Here are a few
common measurement terms:

 Candela (cd)
Unit of luminous intensity of a light source in a specific direction. Also called candle.
Technically, the radiation intensity in a perpendicular direction of a surface of 1/600000 square
metre of a black body at the temperature of solidification platinum under a pressure of 101,325
newtons per square metre.
 Footcandle (fc or ftc)
Unit of light intensity, measured in lumens per square foot. The brightness of one candle at a
distance of one foot. Approximately 10.7639 lux.
 Lumen (lm)
Unit of light flow or luminous flux. The output of artificial lights can be measured in lumens.
 Lux (lx)
Unit of illumination equal to one lumen per square metre. The metric equivalent of foot-candles
(one lux equals 0.0929 footcandles). Also called metre-candle.

Lighting Effects
Cold / Warm

You can add to the feeling of coldness or warmth by using additional filters or doubling up on gels.
Very blue means very cold, very red/orange means very hot.

Moonlight (or any night-time light)

This is an old standard technique which has become something of a cliché. You can make daytime
seem like night by lowering the exposure slightly and adding a blue filter to the camera. However a
convincing illusion may require more effort than this — you don't want any daytime giveaways such as
birds flying through shot. You also need to think about any other lighting which should appear in shot,
such as house or street lights.


To light a person's face as if they were looking at a fire, try this: Point a redhead with orange gel away
from the subject at a large reflector which reflects the light back at the subject. Shake the reflector to
simulate firelight (remember to add sound effects as well). 2012© Page 60 of 77

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Watching TV

To light a person's face as if they were watching TV, shine a blue light at the subject and wave a piece
of cloth or paper in front of the light to simulate flickering.

Use "Real" Lights

Some filmmakers prefer to use natural light and "real" light sources. For example, have a look at this
scene from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, which was apparently filmed using only candlelight.

Lighting For Video & Television

Video lighting is based on the same principles as lighting for any other visual media. If you haven't
done so already, you should read through our general lighting tutorials before reading this page, which
deals specifically with lighting issues for video.

Light Sources

All video uses some sort of lighting, whether it be natural light (from the sun) or artificial lights. The
goal of video lighting is to choose the best source(s) to achieve your goals.

First and foremost you need enough light. You must ensure that your camera is able to record an
acceptable picture in the conditions. With modern cameras this is seldom a problem except in very low
light or strong contrast.

Assuming you have enough light, you must then consider the quality of the light and how the various
light sources combine to produce the image.

If you have clashing light sources (e.g. artificial interior lights with sunlight coming through the
windows), you may find the colours in your image appear unnatural. It's best to control the light
sources yourself if possible (e.g. turn off the lights or close the curtains).

When moving between locations, think about what light source you are using. If you move from an
outside setting to an inside one with artificial lights, the amount of light may seem the same but the
colour temperature will change according to the type of lights. In this case you need to white balance
your camera for the new light source. 2012© Page 61 of 77

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Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio is the difference in brightness between the brightest and darkest parts of the picture.
Video does not cope with extreme contrast as well as film, and nowhere near as well as the human
eye. The result of over-contrast is that some parts of the picture will be too bright or too dark to see
any detail. For this reason you need to ensure that there is not too much contrast in your shot. See
Camera Contrast Ratio for more details.

Camera-Mounted Lights

The camera-mounted light is an easy, versatile solution used by amateurs and professionals alike.
Typically the light will draw power from the camera battery, although a separate power supply can be
used. Be aware that lights which draw power from the camera battery will significantly shorten the
battery's charge time.

This type of lighting does not create pleasing effects. it is a "blunt instrument" approach which is really
only designed to illuminate the scene enough to allow normal camera operations. However it is a
simple, practical solution.

Night-Mode Video Shooting

Some cameras offer a special "night vision" option which allows you to shoot with virtually no light.
This mode uses infrared light instead of normal visible light.

This is useful in extreme circumstances when you have no other option. Unfortunately the results tend
to be poor-quality monochrome green.

Of course, you can use this mode for a special effect if it suits the content.

Tips for Lighting People

Harsh light is not flattering; soft light creates a warmer feel. 2012© Page 62 of 77
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Avoid strong nose shadows or any strong contrast on the face. Place the key light on the same side as
the camera and fill the shadows.

Avoid reflections from glasses. You may need to adjust the position of the subject and/or lights to do

Beware bald heads — they can reflect a lot of light and appear over-exposed. Try weakening or
softening the light with a diffusion gel.

Soft light and diffusion helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Lighting with Background Windows

Shooting pictures indoors with external windows is a common issue for photographers and video
makers. The large difference in light levels between the room and the outside view make finding the
correct exposure a challenge. Video is particularly susceptible to this problem due to it's relatively low
contrast ratio.

If you can't avoid having the window in shot, in most cases the only thing you can do is use the
manual iris to set your exposure correctly for the subjects in the room. This means that the window
will be over-exposed but that's a necessary compromise. If you wish to show the outside view, expose
the iris for the window (which will make the room dark).

If you have time and resources available, there are two things you can do to help even out the lighting
so it's possible to capture both areas effectively:

1. Add more light to the room

2. Reduce the light from the window

(1) Increase the Lighting in the Room

Any extra light you can shine on the subject will decrease the contrast ratio between them and the
window. 2012© Page 63 of 77

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In some cases switching on the standard room lighting can help, although this often introduces new
problems such as clashing colour temperatures and harsh downward shadows.

It's possible that a reflector board could be useful.

(2) Reduce the Light from the Window

You can reduce the amount of light coming through the window by placing some sort of filter over it.

In the example pictured here, black scrim (a fine mesh material) is taped to the window. You can see
that the background is much more manageable through the scrim.

If the entire window needs to be in shot you'll need to be careful and discreet with the scrim/filter. It
can be difficult getting exactly the right fit. If only part of the window is in shot it's a lot easier.

Filters can cause unwanted side effects such as ripple and the moire effect. Being further away from the
window helps.

Back Focus 2012© Page 64 of 77

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Back-Focus Chart
Click here to download (22KB GIF, 1200x800 pixels)

If you find that your focus is sharp when you are zoomed in but soft when zoomed out, your back
focus needs adjusting. This normally only happens to cameras with detachable lenses — consumer-level
camera users shouldn't have to worry about it.

Technical Note: Back focus refers to the "focal flange length". This is the distance between the rear lens
element and the CCD.

You will need:

 A camera with a back focus ring. It will be located toward the rear of the lens housing.
 A back focus chart like the one pictured is helpful, but any object with sharp contrast will do.

How to Adjust the Camera Back Focus

1. Set your camera on a tripod or stable mount, with your subject (back focus chart or other
contrasting object) at least 20 metres/70 feet away (or as far as possible).

2. Your iris should be wide open, so it's better to perform this operation in low light. Alternatively,
add some shutter speed or a ND filter.

3. If your lens has a 2X extender, switch it to 1X.

4. Zoom in on your subject.

5. Adjust the focus normally until the picture is sharp. If you're using a back focus chart, the centre
of the chart will appear blurry - your focus is sharpest when the blurred circle is smallest. (You
can simulate this effect by looking at the chart above and defocusing your eyes.)

6. Zoom out. 2012© Page 65 of 77

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7. Loosen the back-focus ring's locking screw, and adjust the ring until the picture is sharp.

8. Repeat steps 3-6 until the focus is consistently sharp.

9. Tighten the back-focus locking screw.

Depth of Field

"Depth of field (DOF)" refers to the range of distances from the camera at which acceptably sharp focus
can be obtained. This is a very important concept in video work, for two reasons:

1. You really need to understand DOF to have full control over your focus. If you don't know
how DOF works, then sooner or later you'll end up with soft footage that could otherwise have
been saved.
2. Knowing how to manipulate DOF opens up a massive range of creative possibilities.

The illustration below shows how the zone of sharp focus works. Technically speaking, there is only
one point in this zone which is perfectly focused, and all other points are gradually less focused the
further they are form this point. However, for practical purposes, we say that any image which isn't
noticeably soft counts as being in focus.

Notice that the DOF will tend to extend 1/3 in front of the focus point, and 2/3 behind it.

Controlling DOF

Now, here's the important point: Depth of field is not constant. It can be varied, using a number of

DOF is basically determined by the iris setting. The smaller the iris aperture, the greater the depth of
field. This means that the more light you have on your subject, the easier it is to focus.

Naturally, in very low-light situations where the iris is open wide, depth of field is significantly reduced
and focus becomes quite a challenge.

Factors which influence depth of field:

 Lighting conditions
 Camera filter
 Shutter 2012© Page 66 of 77
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 Gain
 Lens angle (zoom)

There are many reasons for wanting to alter the DOF. Perhaps the simplest is to help with focus — the
more DOF you have, the easier it is to maintain focus. If you need more DOF, you can:

 Add more lighting.

 Change or remove filters, to allow more light in.
 Add some digital gain (note: this compromises picture quality).
 Reduce shutter speed, or turn it off.

On the other hand, there are times when you may wish to reduce the DOF. This is often because you
want the subject to be sharply focused but the background to be soft. This makes the subject stand out
much more. (There will be some illustrations available soon to demonstrate this point). To reduce
DOF, you can:

 Add a Neutral Density (ND) filter.

 Increase shutter speed. This will work best when there's not much movement in the shot.
 Reduce the lighting and open the iris. Be careful with this one — lighting is important and you
don't want to reduce the quality of your pictures unnecessarily.

Many consumer camcorders have a feature known as "portrait effect". Activating this feature reduces
DOF by adding a little shutter, forcing the auto-iris to open wider. As you might expect, you'll have
more control if you select shutter speed and iris setting yourself.

The Focus Pull

The focus pull (AKA rack focus) is a creative camera technique in which you change focus during a
shot. Usually this means adjusting the focus from one subject to another.

The shot below begins focused on the plant in the foreground, then adjusts focus until the girl is sharp.

The focus pull is useful for directing the viewer's attention. For example, if there are two people in shot
but only one is in focus, that person is the subject of attention. If the focus changes to the other person,
they become the subject. This is often used in drama dialogues — the focus shifts backwards and
forwards between the people speaking. A slightly more subtle trick is to focus on a person speaking
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Focus Throw / Defocus

Throwing focus usually means dropping focus completely. This can either refer to certain parts of the
picture (e.g. the background) or to the entire picture.

Throwing focus on part of a picture can't normally be done during a shot — it requires making
adjustments such as changing filter or adding shutter.

Throwing focus on the whole picture can be done at any time simply by turning the focus ring until
focus is completely lost. This can be used as an opening/closing shot or as a transition between shots. It
can also be used for various effects, such as a point of view shot from someone who is drunk or

In this age of digital editing, focus-throwing for effect is more commonly achieved in post-production.
This adheres to the general guideline that it's safer to record pictures "dry" (without effects) and add
effects later.

Zebra Stripes

Zebra stripes, or zebras, are a feature of professional cameras which give an indication of exposure
levels. When activated, diagonal lines appear across any part of the picture which is approaching over-
exposure. These lines appear only in the viewfinder — they are not output from the camera or

To Set Up the Zebra Stripes

Turn the zebra stripes on. There should be a switch or menu item labelled "Zebra Stripes".

If the camera has the option to change between different zebra settings (eg 75% or 100%), make sure
you know which setting you're using, and the resulting effect. 2012© Page 68 of 77
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Use the zebras to guide your iris settings. In general, a small amount of zebras on the hottest part of
the subject is desirable. Practice and experiment with this feature.

Be aware that zebras aren't foolproof — they should be used as a guide only.

Video Camera Filters

Camera filters are transparent or translucent optical elements which are either attached to the front of
the lens or included as part of the lens housing. Filters alter the properties of light before it reaches the

Filters can be used to correct problems with light or to create certain effects.

Common types of filter include:

Neutral Density A colour-neutral filter which absorbs light evenly throughout the visible spectrum.
(ND) Used to reduce the amount of light coming through the lens in strong lighting
Ultra Violet (UV) Video cameras are sensitive to both visible light and ultra violet (UV) light. UV is
invisible to humans but it can create a blue tinge and/or washed-out effect on
video, especially outside. A UV filter removes UV light while leaving visible light
intact. UV filters are also commonly used as a protective filter for the lens.
Polarizing A special type of lens which removes polarized light, reducing the washed-out
effect sometimes created by reflected light. This results in more saturated, vibrant
colours. Polarized filters are usually mounted with a rotational adjustment to align
the polarization.
Diffusion Effectively blurs the image for a slightly soft look. A mild diffusion filter can be
used to soften faces (remove wrinkles etc), a stronger filter can be used to create a
dream-sequence effect.
Sepia Creates a sepia-tone effect, commonly used to depict historical images or
Fog Creates a fog effect.
Colour Conversion Adjusts the colour temperature of the light.
/ Correction
Star Effect Makes single points of light stretch out in various star patterns. This effect is
created by numerous fine etches in the filter, and can be used to give a dramatic,
sophisticated or glamorous look to the image.

Graduated Filters are graduated from one part of the filter to another, for example, a graduated ND
filter might have a strong ND filter on one half and none on the other half. This could be used to
frame an image which is half sky, if you only want the sky to be affected by the filter. 2012© Page 69 of 77
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Graduated filters have varying levels of transition. A sharp transition means there is a well-defined line
between different parts of the filter. With soft transitions, the graduation is smoother.

Video Camera Shutter

The term shutter comes from still photography, where it describes a mechanical "door" between the
camera lens and the film. When a photo is taken, the door opens for an instant and the film is exposed
to the incoming light. The speed at which the shutter opens and closes can be varied — the faster the
speed, the shorter the period of time the shutter is open, and the less light falls on the film.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. A speed of 1/60 second means that the shutter is
open for one sixtieth of a second. A speed of 1/500 is faster, and 1/10000 is very fast indeed.

Video camera shutters work quite differently from still film camera shutters but the result is basically
the same. (The technical difference is that, rather than using a mechanical device, the shutter speed is
adjusted by electronically varying the amount of time the CCD is allowed to build a charge. If this
means nothing to you, don't worry. It really doesn't matter how the shutter works, it's the effect it has
that counts.)

The shutter "opens" and "closes" once for each frame of video; that is, 25 times per second for PAL and
30 times per second for NTSC. Thus, if a camera has its shutter set to 1/60, each frame will be exposed
for 1/60 second. If the speed is increased to 1/120, each frame will be exposed for 1/120 of a second.
Remember, the shutter speed does not affect the frame rate, which is completely separate and in most
cases always stays the same (see shutter speed vs frame rate).

The main effect of higher shutter speeds is that individual frames appear sharper, due to the
minimisation of motion blur. Motion blur occurs when the subject moves within the frame while the
shutter is open. The less time the shutter is open (i.e. the faster the shutter speed), the less movement
will take place.

One side-effect of higher shutter speeds is that movement appears more jerky. This is because motion
blur tends to smooth consecutive frames together.

The three shots below were each taken as the car travelled past a stationary camera at 100 km/hr.
With the shutter off, motion blur is most pronounced. As the shutter speed is increased, the image
becomes sharper.

Shutter Off 2012© Page 70 of 77

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1/120 second

1/500 second

Higher shutter speeds are common in sports coverage. Watch any fast-action sport to see the
"flickering" shutter effect. Notice how the slow-motion replays look, especially when they freeze the
last frame.

Note: As a result of the reduced exposure time with high shutter speeds, the image may appear darker
unless the iris is opened to compensate.

Video Camera Tripods

Anyone serious about good quality camera work must understand the
importance of the tripod. Almost all types of video work require a tripod at
some stage and you need to know how to use one.

It's important to choose the right tripod for your needs. You may find that
your choice of tripod is actually more important than your choice of camera
in determining the quality of your video.

Tripod Parts

A tripod consists of a head and a set of legs. Usually these are separate
components although consumer-level tripods are normally shipped with the
head and legs already attached together.

Legs come in many varieties, the main differences being in their height, weight
and general sturdiness.

The head is the part which supports the camera and provides the movement. 2012© Page 71 of 77
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The quality of the head determines how smoothly you will be able to perform camera movements and
makes a huge difference to your video. Choosing the correct head and understanding how it works is
very important.

How to Choose a Tripod

Try not to penny-pinch and compromise too much with your tripod. In
many cases a good tripod will outlive your camera and will be an important
long-term investment. This page explains the main things to look for.

Separate Head and Legs

Good tripods invariably consist of legs with a detachable head. Most

consumer tripods come already paired up as a single unit but manufacturers
of professional tripods usually sell the items separately. This is partly so you
can mix and match the exact systems you want and partly because legs often
need replacing before the heads.

The Head

Most heads are fluid heads which use an internal fluid to create a dampening
effect known as drag, resistance or tension (more on that later). Cheap heads
may have limited or no control over the amount of drag. Good heads have
finer control and allow you to set the drag for tilting and panning
separately. The more control you have the better.

Check for any "play" in the head. When you begin a movement the head
should start moving smoothly, with no jerkiness or inconsistencies in the

Good tripods have counterbalance systems to help keep the camera balanced. If you have a large or
unevenly balanced camera you will appreciate the option to position the camera further forwards or
backwards on the head. Another counterbalancing feature includes a system of springs which provide
increasing vertical resistance as you tilt up and down — this gently pushes the camera back towards a
horizontal position. It's hard to describe why this is useful but it's certainly a
nice feature to have.

One more thing — unless your camera and tripod is a permanent

installation, a quick-release mechanism is essential. This allows you to quickly
remove the camera from the tripod and begin shooting hand-held. It usually
means that a small attachment is permanently screwed to the camera and
clicks into the tripod head (in the illustration above it's the small black plate
in the middle of the head). When choosing a tripod, make sure that this
attachment won't get in the way if it's always attached to your camera. 2012© Page 72 of 77

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The Legs
Obviously the legs must be sturdy enough to hold the weight of the camera. If there's a chance that
you will add any peripherals at a later date (e.g. audio equipment, bigger lens, etc) the tripod should
be able to accommodate them as well.

Check the height range — the lowest and highest points the tripod can be set to. It's good to have a
tripod which can go at least a little bit higher than your normal eye level.

The weight is important if you plan to move around. Good-quality legs are generally heavier, but
modern tripods often use composite materials such as carbon fibre to reduce weight significantly.

Finally, check how easy the tripod is to set up. You want to be able to set up and pack down quickly.

Travel Case
Tripods can take a battering in transit. It makes sense to have a carry-case to protect your investment,
preferably a hard case.

Setting Up a Camera Tripod

The example below shows a Miller tripod with 2-stage legs and fluid head. This is a mid-range
professional tripod. Most consumer tripods have fewer or simpler features but the principles are the

Spread the tripod's legs, and adjust the spreaders (if you have them). Release the
tensioners on the legs, and extend the legs to the desired height.

If you are working in high winds, you can anchor the tripod by placing
sandbags etc against the legs or on the spreaders.

Many tripods have mid-level spreaders, positioned halfway up the tripod legs.
These can be easier to work with on uneven surfaces.

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Adjust the pan/tilt handle to the preferred angle. The handle is typically
operated with the right hand, while the left hand operates the camera functions
(focus, iris, etc). Experiment with different angles to find which is most suited to

You may wish to attach accessories to the handle such as a remote zoom or
focus control. If so, you'll need to think about where they will be positioned.
Remember that these will tie you to the tripod so you won't be able to quick-
release the camera.

Below the head there is a screw which loosens the

head so you can adjust the level. If the head has a
spirit level, you can use it as a guide.

Remember, it's what's in the viewfinder that counts.

Some shots may need to be shot an a slight angle in
order to appear level. On the other hand, some
shots can be made more appealing by purposely adding a tilt. 2012© Page 74 of 77

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Professional cameras and tripod heads both come with a plate. The
camera plate (baseplate) attaches to the bottom of the camera, the head
plate attaches to the top of the head. The two plates are screwed
together, thus connecting the camera to the tripod. In the example
pictured left, the long baseplate goes with the camera and the small
plate goes with the tripod.

The idea is that any two plates (from any tripod and any camera) can be screwed together. It doesn't
always work that easily but most professional cameras and tripods are compatible.

Position and screw the plates together at a point which will provide the best balance for the camera.
This will usually be near the middle of the baseplate, unless your camera is very front or back-heavy.

Fit the plates to the head. There will usually be some form of quick-release
mechanism which the tripod plate locks into. You should feel a reassuring

Fit the camera to the baseplate. This happens in much the same way as
the tripod plate fits to the head, with a quick-release mechanism. Again,
make it click, and give the camera a bit of a shake to make sure it's secure.

Adjust the pan and tilt tensions. This head has four graduated tension
settings, from no tension to heavy tension. Other heads may have
different options, including continuously variable adjustments.

Experiment with different settings. In general, use lighter tension for

close or fast-moving subjects. Use heavier tension for slow moves, longer
zooms, or if you're having difficulty keeping the shot steady.

There should also be pan and tilt locks, to prevent the camera from
moving at all. Use these whenever you're not operating the camera.

Once you've turned the camera on, check your framing and make further
height/balance adjustments as needed.

Make sure the tripod legs are positioned so that you'll be able to stand
comfortably, and move around as much as you need to. Remember that 2012© Page 75 of 77
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if you're going to be panning or tilting, you should end the move in the most comfortable position.

It takes practice to be able to set up a camera quickly. Once you've done it the first time, and you're
happy with your setup, take note of the tripod height and other settings. Next time, remember these
things before you begin, and it will happen faster.

How to Use a Tripod

Once your tripod is correctly set up you are ready to begin shooting.

In the case of a professional camera like the one pictured, stand close to the
tripod between two of the legs. Most operators use the technique pictured, that
is, the left hand controls the focus, exposure and zoom while the right hand
controls camera movement with the tripod handle. There are many variations,
for example some operators prefer not to use the handle and instead place their
right hand on the camera.

Experiment and see which technique suits you best, but in any case it's probably a
good idea to practice using a number of different techniques — you never know when you might
encounter some problem which forces you to shoot differently (e.g. a broken pan handle).

Plan the Move

Before you begin a move such as a pan or tilt, plan it first. Figure out the best standing position which
allows you to complete the whole move comfortably. It is usually much better to finish the shot in a
comfortable position than to start comfortably and finish awkwardly. Frame up the end of the shot
first and get yourself comfortable, then stretch yourself to get the starting point of the move.

If the tripod head doesn't have a bowl (this includes most cheaper tripods), it's very important to check
that the framing still looks level as you pan - it may be okay in one direction but become horribly
slanted as you pan left and right.

The Right Drag for the Job

The drag setting (AKA resistance or tension) determines how much force you
need to excerpt to pan and tilt. The setting you choose depends on several
things including the camera weight, the type of shot you are attempting and
your personal preferences.

Use a lighter setting for close or fast-moving subjects. Use more drag for slow
moves, longer zooms, or if you're having difficulty keeping the shot steady. Don't just set the drag and
forget about it, think about how different settings might help different shots.

Professional heads like the Cartoni Master shown here have precise settings available with a readout
display. 2012© Page 76 of 77
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A monopod is a single-legged camera support — basically a tripod with only one leg.
Obviously a monopod is not as stable as a tripod and it would not be the best choice for most
situations. However monopods do have some advantages:

 Lighter and easier to carry than tripods.

 Can be set up much faster than a tripod.
 Can be set up in places which are difficult or impossible for a tripod (e.g. rough terrain
or in the middle of a crowd).
 Gives you some added flexibility for different types of camera movement.

You can make a monopod from an old tripod, in fact this can be a good way to get more life
out of a tripod which has a broken leg. You can also use a tripod as a monopod simply by only
extending one leg (it's not quite the same but close enough).

How to Use a Monopod

The key to using a monopod is to use your own two legs together with the monopod to create a
tripod. Rather than trying to hold the monopod perfectly vertical, place your legs slightly apart and
lean the monopod towards you. Adjust the monopod head to give you the correct angle.

A bipod is a two-legged camera support — a compromise between a monopod and a tripod. Bipods
are not commonly used in video production and commercial models are rare. You can create a bipod
effect with a tripod by only extending two legs. 2012© Page 77 of 77