Assignment 2: Seeing Like Your Camera (DPP)

For this assignment we are to interpret how our camera sees and processes different situations. We are to shoot in JPEG and no post processing is allowed. I do feel that with technology being so as advanced as it is today that people tend to lean on software to correct errors, rather than avoiding these errors. With the correct knowledge we should be able to produce images that don’t require any technical correction.

I have a tendency to over think my assignments and exercises sometimes, and can get carried away with several different ideas which can lead me to falling behind.

I wanted to strip it all back with this assignment and focus on the technicality of my brief, rather than it being hugely creative. I need to produce images of a certain standard using my camera’s settings, rather than relying on software. The main focus here is how I interpret my camera settings and apply them to the brief.

There are several key factors that I will need to consider for this:

  • White balance
  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • metering
  • Dynamic range
  • EV
  • Highlight Clipping

I’m shooting fully manual as this is the only mode where I’m capable of altering and controlling all of the above.

I am to pick 4 out of the following 8 scenarios, and then produce 3 photographs on each (total of 12 shots):

  • Street scene in the middle of a clear, sunny day – narrow streets and high buildings that cast deep, long shadows.
  • Indoor space in which the only available light is strong natural window light.
  • Photographing people in the shade while the background is in the sunshine e.g. a group portrait in the shade of a tree.
  • Early morning or late evening landscapes with low-angle incident light.
  • Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light.
  • Scenes which include objects of very different reflectivity, even in flat light such as an overcast day.
  • Indoor scenes illuminated by a single source of artificial light of high luminance e.g. a desk lamp.
  • A scene with strong incident dappled light.

With the weather being very temperamental at the moment i’ve decided to go ahead with the indoor scenes.

Indoor space in which the only available light is strong natural window light:

Chili plant seedlings:


F/13, ISO 100, 0.6 sec, WB – daylight, EV -1

For this shot I wanted the main focus to be the water drops on the centre and centre left leaves, rather than the stems themselves; so I used a fairly wide aperture (my lens had a range of F/1.4 – F/36) to create a slight blur away from the focal point. Due to the very dark rich soil I used a very low ISO as I wanted to reduce noise as much as possible, plus the daylight coming through was very strong. I always try to use the lowest ISO I can get away with. The natural daylight was coming in from the right hand side and was fairly strong so I reduced the exposure by -1 to eliminate any highlight clipping on the surface of the leaves and the water drops. I used spot metering on the most central leaf, and altered the shutter speed accordingly. This picture has not even been opened in photoshop, it is straight from my camera.



F/22, ISO 160, 1 sec, WB cloudy, EV 0

Shooting into the light, plus the wall outside of the window being white caused a great deal of highlight clipping warnings. The mirrored wardrobe door also had highlight warnings. At these settings the warning was to a minimum – I had always expected there to be some level of clipping. I found that using the daylight WB setting produced a cold blue hue, so instead opted for the shade setting, as this seemed to replicate a better representation of the hues my eye was seeing. I used spot metering on both the bright white wall and the dark underside of the nearest grey pillow to find my average (shutter speed was altered rather than aperture). I used a narrow aperture as I wanted everything to be in focus (as you would expect in real estate photography, i.e photographing rooms). While this is in no way an interesting photo, I do think it is aesthetically pleasing in terms of photographic settings.



F/4, ISO 400, 0.5 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV +1

With this shot the sunlight is behind me. I wanted to experiment with a scene that used natural light but didn’t include it. The bright white surfaces presented me with a very small range of correct exposure without any highlight clipping – resulting in over exposure. I chose a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds as the light was bright, and the surfaces also. I used a white balance setting of direct sunlight as this was my only source of light (I had set it to indoor but this produced a very yellow tone) To correctly expose the juicer in the back corner I needed to increase the exposure by +1.

Street scenes in the middle of a clear, sunny day:

Baker Street

Baker Street

F/7.1, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV – 0.3

For this shot the sunlight is strongly on the left, casting the tall shadows almost all the way across the street. I included a fair amount of sky in this shot – which meant the likelihood of some highlight clipping was very probable. I used a low ISO to reduce any chance of noise and as it was outdoors and bright. I had to reduce the exposure very slightly to eliminate clipping at the top left corner. When zoomed in there are no areas of deep shadow that completely lose detail. There’s a slight lens flare just off centre to the left – a common side effect of shooting in the direction of the sun.

Hotel Complex


F/18, ISO 100, 1/100 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV 0

This shot includes some very deep shadow, which when zoomed in to, loses visual content. This was expected as it is an underground parking garage, which covers a vast area. I used the spot metre to read the plant area just above the car park as I felt this was an average area within the shot. It wasn’t extremely bright, nor dark. There was slight highlight clipping on the cloud, that when eliminated, made the shadow areas appear too dark, so I discounted the warning. I don’t feel that it lessens the image but perhaps, had the cloud not been there, it would have been more satisfactory technically speaking. I used a narrow aperture as I wanted the far building to remain crisp and in focus.

St James’s Catholic Church

Church Street

F/7.1, ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV – 0.3

I managed to anticipate this photo’s setting pretty quickly. I was aware that the silver and white cars may have some highlight clipping, and also the sky, so I chose a fast shutter speed and a fairly wide aperture. There is a small section of lost visual to the very right of the silver jeep – where the shadow is extremely dark. I feel like this is a well balanced exposed picture, and took spot metre readings off the buildings at the far end of the street as this was to be the focal point.

Any backlit scene, whether in direct or indirect light:



F/18, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV – 1

I used a narrow aperture so the whole scene was in focus to add depth. The sun caused some highlight clipping which was unavoidable and was expected considering that it is in shot. The trunk of the tree is almost a silhouette which is again to be expected as it is back lit. I used matrix metering so the exposure reading would be more general, and focus less on one specific spot. The green of the leaves is still visible, and the tree casts a pleasing shadow.


Flower Bud

F/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, WB direct sunlight, EV 0

This shot was using indirect sunlight which vastly decreased the highlight clipping warning. I used a wide aperture to create a bokeh effect which adds an aesthetic element. It also enhances the focal point. I used a relatively fast shutter speed as the scene was bright. I contemplated switching the white balance to ‘shade’ but decided against it, as although the buds weren’t in direct sunlight, they weren’t in the shade either.

Tree stump


F/7.1, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, WB cloudy, EV 0

I used spot metering to measure the correct exposure of the section of grass in the middle of the shot, and was aware that measuring from this object would render the bark facing me rather dark. I wanted to do this so it contrasted well with the lighter upper surface of the bark as a way of adding texture. I used the ‘cloudy’ white balance setting as there was thick cloud, which actually made interpreting the camera setting much easier.

Indoor scenes illuminated by artificial light:

Big Ben


F22, ISO 250, 1/160 sec, WB Tungsten (fluorescent), EV 0

For this shot I wanted to re create a typical ‘product photograph’. I used a fairly strong lamp positioned directly over Big Ben. I wanted to cast some element of shadow to the front which is most apparent under the clock face. I used a low ISO as the light was strong. I chose a narrow aperture so everything was in focus, and a fast shutter speed – again due to the light being relatively strong. The colours are all fairly similar – they appear yellow/beige. This can be altered by changing the white balance setting. Had I have used the ‘direct sunlight’ setting the image would have appeared much colder, as it would add a blue feeling to it. Plus, I wanted to use the correct white balance setting. I used spot metering on the clock face, as it’s a focal point of Big Ben so I wanted it to be perfectly exposed.



F 22, ISO 500, 5 sec, WB incandescent, EV 0

For this shot I was prepared for the highlight clipping warning, but wanted to reduce it as much as possible. The top shelf (where the light source is) is blown out. If I’d tried to eliminate any form of clipping the objects in the fridge would have been under exposed. Again I chose a narrow aperture so the whole shot is in focus and tried to use a fairly low ISO so there wasn’t any noise in the photo. I changed my WB to incandescent as I felt this produced a better representation of what my eye was seeing. This shot required a long shutter speed of 5 seconds, as I wanted the chalk board to be slightly visible. I used spot metering on the hot sauces in the fridge door. The objects in the lower right drawer are still visible, adding depth and shadow to the shot.

Lava lamp


F 5.6, ISO 8000, 1/20 sec, WB fluorescent white, EV 0

This is my favourite shot, and the shot that made me apply the most technical knowledge. I wanted to experiment with directly shooting the light source as my subject. Strictly speaking, if you are photographing in a very dark area you can use a longer shutter speed to capture more of the light (the fridge is a good example of this as it had a speed of 5 seconds) however, I wanted to freeze the lava blobs, rather than have them in motion. So I cranked up my ISO to a high range of 8000 and reduced my shutter speed greatly. Using a high ISO has created some noise in the image, but I do not find this distracting or unsightly. I posted recently about the use of noise/film grain on a Vogue China shoot, and how it can add a grungy feel to an image. (for noise post please click here) I used matrix metering so I could gain an all round exposure reading from the blobs and the oil at the same time. I chose a fairly wide aperture as the main focus is the blobs, and having the background blurred adds to the overall feel of the image. I love how the base of the lamp fades into utter darkness and the blobs give off a purple haze.

Part 2:

Select one of the four situations and think about what the lighting conditions should be in order to reduce the contrast of the scene. Think about the different variables such as weather, changing composition, or adding some additional lighting. Photograph the same three images to reduce the contrast.

I’ve chosen to go with the artificial light images as I have a much greater control over all my variables. However, if I was to recreate the natural light pictures I would choose an overcast/cloudy day, perhaps later on in the afternoon/ early evening. With the seedling I would place them further away from the window also.

For the street scenes I would again choose a day that is cloudy/overcast or later in the afternoon, early evening – when the sun is lower. I might change my composition to the other side of the street which would result in the sun being in a different position.

Big Ben

Big Ben

Reducing the contrast with this image was hard due to the blandness of colours. All I could really do was reposition the subject and the light, and add another light to reduce and soften the colours. In hindsight I should have tried to create more contrast with the first Big Ben shot.

F13, ISO 200, 0.5 sec, WB Tungsten (fluorescent), EV 0



With this shot I added an overhead light source. This reduced the highlight clippings quite significantly. There is still a bit of blow out by the fridge light, but it’s less than the original image.

F16, ISO 200, 1 sec, WB Tungsten (fluorescent), EV 0

Lava lamp

Lava lamp

F5.6, ISO 1250, 1/20 sec, WB incandescent, EV +1

I still wanted to freeze the blobs in motion so I used a high ISO again and added two light sources behind both of my shoulders. There was a tiny bit of clipping at the top of the lamp on the chrome, but I felt it was small enough to not be an issue. Plus, if I’d made the image any darker it would have been under exposed. Chrome is a shiny reflective surface, so eliminating any ‘shine’ is extremely difficult. I changed the WB setting as I wanted to avoid any orange/pink hue.


Assessment criteria

As part of the assignment, I am required to assess my progress against a set of criteria points.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

This assignment brought together all the settings I need to be aware of when shooting in manual mode, and taught me the importance of the technical variables in producing good photography.

As the brief incorporated different lighting situations I had to have a good sense of visual awareness and compositional skills to fulfil the assignment criteria.

Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas

The exercises completed previous to this assignment were paramount in successfully achieving the brief, and I think I’ve applied that knowledge well.

My blog is organised in an effective manor, and is easy to navigate.

Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of personal voice

While some of the photos from this set were fairly unimaginative I did have fun shooting the lava lamp picture as it required experimentation and some imagination. While technically I was photographing the light source itself, I feel I produced an interesting image. This required a good amount of technical knowledge.

I feel I can experiment more with the fridge shot – another one of my favourites from this set and my tutor has given me some material to research and consider.

My tutor did mention that the first 2 assignments of this module were perhaps a little heavy on the technical side rather than the creative, but I’m very much looking forward to applying this new knowledge to a project that I can apply my creative eye to.

Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log)

I can safely say I will now be shooting in manual mode as much as I can. The range of control it offers is so vast that you can create the kind of scenes that you visualise. It will allow me to be much more creative. While the early stages of shooting in manual may be overwhelming and involve some ‘trial and error’ it will ultimately make me a better photographer.

I found that different lighting situations had fairly similar reading/settings. For example, bright daylight often required the same white balance setting and a similar shutter speed to indoor light, while low light conditions would use a much slower shutter speed. I was very aware of the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. Metering is an incredible tool for being able to control what it is exactly that you want to correctly expose. It is an essential tool in creating silhouettes, and eliminating blow outs and clipping.



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