Photography 101 - Lenses, Light and Magnification - Digital Photography School

Photography 101 – Lenses, Light and Magnification

Photography 101 - Lenses, Light and Magnification

The following post is from Australian photographer Neil Creek who is part of the recently launched Fine Art Photoblog, and is participating in Project 365 – a photo a day for a year – on his blog.

Welcome to the third lesson in Photography 101 – A Basic Course on the Camera. In this series, we cover all the basics of camera design and use.

We talk about the ‘exposure triangle': shutter speed, aperture and ISO. We talk about focus, depth of field and sharpness, as well as how lenses work, what focal lengths mean and how they put light on the sensor.

We also look at the camera itself, how it works, what all the options mean and how they affect your photos.

This week’s lesson is Lenses, Light and Magnification

Last week we looked at the basics of the lens. We saw how lenses bend light by slowing it down, how the angle the light enters the lens affects how much it is bent, and how we can use this property to bring light that enters a lens into focus and create a bright, clear image.

Play iconReading Optics Diagrams
Throughout this series, I will be using optics diagrams to illustrate various concepts. To help you get up to speed, I’ve written a short introduction on how to read these diagrams. I recommend you pausing the lesson for a moment to learn how to read and understand these diagrams.

The power of lenses

The advantage that lenses gives us over pinhole cameras is twofold: brightness and magnification.

Brightness and f-ratios

We saw in lesson two, with our experiment with the candle and the magnifying glass (Fig 1.2.3), that all the light that entered the lens from the candle was focused into the image. If we substituted a larger lens with the same focal length, then more light would be focused, and the resulting image would appear brighter, but no bigger.

It seems logical that if you double the diameter of a lens, you’ll double the size of the image it makes, but as you can see in Fig 1.3.1 below, that’s not true.


Lens diameter and magnification

Fig 1.3.1 Doubling the diameter of the lens halves the f-ratio (see below) and collects more light but does not change the size of the image, which is a function of focal length (also see below). Doubling the diameter actually more than doubles the brightness of the image, as the light collecting sufrace of the lens increases rapidly as the radius increases (per the formula Πr2 – pi times the radius squared).

Photography 101 - Lenses, Light and MagnificationFig 1.3.2 The f-ratio indicated on a 50mm f1.8 lens.Photography 101 - Lenses, Light and MagnificationFig 1.3.3 The f-ratio indicated on an 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 zoom lens.

F-ratio

In photography there’s a handy number used to describe the relationship between lens diameter and focal length: the “f-ratio”. Simply put the f-ratio is the focal length divided by the diameter. In Fig 1.3.1 above we have a lens with a focal length of 50mm and a diameter of 10mm. 50/10=5 which gives us an f-ratio of 1/5 or f5. If the lens was still 50mm focal length with a 20mm diameter, it would be f2.5.

The f-ratio for an SLR lens should always be written on the lens somwhere. Most compact cameras also describe the f-ratio somewhere on the body. The “shorter” the f-ratio, that is the closer it is to 1, the brighter the image the lens will produce. The term “speed” is also used to describe a lens. The word speed in this case refers to how fast the lens will allow the camera to capture an image, given the amount of light available. If the lens produces a bright image, then the shutter can be open for a shorter time to capture enough light to make an image. Thus a short f-ratio lens like f1.8 is considered a very “fast” lens, while a longer lens such as an f8 or f11 is a “slow” lens.

Recalling lesson 1, we learned that a large hole for the light to pass through makes for a brighter but less sharp image. Now that we know about f-ratios, we can connect these two facts together and understand why faster lenses have a narrower “depth of field” – the area which is in focus. We’ll talk more about this in the next lesson, but it’s helpful to connect the dots and see how all these various principles fit together.

Modern cameras allow a photographer to have some level of control over a lens’ speed by adjusting the aperture, we’ll also cover that in more detail in the next lesson.

Magnification and Field of View

Anyone who has played with a magnifying glass knows that, as the name suggests, lenses magnify. The amount of magnification depends on the focal length. The “longer” the lens, the more it magnifies the image. Short focal lengths have the opposite effect, reducing the size of the image.

Focal length and magnification

Fig 1.3.4 All other things being equal, as the focal length of the lens increases, the relative size of the image also increases.

We saw above that f-ratio affects the image brightness. The two factors in the ratio are lens diameter and focal length. So far we have only talked about changing the lens diameter, but with greater magnification you increase the focal length, so you also increase the f-ratio. This means that the more you magnify the image, the dimmer it becomes. Most telephoto (long focal length) lenses have large f-ratios, and are therefore slow lenses. The exception of course are the hugely expensive and very heavy, giant lenses used by sports photographers. These use long focal lengths, and big diameter lenses. These telephotos are not for the casual photogrpaher!

Photography 101 - Macro lensFig 1.3.5 A macro zoom lens showing magnification factors on the barrel.
Photo: Martini Captures used under CC license

We’ve talked about how lenses make the image bigger, and that’s certainly how it appears when you look through the viewfinder, or at the print from a telephoto lens. In reality, because most objects are distant, and the sensor is small, the vast majority of lenses produce an image which is smaller than the object itself. There are some specialist lenses, however, which do make an image larger than the subject. For this to be possible, the focal length needs to be long and the subject close. These are, of course, macro lenses.

Macro lenses will often be described by their “magnification factor”. A lens with a 1:1 magnification factor produces a projected image on the sensor which is the same as the subject. So the image of a 20mm diameter coin will span 20mm of the physical sensor, resulting in an image which will nearly fill the entire frame of a typical DSLR. A 1:1 magnification factor is usually considered the minimum for a lens to be described as a “macro” lens. Specialist macro lenses are often 1:3 or even 1:10 magnification factors, meaning that 1mm across the subject becomes 3mm or 10mm when projected onto the sensor, thus 3 or 10 times magnification.

Field of View

The final variable in this initially confusing balancing act of optics is the field of view. This refers to how much of the world the camera can see. A lens’ field of view depends on the focal length of the lens and the size of whatever the image is projected onto. In the case of digital cameras this is the sensor chip.

Focal length and field of view

Fig 1.3.6 As the focal length increases, the field of view narrows and the image enlarges.

Photography 101 - Fisheye photoFig 1.3.7 An example photo taken with an 8mm fisheye on a 1.6x cropped sensor.

Photography 101 - Relative frame sizesFig 1.3.8 The comparative differences in frame size from compact camers through film and DSLR to medium format.

Fig 1.3.6 makes it obvious that at the wide-angle end, a slight difference in focal length translates to a large difference in field of view. The difference in field of view between a 10mm and 20mm lens is far greater than the difference between 210mm and 220mm. Some lenses can have exceptionally short focal lengths and wide fields of view, such as 12 or 8mm. These are fisheye lenses, so-called because the front of the lens bulges so much it looks like a fish’s eye. These lenses can have a 180 degree field of view, or even greater.

The size of the sensor also contributes to the field of view of a particular lens. In Fig 1.3.6 a particular sensor is shown at different focal lengths. Obviously if the sensor is smaller, it can see less of the image presented by the lens, thus the field of view is reduced and magnification is increased. This is the case for “cropped sensor” DSLRs, and compact cameras.

The “standard” frame size is 35mm, the size of a single picture on a roll of film. Cameras with this sized sensor are known as a “full frame” cameras. Large format film cameras exist with much larger film sizes, such as 150mm x 100mm. Less expensive, or earlier model DSLRs use sensors smaller than a 35mm film frame, and are referred to as cropped sensors. A typical cropped sensor may be described as a 1.6x, meaning that the apparent focal length of a particular lens is 1.6 times longer. Compact cameras use the smallest frame sizes of all, and as such require very short focal length lenses to get wide angle views.

Next Week

Photography 101 – Aperture and stops.

Now that we’ve pulled together the main theory behind the lens and creating an image, we’ll next turn our attention to exposure and how we control the capture of an image. Next week will see the introduction of the exposure triangle, an explanation of “stops” and brightness levels, and a look at the first point on the triangle: aperture.

Homework

  • Find out your lenses’ field of view. Using whatever method works best for you (eg a tape measure on a wall), work out the field of view of your camera at the widest and longest settings. Measure it in degrees from side to side. Present photos of your findings.
  • Shoot your entire focal range. Find an appropriate subject (eg an urban street or distant tree) and take a series of photos starting at your widest angle and zooming in at say 20mm intervals to your longest zoom. Compile them into a single image and post.
  • Exploit magnification and field of view artistically. Take a photo at each extreme of your camera’s focal length range, carefully selecting the subject to take advantage of the magnification and field of view. Share the results here.
  • Get up close and personal. This is ideal for users of compact cameras, which due to the optics of a small camera system are capable of focusing very close. Experiment with macro photography and show us photos of the world of the very small. Use macro mode if you have it (usually identified with a tulip symbol). DSLR users with macro gear may also participate.
  • If all this is new to you, find an online camera store (for example the Canon or Nikon sites) and browse the lens catalogue. Pay close attention to the lens specifications we have discussed, and see how the shape and form of the lens matches up with these numbers. Look at how long telephoto lenses are, how wide fast lenses are, and how much ultra wide angle lenses bulge out the front.

Resources

In addition to posting his Project 365 photos to his blog, Neil also runs a monthly photography project. This month’s topic is Iron Chef Photography – The Fork.

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Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

  • Dot Dion

    Hi
    Please keep on sending us these lessons. They are absolutely priceless. I appreciate each and everyone of them, and enjoy doing the experiments which are really helping me learn the right way.

    Being handicapped body wise, I am very slow at doing these lessons and have not yet posted any results. I do understand the concept of what is being explained, and even though I have not posted any results I will try and do my best to upload my results in the near future.
    Thank you for having me in this class.

    Now for a stupid question. Is it possible for you to give me the link to the forum where I am supposed to send in the url of where I have uploaded. There are so many forums I would not wish to send to the wrong one.
    Dot

  • http://www.thephotographerblog.com Mandy

    Wow that really brings the first three lessons together and helps join a lot of dots up for me.

    The explanation and the diagrams work very well together.

    Although with being new to learning these subjects I did have to read through a couple of times for it to sink in!

    This course has brought on my understanding of fundamental photography no end,thank you and I’m really looking forward to next week…

  • NormMonkey

    For simple 1-element lenses the focal-length to diameter ratio applies, but not so for the complex lenses we have on our cameras.

    The F-ratio is the ratio of focal length to entrance pupil. For a 1-element lens, the entrance pupil *is* the diameter of the lens. For a complex lens system, elements within the lens restrict the entrance pupil.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number

    I point this out in case anybody decides to look at their 14mm lens with its 50mm diameter front element, and then gets confused when they find a maximum F-number of f/0.28 – as I did when I first explored F-ratios d:)

    Instead, with a 14mm lens whose wide open f/number is f/2.8, somewhere inside the lens there’s an entrance pupil of 5mm.

    These tutorials are awesome. Many thanks, Neil, for taking the time and effort to write all this stuff up for the benefit of all DPSers.

  • http://www.themikestand.com mike

    I’m going to also say thanks for posting these lessons. I’m developing (boo) my skills behind the camera in earnest this year, and as soon as I figure out how to compile images (photoshop?), I’ll be posting the homework.

    Thanks again!

  • Stephon

    Can someone clarify the f-ratio on the front of my lens? I have a Canon S3IS and the front of the lens is printed with “1:2.7-3.5″. What does the 1 refer to and why does the camera list a range that is shorter than what I actually can use (the S3 can have a max aperture of f8?

    http://a.img-dpreview.com/news/0602/canon/canon_s3is_frontback.jpg

  • ecm

    Hi Neil,

    very nice tutorial you have here. Thanks a lot for the effort. However I have noticed that all your lens diagrams have a problem with their “definition” of focal length. It is not the distance between the lens and the image.

    The focal length of a lens is fixed, it depends only on the material of the lens and its internal and external curvature radius. It does not change when the tree moves closer or farther away from the lens. In all cases the image of the tree does come into focus at difference distances, but never on the focal plane (unless the tree is at an infinite distance). For finding out the focal length, you need to look at the horizontal light rays traveling from the top and bottom of the tree. After passing the lens they bend, and the point where they cross is the focal point. (Focal length is defined as the distance between the lens and the focal point). Afterwards they keep traveling for a while until reaching the plane of the image.

    Your diagram in last lesson shows the focal length changing as the tree moves closer. This is not true. The focal point (where the horizontal rays cross each other) stays always at the same place.

    In a camera the distance between the lens and the image plane is fixed. This means that if we want to look at things at different distances we need to change the focal length, in order to have them all focus on the same plane. With one lens this is not possible. However cameras have several lenses, and by changing the distance between them we can make the equivalent focal point of the system change position too. The focal length changes so that the image stays in the same place (in your diagrams you are defining focal length as the distance between lens and image, which is fixed for any camera!).

    I hope I have managed to explain it. I did not mean to criticize your lessons in any way, I think you are doing a great job and that’s why I’d like to see that it stays accurate.

    Thanks again and keep up the good work!

  • http://www.dustindiaz.com Dustin Diaz

    Where do I find the diameter number (not focal length)? And is it on the body of the camera, or the lens?

  • Dave S

    This is a great lesson. It’s great to understand some of these relationships, even if it only serves to explain why those telephoto L’s are so expensive! ;-)

    thanks!
    ds

  • NormMonkey

    Stephon wrote:
    “Can someone clarify the f-ratio on the front of my lens? I have a Canon S3IS and the front of the lens is printed with “1:2.7-3.5″. What does the 1 refer to and why does the camera list a range that is shorter than what I actually can use (the S3 can have a max aperture of f8?)”

    Hi Stephon,

    1:2.7-3.5 is a standard way for lens manufacturers to say “this lens has a wide-open f-ratio (or f-number, same thing) of f/2.7 through f/3.5.

    Why does it have a minimum range instead of a single value? Zoom lenses don’t have a fixed focal length (nor a fixed entrance pupil). Your lens’s focal length can zoom from 6mm to 72mm (from your picture). So for your lens the wide-open aperture at 6mm is f/2.7, and as you zoom from there to 72mm the wide-open aperture decreases to f/3.5.

    Of course, if you choose a narrower aperture like f/8, it can do that throughout the zoom range. The markings show you the wide-open aperture range so that you know how fast the lens is.

  • NormMonkey

    ecm wrote:
    “The focal length of a lens is fixed, it depends only on the material of the lens and its internal and external curvature radius. … Your diagram in last lesson shows the focal length changing as the tree moves closer. This is not true. The focal point (where the horizontal rays cross each other) stays always at the same place.”

    I think the point Neil’s making is that if you change the focal length, then the field of view changes and the image on the sensor plane gets smaller.

    I think we’re to imagine that the lens is being changed between each slide to one with a different focal length. In the animated diagram, he even shows the shape of the lens changing between slides. (I hadn’t noticed that before, good attention to detail, Neil!)

    Also, he’s not showing the tree moving closer in any of the diagrams. In each diagram, the object tree is the upright one on the left and the image of the tree projected on the sensor plane is the upside-down one on the right.

    Hopefully that clarifies the lesson a bit.

  • jasmin

    Almost done w/ the homework. Where do we post? =)

  • ecm

    NormMonkey, the diagram with the tree moving closer to the lens is in the previous lecture, Fig 1.2.6.

    And there is no problem with imagining a different lens for each slide. The problem is that in all cases the distance between the lens and the image is labeled “focal length”. And that, simply, is NOT the focal length.

  • Ryan Slander

    Nice set of articles from Neil. But I agree that the diagrams are in fact a little misleading.

    I have a few questions though for ecm:

    1) ecm wrote: “In all cases the image of the tree does come into focus at difference distances, but never on the focal plane (unless the tree is at an infinite distance)”

    What exactly do you mean when you say that the image never comes into focus on the focal plane (film)? Isn’t the whole point to get it focused on the focal plane? Or did I misunderstand what you wrote there?

    2) When you try to take a picture of an object at infinity (e.g the sun) all light converges to a single point – the focal point. Where does the focal plane need to be? I.e can the focal plane come anywhere after the focal point (or to paraphrase that – does it make sense to, or is there such thing as, “focus” an object at infinity)?

    3) ecm wrote: “In a camera the distance between the lens and the image plane is fixed. This means that if we want to look at things at different distances we need to change the focal length, in order to have them all focus on the same plane.”

    This is interesting. Does this mean that the image size, in a real camera, is always fixed, and doesn’t change whether I take a nearby or far away object? (as opposed to all those diagrams on optics showing that the image size changes when the distance of the object – or focal point, hence lens – is changed)

    4) ecm wrote: “However cameras have several lenses, and by changing the distance between them we can make the equivalent focal point of the system change position too.”

    I never really thought about camera lenses this way. Thanks ecm for your feedback.

  • Ray From Texas

    I do a lot of local rock band photos. What is best lense for low light clubs and fast moving band member subjects? i have a canon rebel cuz it takes the hard knocks pretty well and am using the standard lense that came with it. I am just using a lot of settings to see what works best but want to get a better lense. any help/opinion is appreciated. P.S. I am having fun too!!!

  • http://neil.creek.name/blog Neil Creek

    Thanks everyone for your positive and thoughtful comments! I especially appreciate the folks who are helping to spot inaccuracies or points that aren’t as clear as they could be. I am very willing to make corrections to this series, and if some points need further explanation, then I’d be happy to revisit them in a later post.

    I want to remind everyone that I’m not an optician or camera designer. Just someone with a passion for photography and science, and who did pretty well in high school physics. Oh and I’ve also made my own 200mm diameter reflecting telescope from scratch. So I’m not an “expert”, but I probably know more about how photography works than the average newcomer to the hobby.

    I intend to be involved in the discussion to improve the series accuracy, but I am quite busy this weekend. Also, I think the comments on a post isn’t the ideal place to work on this topic, so I’d like to suggest we start a thread on the wonderful DPS forums. I won’t be able to do so (heading out the door in 10 mins), but if someone else would like to start a “Refining Photography 101″ thread and link it from here, I’d appreciate that.

    Remember, I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, I want to make the Photo101 resource as accurate and useful as possible, so I appreciate your input! I look forward to joining the discussion soon.

  • http://digitalphotographyblog Susan

    Hi Neil

    Please can you advise where I can see or download the previous lessons

    Regards, Sue

  • Norman Tsai

    Here’s my homework attempt on the macro shoot:

    http://flickr.com/photos/tsaiek69/2373853213/

    Honestly – I didn’t notice the 2 orchid flowers all these years… haha.

  • Dot Dion

    My lessons 1 and 2 uploaded.
    Dot
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25173793@N04/

  • martin

    Hi! Two of the assignament:

    a) Macro photo:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3211/2375111693_e84ecb5541_b.jpg

    and

    b)Entire focal range:

    My cammera is a Lumix fz8, with focal range from 6.00mm to 72.00mm (eqiv 35mm: 36-432mm) I shooted seven photo with aperture 3.6, resize to 800×660 and merge them in a file. You can see it at

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2156/2375111689_f18e40e15a_b.jpg

    Since I have not a pro account, also I upload the file at full size to imageshack

    http://img168.imageshack.us/img168/3258/101less3nb7.jpg

  • http://www.thephotographerblog.com Mandy

    Here’s my attempt at the homework:

    http://thephotographerblog.com/140/what-does-f-ratio-mean/

    Thanks

  • Dot Dion

    My lesson no 3 lenses and light is now uploaded
    Thank you for another interesting assignment.
    My camera is a Canon XTI 12 with a 18-55 mm lens.
    Dot

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25173793@N04/

  • ecm

    In answer to Ryan Slander’s post:

    I’m very sorry I didn’t answer before, but I have been away last week and just got back yesterday. So I don’t know if you are still reading this post, but just in case, here it goes:

    I see there is some misunderstanding on what “focal plane” means. The focal plane is the plane where parallel rays hitting the lens converge. This plane is fixed, all parallel rays always converge at different points of this same plane. If your parallel rays happen to be perpendicular to the lens, they will converge on a point on the axis, the “focal point” (part of the focal plane). The distance between the focal point and the lens is the “focal length”.

    If you have several lenses, once again the focal plane of the system is defined as the plane on which parallel rays hitting the first lens converge after going through all lenses, and it is also fixed. (Its position can be computed from the focal distance of each lens and the distance between them).

    However the focal plane is NOT where the image is focused. In each situation, the image is focused at a different distance from the lens, depending on the distance between the lens and the object we are photographing (there is a simple equation that allows you to calculate where the image will form, once you know the focal length and the distance to the subject). That plane where the image is focused is what I have been calling the “image plane”, and it is NOT FIXED.

    In a camera, the film is not placed on the focal plane. We want the image to focus on the film, so the film has to be placed on the “image plane”. Unfortunately, the image plane changes positions. The solution: instead of using just one lens (with a fixed focal length), use several, and change the position of the lenses among themselves. That way you can in fact change the focal length of your system, in such a way that you can get the image to always focus on the film. That’s what you do when you are focusing your camera: changing the distance between the lenses.

    And the last point: yes, the size of the image does change, as you well know from your camera. It depends on the size of the subject, the distance between subject and lens, and the focal length of the system. By getting close or farther away from your subject you change the size of the image you get. Also by changing the lens of the camera you change the focal length of the system and therefore the size of your image. The only one thing fixed in your camera is the position of the film! That’s what I said on my first post: the distance between lens and image cannot change. The size of the image certainly can.

    I hope this answers your post, and sorry once more for taking so long. :-)

  • toola

    my macro shot – last lesson is in my DPS folder

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2136/2386907847_4d224004f5_m.jpg

  • Ryan Slander

    ecm, thanks for rather complete answer. I think I have a clearer picture of how things work now. I feel that knowing such technical internal details, while not necessarily required to take good pictures, can eventually make you a better photographer by knowing how to make the right choices. I’d like to learn more about such details, particularly about optics and lens, is there any particular book, within the bounds of photography, which you would recommend?

    Neil, your articles are great and I like the diagrams. I think if they’re complete and accurate, they can form one of the better online references. The truth is here isn’t a decent online reference that covers what you have presented, and what we have discussed in this thread so far. Most articles I’ve read only paper over the technical details. I know that not many people will be interested in the technical details, but I think it is possible to structure things so that they can easily skip parts they find aren’t immediately necessary.

    I hope you continue penning the rest of the articles, and perhaps alter the current ones.

  • ecm

    Glad to be of help, Ryan. :-)

    I’m afraid that most of the books on optics I’ve read are well outside the bounds of photography… I think the best choice would be to look at the chapter on optics and lenses on a basic high-school-level physics book. It will have all the information you could ever need and it shouldn’t be too difficult to follow. Also you could check the wikipedia…

    If you are really interested in these things, there is a great non-technical book I can recommend. It does talk about photography and lenses, but also goes well beyond that to discuss the nature of light, the functioning of our eyes, optical illusions, holography… It’s called ‘Seeing the light’, by David R. Falk, Dieter R. Brill and David G. Stork. It’s probably more than what you are looking for, unless you really enjoy this stuff. Or you could read only the chapter on photography, which I believe is self-contained.

  • Dot Dion

    Hi
    Since I have not received anything since march 27
    I was wondering if the lessons are still going on?

    The lessons were well written and fun to do and it would be sad to find out they have been cancelled, and I am sure others would feel the same way.

    If they have been cancelled please accept my thanks for
    what I have learned in such a short time.
    Dot

  • http://neil.creek.name/blog Neil Creek

    Hi Dot, thanks for your comment. My apologies for the gap in the lessons. Unfortunately my wife injured herself two weeks ago, and has needed my constant care since. You can read some more details in this forum thread: http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15251&highlight=photography+101

    So don’t worry, the lessons will return, I just can’t give a reliable estimate as to when. Thank you for your patience!

  • toola

    Sorry to hear about your wife Neil, I hope she’s up and around again soon!

    I was also wondering about the lessons, I’m very glad to hear they’ll be continuing

  • Norman Tsai

    Same here. May she get well soon : )

  • catalin

    “Obviously if the sensor is smaller, it can see less of the image presented by the lens, thus the field of view is reduced and magnification is increased”

    There is no magnification at all. It’s just an illusion because of the “crop” of a smaller sensor:

    ‘Crop’ is a fairly good term – the imaging area is physically smaller. Less of the image circle projected by the lens is used, therefore it is a crop. The image remains the same size at the film plane for a given lens and subject distance – it is in no way magnified. It does, however, take up a larger proportion of the (smaller) frame and so it is easy to see why some people call it a magnifying effect. This is also why a tele lens appears so much more powerful – the field or angle of view has been reduced…”

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/dslr-mag.shtml

  • n shack

    Could not see or link to examples.

  • rocky

    I’m not so sure this so-called magnification from a smaller than full-frame sensor is illusory.

    According to my sources, there is a “system magnification”–perhaps not unlike the digital zoom that takes place with crop cameras as in the case of the following Nikon D300:

    “The image produced on the small-sensor DX (D300) will be enlarged more to produce output (print or screen) that matches the output of a longer focal length lens on a full-frame… camera. This ‘enlargement’ is a internal system magnification not a true lens magnification but the result is somewhat the same.”

    [source: http://meanderingpassage.com/2008/09/08/photography-magnificationcrop-factor-d700-and-d300/

    If true, this would suggest that while the image is not being magnified (since the focal length of the lens is unchanged) there is an enlargement that effectively does make the image bigger even though there may be a loss in image quality,

    I’ve tentatively confirmed the accuracy of the above by shooting a street sign from the same location with both 1.3X and a 1.6X crop factor cameras using the same lens, and in the case of the latter, the image appears to be larger and more legible. Go figure!

  • Dr.Nabeel

    Dear Niel,

    I will be grateful to know why lenses of same specifications give different picture resolution. Is it the abberation, the ghosting, the flare etc.??

    Thank you

  • Jessica

    I love these lessons!!!! I love to learn anything about photography because one day I am going to start my own photography business. I just wish I had a camera do the homework lol I am trying to find a photography camera for sale so I can start

  • Chris Yeo

    how do you calculate the magnification level of an image when viewed through a PC?

  • Robert

    “Doubling the diameter actually more than doubles the brightness of the image”

    Doubling the diamatere will give you 4x bigger lense (area of a circle ?*r*r)

    if you double r its r*r its 4 time more light I think… but tell me if im wrong

  • Bozilla

    I cannot agree on the explanation of “fish eye” lens, it’s not the appearance of the lens glass that counts, it the fact that it projects straight lines to curved lines that defines a “fish eye” lens. The opposite term is “rectilinear” lens, which keeps straight lines straight on the film/sensor.

  • Venkatesh

    Very well written. I felt as if i have finished reading whole bhagavath gita ( Holy epic ) in a minute !
    I have learnt several aspects such crop factor, f numbers etc. Thanks for this wonderful lesson. Keep posting more !!! :)

  • http://digitalcamfan.com/category/photography-101/ Amy

    Excellent photography 101 tips! The images are so helpful to the explanation especailly the Mangnification and Field of View one!

  • http://www.onlyjoelee.com joe

    Hi guys, my name’s Joe and I have a serious passion for photography. I’m constantly looking to grow and improve. I started posting some of my original photography to my blog in hopes to get some constructive feedback. I also share HUNDREDS of photographs daily from all round the world. My blog is http://www.onlyjoelee.com and you can find my originals under “my photography” Thank you guys so much :)

  • Laura Chimino

    Just what I was looking for.
    I love the classroom feel, the indepth information that is well formatted an laid out and easy to grasp concepts. Thank you for you time,effort, and energy to put this site together and helping fellow photographers. Nice work.:)

  • MabelLucy

    I don’t know if you consider this an ongoing class, so I am NOT doing the homework… but I am starting at lesson one and reading them all.
    I am studying the diagrams and examples carefully so I can understand what was done.

    I truly appreciate the availability of this information.
    Thank you.

  • Jason C

    This is pretty good. Thank you. I found this pretty useful.
    I’d like to re-point out a more fundamental factor in “brightness”. In the
    caption for figure 1.3.1 you point out a formula for amount of light
    from an object collected by the lens (in a given period of time). The
    lens diameter is a strong component of that as you repeatedly pointed
    out. The other factor is the distance from the lens to the object. In
    photography we tend to focus on other metrics, but lens diameter and
    object distance are the two fundamental factors. If your lens has a
    larger diameter, the image is brighter. If your lens is closer to the
    object (not just zoomed to the object), the image will be brighter. All
    the other metrics we tend to talk about are just indirect and sometimes
    confusing ways of alluding to these two factors. We tend to use other metrics because once we have a camera + lens in our hands pointed
    at an object, we can’t change the diameter of lens and often we can’t
    change the object distance. Nevertheless, it can be useful to understand
    the fundamental factors.

    Anyway. Thanks. Your work here is very much appreciated.

  • Anand

    The author has mentioned that, “This means that the more you magnify the image, the dimmer it becomes” … so I think he has covered the issue you mentioned.

  • Stas Bar

    so would this apply to a situation where the object is placed at a shorter distance from the lens than the focal length resulting in a virtual image?

Some older comments

  • joe

    June 26, 2013 07:34 am

    Hi guys, my name’s Joe and I have a serious passion for photography. I'm constantly looking to grow and improve. I started posting some of my original photography to my blog in hopes to get some constructive feedback. I also share HUNDREDS of photographs daily from all round the world. My blog is http://www.onlyjoelee.com and you can find my originals under "my photography" Thank you guys so much :)

  • Amy

    May 3, 2013 04:37 am

    Excellent photography 101 tips! The images are so helpful to the explanation especailly the Mangnification and Field of View one!

  • Venkatesh

    October 16, 2011 03:10 am

    Very well written. I felt as if i have finished reading whole bhagavath gita ( Holy epic ) in a minute !
    I have learnt several aspects such crop factor, f numbers etc. Thanks for this wonderful lesson. Keep posting more !!! :)

  • Bozilla

    September 6, 2011 09:16 am

    I cannot agree on the explanation of "fish eye" lens, it's not the appearance of the lens glass that counts, it the fact that it projects straight lines to curved lines that defines a "fish eye" lens. The opposite term is "rectilinear" lens, which keeps straight lines straight on the film/sensor.

  • Robert

    September 20, 2010 09:18 pm

    "Doubling the diameter actually more than doubles the brightness of the image"

    Doubling the diamatere will give you 4x bigger lense (area of a circle ?*r*r)

    if you double r its r*r its 4 time more light I think... but tell me if im wrong

  • Chris Yeo

    May 19, 2010 04:02 pm

    how do you calculate the magnification level of an image when viewed through a PC?

  • Jessica

    August 3, 2009 02:36 pm

    I love these lessons!!!! I love to learn anything about photography because one day I am going to start my own photography business. I just wish I had a camera do the homework lol I am trying to find a photography camera for sale so I can start

  • Dr.Nabeel

    June 26, 2009 04:58 pm

    Dear Niel,

    I will be grateful to know why lenses of same specifications give different picture resolution. Is it the abberation, the ghosting, the flare etc.??

    Thank you

  • rocky

    March 20, 2009 08:13 am

    I'm not so sure this so-called magnification from a smaller than full-frame sensor is illusory.

    According to my sources, there is a "system magnification"--perhaps not unlike the digital zoom that takes place with crop cameras as in the case of the following Nikon D300:

    "The image produced on the small-sensor DX (D300) will be enlarged more to produce output (print or screen) that matches the output of a longer focal length lens on a full-frame... camera. This 'enlargement' is a internal system magnification not a true lens magnification but the result is somewhat the same."

    [source: http://meanderingpassage.com/2008/09/08/photography-magnificationcrop-factor-d700-and-d300/]

    If true, this would suggest that while the image is not being magnified (since the focal length of the lens is unchanged) there is an enlargement that effectively does make the image bigger even though there may be a loss in image quality,

    I've tentatively confirmed the accuracy of the above by shooting a street sign from the same location with both 1.3X and a 1.6X crop factor cameras using the same lens, and in the case of the latter, the image appears to be larger and more legible. Go figure!

  • n shack

    March 7, 2009 05:48 am

    Could not see or link to examples.

  • catalin

    June 5, 2008 09:07 pm

    "Obviously if the sensor is smaller, it can see less of the image presented by the lens, thus the field of view is reduced and magnification is increased"

    There is no magnification at all. It's just an illusion because of the "crop" of a smaller sensor:

    ‘Crop’ is a fairly good term – the imaging area is physically smaller. Less of the image circle projected by the lens is used, therefore it is a crop. The image remains the same size at the film plane for a given lens and subject distance – it is in no way magnified. It does, however, take up a larger proportion of the (smaller) frame and so it is easy to see why some people call it a magnifying effect. This is also why a tele lens appears so much more powerful – the field or angle of view has been reduced..."

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/dslr-mag.shtml

  • Norman Tsai

    April 22, 2008 02:22 am

    Same here. May she get well soon : )

  • toola

    April 18, 2008 11:53 pm

    Sorry to hear about your wife Neil, I hope she's up and around again soon!

    I was also wondering about the lessons, I'm very glad to hear they'll be continuing

  • Neil Creek

    April 14, 2008 09:49 am

    Hi Dot, thanks for your comment. My apologies for the gap in the lessons. Unfortunately my wife injured herself two weeks ago, and has needed my constant care since. You can read some more details in this forum thread: http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15251&highlight=photography+101

    So don't worry, the lessons will return, I just can't give a reliable estimate as to when. Thank you for your patience!

  • Dot Dion

    April 14, 2008 03:21 am

    Hi
    Since I have not received anything since march 27
    I was wondering if the lessons are still going on?

    The lessons were well written and fun to do and it would be sad to find out they have been cancelled, and I am sure others would feel the same way.

    If they have been cancelled please accept my thanks for
    what I have learned in such a short time.
    Dot

  • ecm

    April 9, 2008 03:06 am

    Glad to be of help, Ryan. :-)

    I'm afraid that most of the books on optics I've read are well outside the bounds of photography... I think the best choice would be to look at the chapter on optics and lenses on a basic high-school-level physics book. It will have all the information you could ever need and it shouldn't be too difficult to follow. Also you could check the wikipedia...

    If you are really interested in these things, there is a great non-technical book I can recommend. It does talk about photography and lenses, but also goes well beyond that to discuss the nature of light, the functioning of our eyes, optical illusions, holography... It's called 'Seeing the light', by David R. Falk, Dieter R. Brill and David G. Stork. It's probably more than what you are looking for, unless you really enjoy this stuff. Or you could read only the chapter on photography, which I believe is self-contained.

  • Ryan Slander

    April 9, 2008 01:37 am

    ecm, thanks for rather complete answer. I think I have a clearer picture of how things work now. I feel that knowing such technical internal details, while not necessarily required to take good pictures, can eventually make you a better photographer by knowing how to make the right choices. I’d like to learn more about such details, particularly about optics and lens, is there any particular book, within the bounds of photography, which you would recommend?

    Neil, your articles are great and I like the diagrams. I think if they're complete and accurate, they can form one of the better online references. The truth is here isn’t a decent online reference that covers what you have presented, and what we have discussed in this thread so far. Most articles I’ve read only paper over the technical details. I know that not many people will be interested in the technical details, but I think it is possible to structure things so that they can easily skip parts they find aren’t immediately necessary.

    I hope you continue penning the rest of the articles, and perhaps alter the current ones.

  • toola

    April 8, 2008 01:15 am

    my macro shot - last lesson is in my DPS folder

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2136/2386907847_4d224004f5_m.jpg

  • ecm

    April 6, 2008 08:54 pm

    In answer to Ryan Slander's post:

    I'm very sorry I didn't answer before, but I have been away last week and just got back yesterday. So I don't know if you are still reading this post, but just in case, here it goes:

    I see there is some misunderstanding on what "focal plane" means. The focal plane is the plane where parallel rays hitting the lens converge. This plane is fixed, all parallel rays always converge at different points of this same plane. If your parallel rays happen to be perpendicular to the lens, they will converge on a point on the axis, the "focal point" (part of the focal plane). The distance between the focal point and the lens is the "focal length".

    If you have several lenses, once again the focal plane of the system is defined as the plane on which parallel rays hitting the first lens converge after going through all lenses, and it is also fixed. (Its position can be computed from the focal distance of each lens and the distance between them).

    However the focal plane is NOT where the image is focused. In each situation, the image is focused at a different distance from the lens, depending on the distance between the lens and the object we are photographing (there is a simple equation that allows you to calculate where the image will form, once you know the focal length and the distance to the subject). That plane where the image is focused is what I have been calling the "image plane", and it is NOT FIXED.

    In a camera, the film is not placed on the focal plane. We want the image to focus on the film, so the film has to be placed on the "image plane". Unfortunately, the image plane changes positions. The solution: instead of using just one lens (with a fixed focal length), use several, and change the position of the lenses among themselves. That way you can in fact change the focal length of your system, in such a way that you can get the image to always focus on the film. That's what you do when you are focusing your camera: changing the distance between the lenses.

    And the last point: yes, the size of the image does change, as you well know from your camera. It depends on the size of the subject, the distance between subject and lens, and the focal length of the system. By getting close or farther away from your subject you change the size of the image you get. Also by changing the lens of the camera you change the focal length of the system and therefore the size of your image. The only one thing fixed in your camera is the position of the film! That's what I said on my first post: the distance between lens and image cannot change. The size of the image certainly can.

    I hope this answers your post, and sorry once more for taking so long. :-)

  • Dot Dion

    April 5, 2008 06:37 am

    My lesson no 3 lenses and light is now uploaded
    Thank you for another interesting assignment.
    My camera is a Canon XTI 12 with a 18-55 mm lens.
    Dot

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25173793@N04/

  • Mandy

    April 3, 2008 06:34 am

    Here's my attempt at the homework:

    http://thephotographerblog.com/140/what-does-f-ratio-mean/

    Thanks

  • martin

    March 31, 2008 12:00 pm

    Hi! Two of the assignament:

    a) Macro photo:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3211/2375111693_e84ecb5541_b.jpg

    and

    b)Entire focal range:

    My cammera is a Lumix fz8, with focal range from 6.00mm to 72.00mm (eqiv 35mm: 36-432mm) I shooted seven photo with aperture 3.6, resize to 800x660 and merge them in a file. You can see it at

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2156/2375111689_f18e40e15a_b.jpg

    Since I have not a pro account, also I upload the file at full size to imageshack

    http://img168.imageshack.us/img168/3258/101less3nb7.jpg

  • Dot Dion

    March 31, 2008 08:37 am

    My lessons 1 and 2 uploaded.
    Dot
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25173793@N04/

  • Norman Tsai

    March 31, 2008 03:54 am

    Here's my homework attempt on the macro shoot:

    http://flickr.com/photos/tsaiek69/2373853213/

    Honestly - I didn't notice the 2 orchid flowers all these years... haha.

  • Susan

    March 29, 2008 05:08 pm

    Hi Neil

    Please can you advise where I can see or download the previous lessons

    Regards, Sue

  • Neil Creek

    March 29, 2008 09:49 am

    Thanks everyone for your positive and thoughtful comments! I especially appreciate the folks who are helping to spot inaccuracies or points that aren't as clear as they could be. I am very willing to make corrections to this series, and if some points need further explanation, then I'd be happy to revisit them in a later post.

    I want to remind everyone that I'm not an optician or camera designer. Just someone with a passion for photography and science, and who did pretty well in high school physics. Oh and I've also made my own 200mm diameter reflecting telescope from scratch. So I'm not an "expert", but I probably know more about how photography works than the average newcomer to the hobby.

    I intend to be involved in the discussion to improve the series accuracy, but I am quite busy this weekend. Also, I think the comments on a post isn't the ideal place to work on this topic, so I'd like to suggest we start a thread on the wonderful DPS forums. I won't be able to do so (heading out the door in 10 mins), but if someone else would like to start a "Refining Photography 101" thread and link it from here, I'd appreciate that.

    Remember, I don't mind being told I'm wrong, I want to make the Photo101 resource as accurate and useful as possible, so I appreciate your input! I look forward to joining the discussion soon.

  • Ray From Texas

    March 29, 2008 06:18 am

    I do a lot of local rock band photos. What is best lense for low light clubs and fast moving band member subjects? i have a canon rebel cuz it takes the hard knocks pretty well and am using the standard lense that came with it. I am just using a lot of settings to see what works best but want to get a better lense. any help/opinion is appreciated. P.S. I am having fun too!!!

  • Ryan Slander

    March 29, 2008 04:52 am

    Nice set of articles from Neil. But I agree that the diagrams are in fact a little misleading.

    I have a few questions though for ecm:

    1) ecm wrote: "In all cases the image of the tree does come into focus at difference distances, but never on the focal plane (unless the tree is at an infinite distance)"

    What exactly do you mean when you say that the image never comes into focus on the focal plane (film)? Isn't the whole point to get it focused on the focal plane? Or did I misunderstand what you wrote there?

    2) When you try to take a picture of an object at infinity (e.g the sun) all light converges to a single point - the focal point. Where does the focal plane need to be? I.e can the focal plane come anywhere after the focal point (or to paraphrase that – does it make sense to, or is there such thing as, "focus" an object at infinity)?

    3) ecm wrote: "In a camera the distance between the lens and the image plane is fixed. This means that if we want to look at things at different distances we need to change the focal length, in order to have them all focus on the same plane."

    This is interesting. Does this mean that the image size, in a real camera, is always fixed, and doesn't change whether I take a nearby or far away object? (as opposed to all those diagrams on optics showing that the image size changes when the distance of the object - or focal point, hence lens - is changed)

    4) ecm wrote: "However cameras have several lenses, and by changing the distance between them we can make the equivalent focal point of the system change position too."

    I never really thought about camera lenses this way. Thanks ecm for your feedback.

  • ecm

    March 28, 2008 01:12 pm

    NormMonkey, the diagram with the tree moving closer to the lens is in the previous lecture, Fig 1.2.6.

    And there is no problem with imagining a different lens for each slide. The problem is that in all cases the distance between the lens and the image is labeled "focal length". And that, simply, is NOT the focal length.

  • jasmin

    March 28, 2008 12:56 pm

    Almost done w/ the homework. Where do we post? =)

  • NormMonkey

    March 28, 2008 11:00 am

    ecm wrote:
    "The focal length of a lens is fixed, it depends only on the material of the lens and its internal and external curvature radius. ... Your diagram in last lesson shows the focal length changing as the tree moves closer. This is not true. The focal point (where the horizontal rays cross each other) stays always at the same place."

    I think the point Neil's making is that if you change the focal length, then the field of view changes and the image on the sensor plane gets smaller.

    I think we're to imagine that the lens is being changed between each slide to one with a different focal length. In the animated diagram, he even shows the shape of the lens changing between slides. (I hadn't noticed that before, good attention to detail, Neil!)

    Also, he's not showing the tree moving closer in any of the diagrams. In each diagram, the object tree is the upright one on the left and the image of the tree projected on the sensor plane is the upside-down one on the right.

    Hopefully that clarifies the lesson a bit.

  • NormMonkey

    March 28, 2008 10:51 am

    Stephon wrote:
    "Can someone clarify the f-ratio on the front of my lens? I have a Canon S3IS and the front of the lens is printed with “1:2.7-3.5″. What does the 1 refer to and why does the camera list a range that is shorter than what I actually can use (the S3 can have a max aperture of f8?)"

    Hi Stephon,

    1:2.7-3.5 is a standard way for lens manufacturers to say "this lens has a wide-open f-ratio (or f-number, same thing) of f/2.7 through f/3.5.

    Why does it have a minimum range instead of a single value? Zoom lenses don't have a fixed focal length (nor a fixed entrance pupil). Your lens's focal length can zoom from 6mm to 72mm (from your picture). So for your lens the wide-open aperture at 6mm is f/2.7, and as you zoom from there to 72mm the wide-open aperture decreases to f/3.5.

    Of course, if you choose a narrower aperture like f/8, it can do that throughout the zoom range. The markings show you the wide-open aperture range so that you know how fast the lens is.

  • Dave S

    March 28, 2008 06:54 am

    This is a great lesson. It's great to understand some of these relationships, even if it only serves to explain why those telephoto L's are so expensive! ;-)

    thanks!
    ds

  • Dustin Diaz

    March 28, 2008 06:44 am

    Where do I find the diameter number (not focal length)? And is it on the body of the camera, or the lens?

  • ecm

    March 28, 2008 05:05 am

    Hi Neil,

    very nice tutorial you have here. Thanks a lot for the effort. However I have noticed that all your lens diagrams have a problem with their "definition" of focal length. It is not the distance between the lens and the image.

    The focal length of a lens is fixed, it depends only on the material of the lens and its internal and external curvature radius. It does not change when the tree moves closer or farther away from the lens. In all cases the image of the tree does come into focus at difference distances, but never on the focal plane (unless the tree is at an infinite distance). For finding out the focal length, you need to look at the horizontal light rays traveling from the top and bottom of the tree. After passing the lens they bend, and the point where they cross is the focal point. (Focal length is defined as the distance between the lens and the focal point). Afterwards they keep traveling for a while until reaching the plane of the image.

    Your diagram in last lesson shows the focal length changing as the tree moves closer. This is not true. The focal point (where the horizontal rays cross each other) stays always at the same place.

    In a camera the distance between the lens and the image plane is fixed. This means that if we want to look at things at different distances we need to change the focal length, in order to have them all focus on the same plane. With one lens this is not possible. However cameras have several lenses, and by changing the distance between them we can make the equivalent focal point of the system change position too. The focal length changes so that the image stays in the same place (in your diagrams you are defining focal length as the distance between lens and image, which is fixed for any camera!).

    I hope I have managed to explain it. I did not mean to criticize your lessons in any way, I think you are doing a great job and that's why I'd like to see that it stays accurate.

    Thanks again and keep up the good work!

  • Stephon

    March 28, 2008 04:18 am

    Can someone clarify the f-ratio on the front of my lens? I have a Canon S3IS and the front of the lens is printed with "1:2.7-3.5". What does the 1 refer to and why does the camera list a range that is shorter than what I actually can use (the S3 can have a max aperture of f8?

    http://a.img-dpreview.com/news/0602/canon/canon_s3is_frontback.jpg

  • mike

    March 28, 2008 03:35 am

    I'm going to also say thanks for posting these lessons. I'm developing (boo) my skills behind the camera in earnest this year, and as soon as I figure out how to compile images (photoshop?), I'll be posting the homework.

    Thanks again!

  • NormMonkey

    March 28, 2008 03:34 am

    For simple 1-element lenses the focal-length to diameter ratio applies, but not so for the complex lenses we have on our cameras.

    The F-ratio is the ratio of focal length to entrance pupil. For a 1-element lens, the entrance pupil *is* the diameter of the lens. For a complex lens system, elements within the lens restrict the entrance pupil.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number

    I point this out in case anybody decides to look at their 14mm lens with its 50mm diameter front element, and then gets confused when they find a maximum F-number of f/0.28 - as I did when I first explored F-ratios d:)

    Instead, with a 14mm lens whose wide open f/number is f/2.8, somewhere inside the lens there's an entrance pupil of 5mm.

    These tutorials are awesome. Many thanks, Neil, for taking the time and effort to write all this stuff up for the benefit of all DPSers.

  • Mandy

    March 28, 2008 01:56 am

    Wow that really brings the first three lessons together and helps join a lot of dots up for me.

    The explanation and the diagrams work very well together.

    Although with being new to learning these subjects I did have to read through a couple of times for it to sink in!

    This course has brought on my understanding of fundamental photography no end,thank you and I'm really looking forward to next week...

  • Dot Dion

    March 28, 2008 12:49 am

    Hi
    Please keep on sending us these lessons. They are absolutely priceless. I appreciate each and everyone of them, and enjoy doing the experiments which are really helping me learn the right way.

    Being handicapped body wise, I am very slow at doing these lessons and have not yet posted any results. I do understand the concept of what is being explained, and even though I have not posted any results I will try and do my best to upload my results in the near future.
    Thank you for having me in this class.

    Now for a stupid question. Is it possible for you to give me the link to the forum where I am supposed to send in the url of where I have uploaded. There are so many forums I would not wish to send to the wrong one.
    Dot

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