Camera Operation Exercise

Depth of Field and Shutter: controls, physics, and strategies

Catching light in a box

What you should know about your camera:
Explore the controls menus so you can set the resolution and the format-RAW, JPEG, or both.
Set the ISO and white balance. Find the mode switch for manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and program.

Find the controls to turn auto-focus on and off, and stabilization, if you have it.

The Internet is alive with photo tutorials. You can find several versions of every technique. One is bound to make sense.

Here are some sources you might try out:

The Slo-Mo Guys show how shutters work

Vimeo school’s choosing a camera:

Skills used in this exercise


Depth of field

Modes of operation

Stabilization options

Exposure Triangle


Become familiar with the language of compositions. Refer to Vimeoschool,
The typical terms are:

  1. Wide shot
  2. Medium shot
  3. Close-up shot
  4. Extreme close-up of details; i.e. hands, tools, feet, etc.

The shutter and aperture relationship

The lens aperture controls the depth of field, or depth of focus. The shutter controls the length of time for the exposure.

A bigger f-stop number=smaller aperture opening. The typical full stop numbers are 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, and 32. You double, or halve, the shutter speeds for each f-stop change.

The exposures should retain the same brightness if you change both aperture and shutter in full stops.

For example: if you shot at f5.6 with 1/30 sec. shutter, switching to f8 would require 1/15 sec.; f11 would require 1/8 sec.; and f16 would require 1/4...and so on.

Examine the effect f-stops have on your images. How did the sharpness vary? Take note of the shutter speed; how much does the subject or camera movement during the shutter opening affect the sharpness of the images?

The Exercise: create test shots

Work with 4 or 5 teammates to shoot these exercises. Take turns shooting and being the models. The goal is everyone in the group can operate the camera controls and can get a sign-off on the skills list for those items.

Take turns with these set-ups to allow everyone a chance to shoot their own examples of the shots described below.

Choose a location to shoot where you have plenty of depth; at least 15 feet. Using a tripod-mounted camera with manual controls. Set the ISO, shutter and aperture to create these demonstration shots:

Depth of field series

Arrange the models from close to far from the camera.

  1. Everyone is in pretty sharp focus. (Small f-stop)
  2. The person nearest the camera is in sharp focus and the others are out of focus and blurry.

Shutter and motion series

Have the models move during the exposure; walking, turning, moving hands...don't get extreme and hurt someone.

  1. All motion in the scene is frozen and sharp.
  2. Background is sharp and the subject is in motion and blurred.
  3. Follow the motion with the camera so a walking subject is sharp and people in the background blur.

Place your 5 final shots into the InDesign template file provided in Pickup; and make a PDF-X1a to turn in to Dropoff.