Intermediate Digital Photography, Week One
Handholding, Sports, Dragging and Layers
Conejo Valley Adult School

Review of Beginning Digital Photography Class (what I'm assumed you already know).
If 4 or more of the below are unknown to you, consider signing up for my Beginning Class:

  • How and why/when to change ISO speed on your digital camera
  • How and why/when to use "S" Mode (Tv mode on Canon), or scene modes to control speed on point and shoot cameras
  • How and when/why to change your camera's file size (resolution)
  • How to turn your camera's flash to "always on" and "always off"
  • How to set your camera's white balance to either automatic or a preset (such as sunlight or fluorescent)
  • The visual perspective difference between shooting closeup with a wide angle lens and from a distance with a telephoto lens


Using your choice of image software or print ordering system (Costco, KodakGallery, etc):

  • How to rotate an image file
  • How to crop an image file
  • Difference between a Jpg and Tif file
  • How to brighten or darken a file (levels)
  • How to color correct a file (make the image more blue or less green, color variations)
  • How to reduce a large file to a smaller 96dpi email file

Course Outline:

  • Instructor: Tom Ferguson
  • Week #1: Hand holdable shutter speed, panning, sports shooting and Photoshop Elements layers.
  • Week #2: Advanced depth of field, filters, color theory, pre-visualization and digital book layouts.
  • Week #3: Advanced flash, bouncing light, portrait lighting and slideshows.
  • Week #4: Framing for display, hot lights, background systems, still lifes and an intro to webpages,

Homework Assignments:

Week 1, 2 and 3 will each have a homework assignment. You will need to shoot the assignment and bring from 2 to 5 finished prints to class. The prints can be any size from 4x6 inches to 8x10 inches. Please limit your subject matter to "G or PG" rated images. They will be shared with the class.

Camera and Manual

Please bring both your digital camera and its manual to class each week.


  • DPreview (Tom's favorite camera review & info site)
  • DPreview Forums (great peer to peer help)
  • Imaging Resource (another review & info site)
  • Samy's Camera (Retail store with LOTS of gear to touch and try):
    431 S Fairfax Ave, LA, CA  90036  Between Wilshire and 3rd Street (323)938-2420
    614 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (805) 963-7269
  • Hooper Camera (a good local Thousand Oaks store)
       616 E Thousand Oaks Blvd (805) 494-3080


Week #1 Handholding, Sports, Dragging and Layers

Hand Holdable Shutter Speeds:

  • Concept of "35mm equivalents" for lenses
  • 1/focal length is minimum, so 50mm lens requires 1/50 second or faster (1/100, 1/200)
  • Wider lenses allow slower, 28mm lens requires 1/28 or faster (1/30, 1/60)
  • Telephoto lenses require more speed, 200mm requires 1/200 or faster (1/400, 1/800)
  • Use higher ISO to get faster shutter speed
  • Flash is very fast (1/250 to 1/2000)


  • Keep subject in same viewfinder position during pan
  • Squeeze shutter button softly
  • Continue pan for a second or two after exposure
  • Motion blur is now on background, rather than subject
  • As with regular/static shooting, slower shutter gives more motion



Sports Shooting

  • Flash generally unhelpful due to distance
  • Decide before shot if you want "Stop Motion", static camera "Motion Blur" or "Panning"
  • Variety of sizes / types, must be matched to your camera body

Dragging Shutter with Flash

  • Many cameras default to a shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/125 for flash, even in a dark room or outside in the dark
  • Most flash units only last between 1/250 and 1/2000 of a second
  • Leaving your shutter open longer than your flash doesn't change how much light you get from the flash
  • Leaving your shutter open longer than the flash DOES change how much "Existing Light" you capture in the scene
  • Watch for handshake induced blur with long shutter drags
  • Some digital cameras now adjust this automatically, some point and shoot digital cameras have a "Night Scene" mode that adjusts for this


dragged shutter and flash

Density Range

  • Cameras (digital or film) can only record a small range of the light to darkness we can see
  • RAW files record a larger range than JPG
  • Digital camera recorded "blown out" whites are not recoverable
  • Usually it is better to underexpose (dark image) than overexpose (light image)


CVAS Computer Intro and Photoshop Elements

  • Photoshop Elements 8 will be use in this class. This is a great program for consumers. Reasonably priced at about $90. It is available for both Mac and PC. It reads most RAW formats. Good selection of books and tutorials available. If you ever want the full "pro" version of Photoshop, the transition will be easier. Current version is 9 for PC or Mac. CVAS Elements classes use V8
  • Other options: full version of Photoshop (flexible, but expensive), the software often supplied free with your camera (varies from good to terrible), Picasa is free from Google (Windows only), Gimp open source project (Mac and Windows), ACDSee (Windows only), IrfanView (Windows only), Graphic Converter (Mac Only).


Photoshop Elements Layers

  1. Launch Adobe Photoshop Elements 8
  2. Select "Edit" mode in first screen
  3. Make sure you are "Edit Full" rather then "Edit Quick" mode (in upper right of screen)
  4. Open file "5-1-kayaking.jpg"
  5. On the Menu Bar, click Window, then Layers (if Layers is not already checked). If needed, make space for the Layers panel by clicking the down arrows to hide other panels
  6. Notice that there just one layer, named "Background"
  7. Open file "5-2-group.jpg". You now have two files open and viewable. You can move the files with the title bars. Make sure both images are visible
  8. Click on file "5-2-group" to make it active. Click and hold on this file's thumbnail in the layers panel
  9. Without releasing the mouse, drag the thumbnail onto the other file (5-1-kayak)
  10. Notice that file 5-1-kayak now contains both images and that the layers pallet now shows 2 thumbnails
  11. Click the "Eyeball" next to the two thumbnails in the layers panel and notice that it turns on and off the individual layers
  12. Select the "Move Tool" (top tool in the toolbar), make sure the top thumbnail in the layers pallet is selected,. You can now move the image from file 5-2-group
  13. With the "Move Tool" still active and the thumbnail from 5-2-group still selected in the layers pallet, click on the image from 5-2-group and notice the "Bounding Box". Drag a corner of the bounding box to adjust that layers size and/or drag the extended circle to rotate the image
  14. With the thumbnail from 5-2-group still selected in the layers pallet, adjust the "Opacity" number at the top of the layers pallet to make that layer partially transparent
  15. Repeat steps 7 - 14 with file "5-3-grove.jpg". Notice that you now have three layers
  16. Notice that if you have the images overlapping, they follow the order in the layers panel. What is "on top" in the layers panel is "on top" in the image
  17. In the layers panel. grab the thumbnail from 5-2-group and pull it above the thumbnail from 5-3-grove. Notice that the 5-2-group image is now "on top"

Photoshop Elements Rectangle Tool and Feathering

  1. Use the rectangle tool to select most (not all) of a layer
  2. Invert the selection (Selection > Invert), You have now "selected" everything except the center of your layer's image
  3. Feather the selection (Select > Feather). 16 pixels is a good starting number for a noticeably soft selection.
  4. Cut of the "soft" edges off your layer Edit > Cut


HOMEWORK (3 prints):

  • One or more prints using the panning technique
  • One or more prints shot outdoors in dim light or in a LARGE dark room, showing the use of a dragged shutter
  • One or more prints including multiple layers.


Class Index   |   Class 1   |   Class 2   |   Class 3   |   Class 4