66 | PhotoPlus June 2014

Skills Exposure settings
Location and subject
For our shoot we visited Cotswold Wildlife Park
in Oxfordshire. Wildlife portraits are great for
demonstrating how the aperture affects depth of field;
you’ll generally want a wide aperture, somewhere
between f/2.8 and f/5.6, in order to capture a shallow
depth of field that makes subjects stand out from
surroundings that are often ‘busy’ and similar in colour.
Aperture Priority mode
To get to grips with aperture without having to
worry about the shutter speed, set your D-SLR
to Aperture Priority mode – Av on your camera’s mode
dial. The great thing about Aperture Priority mode is
that you can take full control of the aperture setting,
and the camera will set an appropriate shutter speed
to deliver a well-exposed image.
Aperture and depth of field
To understand how aperture affects depth of
field, start by selecting the widest aperture
available (the smallest f number). Take a shot, stop
down to a medium aperture such as f/8 or f/11 and take
another shot, then dial in a narrow setting such as f/22
and take another – you’ll see a big difference between
the shots in terms of how much of the scene is in focus.
Shutter speed and ISO
For optimum image quality set the ISO to 100.
The camera will set the shutter speed, but if
you’re shooting handheld you’ll need to keep an eye
on the shutter speed to ensure it’s fast enough to avoid
camera shake and capture sharp shots. If your shots
are coming out blurry, you can increase the ISO to get
a faster shutter speed at a given aperture setting.
Clone out distractions
Duplicate the ‘Background’ layer. The foliage in
front of the red panda’s face is distracting, so take
the Spot Healing Brush tool and zoom in on this area.
Tick Content Aware, and set the brush size to around
70 pixels. To clone out a long stalk, click at one end of it,
then hold down Shift and click at the other end to clone
out the whole stalk in one go.
Aperture values are
measured in f-stops,
also referred to as
f-numbers; f/2.8, f/4,
f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16,
f/22 and so on. Moving
from one f-stop to the
next doubles or halves
the amount of light
entering your camera.
Shutter speeds
operate on the same
principle, so if you
narrow the aperture by
one stop, you’ll need to
slow the shutter speed
by one stop, say from
1/100 sec to 1/50 sec,
to record the same
exposure. The amount
of light entering the
camera will be the
same at 1/250 sec and
f/5.6 as at 1/125 sec
and f/8, for example.
‘Fast’ lenses
You’ll often see lenses
referred to as ‘fast’ or
‘slow’. How fast a lens
is depends on its
maximum aperture
setting, and a lens
with a wide maximum
aperture, such as f/1.4
or f/2, is called a fast
lens because it enables
you to capture a good
exposure while using
relatively fast shutter
speeds to prevent
camera shake, which
is a benefit if you’re
shooting handheld
or in low lighting. Fast
lenses also enable you
to capture a shallower
depth of field than
standard lenses, so
they’re popular for
portrait photography.
Phrase Book
ACR adjustments
Open the start image in ACR. On the Basic panel
set Temperature to 4650 to warm up the image,
and set Exposure to +0.55 to brighten it. Set Shadows
to +54 and Blacks to +43 to lighten the shadowed
areas, and set Contrast to +9, Clarity to +23 and
Vibrance to +38 to boost the contrast and colour. Click
Open to open the image in Elements’ main editor.
PhotoPlus June 2014 | 67
Clone Stamp tool
To remove the foliage obscuring the more detailed
areas of the panda’s face select the Clone Stamp
tool. Make the brush a little bigger than the area you
want to retouch, then Alt-click to sample ‘clean’ areas
of fur, and click-and-drag to clone these over the foliage.
Dodge the shadows

Take the Crop tool, select Use Photo Ratio from
the Crop menu, and crop in to remove some of
the foliage on the left and make the panda larger in the
frame. To bring out more detail in the dark fur, select
the Dodge tool. Set Range to Shadows and Exposure to
15%, and dodge the darkest shadows, then set Range
to Midtones and dodge the lighter areas of shadow.
Add a vignette
Next we’ll add a vignette to darken the corners
of the image and help draw the eye to the subject.
Go to Filter > Correct Camera Distortion, set Vignette
Amount to -43 and Midpoint to +35, and click OK to
apply. Add a Levels adjustment layer, and set the
Shadows slider to 9, Midtones to 1.04 and Highlights
to 237 to boost the contrast.
Sharpen the shot

Add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer,
and set both Brightness and Contrast to 6.
Next target the top layer, and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E
to create a merged layer containing all the visible layer
content and effects. Go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask,
set Amount to 64%, Radius to 2 pixels and Threshold
to 2, and click OK.
It’s not just
the aperture
setting that affects
the depth of field – the
focal length of your
lens also plays a role,
with longer focal
lengths producing a
shallower depth of
field. This is because,
compared to short
zoom settings, at
longer focal lengths
the frame will be filled
with a smaller area
of background, and
so any background
blur will be
magnified too.
A combination
of a wide
aperture and a long
focal length will create
a shallow depth of field
that will knock the
background out of
focus, but you still
need to think about
the background, and
how far your subject
is from it. The further
a subject is from its
background the
more you’ll blur the
background, but
unless you’re working
with an obedient pet
you can’t position
animals exactly where
you want them,so
you’ll need to think
about the angle and
viewpoint you’re
shooting from.
Super Tip!
Super Tip!
How aperture affects depth of field
Only the subject’s face is fully
sharp – areas such as the rear
legs are slightly out of focus
Next issue Master shutter speed for great action shots
Most of the scene is sharp, with
only very near or distant areas
noticeably out of focus
Subject is sharp, and foreground
and background areas are
progressively defocused

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