Image Acquisition Workshop

Download this document as a pdf here.

Aspect Ratio

Photographs and video/film images are normally not square. They are either in 4:3 ratio, or 16:9 ratio. This means, in 4:3 ratio, the image is 4 units wide and 3 units high. These units can be any units, and although pixels are the norm in computing e.g. 640×480, 800×600 etc., it will depend on the format of the display / print (for example, inches / cm relative to paper size).

Subject / Setting

Images generally consist of a subject and a setting (a figure and a ground). What is the image of? Can you place a subject in a setting that draws the viewer’s attention to it? Or, do you want to hide the subject in some way?

The Rule of Thirds

When taking a photograph or some video, remember the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a handy way of creating a balanced image or composition: dividing the image up into segments helps you to place the information clearly in the frame. You should try to place the subject of your image (for example, a face) so that it is mainly (but not totally) in one of the three vertical OR horizontal columns.

Think about where you want the viewer to look !

Practice by drawing an image into this grid.

Types of shot:

There are several “types of shot’ that you can use as a guide when making images. Here’s a list of the most commonly used types of shot.

Wide shot (WS):
Wide shots tend to have small ‘subjects’. There is normally a large amount of small background detail. It gives the impression that you are a long way away. It is sometimes useful for setting a scene. In cinema, this is sometimes referred to as an ‘establishing shot’, as it establishes the setting.

Long shot (LS):

Long shots tend to feature the subject at a reasonable distance. If it’s a person, then the subject should be totally in frame (including their feet!).

Mid shot (MS):

A mid shot is tighter than a long shot, normally featuring half of the subject in a setting. If the subject is a person, then the top half of the body would normally be visible (including the head).

Medium close up (MCU):

This is often referred to as a ‘head and shoulders’ shot.

Close up (CU):

This is normally a shot of the face, hand, item or element of the subject which we want to draw attention to.

Extreme close up

(ECU): Type “Wayne’s world extreme close up” into Youtube.

Shots with two subjects:

Two-shot: This is a shot of two people, set against a background. The shot is normally at Mid Shot distance.

Over the Shoulder: This shot normally consists of a section from the back of one subjects head, and a good MCU or MS of the second subject on the opposite third of the screen.

Other common types of shots (often used in film and video, but sometimes in photostories):

Point of View: This shot, sometimes called the ‘peeping tom’ shot after Michael Powell’s film of the same name, attempts to show what someone else is seeing. Sometimes this involves hands, sometimes not.

Noddy Shot: This is normally an MCU or MS shot of a person who is not talking, but listening. It’s most often used to cover edits.

Cut-away: This can be a shot of anything, normally of something happening, that is used to cover edits, or enhance realism.

Using a Camera: Settings

Most cameras these days have automatic settings, such as focus areas, and exposure helpers. By far the best way of learning is to switch the camera to manual. You should spend some time familiarising yourself with the basic elements of the camera’s operation as it is not always possible to achieve good results with a camera on automatic.

The main features of a camera are as follows:

Zoom: This allows you to enlarge or shrink aspects of the image. If you have a choice, do not over-use the zoom. Instead, reposition yourself. This is good practice in general with standard camera lenses.

Focus: The camera will try to automatically focus on the closest defined subject. This is often not acceptable, particularly when there are lots of potential subjects, or low light. By manually adjusting the focus, you can bring the viewer’s attention to specific elements of your composition. You can also put the entire image in focus by using a technique called ‘back focus’. This involves zooming in to the farthest visible point, manually focussing, and then zooming out again. Your whole shot will now be in focus.

Exposure: This is how light or dark your image is. You need to get this right, as cameras do not have the same ‘latitude’ as the human eye – that is, if you place a piece of black card next to a piece of white card and take a photograph, most cameras will struggle to represent both tones correctly.

Depending on the exposure settings, it will either come out dark grey and white, or black and light grey.

This used to depend on the type of film and the size of the aperture. Light sensitive chips in the camera now control this. You should be aware that setting the exposure to automatic will often cause problems with the lighting of your shot – i.e. it will change from shot to shot. This is because the camera will keep attempting to judge the average light level and adjust the exposure accordingly.


1) In groups of 5, take 10 minutes to decide on a subject or topic that you would like to photograph. Choose from the categories below, or make something up yourself. If you can’t decide, take a vote.

a. A single person on their own.

b. Two people having a conversation.

c. Parts of the body (hands, faces, feet, hair etc.)

d. Items of clothing (hats, coats, shoes, rings, ties etc.)

e. A single building.

f. Parts of buildings (doors, windows, stairs).

g. An object or objects in a category (road signs, doorways, feathers, dead insects, coffee cups, used cigarettes).

Take 25 different pictures. Each person in the group must take 5 photographs. You have roughly 3-4 minutes for each individual shot. This is a long time.

Refer to the shot categories above for ideas. Make an effort to attempt to focus the camera yourself. Be aware of the exposure changing – try to control the light.

2) Connect the camera to your computer and upload the images to your home directory.

3) Make a WordPress post with your own images and a short (100 word) explanation of what you did.

4) Link to all the other members of your group in your post.

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF to