How much light does your lens let in?

All the shots in this post were taken at ISO 640, 1/50th of a second. The shot above shows this image taken with the Nikon lens we’ve been discussing at its widest aperture for this zoom level, which is f/5.0. Neither of these first two images has been manipulated or edited except to resize them – this is straight out of the camera.

Here’s the same Foo Dog (the name of this piece of art) taken with the same light. Because the aperture was set to f/2.8, a lot more light came in, and she is easy to see.

If you study the two images, you will see that at f/5.0, more of the Foo Dog is in focus. The larger the aperture, the more shallow the depth of field. In the bottom image, the camera is tack-sharp at about her shoulders. Her face is closer to the focal point, and is just a little out of focus. By the time you get as far away as her back right foot, she’s really blurry. Even her tail is showing some lack of definition. Her tail is about 5 centimeters further away from the camera than her shoulder, so it doesn’t take a lot of distance to show some blur. Look at the wall behind the Foo Dog in these two images, and the bottom image is a lot softer, which I prefer. Still, more of the sculpture in the top photo is in focus, and because of that, you might prefer the top image.

Can it be rescued?

It can. I took these images in the camera’s RAW setting, which saves a lot more information about each pixel in the file. Because of that, the shadows are stored with great detail… meaning I can lighten them without losing much of the beautiful colors the artist used on this piece. In this case, I increased exposure, reduced highlights, lowered the blacks, added some fill light to keep her belly from being in full shadow, bumped up the brightness, changed the orange spectrum of the image to be more yellow, and brightened the oranges and yellows. The image is a little grainy after all those tweaks, but not too bad.  Here’s the original Nikon lens image, after all those edits.

To truly fix this image, I would retake it. I’d put the camera on a tripod and shoot it with no camera movement at all. Still, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out. What do you think?


  1. I always love taking pictures in different f-stops, and then seeing what kind of surprise I get for a an image to develop. I’m not tech savvy enough to tweak the images myself, though. I like the lighting in the last image, but I’ve always been a fan of a blurred background for some reason. Have you thought about mixing the two?

  2. Guys mix 3 exposure low expose, normal expose and an over expose image… Use Photomatix… HDR image… much more better.
    But I like the last one here… looks perfect.
    Liewilyn Baynosa recently posted How to add a logo for your photos

  3. Renee @ Car Title Loans says:

    The coils on his back turned out amazing. I like the last photo!

  4. James Lee says:


  5. June @ Therapist New York says:

    I’m going to have to bookmark this page, I want eventually get a nice camera because I’m working on a food blog and need to be able to take good pictures of the food, some of which will not be in optimal lighting (you know how restaurants like to create ambience!). Good info here.

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