A Book on Photography

11th Edition, November 2019

By David Salomon. A free eBook with 710 Figures. xxi+1201 pages, available here.

From the Preface

Goal of the Book

The fact that current compact cameras produce good (or at least, adequate) pictures in most photographic situations is at the root of this book. The main aim of the book is to show how such a camera can be operated and its controls tweaked to cover many different photographic conditions and requirements. (To put it another way, the chief goal of the book is to convince the reader that large, expensive cameras are absolutely necessary in only rare situations.) In addition, this book discusses the science of photography--including topics such as optics, lenses, colors, human vision, image sensors, exposure, and white balance--and explains the main types of cameras. Mathematics is used whenever it helps to illustrate a term or a concept, because it is my belief that the use of mathematics may greatly illuminate many subjects. However, the mathematical background required is minimal and is limited to angles, similar triangles, and basic algebraic manipulations.

Organization and Features

Chapter 1 concentrates on the basic concepts behind photography, namely light, the eye, color, and geometrical optics. The latter topic includes refraction, prisms, and lenses.

Chapter 2 explains how a basic digital camera works and follows with a discussion of basic photographic terms such as exposure, f-stop, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and auto-focus.

Chapter 3 is devoted to the principal types of digital cameras. This includes digital- single-lens-reflex (DSLR), twin-lens-reflex (TLR), digital-single-lens-mirrorless (DSLM and MILC), rangefinder, bridge, micro four thirds (MFT) (Section 3.9), compact (point- and-shoot), and special types of cameras such as ultraviolet, infrared, 360 panoramic cameras, and 3D cameras.

Chapter 4 describes two compact cameras and shows how to use them in many practical situations. The goal of the chapter is to convince the reader that the compact cameras currently available can, especially with the help of extra software, offer serious competition to their more sophisticated (and also bigger, heavier, and more expensive) cousins the DSLRs and MILCs. The reader will learn, among others, how to obtain a shallow or a large depth-of-field (Section 2.6) by controlling the aperture size and how to handle situations with high dynamic range. (HDR, Section 4.6, is a measure of the lightest to the darkest tones in an image. HDR is important where the subject had very bright and very dark parts and we want all their details to appear in the final image.) How to shoot when motion is detected (Section 4.10), how to shoot a time-lapse sequence of images (Section 4.3), and how to mount detachable wide-angle and telephoto lenses in addition to the original, non-interchangeable lens of the camera. The chapter also shows how many Canon compact cameras, even old models, can be given a new life and coerced to perform "miracles" such as the following: (1) Work in shutter-priority and aperture priority modes, (2) output raw image files in addition to the standard JPEG, (3) work with very fast (in some cases up to 1/8000 s) and very slow (up to 64 s) shutter speeds, (4) display RGB color histograms, (5) detect motion, (6) take a group of exposure-bracketing photos, and (7) use the built-in timer to reduce camera shake and vibrations.

Chapter 5 is a detailed discussion of the important concept of high dynamic range (HDR). The term "dynamic range" is defined, the HDR problem is explained, and it is shown how to shoot a sequence of bracketed HDR images either handheld or with a tripod. The chapter continues with descriptions of the two main approaches to HDR, namely exposure fusion and tone mapping.

Chapter 6 is an extensive summary of the history of photography. Individual sections are devoted to the most important milestones in the development of photography. There are short biographies of eminent photographers, a list of historically-important photographs, and a detailed timeline of photography.

Chapter 7 covers several topics and techniques used in the important field of computational photography. Most of this chapter is devoted to traditional methods of image manipulation and processing, but it also includes descriptions of several new, "magical" algorithms that produce unexpected (and often unbelievable) results.

Chapter 8 is about image composition. It describes the important methods for composing images, and illustrates each with examples.

Appendix A lists and explains the controls found on two modern cameras.

Appendix B is a glossary of photographic terms.

Appendix C is a list of the important features buyers should look for in compact
cameras. This material is especially relevant to those who are looking to purchase such a camera.

Appendix D discusses legal issues that should interest any photographer or would-be photographer.

The remaining appendixes are for mathematically-savvy readers who would like to understand the details of the JPEG algorithm, how a lens is shaped, and what exactly is a pixel.

Appendix E tries to explain the basic steps of the JPEG algorithm in a non-mathematical language. This material is intended for readers who are interested in more than just using a camera and obtaining great pictures. This material is followed by a description of the TIFF file format.

Appendix F employs several mathematical techniques and approaches to analyze the behavior of spherical lenses and derive the equation of an aspherical lens.

Finally, Appendix G discusses pixels, their meaning and how to interpolate them.

Target Audiences

I planned this book for those interested in digital photography and cameras in general, who are not afraid to learn and understand technical topics. The book discusses many technical subjects in depth and it does not hesitate to use mathematics when needed. On the other hand, there isn’t much about the important topic of image composition and there aren’t many large, beautiful photos. In this respect, the book is different from the many other books on photography available today.

A disclaimer. As new editions of this book come out, the book gets not only bigger, but more inclusive. More and more topics, concepts, and techniques are described, but it is important to realize that the book is not complete and never will be. Because of the nature of digital photography (it is controlled by software, which makes it possible to add features without adding hardware) and the wide interest in photography, new cameras, lenses, accessories, and software appear all the time. Thus, if you cannot find a favorite topic in the book, simply write to me and you may find it in a future edition.


I would like to thank Nelson Beebe for many suggestions, improvements, and error corrections. His help has been invaluable.

I welcome any comments, suggestions and corrections. They should be emailed to [email protected]. An errata list and other information may later be added to this website.


Any comments, suggestions, and corrections are welcome and should be emailed to the author at [email protected] However, if you notice something missing, consider the following quote (from Mark Twain) “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.”

Book Cover

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction 1

1 Light and Optics 59
1.1 Light and Color 59
1.2 Color and the Eye 61
1.3 Color and Human Vision 62
1.4 Color Spaces 74
1.5 Converting Color to Grayscale 79
1.6 Luminance 81
1.7 Human Vision vs. a Camera 82
1.8 Optics 85
1.9 Mirrors in Photography 89
1.10 Refraction 96
1.11 The Pentaprism 102
1.12 Lenses 103
1.13 Compound Lenses 111
1.14 Zooming and Zoom Lenses 113
1.15 Macro Lenses 120
1.16 Fisheye Lenses 121
1.17 Fisheye Projection 124
1.18 Poor Man's Fisheye 128
1.19 Tilt-Shift Lenses 128
1.20 Anti-Reflection Coatings 135
1.21 Lens Aberrations 137
1.22 Printing Resolution, ppi and dpi 140
1.23 Halftoning 145
1.24 Dithering 147
1.25 Printers and the Longevity of Prints 157

2 Digital Cameras 165
2.1 Basic Components 165
2.2 The Viewfinder and Camera Types 167
2.3 The Shutter 173
2.4 F-Stops and Lens Speed 196
2.5 Aperture 216
2.6 Depth-of-Field 220
2.7 Depth-of-Field Equations 233
2.8 ISO and Image Noise 249
2.9 Exposure Review 260
2.10 Exposure Values 265
2.11 Image Sensors 270
2.12 White Balance 301
2.13 Output Files 305
2.14 Focusing, Manual and Automatic 313
2.15 Light Metering 337
2.16 Exposure Compensation 341
2.17 The Histogram 343
2.18 Lenses 354
2.19 Macro Photography 364
2.20 Accessories 366
2.21 ND Filters and Long Exposures 377

3 Camera Types 389
3.1 Pinhole Cameras 389
3.2 Single Lens Reflex 392
3.3 Single Lens Translucent 397
3.4 Twin Lens Reflex 398
3.5 Rangefinder 400
3.6 View Cameras 403
3.7 Mirrorless (MILC) 406
3.8 Bridge Cameras 410
3.9 Micro Four Thirds (MFT) 411
3.10 Compact Cameras 426
3.11 Action Cameras 432
3.12 Specialty Cameras 434
3.13 Infrared Cameras 441
3.14 Night Vision Cameras 443
3.15 3D Cameras 446
3.16 Panoramic Cameras 450
3.17 Miniature Cameras 460
3.18 Dash Cameras 461
3.19 Security Cameras 468
3.20 Drone Cameras 471
3.21 The L16 Multi-Aperture Camera 474

4 Compact Cameras 485
4.1 CHDK 486
4.2 Overrides in CHDK 497
4.3 Time-Lapse and CHDK 500
4.4 CHDK Intervalometer Script Examples 505
4.5 The Intervalometer as a Script 507
4.6 HDR 509
4.7 HDR with CHDK; No Script 512
4.8 HDR of a Single Photograph 515
4.9 HDR Algorithms 515
4.10 CHDK Motion Detection 522
4.11 USB Remote 524
4.12 Zeikos lenses 527

5 High Dynamic Range 533
5.1 Definitions and Units of HDR 534
5.2 The HDR Problem 537
5.3 Shooting HDR Bracketed Images 542
5.4 Exposure Fusion 548
5.5 HDR Radiance Maps 551
5.6 Tone Mapping 554
5.7 HDR Software 559
5.8 Floating-Point Numbers 560

6 History of Photography 565
6.1 Early Attempts 567
6.2 Plates, Wet and Dry 603
6.3 George Eastman and Kodak 615
6.4 Leica and 35 mm Photography 625
6.5 SLRs, Nikon, Canon, and Pentax 629
6.6 The Digital Revolution 648
6.7 History of Smartphone Cameras 651
6.8 Distinguished Photographers 659
6.9 First-in-Class Photographs 719
6.10 History of Photography Timeline 733
7 Computational Photography 755
7.1 Point Operations 759
7.2 Image Blending 767
7.3 Filters 770
7.4 Edge Detection 778
7.5 The Hough Transform 786
7.6 Edge Sharpening 790
7.7 Morphological Filters 792
7.8 Discrete Convolution 796
7.9 Dual Photography 804
7.10 Light Field (Plenoptic) Cameras 809
7.11 The Discrete Fourier Transform 822
7.12 Coded Aperture 833
7.13 HDR+ and its Relatives 840
7.14 Face Detection 849

8 Image Composition 855
8.1 Rules of Image Composition 858
8.2 Ideas for Great Photographs 863
8.3 Natural Lighting and Photography 920
8.4 The Main Compositional Elements 938
8.5 The Direction of the Light 949
8.6 Fill The Frame 953
8.7 The Rule of Thirds (R.O.T.) 953
8.8 Locating Good Scenes 956
8.9 Seeing 957
8.10 Building Blocks of Good Scenes 958

A Camera Controls 969
A.1 Canon EOS 5D Controls 970
A.2 Panasonic DMC-G7 Controls 976
A.3 Camera Menus 981

B Glossary of Photographic Terms 987

C Compact Cameras Feature Guide 1005
C.1 Good and Bad 1006
C.2 Main Features 1006
C.3 Advanced Features 1014

D Legal Issues 1017
D.1 Public and Private Places 1018
D.2 Privacy Issues 1020
D.3 Restrictions on Subjects 1022
D.4 Protect Your Work 1028

E JPEG and TIFF 1033
E.1 Image Redundancy 1033
E.2 Image Types 1035
E.3 Summary of JPEG 1036
E.4 Image Transforms 1040
E.5 TIFF 1051
E.6 Facsimile Compression 1053
E.7 PackBits Compression 1057

F The Shape of a Lens 1059
F.1 Spherical Lenses 1061
F.2 Aspherical Lenses 1067

G Pixels 1083
G.1 Point Samples 1083
G.2 Real Optical Devices 1086
G.3 Pixel Interpolation 1087
G.4 Replicating Rows/Cols 1089
G.5 Replicating Pixels 1089
G.6 More About Image Scaling 1091
G.7 Bilinear Interpolation 1094
G.8 Bicubic Interpolation 1095
G.9 The Sampling Theorem 1101

References 1109

Answers to Exercises 1121

Index 1165


What I have to say about this book can be found inside the book. --Albert Einstein

Last Updated 23Nov 2019