A Book on Photography

12th Edition, June 2020

By David Salomon. A free eBook with 756 Figures. xvii+1294 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 69

1.1 Light and Color 69
1.2 Color and the Eye 71
1.3 Color and Human Vision 72
1.4 Color Spaces 84
1.5 Color () Grayscale Conversion 93
1.6 Luminance 96
1.7 Human Vision vs. a Camera 99
1.8 Optics 102
1.9 Mirrors in Photography 106
1.10 Refraction 115
1.11 The Pentaprism 118
1.12 Lenses 120
1.13 Compound Lenses 126
1.14 Zooming and Zoom Lenses 130
1.15 Macro Lenses 137
1.16 Fisheye Lenses 138
1.17 Fisheye Projection 141
1.18 Poor Man's Fisheye 145
1.19 Tilt-Shift Lenses 145
1.20 Anti-Reflection Coatings 152
1.21 Lens Aberrations 154
1.22 Printing Images 157
1.23 Halftoning 175
1.24 Dithering 176
1.25 Printers and the Longevity of Prints 186

2 Digital Cameras 197

2.1 Basic Components 197
2.2 The Viewfinder and Camera Types 199
2.3 The Shutter 205
2.4 F-Stops and Lens Speed 230
2.5 Aperture 249
2.6 Depth-of-Field 253
2.7 Depth-of-Field Equations 267
2.8 ISO and Image Noise 283
2.9 Exposure Review 295
2.10 Exposure Values 300
2.11 Image Sensors 305
2.12 White Balance 346
2.13 Output Files 349
2.14 Focusing, Manual and Automatic 358
2.15 Light Metering 384
2.16 Exposure Compensation 388
2.17 The Histogram 390
2.18 Lenses 401
2.19 Macro Photography 411
2.20 Accessories 418
2.21 ND Filters and Long Exposures 429

3 Camera Types 443

3.1 Pinhole Cameras 443
3.2 Single Lens Reflex 446
3.3 Single Lens Translucent 451
3.4 Twin Lens Reflex 452
3.5 Rangefinder 454
3.6 View Cameras 457
3.7 Mirrorless (MILC) 460
3.8 Bridge Cameras 464
3.9 Micro Four Thirds (MFT) 465
3.10 Compact Cameras 480
3.11 Action Cameras 486
3.12 Specialty Cameras 488
3.13 Infrared Cameras 496
3.14 Night Vision Cameras 498
3.15 3D Cameras 501
3.16 Panoramic Cameras 505
3.17 Miniature Cameras 516
3.18 Dash Cameras 517
3.19 Security Cameras 524
3.20 Drone Cameras 527
3.21 The L16 Multi-Aperture Camera 531

4 Compact Cameras 543

4.1 CHDK 544
4.2 Overrides in CHDK 555
4.3 Time-Lapse and CHDK 558
4.4 CHDK Intervalometer Script Examples 565
4.5 The Intervalometer as a Script 568
4.6 HDR 569
4.7 HDR with CHDK; No Script 572
4.8 HDR Algorithms 575
4.9 CHDK Motion Detection 582
4.10 USB Remote 584
4.11 Zeikos lenses 587

5 High Dynamic Range 593

5.1 Definitions and Units of HDR 594
5.2 The HDR Problem 597
5.3 Shooting HDR Bracketed Images 602
5.4 Exposure Fusion 608
5.5 HDR Radiance Maps 611
5.6 Tone Mapping 614
5.7 HDR Time-Lapse 619
5.8 HDR Software 621
5.9 Floating-Point Numbers 622

6 History of Photography 627

6.1 The Main Question 628
6.2 Early Attempts 631
6.3 Plates, Wet and Dry 668
6.4 George Eastman and Kodak 680
6.5 Leica and 35 mm Photography 690
6.6 SLRs, Nikon, Canon, and Pentax 694
6.7 The Digital Revolution 713
6.8 History of Smartphone Cameras 718
6.9 Distinguished Photographers 724
6.10 First-in-Class Photographs 785
6.11 History of Photography Timeline 798

7 Computational Photography 819

7.1 Point Operations 823
7.2 Image Blending 831
7.3 Filters 834
7.4 Edge Detection 842
7.5 The Hough Transform 850
7.6 Edge Sharpening 854
7.7 Morphological Filters 856
7.8 Discrete Convolution 860
7.9 Dual Photography 868
7.10 Light Field (Plenoptic) Cameras 873
7.11 The Discrete Fourier Transform 886
7.12 Coded Aperture 897
7.13 HDR+ and its Relatives 904
7.14 Face Detection 913

8 Image Composition 919

8.1 The Basics 919
8.2 Rules of Image Composition 923
8.3 Ideas for Great Photographs 929
8.4 Natural Lighting and Photography 994
8.5 The Main Compositional Elements 1017
8.6 The Direction of the Light 1034
8.7 Fill The Frame 1038
8.8 The Rule of Thirds (R.O.T.) 1038
8.9 Locating Good Scenes 1041
8.10 Seeing 1043
8.11 Building Blocks of Good Scenes 1044

A Camera Controls 1055

A.1 Canon EOS 5D Controls 1056
A.2 Panasonic DMC-G7 Controls 1062
A.3 Camera Menus 1067

B Glossary of Photographic Terms 1073

C Compact Cameras Feature Guide 1091

C.1 Good and Bad 1092
C.2 Main Features 1092
C.3 Advanced Features 1100

D Legal Issues 1103

D.1 Public and Private Places 1104
D.2 Privacy Issues 1106
D.3 Restrictions on Subjects 1108
D.4 Protect Your Work 1114

E JPEG and TIFF 1119

E.1 Image Redundancy 1119
E.2 Image Types 1121
E.3 Summary of JPEG 1122
E.4 Image Transforms 1126
E.5 TIFF 1137
E.6 Facsimile Compression 1139
E.7 PackBits Compression 1143
F The Shape of a Lens 1145
F.1 Spherical Lenses 1147
F.2 Aspherical Lenses 1153

G Pixels 1169

G.1 Point Samples 1169
G.2 Real Optical Devices 1172
G.3 Pixel Interpolation 1173
G.4 Replicating Rows/Cols 1175
G.5 Replicating Pixels 1175
G.6 More About Image Scaling 1177
G.7 Bilinear Interpolation 1180
G.8 Bicubic Interpolation 1181
G.9 The Sampling Theorem 1187

References 1195
Answers to Exercises 1207
Index 1255


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

Last Updated 28 June 2020