When reading photographs it will be useful for you to consider the technical decisions the photographer made about:


Was the photograph created in the studio or in the field (location shot)? This will have a bearing on the type of camera used.

Was the camera digital or film? Has the image been digitally manipulated using programs such as Photoshop?

If a film camera was used, was it a 35 mm Single Lens Reflex or range-finder? This is difficult to tell but the SLR image will be the distinctive 2:3 proportions if un-cropped.

Or, was it a medium format camera (using 120 mm roll film) which might be 6 cm x 6 cm square format (the negative will be square but of course the final image might be cropped into any shape), or 6 cm x 7 cm format (the negative will be in the same proportions as a sheet of 8" x 10" paper: squarer in proportions than a 35 mm negative)?

Or, was it a large format camera such as 4" x 5" (quarter-plate) or 8" x 10" (full-plate)? The negative will be the same proportions as a 6 cm x 7 cm medium format image but because the negative is so much bigger there will be more detail and maximum depth of field (F64 is possible).

Large format studio cameras were commonly used by commercial photographers for product photography because of their greater clarity or resolution, but have also been used by people like Edward Weston for landscapes. Weston contact-printed his large negatives, so there was no loss of detail as a result of enlargement. A dedicated enlarger is needed to make enlargements from large format negatives.


Has the photographer used a standard (normal) lens setting? or a wide angle lens setting? Or a telephoto lens? The focal length of a wide, standard and telephoto lens will vary depending on the format of the camera; if a SLR camera it also depends on whether it is a film SLR or digital SLR.

To understand digital lens specs


Wide angle lenses take in a wider view than normal but create distortions of vertical lines when they are angled up or down. Faces also become distorted when the lens is used up close for a portrait. Wide depth of field is easily achieved with wide angle lenses. A standard lens equates most closely to how the human eye sees spatial depth.

Telephoto lenses bring things up close, like a telescope. They also compress space, flattening things out. A wide depth of field is more difficult to attain with a telephoto lens. There are other lenses which can produce dramatic effects, such as a "fish-eye" lens which takes a 360 degree view."


There are two types of lighting: natural (available) or artificial (flash, flood, fluorescent, incandescent).

When working with colour photography using a film camera, artificial light will give a colour shift unless an appropriate filter is used in front of the lens or colour-balanced film is used; on a DSLR the appropriate colour-balance setting must be selected.

If not, incandescent light will give a yellow cast and fluorescent will appear green/blue. Strange effects can be deliberately achieved by using the incorrect film for the conditions.

When considering light conditions, it is also important to be aware of direction, intensity, and number of sources. If flash lighting was used, was it camera-mounted or studio lighting? Was it direct (often producing a strong shadow), softened through some type of diffusion system (such as a "soft-box") or bounced off the ceiling? Was backlighting used to produce a "rim-shot"?

Learn more about digital desktop studio lighting