Camera Lab — Lights, Camera, Action! — the Science of Photography

If you have a camera that’s even slightly better than the one on your phone, you probably have some questions about its operation and how to take better pictures:

  • What’s the difference between all of the manual picture-taking modes, and which one should I use?
  • How do I take those great images of the night sky and get the Milky Way to pop out?
  • What is an f-stop?
  • How does ISO affect picture quality?
  • When I stop down the aperture should I increase or decrease the shutter speed?
  • How do I reduce the noise in my pictures?
  • Am I better off getting a camera with more pixels or a better lens?

If these questions are familiar, or just sound interesting, this course is for you.

This course aims to teach students about photography through a better understanding of the science behind the camera. And while this course will not directly address the artistry of better picture-taking, it will teach students about the optics and sensor in a camera that ultimately determine what shows up as an image—after all, a modern camera is nothing more than optics, a sensor, and an image processor housed in a durable case. The course will include lectures and discussions, but will mostly be a hands-on workshop during which students will have the opportunity to measure camera properties such as diffraction limits, noise floors, and optical aberration. Along the way, we will introduce software that allows students to remotely control the camera, capture and analyze images on the computer, and model optical systems. Importantly, there will be plenty of time for students to take pictures using their new-found knowledge of the camera, and share them with the class on our blog.

    Meetings, Spring 2020