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Five finger exercises


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

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Five finger exercises

3 Dec 2020 10:36AM   Views : 310 Unique : 191


Wikipedia says that a five finger exercise is a musical piece for the piano that requires the pianist to use all the fingers of each hand, and that this helps improve dexterity. In other words, the point of the music is not that it sounds wonderful, but that you emerge from learning and playing it as a better pianist.

And this blog is about a photographic five finger exercise. The pictures won’t be great, but you will emerge from half an hour playing with the ideas here with a better intuitive grasp of your camera’s controls, and the start of an understanding of depth of field.


You need a wall built of bricks, or a pavement with slabs or blocks. Or maybe a wooden fence, or a hedge. Anything that goes from very close to you to at least thirty feet away will do, providing it has some detail or texture.

Before you venture out into the rain, make sure that you know which buttons to press and which wheels to rotate to change aperture, and find out how to change the single focus spot that the camera uses. Using a touchscreen for altering aperture is cheating, for the purposes of what you are doing.

Set the focus point as far as you can get it to one side of the frame, the zoom to its widest setting and the mode to Aperture priority. Stand close to your wall, or pavement, and open the aperture to maximum. Remember, no touch screen! And take your first picture. You should find that the subject near you is sharp, and as the distance increases, things get gently blurrier.


Now stop down the aperture to f/16 (still no touch screen), and repeat the exercise. You will find that the fading of sharpness is slower, and distant objects are more recognisable.

Repeat this pair of frames with the zoom set to the longest focal length – you will probably find that the widest aperture is smaller than for part one. Don’t worry – again, maximum aperture and f/16.
If you want to practice some more, try a whole range of different apertures at each focal length, and different focal length settings. This will show you precisely how the depth of field varies with focal length and aperture: having this in your head is much more use than carrying a depth of field table or an app on your mobile.

Please tell me if this is helpful by adding a comment below, and maybe a picture. I’m sure you can find a prettier wall than mine…



dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1777 England
3 Dec 2020 10:38AM
From top to bottom: 18mm @ f/3.5, 18mm @ f/16, 55mm @f/5 and 55mm @ f/16.

Can you draw a conclusion about which focal length gives better depth of field, and which aperture?

Is there a difference in effect between the two focal lengths?

It'll be even clearer when you've done the exercise/experiment...
mistere Plus
7 6 4 England
3 Dec 2020 11:27AM
Did a similar experiment after watching one of Mike Brown's video's on YouTube.
This is fun to play with.
Jas2 3
3 Dec 2020 11:47AM
Hi John,
From what I see-

DOF- Wide angle lens at f 3.5 and f 16 is roughly the same, ie really have to see with a lot of concentration to appreciate the difference, although minimal!

DOF - there is much more appreciable difference at 55 mm , f5 having a much more shallow DOF than f16 , easy to appreciate the difference!

So if you want a shallower depth of field , better to use a longer focal length at wider aperture!

However if you want to include a lot more in the scene then a wide angle lens is suitable but you can have more independence to play with apertures to get the same desired effect!

Is there something more you want me to focus on?


dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1777 England
3 Dec 2020 12:07PM
Hi, Jas -

You've got all the conclusions there: and the next step is to try it all for yourself...

The better your equipment, the more you will be able to see differences: in reality, there's still a difference at the wide end of the zoom range, though it's not so great, just as you say.

The other thing to extend the exercise is to try focussing at different points along the wall or pavement, and see what gives you the level of front-to-back sharpness that you want in any given image.
Jas2 3
3 Dec 2020 12:36PM
Hi John,
Thanks for the feedback! I will try this and let you know what I can figure out!
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1777 England
3 Dec 2020 12:40PM

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