How can I take even better living pictures with my first generation Lytro camera?

Building on our basic shooting steps, here is a more complete description of the strategies we've found to be helpful:

 

Intermediate shooting tips:

  1. Remember everything you know about taking traditional 2D pictures also applies to taking light field pictures. There is no replacement for great composition and lighting-- try turning on another light indoors if you can, for instance.  You should also experiment with your approach-- such as giving our Manual Controls a whirl in conditions where it's not possible to use additional light.  Many people have reported needing to develop some new habits with the first generation Lytro camera.
  2. Get Close: Start out with the zoom slider all the way to the left (1x). Then position your closest subject about 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) away from the lens, with another subject a few feet away (1m or less), and a background several feet (more than 1m) from the camera. Stick with these parameters while you take your first few dozen pictures or so-- mastering close-up pictures first seems to lead to a faster and more satisfying learning experience.
  3. Think in 3D: Include subjects at different depths in your light field compositions to help ensure your living pictures can be clearly refocused. For pictures with the zoom slider at 1x (all the way left), don't position your mid-ground subjects more than a few feet (~1m) away, as they would then be at the same effective focus plane as your background objects under these zoom conditions.
  4. Distance Bracketing: Take multiple pictures of the same scene, moving the Lytro camera slightly closer, and also slightly farther away. The potential amount of refocus or Perspective Shift will vary as you do this, increasing the chances you'll get a picture you're happy with. This technique of "distance bracketing" also helps speed up the learning process. 
  5. Review, Zoom-in, and Learn: For quickest learning, review and refocus pictures on the Lytro camera itself at frequent intervals as you're shooting. Specifically, zoom in (double-tap) when reviewing pictures, tap once to focus on a specific object, then zoom out (double-tap) to see how well your shot can be refocused.
  6. Steady as she goes: Hold the Lytro camera steady when you take each picture. As with all cameras, holding the lens still as it captures light will lead to sharper pictures.  Don't be afraid to use your environment here to help steady the camera-- a wall, a table or counter surface, or even an (empty!) pint glass will do in a pinch.  And don't forget to check out our Tripod Mount, if you're feeling fancy.
  7. Review early and often: At least initially, transfer your pictures to Lytro Desktop and/or Lytro Web for review often-- every couple dozen pictures or so-- to learn what works, and what doesn't work. The larger screen and greater processing power of your computer will really let you see the full dynamic detail within your pictures. Therefore, consider not deleting too many pictures directly from the Lytro camera; you may find you change your mind about certain pictures after you can explore them in Lytro Desktop.
  8. Practice: The very best way to learn how to take light field pictures is to practice taking them. 

 

Advanced shooting tips:

  1. No matter what zoom range you've chosen, when you look at your composition on the touchscreen, your closest subject should be slightly blurry. If your closest subject is too blurry, your nearest subject may be outside of the camera's refocus range. On the other hand, if it's not blurry at all, your nearest subject may not be able to be clearly refocused, as distinct from your mid-ground subjects.
  2. Zooming in-- making distant objects larger on screen-- moves the closest refocusable distance further away from the camera. Again, use the amount of blur on the foreground subject in the touchscreen to determine the distance of the closest refocusable subject. This may take a little while to internalize, but with practice you will develop a sense for this.
  3. For ideas and hints, check out our Lytro Picture Gallery: sample pictures taken with the Lytro camera.

 

NOTE:  This article is specific to the first generation Lytro camera.

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