My question is how was this picture taken. And I've got a few assumptions I made regarding the photo, please correct me when I am wrong.

  • Quite open aperture, like 1.4-2.0
  • Quite high shutter speed, my guess is that it was >1/2000s
  • Auto iso speed

That's how I would have taken a picture like this. The other thing is that it has some vignetting - I guess, it's a postprocessing. What else? It looks to me that some other postprocessing had to be done.

And what kind of lens you think it was? My guess is that it was some zoom-lens, but that's all I can tell.


  • 1
    Please see meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3881/… and edit your question and title — this isn't an "effect" but everything still applies
    – mattdm
    Jul 29 '15 at 13:54
  • 1
    If you really want to know, ask the owner. They might tell you. You might also see if the meta data was attached to the image at source.
    – NiagaraJim
    Apr 8 '16 at 12:38

By a zoom lens I assume you mean a telephoto (long focal length) lens, as zoom implies a variable focal length. There are no f/1.4 zooms and f/2.0 zooms are incredibly rare.

In any case you are being mislead by the blurred background into thinking this was shot with a fast f/1.4 - f/2.0 lens. Background blur is actually more closely related to the size of the entrance pupil (what you see when you stare into the barrel of the lens). The size of the entrance pupil can be determined by dividing the focal length by the f-number. So for a 300mm f/4 lens the entrance pupil is 75mm. Another method for telephoto lenses is just to look at the size of the front element since that must be at least as large as the entrance pupil (otherwise the entrance pupil wouldn't be visible through it!)

An 85mm f/1.4 lens has an entrance pupil that is 60mm wide. So you can see how an f/4 lens can have the same degree of blurred background as an f/1.4!

So my guess would be a relatively fast telephoto lens, could be prime or zoom, between 200 - 300mm (full frame equivalent FOV), maybe around f/4.0 or f/2.8 with a fast shutter speed. It's impossible to say if auto-ISO was used, but there seems to be plenty of light so it may well have been fixed at a relatively low value.

For post processing there's possibly some split toning or selective colour adjustment, and possibly an embellishment of the vignette (or it could just be the natural wide open vignetting of the lens), but that's about it.

  • Thanks for correcting re 'zoom' lens and it's aperture! And by low-value you mean the lowest one?
    – andrii
    Jul 29 '15 at 8:39
  • 1
    @AndersD by low ISO value I mean 100-400
    – Matt Grum
    Jul 29 '15 at 10:42

It's practically impossible to tell, but as I am procrastinating I will take a shot (ho ho):

Guesstimate analysis:

Telephoto of a minimum 200mm - reason: It's a kite surfer. There are ways of getting this close without a tele, but they aren't exactly simple, and would mean you'd have to be very good indeed at accurate panning - imagine how fast she's going there. Also, the perspective looks wrong for a shorter lens. Hard to tell definitively from an image with just sea in the background, but it looks compressed to me. however it's not that compressed, so probably not as high as 400mm.

Pretty small aperture, maybe f/16 - reason: It's obviously a very bright day, and given my assumption that it's a tele, the DOF is very much greater than you would expect for a wide aperture. My 210mm has DOF way lower than this even at f/4.

I agree the shutter speed is high to freeze the water droplets like that, so yeah, 1/500s.

ISO - no idea, because it does seems to have some post processing on the colours to me. I'd go 200 because it's a good default ISO for bright conditions.

Post processing - looks like a slight vintage colour filter, and that vignette has a very "added later" feel to me.

Alternative analysis:

Re: your assumptions, I see no way for a shot in the middle of a sunny sea to have an aperture of 1.4 or f/2 and a shutter speed of 1/500s.

Look at the Sunny 16 rule; you would expect f/16, ISO200, 1/200s. So to get ~1/500th to freeze the water droplets, you want ISO400 and f/16, or ISO200 and f/11.

Those are the sort of base settings I'd be imagining this picture to be taken around.

Getting to f2:

Just for absolute clarity, here is a staged list of settings to get from Sunny 16 to an exposure using f/2 as the aperture.

  1. f16 - ISO200 - 1/200s
  2. f11 - ISO200 - 1/400s
  3. f8 - ISO200 - 1/800s
  4. f5.6 - ISO200 - 1/1600s
  5. f4 - ISO200 - 1/3200s
  6. f2.8 - ISO200 - 1/6400s
  7. f2 - ISO200 - 1/12800s

I'm not aware of a camera that has a shutter speed that high, but by going to ISO100 you could get 1/6400s (supported by the 5D at least), or if you camera has the increasingly rare ISO50, you could get 1/3200, supported even by my a55.

So, it's just about possible, but for the fact that a) I can see a very small amount of motion blur in the droplets, and b) the other reasons above, I don't think it's very likely.

Sudden realisation:

You could of course get to f/2 with a sensible shutter speed using an ND filter.

UPDATE - calculated analysis:

I'm going to assume a lens of 200mm. That just feels right with the perspective, and I have to assume something.

First we need to know subject distance:


Distance = Lens focal length (mm) x Object Size (mm), divided by Image Size (mm)

Distance = (200 x 1620mm^) / 13mm^^ ~= 25000mm = ~80ft

^ Halfway between average Australian and average American women's heights. Hey, I had to pick somewhere, and they were the surfiest countries I could think of.

^^ Based on an APS-C sensor's height of 20mm (from the linked Canon blog) and the fact that she looks like she'd fill about 2/3rds the sensor at full height.

Plugging 80ft into this DOF calculator and given the focus extends for what, 5 - 10 feet? Hard to tell with the compressed perspective. Anyway that gives an aperture around f/4 to f/5.6.

So, quite a bit more wide open than I thought; looks like I need to shoot with the 200mm more to get used to it.


Presumably all these answers show that there are many ways to achieve a shot :o)


My settings in this situation (action in full daylight) would be 1/2500th of a second and either ISO 400/f5.6 or ISO 100/f2.8 depending on which lens I was using. 2/3 over sunny f16, but accounts for inevitable falloff wide open. 1/500th seems way too slow.

There's no reason to have any exposure automation in full sunlight--get it right once and lock it in with manual mode.

The vignette's pretty severe. If it's real it's solid evidence the lens is wide open. Or has the wrong hood on it. But my money's on "faked in post."

Doesn't feel like that long of a lens--200 or shorter. My gut says the photographer is either into the water past his knees or on a jetski.

  • The kite surfer may also be very close to shore, depending on the beach.
    – mattdm
    Jul 29 '15 at 16:14
  • It feels further out to me than that, due to the lack of breakers, but I'm not a surfer so I do't really know if that is a reliable indicator. Jul 30 '15 at 8:51
  • I've been playing around with a DOF calculator and I think your f stops are probably more likely than mine. I think 2.8 is too low, but f/4 - f/5.6 are a good fit. Jul 30 '15 at 9:17

This is mostly guess-work:

To me this looks like a medium length zoom:

  • (Assuming its on a Full Frame body) of 150mm - 200mm.
  • Shutter speed would be 1/200th+
  • ISO 800 (I NEVER use Auto ISO)
  • Aperture may not be that large, as the lens is long-ish, could be 3.5f ish
  • The vignette looks fake
  • 3
    This would be a much better answer if you could explain why you think each of these things.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jul 29 '15 at 8:46

Obviously guesswork, but here are my thoughts:

Telephoto lens, either prime or zoom at an aperture of about 4 - 5.6 depending on the focal length.

  • It has to be take from a distance since it is a kite surfer and there is no wave indication from a (very) close second boat that fits the image angle. The DOF is large enough for the surfer to be in focus but not much more.

Shutter speed:

  • Based on the situation I would have picked 1/500s or faster, and the water droplets are frozen so I think this is the case here as well.

The vignetting is looks real to me assuming this is a crop from a 4:3 image ratio and the top and bottom are cropped out.

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