CS194-23: The Art and Science of Digital Photography

Spring 2013

Professor: Brian Barsky
GSI: Dan Armendariz
Student Assistant: Michael Ball
UC Berkeley

Header image

Questions? Contact the staff at cs194-23@imail.eecs.berkeley.edu

Course Information

Welcome to Computer Science 194-23: The Art and Science of Digital Photography, offered Spring 2013 by the EECS department at UC Berkeley.


This course will explore the artistic aspects, scientific foundations, and techniques of digital photography with the goals of enabling students to expand their knowledge of photography as an art form, to develop a deeper and broader understanding of the scientific basis of photography, and to improve their photographic technique. Although the primary focus is on digital photography, most concepts apply to photography in general and are also directly applicable to film photography. With an improved understanding of the limitations compromises behind digital photography, students will be better prepared for unexpected and dynamic photographic situations. Topics include quality of light, exposure control, depth of field, aesthetics, composition and patterns, perspective, color science, the human visual system, spatial and color perception, digital versus chemical processing, exposure, metering, digital sensors, optics, analogies to biological systems, color filter arrays, file formats, sensor linearity, color spaces and profiles, optical and computational image artifacts. Through lectures, hands-on assignments, and critiques, students will expand their understanding of digital photography while exploring their creativity to broaden the possibilities and improve the quality of their photographs.

If possible, students in this course should use a camera that has either interchangeable lenses of different focal lengths or a zoom lens, that is capable of capturing files in a RAW format, and that has a fully manual mode which enables manual setting of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO as well for focus.

Grading Criteria (with approximate weightings)

Here is the percentage break-down of what will be covered in this course. More details will posted as the class gets underway. As always, we may make adjustments to this scale if necessary.

Projects: Four projects at 10% each and capstone project at 25%
Problem Sets: Four assignments at 5% each
Critique Participation: 15%
Total: 100%



Please note the first class is Monday, January 28, 2013.

Office Hours

Time Day Location
Professor Barsky: 5 PM — 6 PM Thursdays 785 Soda
Dan: 11 AM — 12 PM Fridays 411 Soda
Michael: 3 PM — 4 PM Wednesdays 411 Soda

Tentative Lectures and Due Dates

All assignments (except the Capstone project) are due at 11:59 PM on the listed due date.

Week Monday (Lecture) Friday (Assignments due)
Jan 28 - Feb 1 Welcome
Feb 4 - Feb 8 Software Tools & Light Project 1
Feb 11 - Feb 15 Exposure
Aperture and F-number handout
Feb 18 - Feb 22 No Lecture (Presidents' Day) Problem Set 1
Feb 25 - Mar 1 Exposure (cont) Project 2
Mar 4 - Mar 8 Optics Problem Set 2
Mar 11 - Mar 15 Histogram Project 3
Mar 18 - Mar 22 Software Tools (cont)
Mar 25 - Mar 29 No Lecture (Spring Break)
Apr 1 - Apr 5 Guest: Stephen Goldblatt, professional
photographer and cinematographer.
Digital Cameras.
Capstone proposals due
Problem Set 3 due
Apr 8 - Apr 12 Digital Cameras (continued) Project 4
Apr 15 - Apr 19 Color and Artifacts
Guest, Geoff King, First Amendment
lawyer and photojournalist.
Apr 22 - Apr 26 Guest: Nacio Jan Brown, news photographer
for the underground press in the 1960s.
Guest: Karen DeValois, Professor Emerita
of Psychology and Vision Science
University of California, Berkeley.
Problem Set 4
Apr 29 - May 3 Capstone Project Exhibition
Capstone Project due at 12:00 PM (noon)

Note: all listed dates subject to change.

Recommended Books


Four projects and a capstone project based on creating photographs will be assigned. Each project is due by 11:59 PM on the Friday listed and, unless otherwise noted, each will be released two lectures prior to its due date.

"Keep an I[SO] Out" released January 28 due February 8 Download (PDF)
"Great (Focal) Lengths" released February 11 due March 1 Download (PDF)
"Frames of Mind" released March 4 due March 15 Download (PDF)
"Raw Material" released April 1 due April 12 Download (PDF)

Capstone Project

A larger capstone project will be due at the end of the semester in addition to the four projects above. The project requires a proposal to be submitted after the specifications are released, and you should be sure to get approval on your proposal before working on the project. The capstone project will not be accepted if a proposal for it is not approved.

Specifications Monday, March 18 Download (PDF)
Proposals due 11:59 PM Monday, April 1
Capstone project due 12:00 PM (noon) on Monday, April 29

Though every assignment is normally due at 11:59 PM on its due date, the Capstone project itself is due at 12:00 PM (noon)!

Note: all listed dates subject to change.

Problem Sets

Four problem sets comprising theory-based questions will be assigned during the semester. Each problem set is due at 11:59 PM on the Friday listed and, unless otherwise noted, each will be released two lectures prior to its due date.

Problem Set 1 released February 11 due February 22 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 2 released February 25 due March 8 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 3 released March 18 due Monday, April 1 Download (PDF)
Problem Set 4 released April 15 due April 26 Download (PDF)

Note: all listed dates subject to change.


This course includes in-class critiques. Students are expected to create three photographs for possible critique most weeks throughout the semester, with one image submitted on the Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday preceding that week's scheduled lecture. Submissions are due at 11:59 PM for each day.

Photos for the crit will be posted to the class blog at http://cs194-23.tumblr.com. The blog is password protected. The password was given out during the first lecture, but can be obtained from a member of the staff or a fellow student. Please, do not share this password online. Photos for the crit must be tagged with the word "crit" in the tags section for each post. Additionally, one photo per week should be tagged with "bestshot" indicating it is your favorite, or the one that you would like to get the most feedback on. (It is perfectly acceptable to apply this tag to a photo at the end of the week. On Sunday, for instance, you may decide to tag your Wednesday submission with "bestshot".) In addition, for every photo you submit, you must also fill out this form to be able to receive credit for your work.

The photos which you take for the crit should meet the following criteria: