What's inside a digital camera? Here’s a cutaway view of the Canon Digital Rebel 1000D. Here's a more instructive diagram, showing the main optical paths. I'll show the parts of a camera (every screw) during one of the lectures.

Most photography books talk about depth of field and depth of focus, but few of them give a formula for it. Here it is. N is the F-number, f is focal length, C is pixel size, and U is distance to the scene. We'll study this formula in lecture, and you'll be invited to experiment with depth of field in (optional) weekly photographic assignments.

This is a classic high dynamic range (HDR) scene, because the beach and hills are much darker than the sun. This picture was captured by the Nexus 6P using HDR+ mode. How is this done? We’ll talk about it in lecture. Here are more HDR+ shots from the Nexus 6P.

Dorothea Lange's iconic portrait of a migrant mother during the Great Depression. We'll survey the history of photography, study the work of good photographers, and talk about photographic composition.

[Google Drive blocks access to these videos if too many people have recently played them. If a video hangs, they are available

as a playlist on YouTube. In that case, come back here for the lectures slides, available as PDF files linked into the course schedule.

Google Drive also prohibits downloading files (videos, PDFs, .swfs) from incognito windows unless 3rd-party cookies are enabled.

Finally, the videos on this site include some material and sound tracks that are suppressed on YouTube to avoid copyright issues.

The use of this material in my lectures falls under fair use, but YouTube doesn't have a good mechanism for handling this case.]

Course description

An introduction to the scientific, artistic, and computing aspects of digital photography. Topics include lenses and optics, light and sensors, optical effects in nature, perspective and depth of field, sampling and noise, the camera as a computing platform, image processing and editing, and computational photography. We will also survey the history of photography, look at the work of famous photographers, and talk about composing strong photographs.

This course is based on CS 178 (Digital Photography), which I taught at Stanford from 2009 through 2014. I revised and taught the course again at Google in Spring of 2016, and these web pages are from the Google version. The course consists of 18 lectures. These lectures were delivered live on Google's Mountain View campus, broadcast live to Google offices around the world, and recorded for later playback. The videos linked into these web pages are from those recordings, edited slightly to remove discussion of Google internal projects. Keynote slides from these lectures were converted to PDF files and linked into the schedule after each lecture.

The topics of each course lecture, with their original dates, are given in the course schedule, also accessible by clicking on the words "Course schedule" in the pane at left. The down-carrot to the left of these words provides a list of lectures. The course is accompanied by 15 Flash applets, similarly accessible by clicking on the word "Applets" at left, or the associated down-carrot. Since Adobe Flash has died, the interactive illustrations in these applets no longer work, but you can download the applet's .swf file and Adobe's standalone Flash player to your desktop, and play it there. Finally, there are 8 photography assignments,

I am making these materials freely available, but some of the photographs included in the lectures are individually copyrighted. It should be fine for teachers to re-use this material under fair use, but other uses may be protected. If you re-use the material in substantially the same form it is given here, I would appreciate an acknowledgement.

By the way, this web site has been migrated from the old Google Sites to the new Google Sites. This process was long and painful, and the new Google Sites is not as powerful as the old. If you find a web site error or broken link, please send me email. My email address is on my Stanford home page .


The course assumes no prior knowledge of photography. I also assume no programming experience. The only knowledge I assume is enough facility and comfort with mathematics that you're not afraid to see the depth-of-field formula in all its glory, and an integral sign here or there won't send you running for the hills. Some topics will require concepts from elementary probability and statistics (like mean and variance), but I define these concepts in lecture. I also make use of matrix algebra, but only at the level of matrix multiplication. Finally, an exposure to digital signal processing or Fourier analysis will give you a better intuition for some topics, but it is not required.

Taking photographs and improving your picture-taking skills are a good reason for taking this course. There were no formal evaluations (or grades) in the Google version of the course, but there were weekly optional photographic assignments, which are included in these web pages. These assignments talk about uploading photos to Google Photos, and then posting albums to a Google+ community. These instructions were relevant to Googlers during course but are now irrelevant. If you want to follow along and perform these assignments you'll need a camera. Since it's a course on digital photography, you'll need a digital camera. In particular, you'll need one with manual control over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. It's also helpful if your camera has a variable zoom lens, but surprisingly, manual control over focus isn't as critical, since you can easily "fool" your camera into focusing at whatever distance you want. Your camera should also have a flash, as most do. You don't, however, need an SLR (single lens reflex camera). Many DSCs (digital still cameras, also known as point-and-shoots) offer enough flexibility. So do Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (MIL) cameras. A cell phone won't suffice, though, because it doesn't have a controllable aperture.

The instructor

I am a Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford, and former Distinguished Engineer at Google, and currently a VP and Fellow at Adobe Inc., where I lead a team that works on computational photography. Here is my Stanford home page, which includes a list of publications. On my home page is a summary of some of the projects I worked on at Google, and a bit about my current work at Adobe. If you're looking for my SynthCam app for iOS, here is a link. The app is no longer maintained, and sadly stopped working with iOS 11, but the web site will describe what it did, and how it worked.