September 4, 2007

D: Depth of Field

The depth of field. Mentioned in A: Aperture, but I want to go into it a bit more here. Something I love about photography is the ability to focus in on one thing - some type of detail. While there are a number of times that you want to take in the whole scene, I absolutely love details.

This is where depth of field comes in...the amount of your shot in focus. When you want a sharp subject and a blurry background, a shallow depth of field is what you're looking for. A large aperture (meaning a small numbered F stop) will give you the look you're going for.

If you've never tried this before, check out your camera and look for the "portrait" mode. It is usually a little icon of a tiny head. Switch your camera to this setting and try it out a bit. It's the first step in moving away from the automatic mode, and towards manual. It's a good thing! :)

What I normally shoot in is Aperture Priority mode (the "Av" on Canons). All of my cameras (even my Canon point and shoot) have both modes...so check and see if yours does too! What I love about Av is that I choose the aperture, and the camera chooses the rest of the settings for me. I control the depth of field, which helps me define exactly the image I'm looking for.

A few examples...

Focusing on the center of the flower - where the unopened petals are:

the specs: ISO 100, F/3.2, 1/40 sec., focal length: 70mm

Focusing on the raindrops on the interior petals...

the specs: ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/500 sec., focal length: 70 mm

And my favorite thing to feature...people! :)

Little Siri, with an uncluttered background and a sharp focus on her eyes. She draws you in and the blurred background keeps the focus on her.

the specs: ISO 400, F/3.5, 1/60 sec., focal length: 58 mm

Kristine, glowing in the winter sunlight. Notice how you can't even tell what's behind her. The long, long focal length (from my 70-200 2.8 lens) allows her to just 'pop' right out of the photo from the background.

the specs: ISO 400, F/3.2, 1/800 sec., focal length: 115mm

And to the other extreme - a sharp landscape image. Notice the short focal length. If I had wanted the focus more on the hydrant and the background blurred out, I should have dropped down to its level and shot across the water, instead of looking out/down onto it.

the specs: ISO 400, F/4, 1/4000 sec., focal length: 24mm

A few things to keep in mind when shooting for a shallow depth of field...

Don't position your subject up against something
If they are standing in front of a wall, have them move several steps towards you. It will allow the background to 'fall off' instead of the camera thinking that the wall is part of it.

Use a longer focal length
You'll notice that for these images, I also listed how long my lens was when taking the shot. You'll see that the 'fuzzier' backgrounds have a focal length, especially compared to the last shot of the landscape. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom with your lens instead of your feet.

Have a shot you love? Send it to me - I'd love to see it! :)

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