Controlling Your Depth of Field

Sandpipers looking for their food in the after push of the surf and waves onto the beach.

Giving your Photos more Pop: Helping the Subject standout by Controlling Your Depth of Field with Apertures.

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Hi, everyone! Finally back again with the follow up to our lessons on using manual settings, and controlling exposure for the best pictures possible. This article is about, depth of field, which is how much of the foreground and background is in focus. If you look at the flower below mainly just the lower pedal is in focus and the edges of the closest upper pedals. The other leaves and stems to the flowers in the background are out of focus, which is a limited depth of field. If you notice, the pistol of the flower is not sharp either and I really would have liked to have gotten the first quarter to a half inch sharp where the pistol is located. Goes to show that bracketing for different settings helps us capture more images to our best liking.

Limited Depth of Field (flower is an Iris or Flag)

Limited Depth of Field (flower is an Iris or Flag)

 A quick refresher, Aperture is the size of the “hole” within the lens that’s created by a movable diaphragm. The diaphragm is made up of a series of metal blades that overlap, allowing them to move be moved opened wider or closed down to the minimum diameter the lens is capable of. We discussed aperture earlier, and went over the numbering system that’s used to designate the different apertures in the article, “The Camera Settings that Control Exposure and How to Use Them: Part 2″. Well, this is a continuation of exposure dealing with aperture, and depth-of-field.

For a recap of the aperture; by turning a ring on the lens, or pushing a button or turning a wheel on the camera, will either open or close the aperture or essentially the diaphragm in the lens to let in more or less light. The numbering system seems backward of what you might think, but there is a reason for this, so the lower the aperture number f8, f5.6, f3.5 wider the size of the opening created by the diaphragm and then more light is let into the sensor. The larger the number f22, f16, f11, etc. the smaller the opening and the lower amount of light let in the camera to travel to the film or sensor.

You can probably see the logic behind this, that when you are shooting outdoors on a very sunny day, that you want to stop the lens down, or raise the aperture number so you let in less sunlight in the camera. This keeps your picture from becoming too bright or washed out. Of course the opposite goes for taking pictures inside a castle lets say. and you will need more light so you will have to step up the aperture or use a lower number f-stop. Now, these are the general notions you’d expect, although to fully have creative control you need to consider what type depth of field you want to tell the story you’re trying to convey in the photograph you are taking. Consider the picture on the beach, if we are taking a picture of a sandpiper let’s say, to make it stand out, and have the full concentration of sight on the bird, you’ll want less depth of field. To do this you want to use a wider (smaller #) aperture and a very fast shutter speed. This will give the right exposure by letting more light in, and by using a shorter (faster) shutter speed, while also ensuring that the movement of the sandpiper is stopped in the image, and make the photo sharp as long as the focus is correct and the camera shake is minimal.

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Sandpipers (Sanderlings)  looking for their food in the after push of the surf and waves onto the beach.

Sandpipers (Sanderlings) looking for their food in the after push of the surf and waves onto the beach.

You may think that’s a lot of different aspects to manage for getting better pictures, But with practice, you’ll be glad you took the time to learn all this, and it even becomes lots of fun. Especially when you get the really great shots, and find yourself being asked to take photos for potential clients, or even for your own satisfaction in knowing you got the shot you wanted in that situation. Then, of course, you can show off your photos and get all the nice comments, and people get to see a different side of you that they may not know about. Isn’t that what photography is, a way to record a given place and time; and express what we see, or feelings through our photography. Actually, it will not take much time at all to be proficient or master the use of the manual controls on your camera. Just read these steps again later with camera in hand and go through them while taking several different images; close up, farther back; light and dark subjects, and try taking each setting from,  lower depths of field and also with a higher depths of field to create less and more of the picture to be sharp and in focus.

I have always wanted to take photographs so that I remember the experience; but more so, I like showing others the things I’ve seen to give them a glimpse into that place and time to experience some of what I saw.

So I’d like to ask You to share your experiences with others on Our Photo Community Membership Site.

It’s about your thoughts, emotions, and how you see things in the world that makes up your life. That includes your artistic side if you are one to step away from the norm and create or want to create artistically out of the box images that is totally fine with us. I’ve done a little of that myself. We want to share with each other’s experiences, and help each other grow as photographers, journalists, and recorders and storytellers of things we photograph in our lives and the world around us.

Sharing Photography is Everything

When we are photographing an experience or an event it will conjure up memories in the coming days, months, and even many years after we have recorded them. Our brains work in different ways, so reminders brought to the present through photographs (and other things, sights, smells, a word or phrase) will give different memories for different people. We sure can get many pleasures out of the photographs we take by re-experiencing those moments however long after that moment that we took the picture. We have the ability to tell a whole story through photographs. They are a record of that moment in time and place. At our members’ forums and through sharing how we took the different images we post there, others will be able to learn, we will learn more, and others will be able to give us pointers on the photos we share.

That gives us, and more important, You, many opportunities to learn and get some advice, and get recognition on your progress. All the while, giving others that understand a chance to share in those creative moments. By joining our group, These people will become friends and colleagues, plus followers of your successes. 

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OK! A Quick note of what’s been covered here so far; using a lower f-stop lets in more light, therefore you need a faster shutter speed, and also less depth of field is created by lower f-stops like f3.5, f5.6…f8.. and so on… (note: f3.5 lets in more light than f5.6 and less than f8). 

 On the other side of the coin, when you’re taking a picture of a single flower, or a portrait of your favorite people, you’ll want to use a larger aperture (size of the opening in the lens), which is the lower f-stops on the scale. On the opposite side of this, you’ll need a higher number f-stop to let in less light, which at f16 and up, will give you a longer depth of field. Higher number f-stops give you greater depth of field and require lower shutter speeds.

It’s a lot to wrap your head around, so by getting out and changing different apertures, and corresponding shutter speeds is the best way to get more familiar with the manual system and begin to really understand it and use it to your advantage. Be creative!

This Farm Photo represents a Long Depth-of-field.

This Farm Photo represents a Long Depth-of-field.

          So, if you are taking a landscape photo to show a farm field with a barn at the farther end, you would use a smaller aperture, which is a higher number f-stop. In this situation, you will probably want an f-stop of f22 or higher. This will cause needing a lower shutter speed, so unless the scene is in the complete full sun in the middle of the day, you’ll want to put your camera on a tripod to keep camera shake to a bare minimum. To the right is a photo I took while taking a drive with my sweetheart, Janet. We had just left from a spring we get water from, near Oldtown, Maryland. When we are out leisurely exploring, or even sometimes on the way to places during the day’s normal travels, I ask her if she minds me stopping to take a photo and she is so supportive of my photography she has almost never minded. Since I was limited to where I could take this image from; I took advantage of the fence being by the road, and used a high f-stop of like f 16 or f22 to catch the viewers eye on the fence to then have to eyes travel the length of the fence to the barn. I used a bit of a wide-angle length on my telephoto lens to give the perception of a little more distance between the camera and fence than there was.

For portraits, most professionals use larger apertures of f1.8 to 2.8 and f3.5 when possible to produce bohka, and concentrate the focus area on the subject to make the persons face come alive in the photograph. Again, aperture is how wide an opening the diaphragms make and relates to how much light goes through the lens to enter the camera. By using a low f-stop of f 2.8 to blur out the background for portraits will make the person or and object, such as the flower we mentioned earlier, to stand out and almost jump off the page. If you want the subject to stand out, even more, you can produce more blur to the background of the image by using the blur-tool in a post editing software such as Adobe’s Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop Elements.

Now, unless you are a graphics designer or a photographer who has learned Adobe Lightroom and /or Photoshop, or for another reason you may not be familiar with the programs, how to use them, or even why they are good to use and why you’d need them. They really do a whole lot, for a professional they are almost a must; or some other photo editing software like  Aperture, which is put out by Apple Computer Software and there are dozens of other photo-editing software’s available. You may not really want to get into editing tools, but to be honest, if you really want to create the best photographs you can you really should at least get Adobe Lightroom and possibly Bridge. Bridge is a file storage system put out also by Adobe, that not only stores your images but lets you move photos and videos throughout any of the many products Adobe makes, that are all available through their Creative Cloud memberships. Lightroom is available separate from Creative Cloud at stores; such as Staples, Best Buy, Office Depot (I think), and others that carry software, but the easiest way is probably to set-up an account with Adobe and order Lightroom separate as a one-time program, or use a package deal with just Photoshop instead of all the other products in the full-blown Creative Cloud lineup.

Written by, Tony Ballas., Photographer, writer, publisher and editor.

 

Portrait in partial Shade

Portrait in partial Shade

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One Response to “Controlling Your Depth of Field”

  1. Nice article. Thanks for the read.amazing

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