In this week’s edition of Visual Literacy 101 - DEPTH OF FIELD
Your dictionary.com defines “Depth of Field” as a zone in which objects are in sharp focus.
Your depth of field is determined not only by your f-stop in your camera, but also the lens you are using, distance from the subject, focal length and type of camera. I could get really technical with this subject and talk about perception and circle of confusion but that would take a semester to teach and I want you to read this blog and not be bored. So we are going to keep it simple, albeit a little long.
Let’s start with Shallow Depth of Field…
“Shallow” depth of field is when only one small point in the image is in focus, as with nature photography or macro photography, and the background and foreground is out of focus or blurry. Shallow depth of field tends to draw your eye toward the subject (whatever is in sharp focus) and not be confused by the surroundings. Remember from the last Visual Literacy 101 entry that the thing that is in focus is the subject. Therefore, being sure your depth of field includes all of what you want the subject to be is CRITICAL!
An extremely shallow depth of field is very seldom acceptable with portrait photography. One of the biggest mistakes we see a lot of when it comes to this subject is that the point of focus is placed on the wrong area causing important features in the picture to be out of focus. (Look at the twins in the last blog post about focus, the brother is in focus and the sister is not because of shallow depth of field.)
Let me show you some examples of bad depth of field choices in a portrait situation. (Remember, we throw out images that are unacceptable immediately, so finding an example of this from our studio was not possible. However it was very simple to go on the web and find great examples of this from other people selling themselves as “professional” photographers.)
In this picture we took from last year’s Urban Meyer Scramble for Kids, you can see that the shallow depth of field works well. The foreground is intentionally out of focus, Drew Copeland is completely in focus and then the background is out of focus again. This clearly shows that Drew is the subject.
This example of a group photo we shot for the Junior League last year. As you can see, the people in the front row and the people in the back row are all in focus because we used a wide depth of field to ensure focus throughout.
Using a “deep” depth of field is also a problem. When everything is in focus, it is very difficult to find the subject. Knowing when and how to use depth of field properly is important.
Our motto at the studio is “Get it right in the camera!” NOT “fix it in Photoshop” like many new photographers. Many things can be fixed in Photoshop, the question is how well?
Let’s leave it at this, depth of field is an important factor in a recipe for a good photograph. Next week, we will add exposure to our mix…