A art professor once told me that he believed everyone had the potential to be a great artist. Obviously it comes more naturally to some people, but everyone can learn and improve through practice which is why if you want to take good photos, you can’t give up! Last week we learned about photo editing; this week we’re going to talk about depth of field–another great composition trick to improve your photos!
Depth of Field, or DOF, is really common in photography, so common that I bet you’ve done it a million times and didn’t even realize it! To put it simply, DOF is that magic spot where one object is in focus while everything else is not. This might mean the sharp area of your photo lies in the foreground, the middle, or the background.
Getting that little sweet spot to appear is pretty simple. Essentially, you to have something in at least two layers of the photo (foreground and background) to make it work. The easy part is focusing your camera on one of those two objects and letting the rest fade out. Now, this won’t work if you’re standing five feet away from your foreground object! You need to get close, real close. Try staying withing two feet of your foreground object to make it work, or use the zoom on your camera to get closer if you can’t physically move there.
If you are using a point and shoot camera, focusing on the right object can be a challenge. One thing you can do is steady yourself, center the object you want to be in focus in the view finder or display screen, focus on it, and then carefully pan your camera away from that object until your image has a nice balance of focus and out-of-focus content. This isn’t strictly a rule but it is one that my photos tend to follow: try to keep your focus/out-of-focus ration to 1/3 of the photo. I say this because if you want your focal point to really grab attention, you need to use the negative space to highlight it. So I guess you can consider this part of the Rule of Thirds.
If you are using a DSLR camera (if you’re just joining us, refer here for camera types), setting your focus should be a lot easier. Most DSLRs should have a focal point button that when you look through the viewfinder lights up a bunch of dots or boxes. By using your camera’s selection buttons, you should be able to choose which focal point you want to use and from then on your camera will focus there. This makes DOF photos a million times easier. Point and shoot cameras often optimize their focus finders to make sure nearly everything is in focus, so having a DSLR will make things infinitely easier for you.
Another important part of achieving excellent DOF is to make sure your aperature, or F-stop, is a low number when photographing with a DSLR. You can set this manually on your camera by setting it to Aperture Priority Mode (should be the “A” on your mode dial). This mode allows you to set what aperture you want and anything f/5 or lower should be acceptable for obtaining good DOF effect. (The first photo of flowers was taken at f/2.8, the second photo of flowers was taken at f/4.4.)
In my opinion, good DOF leaves enough definition in the out-of-focus parts that you can still tell what the object is but that’s my personal preference. There is a whole ‘nother composition field dedicated to bokeh, the effect you get when background light turns into pretty spots! But we’ll tackle that one later when we get to night photography.
This week your challenge is to DOF photo using nature as your object. “Nature” is a pretty broad topic that can include plants, rocks, animals, and weather (I’m sure it’s possible, somehow!). Basically, use your creative genius! Also I want to give a special shout out to two fellow photographers who’ve already been using DOF in their photos, whether they knew it or not! QoB took this beautiful photo of a statue for the Icons challenge as did Dormouse with her beautiful statue for the In-Between challenge.
Everyone has been doing a fantastic job and I’m really excited about every single person who participates! If you’re reading this for the first time, feel free to join in! You can follow along and join us on the challenges by posting your photo in the comments. You can also join our Persephone group, Picture This!, where you can post ideas, comments, questions, and tips for other Persephone photographers!
Are you ready? Let’s go take some photos! On your mark, get set, shoot!
*To post photos in the comments, you can use the photo uploader or copy and paste images into the comment section. What you may not know is that when you create an account with Google, you are also creating an account with Picasa Web Albums. To access it, click “photos” on the bar at the top of your screen while in Gmail or if you’re not a Gmail user, go to Google, click on the more tab at the top, select “Photos” and create an account (or just click on the link above). Follow the instructions to upload a photo. When you are done, open the photo and right click to copy it. Then come back to the comments and paste it. Easy-peasy. Let me know if you have trouble with this and I’ll help. Send me a personal message.