I’ve had a few questions since my last post so I wanted to provide a little more information regarding this depth of field subject. And I promise, I will stay away from all the mathematical formulas (I was never any good at math) and try to make this as simple and understandable as possible. However, if you really are interested in calculating it yourself but don’t want to define mathematical variables and balance equations, you can use this Online Depth of Field Calculator. Now, to my simple explanation.
Depth of field refers to the background and foreground areas around the subject (in my case, the person that I’m photographing) that appear to be in focus. There are really three variables that go in to determining depth of focus, one of which I’ve already touched on this week. They are Aperture (or f-stop number), focal length (in my aperture example, the focal length of the lens I used was 50mm), and distance from the subject (in example, when I took the photos to demonstrate aperture, I was standing about 5 feet away from the subject). Those three ingredients are what help determine depth of field. Consequently, changing any one of those variables will change the output and the final photograph that results.
I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead and end my 3rd-grade level lesson right there. Plus, I need to get about 30 plastic eggs ready for an Easter egg hunt that we’re doing this afternoon with friends from my MOPS group. However, if you have any more questions, please contact me or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, just to add on to the aperture discussion from a couple of days ago, I should point out that if you are shooting manually (like I do) as opposed to using the “Auto” setting on your camera, you’ll need to remember to adjust your shutter speed accordingly to accommodate a wide open aperture. Otherwise, you’ll overexpose your photos. Because remember, if you have your aperture wide open (a smaller number), more light is allowed in. The longer your shutter is open, the more light and you’ll get overexposed and washed-out photos. So, remember to adjust your shutter speed or if your camera has a mode for “aperture priority”, you can set the aperture you want and the camera should adjust (shutter speed and ISO) accordingly. And yes, we’ll cover ISO on another day. Until then….
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Ok, so to continue (or begin, really) this week’s series on Depth of Field (DOF), I thought I would talk a little bit about aperture. Aperture is also know as f-stop. Bear with me now but here is my best attempt at simplifying what exactly aperture is and why it’s important.
Your aperture or f-stop setting contributes to how much light is allowed in to your lens. Picture yourself on a bright sunny day locked in a room with no artificial light, all the walls painted black and no windows. Pitch black. Get the idea? Now, imagine the difference in the amount of light allowed into that room with a porthole vs. a peephole. That is what your aperture setting does. It determines how much light is allowed to reach your image sensor (or film if you’re not shooting digital). Sorry for being so non-technical in my explanation but that’s what I am; non-technical. My technical side is named Chris (my husband);-)
Here’s where it can get even trickier to understand. The smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture size. The larger the f-stop, the smaller the aperture size. Again, my caveat on this entire explanation is that I am not trying to give you a master’s class or a deep technical understanding of photography concepts. So, let’s just cut to the chase and show you one of the most important practical uses of aperture; establishing a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) so that the background is out of focus drawing more attention and focus to the subject of interest. As an example, I’ll offer the following examples.
Time for another caveat. I’ve been so busy this week with running kids back and forth to school, swim lessons, dance class, etc… that I’ve found it very difficult to keep up with my blogging duties. Consequently, the following images were captured during a quick two-minute stop at Windmill Gardens in Sumner after Adam got his hair cut. I told him that mommy needed to take some quick example photos and he did his best to be a good sport. THESE PICTURES ARE IN NO WAY REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER TO BE “GOOD” PHOTOS. Please just focus on them as teaching tools to demonstrate the effects that different aperture settings can have. Now, to the examples.
This photo was taken with a fixed 50mm lens with the aperture set at 2.8:
This photo was taken with the same lens with the aperture set at 10:
Do you see the difference? Now, I could have really made my point by upping the aperture to something like 20 and adjusted the shutter speed accordingly to have the background be even more focused but it was right after the last shot that Adam informed me that he had to go potty. And being a good mommy comes before being a good photographer so I had to run.
Sorry for the quickie post but I wanted to get something out here so I wouldn’t go to bed feeling guilty tonight. I’ll try to follow up with more details tomorrow. In the meantime, let me know if you have questions and I’ll try to answer them in my next post.
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Although I’ve always seemed to have a creative eye, one of the aspects of my photography that I’ve been working on for the past 5+ months is my technical understanding and capabilities. In order to further encourage that, I’ve decided that I’m going to start doing a weekly series that will focus on the technical aspects of photography (and my camera). The cool thing about doing this is not only will it allow me to learn something new each week but it will also yield photographs that I will post to demonstrate my experimentation and learnings.
I’m not going to tackle topics in any particular logical order. I’m just going to focus on things that I’m currently playing with anyway. I think for my first week, I’m going to work with depth of field. This is something I’ve been wanting to master a little better. Especially being able to more seamlessly transition from shot to shot where on one, I may want more of the foreground in focus while on the next shot, maybe I’ll want the foreground blurred.
Anyway, get ready to hear my musings and look at various experimental photographs as I play with my aperture and focal distance this week in an effort to achieve the photographic effects that I want and when I when I want them.
And I apologize to those of you that will find this boring but look at it this way. At least you’ll have some pretty (hopefully) pictures to look at. Until next time….
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