An Exercise For You to Practice Depth of Field Without Going Outside

lead-photo-Vickie-Lewis-Photography-for-dps

Many photographers, especially when starting out, have a difficult time understanding depth of field. I also hear quite often that photographers are waiting for nice weather to get out and shoot. So, here’s a fun exercise you can do at home, in any weather, that will help you understand the finer aspects of depth of field.

Depth of field is determined by which aperture you choose, what focal length you’re using, and the distance between the camera and the subject. In this example, we’ll explore depth of field using a 100mm lens.

To set up

Find between one and three small objects you can photograph. I found three sports water bottles with balls on the top to shoot. Next, you need some studio space. A patio door or very wide window works well.

Your next step is to set up your object, or objects, in front of the window and to place your camera in position. The object and camera should be parallel to the window.

depth_of_field_illustration

This is how I set up my camera and objects.

I put the first ball, the soccer ball, about 12 inches in front of the cabinet. Then I put the second ball, the baseball, about 24 inches in front of that. I put the third object, the basketball, 24 inches in front of the next object, and finally I set my camera about two feet in front of the last object.

You’ll need to play a little bit to see what works best for you. It will vary depending on the size of the object you are shooting, and the focal length you are using. You want to be able to focus on all three objects, and take a photo of them without moving your camera, so play for a minute. Focus on the first object and make sure you can see all three objects in the frame. Then focus on the second and make sure you can still see them all. Lastly, do it with the third one, too.

Set your camera on either aperture priority or manual exposure, and use the widest aperture you have. I chose f/2.8. Your lens might not have that aperture available, if so f/4 or f/4.5 will be just fine.

Shoot wide opened focusing on each object in turn

Now, without changing anything but your focus, take a photo of each of the three objects.

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This photo was shot at f/2.8 while focused on the object closest to the camera, the basketball. Notice the narrow depth of field, in other words, how blurry the background is.

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This was also shot at f/2.8, but this time, I focused on the middle object, the baseball. Notice that it is blurry in front and in back.

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This photo was also shot at f/2.8, but I focused on the soccer ball. I did not change camera position nor did I change lenses. Notice the depth of field, but also notice the change in perspective. Can you see that more of the cabinet is in the photograph?

Next shoot with a small aperture

Now, let’s try something a little different. Instead of shooting at your widest f-stop, shoot at your smallest, which means a higher number, like f/32 or f/16.

205__depth_of_field_-f-32

Here is the same situation. The camera hasn’t moved, but the aperture is now at f/32. The focus is on the basketball, but look how much is sharp.

204__depth_of_field_-f-32

Look closely. The aperture is still at f/32, but the focus has changed to the baseball. Notice the basketball is more out of focus, but the soccer ball in the back looks pretty sharp.

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Above is the third example. The focus is on the soccer ball.

You can practice each of these things with different f/stops to see the difference between f/4, f/8, f/11, f/16 and f/32. Each choice will change the depth of field.

Change the distance to the subject

209__depth_of_field_-f-2.8

In the above photograph, I moved the camera closer to the baseball and shot at f/2.8. Practice isolating the elements and see what happens. Notice how the baseball really stands out, and look at the background. By isolating the baseball with a very narrow depth of field, the background becomes really out of focus. This tool is very helpful to clean up backgrounds.

210__depth_of_field_-f-2.8

Then I changed my focus to the soccer ball. The aperture is still at f/2.8. What do you notice about the background?

213__depth_of_field_-f-32

In the shot above the soccer ball is still in the original position, about a foot away from the cabinet. Notice how sharp the background is – this was shot at f/32.

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Now, notice how we start to lose detail in the cabinet behind. This image above was shot at f/11.

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Finally, by shooting at f/2.8, and without moving the position of the soccer ball or the background, the background has become more out of focus and less distracting.

Take some times and practice this at home. So what you’ve learned here is a great way to practice depth of field at home–even on a rainy day! So take out your camera, find some small objects to shoot and start practicing.

Please share in the comments below how controlling the depth of field could impact how you shoot. What did you learn by doing this exercise?

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Exhibition Special Part 1: Out of the Darkroom with Ruth Medjber

Exhibition Special Part 1: Out of the Darkroom with Ruth MedjberExhibition Special Part 1: Out of the Darkroom with Ruth Medjber

In Part 1 of this Exhibition Special Ruth talks us through the in’s and out’s of how to get your very own exhibition set up. Ruth recently exhibited her very own show called ‘Women of Notes – Mná Na Nótaí’ 

‘Women of Notes – Mná Na Nótaí’ is a  new photography and narrative series celebrating some of Ireland’s most prominent and successful female musicians.

 

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The 5 Elements That Can Help You Make a Great Photos

Often a great photo relies on a combination of factors coming together to produce the final result. On a few rare occasions, all of these elements present themselves in perfect harmony by chance. However, the majority of the time as a photographer, you have to research, plan, and put a lot of effort into capturing a photograph that has these elements in it.

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#1 – The Subject

Arguably the most important element of the photo is the subject itself (i.e. what you are photographing). A great photo can sometimes work if it isn’t technically perfect, but rarely works if the subject isn’t interesting enough to capture the viewer’s attention. You need to train yourself to be able to see those unique opportunities where a subject can offer the basis of a great photo, and then be willing to do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be (within the law). It takes practice, but in time you will begin to immediately see opportunities everywhere.

Kav_Dadfar_Turkey

Keep your eyes open. You never know when interesting stories will present themselves.

#2 – The Composition

A great subject only works as a great photo, if it is composed in order to make the most of what you are seeing. Too much dead space and the subject is lost. Too close and the viewer may miss the surroundings which are imperative to the photo. The key is to take your time, and really think about the composition and how to make the most of the scene. Obviously, there will be times where you may be encounter fleeting moments, to which you need to react quickly – but the more practice you have, the quicker you will become.

Crop your image carefully to ensure in maximises the photograph.

Crop your image carefully to ensure it maximizes the photograph.

#3 – Lighting

Whatever you are photographing, whether that is indoors or outdoors, lighting is key to capturing a great photo. You need to think about how to either utilize the natural light if outdoors, or artificial light if indoors. For example, if you’re using natural light, at different times of the day the light will look completely different and give your photos a different look and feel. But, you also need to consider the direction of the light because, again, that will have a huge impact of how your photo will look. If you are working indoors or in a studio, this may require that you set up lighting, or manipulate the available light using things like reflectors or a flash.

Lighting is an important element in any photograph.

Lighting is an important element in any photograph. Try to capture your outdoor photos at the best time of the day.

#4 – Technical Elements

It is no good having a great subject that is composed well and beautifully lit, but blurred or out of focus. So, to capture great photos, you also need to master the technical elements of photography, such as focusing, depth or field, shutter speed, and so on. This part comes down to learning, and sufficient practice so that it becomes second nature to you. In addition to ensuring your photos are technically correct, it also allows you to have more creative control over the final outcome. For example, using a slower shutter speed to capture movement will give your photo a different look and feel, than freezing the action by using a fast shutter speed.

Mastering the technical elements of photography is a must if you want to capture great photos.

Mastering the technical elements of photography is a must if you want to capture great photos.

#5 – Originality

With photography becoming more and more mainstream, we are all becoming more used to seeing different places and subjects, so to really ‘wow’ people with photos, you need to show them something unique and different to what they have already seen. This could be everything from lighting or composition to actually showing a different perspective of something people have seen before. The key is to not be afraid to take risks with the photo. So, next time you are taking a photo, stop and think about how you can make it look different to what already exists.

Try to make your photos unique. The key is to do your research so you know what already exists.

Try to make your photos unique. The key is to do your research so you know what already exists.

Great photos are not easy to come by, but the great thing about photography is that the more you practice you have and by training yourself in the different aspects above, the better and quicker you will become to seeing and implementing the different elements needed.

Can you think of anything else? Share your tips below.

A local camel handler in Empty Quarter in Liwa Oasis

A local camel handler in Empty Quarter in Liwa Oasis

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