Depth of Field

As I never intended to pursue the art of photography as a profession, I never thought that I should really delve into certain aspects of it, such as the technical work involved or the jargon, or understanding what all the dials and buttons on cameras really do, I just wanted to point the little gadget in the direction of what caught my interest and after I put into the frame what I figure was a good image, press the shutter button and… Voila! I have the photograph I want.  But as with most things in life, it never quite works out that way.

As I got more and more into “taking pictures” I began to concentrate on focusing. and once I did that I noticed that certain things were “sharper” or more in focus than others, and that the general area of “sharpness” varied throughout my photographs, so my landscapes would have a lot of objects sharp, and my portraits would have less objects  being sharp, since I was shooting in Auto, the camera was doing these things automatically, depending on light, and the distance the objects were from the camera., so if the camera was doing it, why should I bother with how its done? Exactly! let the camera do all the work, I say.  Again, it never quite works out that way.

As I paid more and more attention to the photographs that I took, I began to wish that I had gotten more things in focus or less things in focus, and then I had to go and ask how that was done, and I was told about Depth of Field.  Now there are lots of articles on this subject, and if you are interested in really learning all the nitty gritty of DoF, then you should read those, I understand enough to get by but not the whole story.

This is as far as I got and I think it serves me well enough for now, until, of, course, I get the need to do more and need to learn more  🙂

I’ve been taught that there are two types, shallow and wide, those words don’t exactly scream “opposites” to me but, instead of arguing the point, I’ll just accept it.  If they say its a shallow depth of field, they’re referring to the fact that I have fewer things in focus or sharper, and if the say it’s a wide depth of field, they’re referring to the photo having more objects (at varied distances from the camera) in focus.  Sounds straightforward to me, so how do I manipulate it myself?  I apparently need to adjust the “aperture”, oh boy, more things to learn about 🙂

The aperture simply refers to the opening of the lens, how large or how small the opening is, obviously if its larger more light enters and if its smaller less light enters, if you want to know what this has to do with the depth of field, you should read the more technical articles available all over the internet, I won’t even try to explain this one, suffice to say that they’ve come up with a numbering system for describing the aperture size.  Now this is where they first confused me, the smaller aperture is assigned the larger number, and the larger apertures are assigned the smaller number. Why? Think of it as fractions.  If you were not very good at math then you’ll be as confused as I was.  The Aperture settings are described as f/15 and f/2.8, so if you think of the f as 1, then its 1/15th  and 1/2.8, and according to my math teachers if the number at the top is the same, then the fraction with the bigger number at the bottom is actually the smaller of the two.

I call this Shallow Depth of Field, right? maybe?

I actually understand what I’m saying and I’m still confusing myself.  Here’s the gist then, if I ignore the whole fraction thing and just think of the apertures as numbers, then if I want a shallow depth of field I use the smaller numbers, like 2.8, and if I want a wider depth of field I use the larger numbers, like 15.  I like this logic better, narrow = smaller, wide = larger.  I can work with this.  And then they tell me the next thing that happens when I mess with apertures is that, because I’m playing with the size of the aperture, remember this is the opening of the lens, and this will affect not only the depth of field but the “brightness” of the image (OK, fine, exposure), so if I’m shooting in manual mode I need to adjust the Shutter Speed accordingly.  Let’s just say I haven’t gotten to the stage in my learning where I shoot a lot in Manual.  So I set the camera in Aperture Priority (usually a big A on the dial) and let the camera figure out the best shutter speed  🙂

So, if you’ve read this far, you KNOW that I’m not a professional, and you should probably doublecheck EVERYTHING I just said 🙂

What sparked this long explanation of mostly confusion, I was staring at the image in this article, which I had taken back in April.  Speaking of confusion, if someone mentions to you the “Circles of confusion” with regards to Depth of Field, if you don’t understand what I’ve described here, don’t bother, it will only add to the confusion 🙂  If however, you do grasp the gist of things, then, by all means, look up the “Circle of Confusion” and have some fun reading it.

P.S. click on the image to go to the site  🙂

2 thoughts on “Depth of Field

  1. This is a very confusing issue for most beginners. It is handy to have someone explaining it, particularly the bottom line of what to do to get a particular effect.

    Most of the articles you will find try hard to explain what is happening, but I think your approach is the better one. Just tell people how to achieve the effect and as their experience grows so will their knowledge and understanding.

  2. Mikey, only you would make a picture of a rusty thing look so nice. DoF can be very confusing but is so essential to both photography and video. As a video person I can relate to DoF and I work with a photographer/video trainer in training camera operators and video editors and DoF is one of the hardest concepts to grasp but we use the same approach you do. We show them the effect and then show them how we got that effect. The tutorial video we use also does it that way so it seems to be a common thing to do.

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