On-Line Digital Photography Course
"To See Or Not To See" (the power of focus)
These shots were actually
taken in a couple of seconds to illustrate this specific point,
and so won't make it into my official gallery due to the flat
lighting and lack of care taken over the composition.
But in terms of
showing what point of focus (and of course depth of field) is
all about they are just fine.
Depth of field
When you point your
camera at something and press your finger half-way down on
the shutter release button, it normally
snaps into focus. In the first shot here, I obviously pointed
at the green woman (part of a famous Parisian Wallace water
fountain), and in the second shot I pointed at the
'Shakespeare' shop name.
In the top shot,
the green woman is sharp and 'Shakespeare' is fuzzy. The
depth of field relates to how much of the photo behind and
in front of the sharp subject will also be sharp.
In these shots we have a shallow depth of field,
which means things behind and in front of the subject
quickly go out of focus. A wide depth of field
would have kept everything sharp.
In these shots I just
had my camera on the 'P' or 'Program' setting, because I
knew (or suspected) that the prevailing
lighting conditions (dull) would automatically give me a
of field. This
comes from experience, and also trial and error.
However, if you want to
be sure that your subject is sharp and your background (or
foreground) is fuzzy, you need to use aperture priority.
This is usually the 'A' setting on your camera dial, or the
'portrait' setting, often shown as a woman's head, on
In the 'A' position
turn one of the dials to make the aperture number change -
low numbers such as 4 or 5.6 are what you need for this
effect. High numbers such as 16 or 22 will make everything
sharp! The 'portrait' setting on simpler cameras will do
Focus and reframe
is a vital concept and something I do continuously
throughout a shoot. It consists of pointing the camera at
the thing you want sharp, pressing the button half-way down,
and keeping the button pressed, moving the camera
to put the sharp subject where you want in the frame. When
you're happy with the composition, press the button the rest
of the way down and take the shot.
This is essential if
the thing you want sharp is not in the centre of the
picture. If you don't do this, it will probably be fuzzy and
the boring centre or background of the shot will be sharp.
This is exactly what I did in the top shot, where the woman
is sharp. In the second shot I didn't bother, because
'Shakespeare' was already in the centre of the shot, where
the camera naturally focuses.
Get out there and
choose the 'A' (aperture priority) or 'portrait' setting
on your camera.
Find a striking
subject such as a statue some distance in front of a
distinctive building or even another statue. Experiment
with focusing on the thing nearest to you and reframing.
Take one shot with the near thing in focus and another
with the background in focus.
Change the aperture
number and see what happens to the sharpness. Walk right
up to the near subject and take a shot. Walk back and
take it again.
Zoom in on a
subject and take a shot. Without moving, zoom out and
take the same shot. Compare the relative sharpness of
the foreground and background again. Your brain will
work it out!
Then comment on this
lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see
- depth of
field - how much of the photo is sharp in front of
and behind the point
of focus - is a vital creative tool you must be familiar
- the aperture
priority (or portrait) mode on your camera is your
magic doorway to achieving lovely selective focus
thoroughly familiar with focusing and reframing
- and your subject will always be sharp
~ Comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog
lesson belongs to the following sections...
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