Monday, March 22, 2010

Instructor's Tip: Depth of Field Basics, Part 1

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Photos by Russ Burden


When it comes right down to it, depth of field is synonymous with range of focus. It only seems natural that a photographer would want to produce a picture with a wide range of focus, but this is not always the case. If everything in the image is tack sharp, it tells the viewer to look at every detail and that every detail is important. Conversely, if only certain subjects in the image are sharp, the viewer is drawn to those areas and the rest of the elements become secondary. In the case of landscapes, images work better when everything is sharp from the foreground to the background. But for portraits, and many other subjects, the image is more successful if just the main subject is sharp and the remaining elements fade into softness. So how does a photographer create specific ranges of focus?

Depth of field is controlled by a combination of the following: the f stop used to make the picture, the focal length of the lens, subject distance from the camera, and subject distance from the background. With regards to f stop, the higher the number of the f stop, the greater the depth of field. In other words, with all other factors being equal, f22 will create much more depth of field than f4. This translates to a more sharply rendered foreground and background. With this in mind, as a guideline, for landscapes use f stops closer to f22 and for portraits, use those close to f4.

Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Check out Burden's "How To Tips" featured on Outdoor Photographer's website. The seven that are dated February 4th are his. Just underneath the articles, be sure to click on page 1 to see an additional 9.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Burden's most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

To learn more about this subject, join Burden on one of his photo tours.

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