Just to give an example. The great teacher and author, José B. Ruiz, in his fantastic book, The Photographer in Nature, also refers to the depth of field:
“To maximize the depth of field depends on choosing the focal point carefully, depending on the framing location we have focused on, we may be missing out on part of the available depth of field in the closest plane or towards infinity.”
And it’s true – knowing how to use depth of field in the right way gives you a lot of power. You can transform a good photo into another capable of winning people’s hearts.
Put like that, it seems simple.
The only problem?
You are not sure how to really use the depth of field.
How can you get little depth of field? Or a lot? When should you use a lot or a little? Where should you focus? What camera parameters should you use?
While many experts bombard us with the virtues and virtues of knowing how to use depth of field, very few tell us how to really take action.
So it turns out that many well-meaning photographers spend hours and hours trying to apply depth of field without really understanding the concept completely and without knowing how to use it.
If this is your case, do not worry. You are not the only one!
In my courses, I like to enter the depth of field next to the opening, just after the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO). During the theory classes, I use multiple examples and tools available online, including the Photo Pills depth-of-field calculator, to help my students visualize which parameters influence depth of field.
One of the moments in which I get to surprise my students is when I grab my iPhone and use the augmented reality of the Photo Pills depth of field calculator to answer one of the questions that most make me:
“Antoni, this hyperfocal thing is fine … but where should I focus exactly?”
Surprisingly, they do not ask me many questions during the theoretical classes. It seems that everyone has assimilated the concept quickly. Unfortunately, this departs completely from reality.
It is not until the next day, during the practical class, when the problems arise. In the environment, the frustration and despair of the people are perceived, reminding me exactly what I felt the first time I tried to apply the concept of depth of field.
Most of my students see how their inability to capture the desired level of depth of field limits their creativity. Mainly, this is due to two facts:
They have not correctly assumed the concept. They need to practice.
The limitations of their equipment, in many cases a digital reflex camera with a lens 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6.
The problems that appear most frequently are:
In portrait photography, most do not manage to separate the background from the subject. They do not know how to blur the background and foreground elements to get the desired depth of field level.
In landscape photography, the typical problem is not being able to maximize the depth of field. “Antoni, why do the stars look blurry?” – they ask me. Many do not dare to use hyper focal distance, so they choose very closed apertures (f / 16, f / 22) to maximize the depth of field. Obviously, when shooting with short focal lengths (10mm-35mm), focusing at the hyper focal distance is the simplest and fastest way to maximize depth of field.
On the other hand, most students do not know how to focus at a hyper focal distance. They try to focus the lens exactly to the number they get from the hyper focal tables, falling short most of the time. The solution? Do not fall short when focusing on the hyper focal distance. If you fall short, everything on the horizon will be out of focus. You must make sure that you focus at a distance greater than the hyper focal. Go half a meter or a meter. This will allow you to keep the far plane of depth of field at infinity. This way you will capture all the elements of the horizon (the stars for example) perfectly focused.
Basic equipment limits creativity, preventing you from transforming your ideas into real photos.
Some students simply show that they did not understand the concept. They mix the depth of field with the focal length, or even in the minimum focusing distance. Others mix the distance to the subject with the hyper focal. A mess!
At a more advanced level, problems arise when explaining the concept of Circle of Confusion (CoC). Many times its practical application is not understood.
Well, my goal with this tutorial is to help you overcome all the difficulties when you try to capture a certain depth of field, regardless of your level.