Depth of field…the oh so simple photography phrase with a “burn your brain” meaning. It will make your eyes cross and cause your thoughts to jumble into mush. If you can grasp it, photography takes on new heights of dimension and beauty. That is the subject of this week’s Project 52 blog circle.
Since a very shallow depth of field is the central core of my photography style, I’ve had to work hard to master the art. I want a super creamy background so that my subjects stand out in a dreamy wonderscape (yep, just coined a new phrase right there). To achieve that look, I have to pull together a balance of camera, lens, background, and foreground. That foreground to subject to background distance makes depth of field. As for the mathematics, those are overwhelming so I won’t even bother going over them. Besides, I detest math. Give me a paint brush or a camera instead.
Suffice it to say, depth of field is described as “the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects that give an image judged to be in focus in a camera”. For a detailed description, check out Wikipedia. In order to create a creamy background, I have to work with a shallow depth of field by setting a wide aperture. I recently purchased a Sigma 105mm f1.4 to be my workhorse for favored images where I want the shallowest depth of field. With all the deep snow on the ground, I haven’t been out to play with it. Last Friday was my first opportunity and I took it outside while my youngest BC played with his girlfriend, Haven. I didn’t worry about what objects were in my background in this case because I wanted to see how the lens would perform with my expectations. The longer the lens, the greater chance one has at background blur. Likewise, the wider the aperture, the greater chance at bokehlicious background blur (bokeh is the term used to describe that blur). The Sigma 105mm is considered the King of portrait lenses because it pulls off both components to produce unparalleled bokeh. Shooting at f1.4, though, means my depth of field is incredibly tiny. Approximately 2 inches of depth will be in focus. Eek!!! Imagine doing that with moving targets! It takes tons of practice. And, I mean TONS. I always make sure that my subject or myself is placed in a way that produces the greatest background distance. This first image is the best example of true depth of field. I am using a fairly long lens, the 105mm, and I am close to my subject while the background is far behind. The aperture is set at f1.4 so that I have very little depth to work with but the results are perfect creaminess. Every bit of that is depth of field, zero blur added in Photoshop.
The depth of field the lens gives me is exactly what I had hoped for. If I am photographing a dog up close, my background bokeh becomes awesome sauce. Even when I am farther away, if I make sure the background is far enough behind, I still get what I want. Here are some action shots with the lens.
To see more great images utilizing depth of field, please head on over to my fellow Spokane pet photographer, Angela Schneider of Noses & Toes Pet Photography in Spokane and North Idaho puts your pet in focus for your family portraits.