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The depth-of-field preview button

From: Foundations of Photography: Exposure

Video: The depth-of-field preview button

Having all this depth of field theory at your disposal is great, but unless you have got a really good eye for distance, it can be hard to judge what might be in focus when you are shooting with deep depth of field. This means it can be hard to determine when you have chosen an aperture that's small enough to get you the deep depth of field that you want. Remember too, that ideally you don't want to close your aperture down any further than you have to, because if you close down, sometimes refer to stopping down, if you close down too far, your image might suffer a sharpness loss due to diffraction artifacts inside your lens.

The depth-of-field preview button

Having all this depth of field theory at your disposal is great, but unless you have got a really good eye for distance, it can be hard to judge what might be in focus when you are shooting with deep depth of field. This means it can be hard to determine when you have chosen an aperture that's small enough to get you the deep depth of field that you want. Remember too, that ideally you don't want to close your aperture down any further than you have to, because if you close down, sometimes refer to stopping down, if you close down too far, your image might suffer a sharpness loss due to diffraction artifacts inside your lens.

You can of course shoot a picture and then look at it on the back of the screen to try to determine your depth of field. But as you may have already noticed the screen on your camera's LCD tends to render things in focus even when they are little soft. This is simply because it's so small. So images sharpen up when reduced to fit on the screen. Even if you zoom in, you won't necessarily get an accurate view of focus. Also, if you are shooting in bright daylight, you might have trouble seeing your screen at all. Another option, of course, is to wheel around the giant plasma monitor though, that's not necessarily practical because these things are like grocery cards: there is always one wheel that's just a drag.

A better choice is to use your camera's depth of field preview button if it has one. On this camera, it's a button that's right under here. Now here is how it works. If you remember back to the Aperture video, we showed you a lens, and you saw the iris inside, closing. Now when your lens is on your camera, the iris is always open all the way, because if it's closed down at all, when you look through the viewfinder, there won't be enough light, and you won't be able to see. So the camera leaves the iris opened all the way all the time, to let as much light as possible through the viewfinder.

You dial in an Aperture setting, it still doesn't change the size of the iris. It's not until you press the shutter button to take the shot that it closes the iris down to your chosen setting, and takes the picture. So when I am looking through here, even if I dialed in f22, which should give me a real depth of field, what I am getting is a wide-open aperture. So I am always having small or shallow depth of field. In fact, I am in an aperture priority mode, I am just going to dial right on up to f16, something that may not be the best thing in terms of overall sharpness of the image, but we are going to risk it anyway.

So I am at f16. That's a tiny, little aperture. That should be very deep depth of field. Everything in that shot should be in focus. But as I looked through the view- finder--and what we are seeing on the screen here is what I would see in my optical viewfinder-- as I look through the viewfinder, only the middle camera is in focus. Now remember, I have focused on the middle camera, so that's where my depth of field is centered around. So plainly, it's looking like my depth of field is not deep enough to get all three cameras, even though I am at f16. Now if I press the depth of field preview button, what's going to happen is the iris is going to close down to my chosen setting, which in this case is f16, and when I do that, pay attention to the front or rear camera.

When I press the depth of field button now, they snap into focus. Because when I press the depth of field button, my iris closes down and I get to see the true depth of field in my image. I am going to let go and I pop back up. Here it is again, and here I am back out. Let's go open to our wider aperture and see what happens. I am going to go to f11, hit the depth of field Preview button, take a look at the first camera. It sharper, but it's not as sharp as it was at f 16. So I am seeing a change in my depth of field as I press the depth of field preview button.

Now what we are seeing here in live view is not entirely an accurate reproduction of what would you see if you were looking through your optical view- finder, because when you look through the optical viewfinder, when that iris closes down, as you press the depth of field preview button, your viewfinder is actually going to get darker, because that's stopping down. It's going to cut out a lot of light. So if you are out in the sunlight, a lot of times what happens is you press the deep depth of field or the depth of field preview button, and you go, "Well, now I can't see." Keep looking through the viewfinder. Try to block out the area around the viewfinder. In other words, you are trying to get your eye to adjust to the new darkness.

Wait a minute, and you should then be able to see depth of field. Then you can take your shot. It's still not quite as accurate a representation as dragging around a giant plasma display, but it's much easier to do. In the end, if your depth of field preview button is too hard to see in your current live, or your camera doesn't have one, then your best bet will be to do what's called bracketing. Shoot at your chosen small exposure, then try shooting at a smaller one, just in case. And also, remember what you saw earlier about depth of field and focus.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Exposure
Foundations of Photography: Exposure

64 video lessons · 92191 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 8m 45s
    1. Welcome
      1m 57s
    2. What is exposure?
      4m 8s
    3. A word about camera brands
      2m 40s
  2. 9m 31s
    1. What is a camera?
      2m 52s
    2. The shutter
      3m 53s
    3. The aperture
      1m 33s
    4. Exposure defined
      1m 13s
  3. 13m 50s
    1. Modes
      2m 7s
    2. Pressing the shutter button
      2m 54s
    3. Autofocus
      5m 22s
    4. Light metering
      2m 3s
    5. White balance
      1m 24s
  4. 29m 26s
    1. Shooting sharp images
      1m 58s
    2. Noting shutter speed
      4m 3s
    3. Taking control of shutter speed
      1m 30s
    4. Stop defined
      2m 50s
    5. Shutter priority mode
      4m 34s
    6. Exercise: Shutter speed
      40s
    7. Reciprocity
      3m 13s
    8. Controlling motion
      7m 8s
    9. Shutter speed increments
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Go work with shutter speed
      1m 9s
  5. 26m 2s
    1. Depth of field
      1m 53s
    2. How aperture is measured
      2m 42s
    3. Aperture priority mode
      4m 57s
    4. Lens speed
      53s
    5. Shooting deep depth of field
      3m 53s
    6. Shooting shallow depth of field
      2m 50s
    7. The depth-of-field preview button
      4m 24s
    8. How shallow should you be?
      2m 47s
    9. Exercise: Go work with aperture
      1m 43s
  6. 16m 26s
    1. ISO: The third exposure parameter
      6m 27s
    2. Assessing your camera's high ISO
      5m 32s
    3. Shooting in low light
      3m 32s
    4. Exercise: Shooting in low light
      55s
  7. 14m 30s
    1. White balance controls
      5m 37s
    2. Adjusting white balance manually
      4m 25s
    3. Shooting raw
      4m 28s
  8. 6m 3s
    1. How light meters work
      1m 47s
    2. Why are there different modes?
      4m 16s
  9. 33m 58s
    1. Exposure compensation
      4m 0s
    2. Intentional overexposure
      2m 40s
    3. Intentional underexposure
      1m 42s
    4. Controlling tone
      2m 31s
    5. The histogram
      10m 4s
    6. Real-world histograms
      5m 49s
    7. Tone and color
      2m 16s
    8. Auto exposure bracketing
      3m 57s
    9. Exercise: Go work with exposure compensation
      59s
  10. 12m 56s
    1. Dynamic range
      2m 24s
    2. Exposing for highlights
      4m 15s
    3. Fill flash
      3m 11s
    4. Three solutions to the same problem
      3m 6s
  11. 12m 26s
    1. Manual mode
      2m 6s
    2. Manual mode and light meters
      4m 52s
    3. Manual exposure exercise
      5m 28s
  12. 12m 1s
    1. Custom modes and A-DEP
      1m 39s
    2. Program shift
      3m 52s
    3. Exposure compensation with program shift
      1m 58s
    4. An exercise in reciprocity
      53s
    5. Scene modes and in-camera processing
      3m 39s
  13. 8m 15s
    1. Shooting with post production in mind
      3m 45s
    2. Exposure strategy
      3m 51s
    3. Goodbye
      39s

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