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Understanding depth of field and focus

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: Understanding depth of field and focus

If you get too close to your subject -- that is closer than your lens's minimum focusing distance, -- then your lens won't be able to focus. So, if you get up close, and you can't get focused -- your lens just searches back and forth, -- the first thing you need to do is start to back away. Now, you can continue to try to auto focus as you pull the camera further from the subject, but that kind of trial-and-error approach can take a while, because the camera is going to keep focusing every time you try. You might find it easier to employ a manual focus approach. First thing I do is set my camera's focus to its closest focusing distance.

Understanding depth of field and focus

If you get too close to your subject -- that is closer than your lens's minimum focusing distance, -- then your lens won't be able to focus. So, if you get up close, and you can't get focused -- your lens just searches back and forth, -- the first thing you need to do is start to back away. Now, you can continue to try to auto focus as you pull the camera further from the subject, but that kind of trial-and-error approach can take a while, because the camera is going to keep focusing every time you try. You might find it easier to employ a manual focus approach. First thing I do is set my camera's focus to its closest focusing distance.

Now, on this lens, I can actually turn the manual focusing ring without having to switch it to manual focus. For other lenses, you have to make that change first. So, what I do now is -- rather than trying to auto focus the camera to get it in focus; I'm at my minimum focusing distance, -- I'm just going to move the camera back and forth until I get focus. So, you can see that there I'm in focus, and there I'm not, and here I'm in focus, and here I'm not, so I can zero in on my focus that way.

Now, watch what happens if I'm shooting more at an angle where there is more depth in the scene. You can see that there the kind of back part of the flower is in focus; here the front part of the flower is in focus. So, I can really work exactly the part that I want without handling my lens at all. All I'm doing is moving the camera forward and backward. There's another reason to focus this way. As you may have noticed from looking at close-up in macro photos, or simply from your own experience, when you get close to your subject, your depth of field will drop off dramatically.

So, as depth of field gets more shallow, you may find you need to make very, very slight adjustments to focus to get a specific detail of your subject sharp. It's going to be easier to make this change by moving the camera back and forth than it would be to try to work the focus ring on your lens. We'll be talking about these issues in greater detail when we cover true macro shooting. For now, go ahead and start practicing focus adjustments through camera moves. Being comfortable with this practice will give you a leg-up when we get to macro close-distance shooting.

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Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 15290 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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