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Depth of field is a concern for all types of photographers. Landscape shooters worry about getting really deep depth of field, while portrait shooters often aim for shallow, background-smearing depth of field. If you've done even a little macro shooting, then you should already have discovered that, for macro shooters, depth of field issues are significantly more profound. Throughout this course, I've been talking about how you needed to worry about depth of the field, but I don't think most people really take that seriously until they get behind the camera, and see just how shallow it is.
So, take a look at this. I still have the same flower setup from our last movie. I am going to focus right now on where the white petals join the back of the yellow. And, here is that shot. And, if you look at it closely, you can see that that area that I described is in focus. But now look at the front of the flower; it's soft. This is how shallow our depth of field is, and I'm at f/16. As I look at the flower right now, that's maybe a distance of two or three millimeters.
This is how significant depth of field issues are when we're working in macro. Let me now do the opposite. I am going to focus in closer, and take a shot, waiting for my camera to stabilize again. And, now the back where the white petals join the flower is soft. There are few things to remember while you're working with depth of field, before we get into some of the aesthetic things that I need to think about now. First, your viewfinder. Remember, on an SLR, when you're looking through the viewfinder, the aperture on your lens is always wide open. You are always looking at the least depth of field that you can capture.
I'm not actually seeing through my viewfinder, or on live view, the true depth of field that I am going to have at f/16. Now, I can get a preview of that by using my depth of field preview button. The difficulty with depth of field preview is that it works by actually just closing the aperture down. When I do that, my image goes so dark that it's very difficult to see focus. If you really keep your . . . cup your hand over your eye piece, give your eye time to adjust, maybe you'll start to see some detail. But again, we're already working with light loss, because we're at macro distances, and because we have extension tubes. So, depth of field preview gets very difficult to work with.
A lot of times, what you have to do is just take a shot, and review it on the back of the screen. However, the back of the screen isn't necessarily the best way to judge focus either. If you are going to look at the back of the screen, you really have to zoom in. Don't just look at the image that pops up there, and go, "Oh yeah that looks sharp." It's always going to look sharper than your actual final images. You need to zoom in, and pan around, and really try to assess focus. You might actually just need to do a lot of focus bracketing, meaning take a shot, change your focus a little bit, take another.
It's a very difficult to be sure of focus when you're working with such shallow depth of field. This is the kind of thing where practice is going to help you a lot. You're going to learn to be able to better understand the relationship between what you're seeing on your screen and what you are getting back at home. So, that means I have a decision to make here. Where do I want to focus? Do I want the yellow part in focus? Do I want the flowers . . . the white petals in focus? If I focus on the yellow part -- what you saw on that last shot, -- there are parts of the white petals that are in focus; they recede into the distance into a nice, soft background.
The other way around, I'm really focusing on those nice lines of the petals, but the yellow stuff is a little bit softer. I don't think I like this as much. The yellow stuff is right up there in the front. It looks like it's where I'm trying to guide the viewer's eye. It looks like the focal point of my composition, and I've left that focal point soft. So, in this case, I think I am better off going for this shot where the yellow stuff up front is nicely in focus; the white stuff is fading into the background.
Now, another way to go is, if I am having a problem with shallow depth of field, I could just embrace shallow depth of field. Let's see what happens if I go really shallow. I am going to go all the way down here to 2.8, and focus on the front of the flower. Now, at this point, the image that I'm going to capture is actually what I am seeing in the viewfinder, because 2.8 is this lens open all the way, and so here is what I get. Now, this is actually kind of interesting. It becomes a little more dreamy, because it's so soft. What I need to be sure of is that kind of my viewer's eye is still going in the right direction.
Think I might like to go just a tiny bit deeper than that, but keep that same focal point. I am going to bump out here to 5-6, and take another shot. Depth of field as a compositional tool becomes much more important when you're working in macro. You really need to think about how the viewer's eye is being guided around by your depth of field choices. This becomes more profound as your subject gets deeper, and we'll see about that in the next movie.
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