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Working with shallow depth of field

From: Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

Video: Working with shallow depth of field

In the last movie we looked at how a long lens really compresses the sense of depth in a scene and how you can use that to create very different compositions. We're going to work with that again here, but we're also going to take a look at depth of field. We've pulled Greg out from in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and dropped him into this polo field. And what I want to do here is play up the shallow depth of field that I can get with my long lens and combine that with some of the depth compression to create an environment and a sense of space in the scene that I just can't get with a wide lens.

Working with shallow depth of field

In the last movie we looked at how a long lens really compresses the sense of depth in a scene and how you can use that to create very different compositions. We're going to work with that again here, but we're also going to take a look at depth of field. We've pulled Greg out from in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and dropped him into this polo field. And what I want to do here is play up the shallow depth of field that I can get with my long lens and combine that with some of the depth compression to create an environment and a sense of space in the scene that I just can't get with a wide lens.

So I'm up pretty close to him here because this is very often how it is when you're hanging out with somebody and you decide to take their picture: you're usually standing pretty close when that moment happens and so you tend to work with shorter focal lengths, even if you have a very long lens on your camera. So I'm at 100 mm. Greg is standing up here in the bleachers. I'm going to take his picture. I'm framing a shot, and I'm just kind of trying to fill the frame with him as much as I can. I'm getting a little bit of background. I've opened my aperture up all the way. Now, as I'm facing this scene, I know that I want shallow depth of field. I want to separate him from the background. With my 100 mm lens the background is large in the frame.

That's going to make it easier to see that it is defocused. So I've opened my aperture up all the way, which at this focal length on this lens is at 4.5. So I'm going to take my shot after I focus. It's not much else to it on a shot like this. The stabilizer is on the lens so I'm getting a nice stable shot. Notice that I got my elbows up against my body. That's giving me a lot of stability. And I fire away and I get this. So I like this, it's a nice shot. Greg is mostly filling the frame. He is obviously the subject of the image.

Notice that the background is shallow. It's not super shallow. It's also in some ways a little cluttered. There's a lot going on in the frame. The background back there looks a long way away. Now in the last video you saw how I could bring the background closer by going to a longer focal length. I can do that with this lens. I can zoom out all the way to 400, but at this point I'm seeing Greg's left nostril. So what I need to do is pull farther back so that I can frame the same shot with this longer lens. So take a look at this one and make note of how much Greg is filling the frame because now I want to frame the same shot from a different location.

So to do that, I am going to zoom my lens out, which means I need to get really far away. Now again the idea here is that by zooming out I'm going to be able to make the depth of field, the shallow depth of field, more apparent because it's going to compress the depth. That's going to bring the background closer, and it's going to be easier for me to see that the background is out of focus. So, this is an example of a telephoto lens that's being used not because I need to see something really far away. I've got full access to Greg. If I want to, I can just walk right up to him. But I'm wanting this shallow depth-of-field thing so I need to get far away and use my longer lens.

So I've moved back here, I've zoomed out to 400, and I'm finding that's a little bit close so I'm going to zoom in a little bit. I'm at, like, 380 or something like that. So I'm framing him about the same way. I've still got my aperture wide open; however, at this focal length, now wide open is 5.6. So I've lost a little bit, but it's not really going to matter because it doesn't matter to my exposure, and it's not going to matter really to the depth of field because with the background larger, the shallow depth of field is a little bit more obvious.

So here I can see that the depth of field is really nice and soft. But look what else has happened: the bleachers have been compressed. Before, Greg was kind of sticking up off of them. Now he's more kind of surrounded by them. They're really filling the frame a lot more. It's a cozier environment. It's also a simpler image. There's less in the background. It's more just bleachers and some green and some sky. Now, I'm not sure what I think of about the green. Actually, I don't have sky just got green. I'm not sure what I think about the green.

I would like to try a different composition. These super-telephoto lenses and the ultra- wide-angle lenses, when you get to these extremes, tiny movements, tiny changes in camera position can really have a big impact in the composition of your scene. This is part of the fun about working super telephoto or working ultra wide. I have a huge variety of relationships that I can play with. So watch what happens if I move from right here to up here. I've raised my camera maybe six inches and when I do that and frame Greg at the same size, still shooting wide open, I get this, a very, very noticeable change in composition here.

Most of the, well not most, a lot of the green stuff has been cropped out. His head is now below the horizon. And again, that's simply going, moving the camera from here to here. That's the change we're talking about, and this is the kind of change that you've got to pay really close attention to when you're working with these extreme lenses. Moving from here to here might change the relationship of many different items in the frame. So that's something to always be diligent about looking for. It's also something that you can play with. One of the fun things about these lenses is moving around and seeing what kind of different compositions you can compose.

But here what we're really going for is that cozy look that's created by the shallow depth of field and the compressed background, and that's something that I can do with one of these nice long lenses. So, you will use this for more than just shooting things that are far away. Even in more ordinary circumstances, you might want to employ your super-telephoto lens to change the sense of space in the image and go for a very different feel.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses
Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

50 video lessons · 17190 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 4m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 46s
    2. Roadmap of the course
      2m 24s
  2. 3m 53s
    1. Words about focal length
      2m 6s
    2. Understanding camera position
      1m 47s
  3. 39m 19s
    1. What filters are for
      2m 37s
    2. Shopping for filters
      3m 55s
    3. Understanding neutral density filters
      4m 53s
    4. Applying neutral density filters
      3m 55s
    5. Polarizing filters
      3m 4s
    6. Some shooting tips for working with a polarizing filter
      2m 32s
    7. Using infrared filters
      9m 15s
    8. Processing the infrared image
      6m 7s
    9. Handling stuck filters
      3m 1s
  4. 38m 37s
    1. Working with ultra-wide lenses
      7m 19s
    2. Using a wide-angle lens
      4m 43s
    3. Understanding fisheye lenses
      4m 2s
    4. Working with fisheye lenses
      3m 59s
    5. Understanding fisheye exposure
      3m 3s
    6. Taking fisheye further
      4m 16s
    7. Processing fisheye and wide-angle images
      7m 38s
    8. Correcting tone in fisheye images
      3m 37s
  5. 35m 37s
    1. Understanding super telephoto
      6m 21s
    2. Shooting distant subjects
      8m 26s
    3. Compressing the sense of depth
      7m 53s
    4. Working with shallow depth of field
      5m 35s
    5. Working with teleconverters
      2m 38s
    6. Editing telephoto images
      4m 44s
  6. 16m 47s
    1. Understanding macro basics
      2m 47s
    2. Shooting close
      4m 52s
    3. Shooting macro
      5m 20s
    4. Working with a point-and-shoot for macro
      1m 58s
    5. Using a two-lens strategy
      1m 50s
  7. 16m 39s
    1. Understanding tilt shift
      3m 37s
    2. Correcting perspective
      4m 29s
    3. Creating the toy effect
      4m 41s
    4. Deepening depth of field
      3m 52s
  8. 32m 39s
    1. Working with specialty lenses
      2m 43s
    2. Using the Lensbaby
      9m 13s
    3. Working with the Lensbaby Macro attachment
      3m 50s
    4. Shooting with a Holga attachment
      3m 4s
    5. Using an alternative mount lens
      2m 18s
    6. Using super-fast lenses
      1m 47s
    7. Correcting Lensbaby images
      9m 44s
  9. 39m 48s
    1. Correcting perspective
      10m 41s
    2. Creating the toy effect
      6m 31s
    3. Getting the lo-fi Holga look
      11m 17s
    4. Reproducing the effect of a Lensbaby
      8m 17s
    5. Cropping and enlarging images
      3m 2s
  10. 2m 47s
    1. Choosing whether to borrow or buy
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye
      47s

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