Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Shooting deep depth of field, part of Photography Foundations: Exposure (2010).
By now, you should be pretty comfortable with depth of field, and you should know that small apertures give me deeper depth of field. A deep depth of field is exactly what I want right now. I have stumbled into this beautiful landscape shot, and what's characteristic about landscape photography is deep focus. Everything up close is in focus, everything far away is in focus, and everything in between. That means deep depth of field. What I've got here is I have got this fence in the foreground. I have got some grass in front of it. I've got an island out on the horizon. I'd like all of that to be as sharp as I can possibly get it, so I put my camera into aperture priority mode, that gives me control of aperture. And I dial my aperture down to f11.
Now, this camera can actually go smaller. I can get down to f22 if I wanted to, and a lot of people do that. They think, "oh! I want deep depth of field. I'll just close it down all the way." As you learn in "Foundations of Photography: Lenses", all lenses have an aperture sweet spot, and if you go out of it, your images will get soft. I know on here that I can go to 11 and be okay. So I have done that. Aperture of course is critical to depth of field control, but for shooting depth of field, there is something else to consider. Remember, depth of field is centered around the point of focus. So if I focus here, I have depth on either side of that, and I can move that, expand it, shrink it whatever. But it's all centered around my point of focus.
What that means is if I go focus on the horizon, which is kind of what your tendency is when you are shooting a landscape, I am wasting a bunch of depth of field because a lot of it is falling behind the point of focus, and there isn't anything behind the point of focus. That means that a bunch of depth-of- field that could be in front of the island is now being wasted. So choosing where to focus is critical to getting deep depth of field. So let's take a look at my shot here. I've framed it up, and framed the way that I want it, I get my focus point right in the center. I am going to go ahead and just take that shot, but I am going to think about something else here.
I am not sure that that's actually going to get me enough depth of field forward. In general, the rule of thumb is you want to focus about a third in to your subject. That is a third of the distance from the camera to the horizon. Right now that center point is probably a little too far back. So I am going to tilt down to about there, and I half-press the button to autofocus, and then I tilt back up, and now I take my shot. So that might be the keeper. That might be the shot that I want, but I can't tell.
I don't know for sure, and you might think, "Well, I'll just put it up on the LCD screen and review it." These screens aren't great at showing focus, and we're talking about fine degrees of sharpness. So I am going to assume that I don't know which one is the keeper image till I get home. So what I am doing is I am bracketing focus. I am shooting the same shot focused in different places with the hope that when I get home, one of them is going to be good. I am going to try something else though now. I am going to focus on the fence. That for sure is going to get me enough depth of field up here. Yet, it may not get me depth of field all the way out to the island. However, the fence is really big in the frame.
That's the thing that people are going to see when they look at your print. I want to be sure it's sharp. The island is way in the distance, and now it's shrouded in fog. If it's a little bit out of focus, I am probably not going to notice that so much. So I am willing to maybe lose a little sharpness there. So I am going to tilt down, focus, tilt back up. I focused on the fence, and now I take my shot, and there we go. Just for the sake of experimentation on your own, in a situation like this, try focusing on the horizon. It's a good exercise.
I am going to focus way out there on the island, reframe my shot, take it, and come home and see how much is in focus on the grass. That will give you an idea of exactly how we are moving this depth of field range around. So when you're landscape shooting, yes, you have to remember aperture-- small aperture for deep depth of field. But don't just frame the shot in your way and take it; be very careful about where you are focusing, and aim for focusing either about a third of the way in or on your foreground subject. Bracket your focus, shoot several shots focused in different places, and odds are one of them is going to be a keeper.
- What is exposure?
- Exploring camera modes
- Light metering
- Shooting sharp images
- Controlling shutter speed
- Understanding f-stops
- Controlling motion
- Working with a shallow depth of field
- Measuring aperture
- Shooting in low light conditions
- Performing manual light balance
- Working with the histogram
- Using fill flash
- Understanding reciprocity