Tag Archives: Shallow field

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks

• Oil and water •

• Oil and water •
These bubbles of oil in water were shot with a
Canon 50 mm f/1.8 and a +10 close-up filter
Click image to view large
Oil and water • by ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Easy, budget macro.

Macro or close-up photography is accessible without investing in a pricey macro lens. The first three articles in this series covered techniques for inexpensive macro-level results: close-up lenses, reverse rings, and extension tubes. In this article, I offer suggestions for achieving great-looking results using any of these three techniques.

Choose Your Depth of Field

Depth of field is a term that refers to the area of the image that is acceptably sharp and in focus. Depth of field is a function of many things. Our interest is in three factors. These are aperture, the distance between the camera and the subject, and the orientation of the subject relative to the camera.

Aperture has a direct influence on the depth of field. A wide aperture (smaller f number, such as f/1.8) creates a shallow depth of field. Areas of the image outside of the zone of sharpness fall out of focus quickly. Wide apertures can be used to create bokeh – unsharp sections of the image.

A narrow aperture (larger f number, such as f/22) creates a deep depth of field. The majority of the image is in focus. Narrow apertures are often used by landscape photographers to capture front-to-back sharpness throughout an image.

The distance between the camera and the subject also influences the depth of field. Generally, the closer that you are to your subject, the narrower the depth of the field becomes. This is particularly important when using macro and close-up photography techniques where you need to be physically close to the photographic subject.

• Bokeh penny •

• Bokeh penny •
Penny shot with a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a full set of three, generic extension tubes (7, 14, and 28 mm). The plane of sharpness lies parallel to the flat of the lens. If the plane is not parallel the focus is quickly lost.
Click image to view large
Bokeh penny • By ArchaeoFrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

It is also important to consider the orientation of the subject relative to the camera. The depth of field can be thought of as a plane that is parallel to the camera lens. If you can orient yourself so that the subject is parallel to the flat of camera lens, more of your subject will be in focus than if it is at an angle to the camera. In the penny shot above, I tilted the camera lens slightly away from the parallel position. The loss of focus from right to left is obvious.

• Flowers and Depth of Focus •

• Flowers and Depth of Focus •
Click image to view large
• Flowers and Depth of Focus • External link - opens new tab/page

The flower photographs show how depth of field influences an image. Both were taken with the same lens (Canon 50 mm f/1.8), the same aperture (f/1.8), and the same technique (reverse ring). Both images have a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) and are close to the subject. The appearance of the depth of field is very different. The yellow flower (left) is sideways to the camera. Only the closest edges of the petals are within the depth of field and are in focus. The purple flowers center is shot parallel to the camera. The entire center of the flower is within the depth of field and appears in focus.

If you want more of your subject in focus use a narrower aperture. Increase the distance between yourself and the subject, and set the camera (and thus the depth of field) parallel to the subject. If you want less of your subject in focus, you can use a shallow aperture, get in closer to your subject, and orient the camera and depth of field perpendicular to the subject. Try it many different ways and see what works best for what you envision!

The Tripod: With and Without

It is possible to achieve acceptably sharp macro results hand-holding the camera. The majority of images in these articles were shot hand-held. If you have a stationary subject using a tripod will greatly improve the sharpness of your image. A tripod allows you to use longer shutter speeds. This helps you get crisper images in lower light. It also allows a narrower aperture to gain a deeper depth of field. The steadiness of the tripod will significantly reduce hand movement.

If available, also use the Live-View function on your camera to fine-tune your focus. Live-View lets you use your display screen rather than the viewfinder. Many cameras allow you to zoom in on a portion of the image to check the focus.

Without a tripod a good stance improves stability while hand-holding. Create your own tripod with your body by bracing yourself or your camera. In the diptych image below, I am using my elbows for support. The elbows in combination with my feet create a similar a three-point stability like a tripod. In the extension tube article, I demonstrated a similar human-tripod by bracing my elbows on my knees while shooting.

• Simultaneous diptych •

• Simultaneous diptych •
These two images were taken at the same time and show my hand-holding position as well as the image captured. The flower was shot with a reverse-mounted Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens.Click image to view large
• Simultaneous diptych • by ArchaeoFrog on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

This three-point position allows me to lean in and out very slightly with the camera. I can manually find the exact focus that I want in the photograph. Focusing with body movement allows me to place the depth of focus exactly where I want it relative to the subject.

More after this…

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When you are hand-holding practice breathing slowly and pushing the camera shutter button gently, without imparting additional motion to the camera. (More tips on stance)

Play, Combine, and Find What Works for You

You can use extension tubes in combination with either a reverse ring or close-up lens for even more detailed images. However, the working distance between the lens and the subject is narrow and the depth of field is incredibly shallow. With the pennies below, I found it impossible to keep both Mr. Lincoln and the columns of his memorial in focus together, as the columns are slightly raised relative to the surface of the penny.

• Penny diptych •

• Penny diptych •
These pennies were both taken with a Canon 50 mm f/.18 lens and a set of three, generic extension tubes (7, 14, and 28mm). In the left-hand image a +10 close-up lens was added, and in the right-hand image the lens was instead reverse mounted.
Click image to view large
• Penny diptych • By ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Close-up lenses can also be screwed in to each other for greater magnification. I used both a +4 and +10 close-up lens for the snowflake image below. There is some distortion visible in the image particularly around the edges. I also found it more difficult to focus when looking through both lenses.

• Macro snowflake •

• Macro snowflake •
Snowflakes shot with a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a +4 and +10 close-up lens.
Click image to view large
• Macro snowflake • By ArchaeoFrog on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

The final curtain

The varieties of subjects for macro and close-up photography are endless. I have tried to highlight a variety of them during this series. Flowers, insects, and falling water are perennial favourites, as are coins, Lego figures, and other small objects. Your imagination and creativity are your only limitations. Enjoy!

• Macro snowflake •

• Lego water crown •
This Lego mini-figure and falling water crown were shot using a
Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens and a +4 close-up lens.
Click image to view large
• Lego water crown • External link - opens new tab/page

Articles on Close-Up and Macro Photography
by Katie McEnaney

Part 1 of this series focused on using close-up lens, Part 2 covered reverse rings, and Part 3 explained extension tubes.

Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – close-up rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Reverse Rings
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Extension Tubes
Inexpensive Close-Up Photography – Tips and Tricks (this article)

By Katie McEnaney (contributing author)

Katie is an elementary school teacher in Wisconsin, USA. She is an avid photographer with wide interests. She is always interested in learning more and growing in her photography. Katie is in the third year of her 365 project as ArchaeoFrog (profile)  External link - opens new tab/page. Her 365 project can be found at 365Pproject.org  External link - opens new tab/page and she has a growing body of work on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page.
By Katie McEnaney :: Profile on Google+

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One big change – one easy step forward (depth of field)

Bracelets - Depth of field is often misjudged. Try it in lots of situations and you will master it.

• Bracelets •
Depth of field is often misjudged. Try it in lots of situations and you will master it.
Click image to view large.
• Bracelets • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Every photographer needs to understand depth of field.

Most do get to grips with it. However, when working with a shallow depth of field many photographers misjudge the depth they have to work with. Here is how to work it out.

All too often when using a shallow depth of field the edges of the sharp/bokeh region are well defined. If you get that boundary in the wrong place it is quite easy to spoil the image. For example if you take a portrait with a wide open aperture and the depth of field is too shallow you might find that the eyes are in focus. However, the ears are out of focus and so is the nose. A disconcerting picture! So how do you get over this? Find out by deliberately working at the wide-open aperture end of the range. Push yourself. Open up to a wide aperture and keep it opened up until you feel comfortable you have got control.

Setting it up

Setting your lens to the wide end is easy. Just open up the lens until you have the smallest f.number showing in your screen or viewfinder. Most photographers will have one lens with an f3.5 or f4 aperture (or less). It is possible to buy lenses with much wider apertures. So you may have as much as an f1.2 aperture – which will give you a very shallow depth of field.

What now?

Once you have your lens at the wide open position you keep it there. Then go shoot… a lot.

I know this may seem a tall order but it is fun. Keeping a fixed depth of field dictates much of your perspective on a shot. In order to create nicely composed pictures you will need to move around a lot. You will want to keep your subject sharp. Photographing a range of different sizes of subject means you need to move back and forward to vary the depth of field to fit the subject.

If you take a picture close to you, with a shallow depth of field you will maybe have less than 100mm of sharpness – or much less depending on your lens. If you take a picture focusing at 2 meters from you may find, say, 300mm (12 inches) of sharpness – enough to fit a head into and keep it sharp. If you are working at say 200 meters you may be looking at a really quite wide depth of field – maybe several car lengths.

The point of the exercise is that holding the depth of field fixed makes you walk around and gain experience with your lens. After a while you will be able to judge how much depth of field you will get when shooting at a particular distance. Then you will have mastered your lens at the wide aperture end of the scale.

Getting good control of depth of field is really helpful

You begin to have much more creative control when you have good depth of field control. If you can get you subject finely focussed and sharp – but everything else in a beautiful soft bokeh – your subject will really pull the viewers eye into the shot. Depth of field is all about isolating your subject and making everything else less of a distraction. Control is everything.

Once you have gained control of the extreme end of the open aperture, you can move on. Now make the aperture one less stop open. Do the same exercise. Get to know your lens at this aperture/depth of field combination. Once you have mastered that, move up another stop.

After a while you will have complete creative control over your use of bokeh and the depth of field. An enviable position… you can really be creative when you have such control.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.