Getting Creative with Close-ups: Depth of Field

What's Sharp - and What's Not - in Your Photograph Can Be the Key to Success

by Kerry Drager

Focus on Distant Subject
Focus on Distant Subject
© Kerry Drager
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Same Composition, Different Focusing Points

In the warm light of late day, I ventured out to my collection of old trucks and ranching equipment. For this photo, I couldn't decide which should be the main focal point and, thus, sharply focused - the diagonal yellow subject or the distant wheel ... easy solution: I shot two versions! In this picture, I focused directly on the wheel, and then used a small aperture in order to make the grass at the lower right fairly sharp too. Note: Due to the extreme closeness of the foreground subject, it was impossible to get total front-to-back sharpness (deep DOF). Data: f/22; 1/6th sec.; 105mm lens; 100 ISO; tripod and cable release

Focus on Close-up Subject
Focus on Close-up Subject
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
In this second image (right), I switched focusing points. As shown, the subject was super-close to the camera, thanks to my macro lens. But, although it was impossible to get both foreground and background sharp, I still chose a small aperture (high f/number), in order to ensure crispness throughout the front subject. I'm not sure which version I like best, but I'm glad that I photographed the scene both ways!

Data for Focus on Close-up Subject: f/22, 1/6th sec., 105mm macro, 100 ISO; tripod and cable release


More Depth of Field
More Depth of Field
© Kerry Drager
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Same Composition, Different Apertures

Photogenic government buildings can make great subjects ... when they're closed, that is! Normally busy, this stairway outside the front entrance to a courthouse made a fine subject for the soft overcast light on a weekend day. I used a telephoto lens - 105mm - to zero in for a tight composition, including a very close subject (green railing). Since I wasn't sure how much - or how little - Depth of Field would be best, I shot it two ways: at right, with a small aperture (high f/number) at right; and, below, with a larger aperture (lower f/number). It turns out that I like both versions! Data for More Depth of Field: f/32 for a fairly deep Depth of Field; 105mm lens; point of focus on close-up green railing; polarizer (to reduce glare and deepen colors); and tripod!


Less Depth of Field
Less Depth of Field
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
In Less Depth of Field, I wanted a narrow range of sharpness, in order to isolate the focused subject (railing) against a blurred backdrop. Because the railing is very close to the camera and I was using a telephoto lens, I needed to stop the lens down a little - to f/8 - in order to keep the entire railing sharp. A wider aperture would have made the background even blurrier (nice!), but wouldn't have kept the entire railing sharp (not so nice). Data: Overcast, f/8 for a shallow Depth of Field; 105mm lens; point of focus on close-up green railing; Polarizer (to reduce glare and deepen colors); tripod!


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