Today's Photo Minute

Depth of Field – Chess Board

Today we are starting a new daily series where we will put out a photography concept that should not only be educational but also encourage you to maybe pick up the camera and practice on your own. This is our first step in not only staying connected with our students but more importantly, in encouraging all of us to use photography as a much needed outlet during these challenging times. What a great opportunity to grow in our skills.

The Concept:
Our concept for today is one of my favorites, depth of field. We often define depth of field as the amount of focus in the photo from foreground to background. In other words, is the subject focused and the background blurry (shallow depth of field), or is the subject focused as well as the background (lots of depth of field). Depth of field is mainly controlled by the aperture, also known as the F-stop setting of our cameras. The higher the F-stop = more depth of field, the lower F-stop = less depth of field. To me, this is the most creative control a photographer has as changing the depth of field, can totally change the look or the message of the photo.

Since it is not the best day to be outside in Charlotte, I decided to do a series of images at different apertures of the same subject. My daughter’s chess board made a great test subject (and an opportunity to spend some time playing a game with her later). While this exercise can be done with almost any subject either outside or inside, it is better to find something that you an get a couple feet away from (rather than across the yard, etc.). This will allow you to really see the effect we are going for (more about how depth of field is affected by camera to subject distance at a later date). Since there is not much light inside, it is best to do this with the camera on a tripod so that you do not get blur from camera shake, especially when you start going up on the aperture. Focus your camera lens not on the closest part of the subject and not the furthest but abount ½ of the way. In A or AV mode (aperture priority) I started at my lowest aperture on the lens I was using (F4) and took my first photo. Then, in I adjusted the aperture 3 clicks each time going up to F5.6 for the 2nd shot, F8 for the 3rd shot and on. You can see that by the time I got to the highest aperture of F22, almost the whole board was in focus.
Even for a seasoned photographer, this is a great exercise to do because the reality is that sometimes the effect you want is not the highest or lowest but somewhere in between. Without doing a variety of apertures in the same situation, you might miss the ideal shot and not realize it later until you get back to your computer.

I encourage everyone to give this exercise a try and even feel free to post your favorite image as a reply to this Facebook post. Finally, keep checking in each day for another Photo Minute idea. Invite your friends to follow as well!

Depth of Field Exercise Example