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Photography Tutorial – Depth of Field

Jared Polin July 23, 2010 29


Understanding Depth of Field or DOF when you are starting out can be a little overwhelming. I wanted to break this down and show you side by side examples of what F2.8 looks like compared to F22.

It is important to know that changing the focal length of your lens can play a factor in your DOF. Wide angle lenses expand your Depth of Field and Tele-Photo lenses compress it. What this means is its easier to “blow” out the background with a telephoto lens opposed to a supper wide angle.

I want you to notice how changing the F stop effects the Shutter speed. I know this is a video about DOF but look what happens to the shutter speed as the F stop goes higher, the speed drops.

Look for my ebook on Candid Photography coming soon with videos showing how I work in different candid situations.

Be sure to sign up at FroKnowsPhoto.com for your FREE Ebook on Capturing Motion in Low Light situations.

MY SKYPE line is open for FREE, you can call me with your photo questions anytime I am on name is JaredPolin

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29 Comments »

  1. Anthony July 23, 2010 at 11:55 am -

    Great tutorial. Even for those shooting a while it is a good visual refresher. I am sure anyone that views this entirely will pick up some tip. Thanks!

  2. Akos July 23, 2010 at 11:58 am -

    Great episode once again. There is a way to get depth of field in a wide angle shot, but that requires some stitching software trickery (like photoshop). It’s called the “Brenizer Method”, and the results can be quite stunning. I saw a tutorial on http://blog.buiphotography.com/2009/07/the-brenizer-method-explained-with-directions/

    But this kind of thing is definitely not for candid photography, unless you were shooting a statue ;-)

    Jared, I love your shows, man. I hope you’ll do a few on composition, and I can’t wait to see the video’s of you in candid photography action.

  3. Thomas July 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm -

    Had a quick look at the blog.

    “It does not matter if you shoot in RAW or JPEG, just keep in mind that if you shoot in RAW, it just means more processing time and larger files to deal with. I generally shoot in JPEG cause there is no major added advantage to shooting RAW for this technique.”

    lol. Sounds like a copy of someone else.

  4. Anhelyna July 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm -

    For a beginner – there’s lots to learn here . I need to view this again and probably more than once too. Most helpful – thanks Jared

  5. Texan Mama July 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm -

    That video was AAWWWWEEEsSSOOMMMMEEEE!!!!! I am def. going to share it with friends.

    From a beginner… here’s a question…. when I zoom in tight, is it possible to keep the lens at f/2.8? I notice that when I zoom in, the aperture automatically goes up and I can’t bring it that low. Now, granted, I have my handy p&s, but I can control aperture, to a point.

    When I get my DSLR (which should be soon! Whee!!!) will I be able to zoom in to, say, 200 or 300 and keep the 2.8? Or would I need a prime lens for that?

  6. Akos July 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm -

    @Texan Mama: It depends on what kind of lens you get. The cheaper lenses usually go to something like 3.5-5.6 (3.5 being the zoomed out bit, to 5.6 zoomed in). The more expensive lenses can stay at 2.8 all the way. Jared uses pro quality lenses, so he has the advantage of being able to shoot at 200 2.8 and even 300 2.8. The cheap alternative (up to a point) are the prime lenses. A 35mm 1.8 is around 200$, the 50mm 1.8 (my absolute favorite) is around 100$. Hope this helps.

  7. Jay July 23, 2010 at 8:28 pm -

    @Texan Mama: To add to what Akos said, the pro lenses that Jared uses are very expensive as well. That 70-200 2.8 is upwards of $2000, if not over that.

    When you’re just starting out, naturally you don’t want to be spending that kind of money (unless you just have more money than you can spend, in which case send some my way! :D ), at first it’s important to get your technique down, and you can do that with the kit lenses, and cheap primes (the 35/1.8 and 50/1.8 Akos mentioned).

    • Jared Polin July 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm -

      @texan mama Hey there i am excited for you to move into a dslr, yes the lenses I use are expensive. I dont suggest that you get the kit lens, I suggest skipping that right off the bat and go with one of those less expensive like the 35 1.8 or 50 1.8. Yes technique is very important but no need to waste 200 bucks on a lens that wont make you happy. You can take that 200 and put it into some other good glass that you will have for a longer time. When you are ready to make a move def drop me a line.

      Thanks all you other guys for your comments!!!

  8. Tristan July 23, 2010 at 10:23 pm -

    I think the kit lenses are excellent. You can go find shots of test charts if you want – I have and the new cheapest nikkor 18-55 is sharper than most of the old primes! Sure, it isn’t 2.8 constant, but two stops is much less important now than it was on film.

    One serious option is to find an 18-70 used – not as technically excellent as the 18-55, but a stop faster where it counts, and longer.

    Personally I have an 18-55, a 50mm 1.4 AF, and a 70-210 F4 Af – and while the prime and the constant aperture zoom are certainly more “fun”, most of my good pictures are taken with the kit zoom.

    Sure, you could get a knockoff 18-55 F2.8 zoom, but the variable aperture zoom is almost free (less than 100$ used). And, I don’t think you’ll get your money back on a tamron or sigma zoom, even if it’s F2.8.

    I mean, if you’re going to drop 400$ on lenses, you could either buy a knockoff F2.8 zoom, or you could buy the 35mm F1.8 and the kit zoom. That’s what I would recommend.

  9. Texan Mama July 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm -

    Thanks for all the great advice. Fro certainly has the brain trust right here at FroKnowsPhoto! Y’all are a huge help.

    • Jared Polin July 24, 2010 at 11:22 am -

      @texan mama Sure the kit lenses have gotten better but for most shooting situations my goal is to keep your ISO lower because in lower end cameras you run into major noise issues as its creeps higher. One major way to keep the ISO down is to use faster glass which lets more light in. When you keep the ISO lower your end product ends up being much better.

  10. Jay July 24, 2010 at 2:22 am -

    I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at just how good the quality of the kit lenses are now (at least for Nikon, dunno about Canon). They’re not as fast, of course, but in terms of clarity, sharpness, and color, they definitely hold their own against at least the cheaper primes.

    That said, I too would not recommend spending money on the kit lenses, if they’re not bundled with the camera already. I would instead suggest going with the 50/1.8 and 35/1.8 as the faster glass will definitely be appreciated.

    If your camera is bundled with at least the 18-55 kit lens, I would also recommend at least picking up the 50/1.8 for ~$100.

    When I got my D40, it was bundled with the 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses, and at the time it was only $50 more than buying just the D40 body. Usually they’re only bundled with the one 18-55 lens for that price point, so it wasn’t a deal I could pass up :)

  11. gkpeter July 24, 2010 at 10:53 am -

    As with all of your videos, they are very helpful. What I notice happens is there is always a discussion concerning lenses. You are using a $400 camera with $1700 lenses (In some cases). I really understand the importance of the 2.8 aperture (You gave Gizzy your 24-70mm/2.8 for a reason at the concert shoot, all of his photos were at 2.8), however, I can not afford the Nikon versions of these. This is part of the reason I would purchase the D3000 or D5000, cost. I can afford a $500 Tamron 28-75mm/2.8, but not an $1700 Nikon 24-70mm/2.8. I do understand the prime options. So, the question is; “What exactly am I sacrificing with the Tamron over the Nikon?” or “What am I gaining with the Nikon over the Tamron?” I think this would be a great series of videos that I think would help a number of individuals. Especially if you have access to these lenses at Allen’s. Just a thought, keep up the great videos!! I am learning tons.

    • Jared Polin July 24, 2010 at 11:27 am -

      @gkpeter great question very valid point. I will do a video on these type of lenses and the difference in the two. The major difference will be quality, the top of the line nikon and canon glass will be built much better and be more reliable than the tamron or sigma. The way I look at it is when i didnt have a lot of money I saved up to buy the best nikon glass. I did not want to use the sigma or tamron because i knew the quality of the nikon glass was so much better. I always looked at it as why spend 800 for a 70-200 sigma that I may need to replace in 2 years with the nikon. I buy the best of the best because its going to last in my opinion.

      Gizzy also has a 70-200 sigma 2.8 which he used for the show. For starters I have no issue with getting some 2.8 glass to hold you over as you save up. I know you will be able to get almost as much as you put into that glass when you decide to sell or trade it.

      Great questions maybe I will go over to allens today and talk about third party glass.

  12. Jenny July 24, 2010 at 10:54 am -

    Another amazing video Jared! Thanks so much! Sorry if this is a very rookie question but I was wondering, when you focused halfway along the tennis net, did you do this manually? Or if you wanted could you choose to bring more of the foreground into focus without bringing the background into focus?

    • Jared Polin July 24, 2010 at 11:23 am -

      @jenny I selected half way to show what would happen when you hit f22, you can focus anywhere in the foreground and play with your f stop until you get the desired effect you are looking for!!!

  13. gkpeter July 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm -

    @Jared Thanks!! I will not become a professional or have the desire to, so the price differential is significant. Now, the ones that want to be professionals, I can see why the Nikon glass is important. Picture quality between the lenses on the D3000 would be awesome to see. When I read reviews on the third party lenses, they tend to be good and then there are some really negative ones. I would like to look at it from a non pixel peeper perspective.

    • Jared Polin July 24, 2010 at 12:26 pm -

      @gkpeter I look at myself as the furthest thing from a pixel peeper. If the lens works and I get great results thats all that matters. I don’t sit there and zoom in to 1.1 on the computer and pick out every single flaw with the image. I have no problem with the basic sigma 18-50 2.8 which is $420 US and will serve you very well for a long time.

  14. gkpeter July 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm -

    @Jared I wasn’t calling you a pixel peeper :) It is just that the negative reviews on websites tend to be more pixel peepers, so I want to see your opinion.

    • Jared Polin July 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm -

      @gkpeter I know you werent I was just pointing out my view on that matter.

  15. Scott Davis July 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm -

    Hi jared , i just took some pics with the d3000, trying your dof tutorial advise , the dof tutorial is awesome but i had issues with the speed/aperature balance. i’m not sure if it’s me being a muppet, but when i was outside
    i thought the balance was good but bringing them back they’re all over exposed (salvaged because they’re shot in raw). do you think the lack of pixels maybe an issue on the camera display or should i be staying off manual at the moment?

  16. Jay July 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm -

    @Scott Davis: Learning to work Manual is great, and the sooner you start, the better. But there are a few things to pay attention to when doing so.

    For something like this DOF tutorial, I’d say to practice yourself, set up your camera on a tripod in Matrix Metering mode, and lock it on Manual Focus once you’ve Auto Focused on a spot (or just start with MF from the beginning). Open up to the widest aperture, and in your viewfinder you should see a little ruler looking thing, something like: – . . 0 . . +

    That’s a representation of your camera’s built in light meter. Immediately under it you may see some small vertical lines, maybe even an arrow pointing off in either direction. What that’s telling you is that with the current settings (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture), the scene will be under/over exposed (depending on which side of the 0 the lines are extending.) So you’re goal is to keep tweaking those dials until they’re lined up under the 0 and not extending in either direction.

    Take your shot, then look at the histogram on the review screen (you’ll have to refer to the manual on how to bring that up during review). A whole article can be written on histograms, much more than is appropriate for a comment, so for now just suffice to say you want to see a curve that starts off low on the left, rises up in the middle, and goes back to low on the right. With the curve fairly balanced between the left and right ends. If the curve looks like it’s shifted more to the right or left, that could be indicating over/under exposure, respectively. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing all the time, you usually do want to try and bring that curve as close to the middle as you can. This is where Exposure Value (EV) comes in.

    So let’s say you’re settings have you lined up directly under the 0 on that meter in your viewfinder, but the histogram is indicating a bit of over exposure with the curve shifted a bit to the right. In fully manual mode, you’ll want to start raising your shutter speed (because for the purpose of this tutorial you want the aperture and ISO to remain fixed). You’ll notice with each step that you raise it, you’ll start to see the lines on the meter extend out to toward the “-”. Each mark is 1/3 stop, and each dot on the meter is 1 full stop. If you see the arrow pointing in either direction, that indicates you’re more than 2 full stops over/under exposure. So start with -1/3, take a shot, if the histogram is still to the right, try it at -2/3, and so on.

    This may be something they’ve fixed in current models, but I know at least through the D90 that Nikons tend to over expose somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 stop, even though it’s at 0 on the meter. This should still allow you to bring back highlights in a program like Aperture or Lightroom, as long as you’re shooting RAW. Or you can compensate for it in-camera by adjusting the settings so every shot you take is -1/3EV to -2/3EV.

    Alternately if you’re in Aperture or Shutter Priority mode (A or S on the dial for Nikon, Av or Tv for Canon), the camera is automatically selecting the shutter speed or aperture for you, based on what you’ve chosen. In aperture priority, you set the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter, and vise versa for shutter priority. In these modes though, since the camera is automatically choosing one of the settings, to dial up or down on the exposure, you then have to use the Exposure Compensation button (usually represented by a rectangle with a -/+ in it). What that does when you hold it down and rotate the dial, if you’re in aperture priority instead of adjusting the aperture like the dial normally would, it starts adjusting the shutter speed. It’s kind of like a manual override for whichever setting the camera is automatically choosing.

    Sorry for the length, but hopefully that helps helps some :D

  17. Scott Davis July 24, 2010 at 4:32 pm -

    @Jay – Thanks for your comment and your time explaining the techniques i need to try and master haha. I can assure you i’ll be out tomorrow trying to put this altogether. i’ve managed to get the dof sorted-out and the arrow guide on the dial working together , but i found between significant f/stops changes i wasn’t getting the arrow moving to say i needed to adjust the shutter speed. Is this normal , as fro had big changes in his shutter to aperature balance . To be honest i find the d3000 very hard to see the read-out when outside or inside .But the picture quality after tweakin’ is still tops (for me).
    Thanks for sharing the knowledge guys

  18. Jay July 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm -

    @Scott Davis: I believe the D3000 only has one command dial on the back of the camera. So in manual mode that dial will change the shutter speed by default. I believe you have to hold down the -/+ button while rotating that dial, in order to change aperture. It’s been a while since I used my D40, but if I’m remembering correctly, that’s how it worked.

    From what it sounds like you’re describing you may have it on auto ISO, so while you’re changing the shutter/aperture, the camera is automatically adjusting ISO to keep the exposure consistent. If that’s the case, that’s definitely something you’ll want to manually set :)

  19. Jason July 25, 2010 at 2:13 am -

    @gkpeter I’ve had the Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 for a while and it has served me well. What I do notice, however, is that the results aren’t as consistent as they are when I use my Canon lens (the 70-200mm F4 L and 50mm 1.8). In particular, I find that the AF system gets the focus right more often with my Canon lenses then they it does with the Sigma.

    The Sigma is probably the lens that I use most often because I take candid indoor shots mostly and I like the ability to go wide when I need to. I like the pics that I get with this lens, but I would LOVE them more if they were tack-sharp more consistently.

    I’m happy that I invested in the Sigma lens 5 years ago because it helped me to get good shots while I was learning how to use the camera. However, I think that I’ve grown out of it and will look to trade up eventually because I can appreciate the difference in sharpness and consistancy now.

  20. gkpeter July 25, 2010 at 9:24 am -

    @Jason: Thanks for the input. It is what I thought. I just like the idea of being able to play with DOF and the 2.8 aperture without paying an arm and a leg. If I need the improvement in the future, then I can. With two kids it is hard to save up that money sometimes :)Right now my 8 yr old Point and shoot isn’t cutting it.

  21. Scott Davis July 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm -

    @jay & fro Cheers again guys , been out putting in some practice , all’s well with the exposures and the depth of field. Loving the new techniques and i’m starting work my camera a little better now. Thanks again!

  22. Patty July 28, 2010 at 9:35 am -

    I love the way you make it so simple ….. take a bow Jason …Patty x

  23. JV December 3, 2010 at 1:03 am -

    I think hyperfocal distance could be a good sequel to this video.