Creative Ways To Shoot With Wider Apertures
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Ways To Shoot With A Shallow Depth Of Field - Stop worrying about front-to-back sharpness and embrace a bit of bokeh.
We'll begin by covering the basics of this technique before moving on to shooting suggestions. If you want to take a more in-depth look at this technique, there's several tutorials on ePHOTOzine that cover this subject.
The BasicsSwitch to manual or Aperture Priority as you need to be able to control your aperture. This is something all DSLRs and most advanced compacts, such as the Nikon COOLPIX A, will allow you to do. Larger apertures (smaller f numbers) give you a shallower depth of field and help create the blurry, out of focus backgrounds we are after.
Although the main way to control depth of field is with the aperture the positioning of yourself and your subject can also enhance the blur. You want to, ideally, close the distance between the camera and subject but have as much distance as possible between your subject and the background.
Use longer focal lengths rather than wide-angles and use a tripod where possible as the smallest of movements can change the focus and potentially spoil your shot. Using manual focus can help although switching to single-point mode when using auto focus should be fine for most subjects.
If your camera has it, use the depth-of-field preview button as it's a really useful tool to allow you to visualise the amount of sharp focus in a scene. It's a feature found on most, more advanced cameras such as the Nikon D800.
Shoot Wider ViewsWhen you think of landscapes, using a shallow depth of field isn't probably something that fist springs to mind. The traditional landscape has front to back sharpness, however having something in your foreground that's perfectly sharp while the scene in the background is thrown out of focus gives the more common landscape shot a creative twist.
Make The Mundane InterestingWith a shallow depth of field a simple blade of grass can look amazing! A blade of grass? We hear you cry. Yes, if you use a shallow enough depth-of-field a blade of grass can look pin-sharp and picture perfect against a very blurry background.
You need to use a wide f stop to get the right effect. The aim is to get as much of the subject in focus as possible without losing the nice blurry feel but don't over blur the shot as this will distract from the subject. Try f/5.6 or f/8 and use the camera's depth-of-field preview button to check the aperture's effect on the background. It works great on blades of grass, insects and small flowers. During the summer, if you live near a rapeseed field try isolating a specific flower or part of the field out to draw attention to it. You could try blurring part of the foreground as well as the background to create a frame for the subject.