Food Photo Tips: Part 8 - Depth of Field

ann_tJanuary 1, 2013

Posted by canarybird (My Page) on Tue, Aug 25, 09 at 18:11

Depth of Field

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Today I want to talk about Depth of Field.

Depth of field is the area of your picture, from foreground to background, that is IN FOCUS.

Here, in the first picture (left) you see the two pieces of fruit clearly because they are in focus.

The background is out of focus, or blurred. This is a technique used to emphasize a subject and make it stand out from the background.

Here again is another example in this sports photo (right), where the player in the foreground is in sharp focus against a blurred background.

(Sport photo credit at right to Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

You will also see depth of field referred to as DOF in photography texts.

In these next examples, the first mug (left pic) is the only one in focus and the rest are progressively more blurred. We can say that in this photo there is a SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD because the area that is sharp extends only to the first mug, in the immediate foreground.

In the photo above right, there is a DEEPER DEPTH OF FIELD where most of the mugs are in focus. Sometimes you will want to have the whole of your photo sharply in focus (eg. landscapes, holiday pics or full dining table), and other times, such as in some food photos, you may want to have your subject stand sharply against what is only a suggested background, misty or shadowed to give an impression of what's there without detracting from your subject.

Although creating a very shallow depth of field can be done beautifully with DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras, due to the lenses available for them, (you change the lens according to the type of photography you want to do), it's possible to get an attractive blurred effect with a simple point and shoot, such as the left picture of the mugs above. (I think in future I will call them P & S cameras, as it sounds better and is easier to write).

Just to digress and show you what I mean about the possibilities of the DSLR, here below is the same subject taken by a DSLR at left and with a P & S right. You will have seen such extreme shallow depth of field on many food blogs on the web. In this case you see both the foreground and background out of focus, while the second row of the left egg and the right ceramic chicken are relatively in focus. To the right, the P & S version shows nearly all in focus except the chicken in the rear. I deliberately used a very shallow depth of field on the DSLR to demonstrate that a middle plane can be also chosen as the in-focus area. (50 mm Canon lens at f/1.4).

So how do you get your foreground sharply in focus and the background out of focus? Here is one way to do it. Let's make a test run during daylight. Find your best window light with a table or shelf underneath and get some fruit, eggs, muffins on a plate or whatever you want to use as a...

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