Depth of field

Posted on 2012/01/16


Started writing post couple days ago about composition. This quickly grew to tome spanning everything from lighting to attitude! So that mega post is slowly being vivisected into smaller manageable hunks, this being first one!

Depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. From Wikipedia. In macro photography depth of field limits define what can and can not be done. Much effort is expended to either extend or hide limitations of equipment.

Later posts will detail techniques to extend depth limitations. This post concentrates on using depth of field limitations to enhance photos.

Most documentary photographs consist of side or top views of Insects. This is used to show field marks (keys). These are fine as such though much more can be done with some insight, patience, and practice.

Background blurring
Blurring backgrounds is simple with macro lenses – at any aperture setting! Below shows a Lacewing larva in front of childs face.
Lacewing larva
In this case entire Insect is in focus with background out of focus. This photo tells story, it is not only documentary in nature. Child looking at Lacewing larva – classic side view of subject and human angle at same time.

Partial Insect blurring
Blurred Damsel
This photo shows Damsel Fly shot almost head on. As such most of body and wings are blurred. It accentuates eyes and head leaving rest of Animal and background out of focus. Drama is provided by prominent eyes, which Human react to viscerally. As well, flash heads can be seen reflected in eyes. (Done with Canon MT-24EX twin headed macro flash).

Foreground blurring
Shadow Spider
Above is photograph of Spider’s shadow in focus, with Spider in right foreground out of focus. This is uncommon method of using depth of field limitations – subject of photo being out of focus completely.

As you can see using ‘limitations’ in depth of field can result in interesting photographs. It demonstrates three different methods – background blurring, partial subject blurring, and total subject blurring.

Hope this information has been useful!

Later posts will explore focus stack and using tilt/shift lenses for macro work.

Please comment!

Posted in: Depth of field