Are you tired of taking pictures where everything is in focus except for your main subject? Want to know the secret to making your photos pop? Look no further than understanding depth of field (DOF), the photography technique that can make or break a shot.
In layman’s terms, depth of field is the range of distances in a photograph that appear sharp and in focus. The more shallow the DOF, the less of the image will be in focus. On the other hand, a deeper DOF means more of the image will be in focus.
When you have been working behind the camera for a while, you will realize that photos really do tell a story. That is important in all aspects of photography but especially important when it comes to product photography.
Of course, there are many different tricks experienced photographers use to increase what you may call a narrative, but one of the best ways is depth of field.
What Is Depth Of Field?
Take a look at the above photograph and you will see that only one item is in focus. Everything else in the background or foreground is blurred. That is called shallow depth of field or shallow DOF.
The concept is often used in product photography to emphasize and even beautify a product to make it more interesting. It is a great way to photograph beverages, including coffee and soft drinks.
DOF is a fantastic way of manipulating light using the aperture on your lens.
How Do You Shoot Using DOF?
To achieve the effect, you shoot with a low f-number or f-stops as some photographers like to say. The numbers range from 1.4 to 5.8. This changes the focus between a few inches or feet.
DOF depends on where your focus point is. You can choose to blur the foreground. When you use a lower the f-number more light enters the camera.
If this is the first time you are working with depth of field, keep an eye on your shutter speed. It needs to be fast enough to avoid overexposure and losing all of the whites in the photograph. It is important to understand the relationship between the settings on your DSLR camera.
Keep an eye on aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focal length.
You can play around with different methods. Another way of achieving depth of field is to increase the distance between the camera, subject and the background. Do you need to have a lens capable of working with wide apertures up to f/14?
No, you don’t. You can achieve a nice effect by moving further away from the subject and zooming in on them. This is a fantastic technique to use when photographing apparel outside the studio. For instance, a person standing away about 20 feet away from an object will create a softer background.
It is all about playing around with different techniques and finding out what technique works the best on this occasion.
Tips For The New Photographer
When you work with shallow depth of field for the first time as a photographer, you will realize it is a fantastic way to highlight a subject. That is why so many product photographers like to use the technique.
When you highlight one point and blur the rest of the composition, you can express what is truly important. As a product photographer, never lose sight of the fact that we buy with our eyes. The background pr foreground should be used to make the product more attractive.
This is also a fantastic technique to use when you want to capture someone’s attention. It makes them look a little bit closer at the photograph and ask themselves what is going on. In other words, you are drawing them into the picture.
Many experienced photographers say that shallow depth of field is an excellent way of highlighting an interesting part of the composition. Maybe not the kind of technique that you want to use when you photograph technical objects, but when you want to highlight a part of a photo, depth of field is fantastic
The technique can be used in other ways as well. For instance, if you are shooting landscapes, you can use depth of field to highlight a particular part of the landscape. Something special may just have caught your eye.
What About DOF in Portraiture?
DOF is right at home in portraiture. When you are new to product photography, you may think that portrait photography is not something that product photographers use, but they most certainly do.
Portrait photography is often used when photographing skincare and make-up products. On such occasions, you may want to focus on one particular part of the face of a subject. If you are photographing mascara, you probably want to photograph your live model’s eyelashes. When you do, try using DOF.
Take a look at other photos of skincare and make-up products and you will find that the technique is often used in this way.
Can I Photograph Food In This Way?
Once again, the technique is perfectly at home in food photography. You can use it when photographing a single plate of food, letting other objects on the table blend into the background. The person looking at the photograph will still get a hint of something else in the background such as a wine glass or spices.
DOF is also a great technique to use when providing photographs for recipe collections. Many photographers don’t think of recipes as product photograph, but it is in fact what it is. You are photographing a plate of food – that is the finished product.
Place the ingredients that were used to create that delicious plate of food in the background and allow them to “blur.” You can then turn the tables on your photograph to add more interest to the storyline. Place the ingredients in the foreground and let the plate of food blur in the background or foreground.
That way, you have created a story and you are letting your photographs do the talking.
Challenges with DOF
Even experienced photographers find this a challenging technique to work with when it comes to the photographic process.
One of the dangers of working with DOF for product photographers is that you start to rely on the technique too much. Before you know it, it has become your calling card and the only way you photograph products.
As a matter of fact, you see that all of the time. As a product photographer, you need to work with many different techniques to make a name for yourself. White background photography is just as important and you must not forget about flat lay photography.
When you work as a product photographer, it is easy to start to favor one particular technique. You need to be able to work with many different techniques when you want to have a constant stream of income. Splash photography is important when it comes to photographing drinks and working with light is something else you want to master.
One aspect of DOF that photographers often find challenging is ensuring that the field of focus is wide enough. Many experienced photographers opt for something they call “bracketing.”
Bracketing is when you choose different f-stops. Examine your photos and find out what was the right f-stop for a particular product or composition. Take your time and work on your technique. Remember that practice makes perfect.
You could try a few shots at 1.2 and then a few more at f/2.0. Hopefully one of these settings should be the right setting for your product and scene.
Should I use a wide-angle lens? Although it is tempting to use a wide-angle lens, it is best to avoid doing so when you photograph products. However, if you are shooting a landscape, there is no reason why you should not give it a go.
Improving Your Focus
If you would like to improve your focus, you can add more of a narrative to your photo. Using the right objects associated with the product you are photographing is important.
You may even find that certain companies like to work with particular. This is something that brands are increasingly doing when it comes to product photography. They want their products to be recognized in an instant as far as the color goes.
If you are shooting for a particular brand that uses the color purple as their statement color, you need to use objects that have the color purple in them. Be aware that the subject may seem a bit bland. It is therefore important to be able to break up the color.
The color should still be there, but you want to break it up with other colors. Take a couple of photographs and you will see that this technique actually increases the emphasize of the product itself.
Depth of field is a fantastic and versatile way of photographing anything from products to landscapes. A great skill to have when you want to grow your photography business.
It is so versatile that you can use it inside and outside of the studio.
As with everything else, this is something that is going to take time to master. Make sure that you get plenty of practice before you take on your first assignment. Needless to say, you should include DOF photos on your business’ website and the photographer’s portfolio. You never know when you are going to meet a new client that is interested in having their products photographed in this way.