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The photo above is a composite of two photos that were taken only moments apart. As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in the background between the two. An experienced photographer would identify the bottom half of the composite as having a long "depth of field" because both the chess piece in the front and the chess piece in the back are in sharp focus.

If this concept of "depth of field" isn't immediately clear to you, it may be easier to think in terms of "depth of focus": every element from front to back in the bottom half is in focus, thereby having a long "depth of focus".

On the other hand, the top half would be described as having a short depth of field (or depth of focus) because while the front piece is in sharp focus, the back piece is blurry, or "soft".

Unless you have studied photography, you may not know how to control your depth of field. Once you have read this lesson, however, you will know how to adjust the settings in your EVOLT E-300 to create the look you want every time.



(Click on any image below for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Defining depth of field
  • Controlling your focus point manually
  • Setting your camera to the Manual exposure mode
  • Adjusting your aperture
  • Adjusting your shutter speed
  • Using a Macro Lens
  • Other examples of depth of field

Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Camera/Media

  • Olympus EVOLT E-300
  • Olympus 50mm Zuiko digital Macro Lens
  • Lexar 512 MB CompactFlash card
  • Sturdy Tripod

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex LiteDisc
  • Photoflex Starlite Kit Medium

 

As we've seen above, depth of field can vary greatly from photo to photo. Technically, the depth of field is determined by amount of subject matter that stays in focus both in front of, and behind, the point of focus. So before you make changes to your depth of field, you first need to set the focus mode of your camera.

Controlling your Focus Manually

There are four focus modes in the EVOLT E-300: Single Auto-Focus (S), Continuous Auto-Focus (C), Manual Focus (MF),and Single Auto-Focus+Manual Focus (S-AF+MF). While all of the Auto-Focusing modes allow you to lock down your focus quickly, Manual Focusing enables you to be very precise with your point of focus. This is particularly useful when shooting small stationary objects up close. And like traditional SLR cameras, the EVOLT E-300 has an external focus ring to allow you to focus by hand.

To select Manual Focus mode, simply press the AF button on the back of the camera then turn the Mail Dial to MF setting (Manual Focus). Once the Focus mode is set to MF, you can focus in on your subject by turning outer focus ring of the lens (figures 1 & 2).

 

 

Note: when the Focus mode is set to either of the Auto-Focus modes (S or C), the outer focus ring is disabled.

Aperture and Shutter Speed

To control your Aperture and Shutter Speed in the Manual setting on the EVOLT E-300 simply follow the steps illustrated below (figures 3-6).

 

 

Aperture

 

 

Shutter Speed

 

 

The most important thing to remember is that your aperture setting controls your depth of field. The smaller your aperture number, or "f/stop", the shorter your depth of field will be.

Once the aperture is set, the shutter speed can be configured to accommodate the proper exposure. One of the nice things about digital cameras is that if you take a shot and it's either too light or too dark, you can immediately make adjustments to the shutter speed until you render the proper exposure. Likewise, if you want to maintain a certain shutter speed, you can make adjustments to the aperture to render the proper exposure.

To demonstrate different depths of field, we took some studio shots of chess pieces at different aperture settings. We placed three pieces on a white table next to a 12-inch ruler, each piece six inches apart and placed a Medium Starlite Kit over the pieces to serve as our primary source of light. In the camera, we set the ISO to its lowest setting (100), set the Resolution to TIFF, and created a Custom White Balance setting to match the color temperature of the Starlite Kit (3200 K).

 



Figure 7

After manually focusing on the middle piece, we took shots at two different aperture settings: one at f/3.9 (figure 7) and one at f/22 (figure 8). Figure 9 is a composite of both results.

 

Notice in the top half of the image how the chess pieces in the foreground and background are slightly out of focus or "soft". This is because the focus area, or depth of field, is limited to the area around the center chess piece.

Now notice in the bottom half of the image how the chess pieces in the foreground and background are just as focused as the center piece. This is because our depth of field (f/22) is deep, allowing everything to stay in focus from front to back. Remember, the higher the aperture number, the deeper the depth of field.

Also, keep in mind that your depth of field will fall off both in front and in back of your focal point. How quickly it falls off depends on your aperture setting.

 

To illustrate, we focused on the front chess piece and again took shots at the same aperture settings as before: f/3.5 and f/22 (Figure 10).



Figure 10

 

Notice how quickly the focus drops off in the top half (f/3.5), whereas the falloff is barely perceptible in the lower half (f/22). The advantage to long depth of field is that every element in the shot is clearly identifiable because it is in focus. The advantage to a limited depth of field is that the viewer's attention is drawn to a specific element(s) that is in focus.

 



Figure 11

For the reverse example, we focused on the rear chess piece and again took shots at the same aperture settings: f/3.5 and f/22 (figure 11).

 

Now that you know how to control your focus and depth of field, let's examine how a Macro Lens can magnify the effects of depth of field and how it works to increase the size of small items, such as these chess pieces.

Before we attached the Macro Lens, we placed one chess piece as close to the camera as possible while still maintaining sharp focus. Then we placed another piece one inch closer to the lens and again took shots at the same aperture settings: f/3.5 and f/22 (figures 12 & 13).

 

 

At the f/3.5 setting, only the rear piece stays in focus. And because of its distance from the lens, the rear piece is rendered as large as can be while still maintaining focus. At the f/22 setting, however, both pieces are in focus because of the longer depth of field, yet this is about as large as we can render the front piece without it going soft.

We then replaced our Zoom lens with a Macro Lens and were able to place the front piece about 3 inches closer to the camera while still maintaining sharp focus. Again, we positioned the second piece 1 inch back from the first and took shots at the same aperture settings: f/3.5 and f/22 (figures 14 & 15).

 

 

Notice how quickly the focus drops off in the top half even at 1 inch away! The Macro Lens Attachment not only magnifies the subjects but also reduces the depth of field significantly.

To illustrate this point even further, we moved the rear piece another inch back (Figure 16) and took another two shots (figure 17).

 

 

Look at the back piece now. At 2 inches back from the first piece, it's almost unrecognizable at f/3.5, and there is even a noticeable difference at f/22.

By experimenting with different aperture settings in your EVOLT E-300, you will be able to achieve the look you're after in most any situation.

 


Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Camera/Media

  • Olympus EVOLT E-300
  • Olympus 50mm Zuiko digital Macro Lens
  • Lexar 512 MB CompactFlash card
  • Sturdy Tripod

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex LiteDisc
  • Photoflex Starlite Kit Medium

Recommended Links

  • To learn more about Photoflex equipment, go to www.photoflex.com
  • For more tips and techniques on lighting and cameras, visit www.webphotoschool.com and sign
    up for access to the Member Lessons.

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