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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-500 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.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Starlite Kit Medium


As you can see 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 five focus modes in the EVOLT E-500: Single Auto Focus (S-AF), Continuous Auto Focus (C-AF), Manual Focus (MF), Single Auto Focus + Manual Focus (S-AF+MF) and Continuous Auto Focus + Manual Focus (C-AF+MF). While any of the Auto-Focusing modes allows you to lock down your focus quickly, Manual Focusing enables you to be very precise with your point of focus. When using the S-AF+MF or C-AF+MF you can use the cameras auto-focusing system to hone in a subject and then, using the front focusing ring on the lens, fine tune your focus.

There are two ways to change the Focus mode. You can either set the mode in the main menu screen, or you can access the menu screen for focusing modes only and choose your option. After experimenting a bit, you will probably find one that works better and faster for you than the other.

  • METHOD A: Press the "OK" key, then use the arrow pad to highlight the Focus field in the menu screen. Then rotate the control dial to select focus mode and press OK to set (figure 1).
  • METHOD B: Press the "AF" key to open the AF menu. Use the arrow pad or the control dial to select the focus mode and press OK to set (figure 2).

 

Controlling Depth of Field
Once you know how to set your focus within your frame, you can start taking pictures, but keep in mind that if the shooting mode of the camera is set to P ("Program", or automatic), or any of the SCENE modes, you will not be able to control your depth of field, as the camera will make automatic settings depending on the availability of light. In order to control your depth of field, you need to manually adjust your aperture and shutter speeds.

 

To manually adjust your aperture and shutter speed settings, first turn the Mode Dial on the top of the camera to M (figure 3).



Figure 3

 

Aperture
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. You can adjust the aperture number by pressing the (+/-) button and turning the Control dial to select the desired aperture (figures 4 & 5).

 



Figure 6

Shutter Speed
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 adjust your shutter speed in the Manual mode, simply turn the Control dial until the desired shutter speed appears in the shutter speed field (figure 6).


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 Photoflex 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).

To learn more about adjusting these settings, check out the EVOLT E-500 Basic Startup lesson located on this site.



Figure 7

After manually focusing on the middle piece, we took shots at two different aperture settings: one at f/3.5 (figure 7) and one at f/22 (figure 8). Figure 9 is a composite of both results.


Notice in the top half of the composited 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 composited 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 further 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 a 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 the specific elements that are 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 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 E-500, 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.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Starlite Kit Medium

Recommended Links

  • To learn more about Photoflex equipment, go to www.photoflex.com
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