Depth of Field for “Arty” Images

My favorite style|technique relies on

Selective focus which in turn relies on

Depth of Field

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Not Your Typical Botany Text Daisy

Shot edge-on; focus on tip of nearest petal; wide open aperture

105mm macro lens + 1.4X teleconverter; tripod; natural light

Like most images that "break rules"

Don't just bend the rules a little; break them in half

You want the viewer to know it's on purpose, not operator error
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A lot of viewers (& many judges) don't care for this

And that's all right

Shoot for yourself and don't worry about it

Floral images were my 1st photographic love

It’s now twelve years later and they still are

The variety is endless

I could spend hours with a single flower

And still not exhaust the possibilities


With selective focus, you have lots of options –

1. Depth of field length which depends on

  • Aperture
  • Focal Length
  • Distance from subject

2. Focal point about which DOF is centered

Here are a few examples; focal point circled in red

Click for full screen

6-24-2013 12-16-06 PM


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Echoes

High Key + Selective Focus = Soft “Echoes”

I don’t yearn to visit photo icons

Half Dome at Yosemite for example

Apart from checking the “been there, done that” box

There’s nothing new; all done millions of times

Fortunately, my tastes run to the simple side

Give me some flowers + my camera & I’m happy

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I’ve seen far fewer images like this next one than

Half Dome, Grand Tetons, NY Skyline,….

or – Yet another snow-capped mountain

reflected in a lake (they all look the same to me)

Of course, floral images aren’t everyone’s cup of tea 😉

D300_130618_093221__DSC6928 nx wbdl cepseplum25-2

LOOK at ME!! and me, and me

To attract a viewer’s attention

If one abstract flower isn’t enough

How about an echo?

If one echo’s not enough, how about another?

I started without the lower lily

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Making this image –

Exposure – increased exposure compensation

Until the white background was blown out

Then a bit more until “blinkies” appeared on the flowers

Then – backed off 1/3 stop

Result was + 1.7 EV

Focus – Shot with a macro lens & 1.4X teleconverter

This combo gave a paper-thin depth of field

Distance from nearest flower (with water drop) to the

Farthest (upper left) was several inches

Wide open aperture made the upper just a colored blob

I shot this at f/11, 22, 32 & 45

Wanted to see the effect first hand

The above is the f/45 version

Composition – the key to the result IMO; I wanted

To fill the frame (no cropping, thanks)

More or less even spacing between the

Closest parts of each flower to the next

No overlap or touching

More or less equal distance from the frame and

Water drop from side & bottom

Upper flower from top

This took a lot of “fiddling” & reshooting

 Post-processing – almost none

A very little color contrast adjustment

Using Color Efex Pro’s Contrast Color Range filter

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Shot indoors

Natural light, tripod, circular polarizer, white background

————

A preference ?

First one or this one?

I like the eye movement better on the 1st one

This one is how it was shot

D300_130618_093221__DSC6928 nx wbdl cepseplum25-1

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OnOne Software’s $99.95 Perfect Effects – FREE

Summary – For a limited time you can download OnOne Software’s $99.95 Perfect Effects 8 for FREE

 

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Nature Trail Walk – open spaces & bright sun

Big mistake – I’m susceptible to sun-poisoning

Today I feel like a truck hit me

Aches & all – like a bad case of flu

No way to feel while on vacation

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Perfect Effects is one piece (of 8) of OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite

Recommended

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Read all about this free download here

[11AM EST 5/7/14] Be patient trying the link

For some reason (site busy?) it doesn’t always work

Not only this free download, but the entire site


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Virginia Bluebells – What Could be More Beautiful

Summary – A gallery of pretty pictures of one of my favorite spring flowers. © Moi

 


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Stone Bridge

Manassas National Battlefield  Park

The flowers are less than 12″ above the ground

Imagine where I was with camera & tripod to make these

Click on any image for a full screen slide show

 

 

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Focus Stacking – Illustration of Results

Summary – A few days ago I wrote about the Depth of Field  and Diffraction tradeoff. I mentioned focus stacking as an alternative. Here are illustrative examples.

 


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Roll mouse to see aperture extremes
f/45 and f/3.8

002D300-_140424_150318__DSC1247_orig-Editblog001D300-_140424_150257__DSC1246_orig-Editblog

Each image is a single exposure (not stacked)
Illustrates maximum depth of field for this setup
Nikon D300, Nikkor 105mm 1:1 macro, tripod, remote release


About this post

You want everything from near to far in focus, but

You don’t want to sacrifice sharpness for depth of field

To accomplish this –

You need focus stacking software

(But mostly for macros or extreme closeups, less so landscapes)

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This is a follow-up to this post

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For detailed info

Search for focus stacking as a general topic, or

Search for Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker

Two popular programs I used for this post

My purpose is not to provide a focus stacking tutorial

The two program sites listed above do that

Nor is it to review focus stacking programs

Web reviews cite the two above as among the best

Free 30-day trials are available

Be your own judge

I think they’re a bit pricey

Unless you really need them

There also is a free program that I didn’t try


In contrast to the above rollover

Here is the result of a four-exposure stack

Click for full screen

You need it to actually see differences

Left to right

Single exposure; stack using Helicon; stack using Zerene

The red X’s show where I focused

Left image @ f/36 – max. DOF, max. Diffraction

Each stack @f/8 – min. diffraction (DOF through stack software)

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Figure Zero

Slight differences can be seen between

The single exposure and the stacks &

Between the two different stack programs themselves

I used default settings throughout

Might be able to better with fussing, but

I’d rather not have to spend the time (nor the $100 or more)


OK – Here’s an example that

Shows the utility of focus stacking software

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Click image for full screen – not very useful without doing so

Left is single exposure followed by Helicon & Zerene

For the single exposure – f/36, focused on the 6 in the 16

Stacks – 19 exposures each at f/8

Focus – roughly equal steps along the ruler from front to back

2014-04-24_14-36-03

Fig 1.

Something to note – image gets cropped during stacking

(Why? Web search reveals all 😉 )

It’s clear that stacking greatly enhances DOF over the 1-exposure

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The next three images are 1:1 blow-ups of Fig 1.

Fig. 2 is centered near the single exposure’s focus point

Difference between single & stacks minimal (as expected)

2014-04-24_14-33-59

Fig. 2

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Fig. 3 (close end of ruler) shows

1 – Improved focus due to stacking

2 – Loss of detail in center image along right side

As compared to the right-hand image

(it’s easy to see if you click for full size)

This is an observation occasionally seen in reviews

2014-04-24_14-29-03

Fig.3

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Fig. 4 (off in the distance) shows

1 – Dramatic focus improvement using stacking

2 – Here, the center version appears sharper

(reversing the perceived quality at the near end in Fig.3)

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Fig.4

 


So there you have it –

The previous post explaining

You can’t have sharp focus from zero to infinity

With a single exposure

While simultaneously maintaining perfect sharpness

Today’s post provides an alternative

Which, while valuable for some macro work

Adds marginal value to non-macro work

 As shown in Figure Zero

Landscapes using a telephoto lens and

With important foreground & background matter

May be an exception to macro-only

More to follow in a few days

IF anyone is interested ??

 


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A Spring Walk in the Forest

Summary – A spring ritual – walking through a nearby state forest. © Moi

 


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Took a tripod plus 2 cameras & lenses

But then – totally out of character for me

I only used one camera, a macro lens – AND no tripod

Just enjoyed the stroll in nature

Photos aren’t especially good – but I don’t care 😉

Talk about going overboard with saturation!!

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Scroll over an image for caption

Click on any image for a full screen slide show

 

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All in Focus or All Sharp – You can’t have Both

Summary – Depth of Field (the area in focus) and Diffraction (affects sharpness) are a basic photography tradeoff. In general, one comes at the expense of the other. Some illustrated examples (without the physics).

 


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So – you want the nearest to farthest points in a scene in focus

(this is depth of field)

You also want sharpness throughout

(diffraction can cause loss of sharpness)

Bottom line – you can’t have both

(unless the subject is a flat surface AND

you’ve aligned the sensor face with that surface)

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Post based on an email from a reader
Who noticed I used f/51 on an image in a recent post
Asked about diffraction

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This post assumes you know that

As you change your aperture to higher numbers

f/22 for example (not f/4)

Two things happen to the resulting capture

1. More of the scene (near to far) is in focus

2. Sharpness can be lost (blurriness sets in)

All else equal, the results are sensor size dependent

If you want a comprehensive discussion

Search the net on DOF and diffraction

My main intent is to show examples

Not to teach a course in physics 😉


The illustration subject is a camera bag

Lots of texture detail to judge sharpness

Tilted back from the camera to judge DOF

I focused precisely (Liveview X10) on the

Pointy-bottom at the center of the letter M

Keep your eye near here for diffraction effects

Aperture was changed in 1-stop increments

f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

For this camera (Pixel Diameter: 5.5 µm)

Diffraction should become noticeable at about f/11

Nikon D300 + high quality Nikkor 105mm macro lens

Tripod & remote shutter release for stability

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Roll over for f/4 vs f/22 comparison

The DOF change is very obvious

(Recall that the bag is tilted away from the camera)

The loss of sharpness is nearly imperceptible

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I focused on the M’s point in DOMKE

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This next series is f/4 through f/22 in 1-stop increments

 Click on f/4 (top left) and step through via right arrow

To see the gradual change

Or – from f/4, toggle backward & forward to|from f/22

To see the big change  in DOF, but

The sharpness loss near the M is barely noticeable


Rollover for another view of the two extremes

You can actually see the loss of sharpness near M’s point

That’s a “big-whoop” (from cynical me)

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2014-04-23_9-55-51

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Conclusions?

Draw your own….

For my style

DOF (both shallow & large)

is very important

Diffraction concerns

aren’t foremost in my mind

If f/8 or less gives me the DOF I want

I won’t stop down further unnecessarily

Nor will I stay at f/8 or lower

If it doesn‘t provide the DOF I want

For my style, diffraction concerns are over-blown

For you, only you can decide

Test your gear and do it on a variety of subject matter

Macro, close up, landscape, portrait – the works

Do not, as some do, refuse to go above f/8

Simply because you read somewhere that was bad

Shoot for yourself – not theoretical-number-rules

For me & my style

Big DOF changes (in either extreme) are

Far more important (and noticeable)

Than slight changes in sharpness

Arty needs selective (shallow) focus

Landscapes need a large DOF (usually)

In neither case should diffraction concerns

Be over-riding (IMO)

Focus stacking software might be a consideration

I’ve never felt the need

Not anal-compulsive enough I guess 😉

 


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