Posts Tagged ‘Dof’

Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 70mm f2.8 1/160, ISO 800

[click to enlarge]

Tonight my husband was looking through the photos I have taken over the past couple of months, and he said I should post the above photo. I found this interesting because I took this photo simply because the light from the window was so beautiful and I was just surprised how little light was produced by the window. I had considered blogging about window light. However this was not the reason my husband said I should post this photo, his reason surprised me.

My husband wanted me to post the photo because he loves how only the one eye is in focus. I can’t remember where or when I learned that when you take a portrait you want the eyes to be in focus. When they eyes are in focus the viewer is tricked into thinking more of the photo is in focus than really is. My husband, also a hobbyist photographer didn’t know this, turns out that he would have chosen to focus on the nose (a big no-no by the way.) Sometimes in trying to improve your skills, you forget how much you already know.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is my first photo tip:

  • When taking photos of people, focus on the eyes.

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Nikon D300 24-70mm @31mm f4 1/50, ISO 500

[Click on photo to enlarge]

Just over a month ago I wrote an entry entitled Overcoming the fear of high ISO and shallow depth of field. I have come to actually love shallow depth of field in many cases. However with ISO I still like to use the lowest that I can. In the case of the above photo I choose to use F4 intentionally to separate my son from the background. The only mistake that I made, and I seem to make this mistake a lot, is forgetting that children move a lot faster than 1/50 of a second, and they do it when you least expect it, and it will be the moment you want to capture. Yet I didn’t really forget, when I was taking this photo I thought a slower shutter speed would be fine and so I didn’t even think to increase the ISO to allow me a faster shutter speed. You can see there is definite motion blur of his arms, which is actually a nice thing. His face however is a different story, his face simply looks out of focus. The reason for that is because at this exact moment he was just starting to laugh. Catching the exact moment laughter commences is magical because there is an honesty to it, and the silliness hasn’t settled in. The problem is that when children laugh, they don’t just laugh with their mouth and eyes, they laugh with their entire body, throwing their heads back, and pushing their chest forward simultaneously. I’m not sure what shutter speed I should have used, obviously 1/50 was to slow, and yet I also don’t want to completely freeze the motion of his arms, but a clear photo of his face would have been nice.

While I may be slightly upset that I didn’t capture the technically perfect photo; I still love this photo because even with the slight blur on his face, capturing this exact moment is magical. Also the light on his face is just beautiful.

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My Nikon D300 goes from ISO 200 to 3200 not including what it calls “Hi-1” which is equivalent to 6400.  However I have been too afraid to shoot at anything above 800 as I don’t like digital noise. Anytime I have have taken photos over ISO 800, I haven’t liked the results.  This has always confused because I have often looked at other people’s photos taken at 1600 or even 3200 and loved the results.  I fell into making excuses for my lack of results: ” My camera isn’t good enough”, “if only I had the D700 I would get better results”, “I need a better noise reduction program”.  You know the game, we’ve all done it, and we’ve all tricked ourselves into believing these excuses to be legitimate. Recently a friend of mine posted this picture, and asked my opinion of it.  I was hit with a huge case envy.  How could he get such a great photo at ISO 1600 when I couldn’t?

Shallow depth of field has also caused me grief when taking portraits. My favorite lens is my Nikon AF 24-70 F2.8.  I have always been glad that I bought the fast lens, but when it came to shooting people I rarely used anything lower than the recommened 5.6. When I did, I wasn’t happy with what I got. Recently I read on mostlylisa that for portraits you should use between F2.0 and F5.0.  Why could she take such awesome portraits at such a wide aperture, and I was having a difficult time at the guideline of F5.6?

Last year I took the following photo.  It’s not a bad shot, but I was not happy with the focus.  I thought for the longest time it was that F1.8 was too wide.  However I now realize that my focus point was off by just the tiniest bit.  The focus is on the crease of his eye, and not his pupil.  The problem itself was not the shallow depth of field but the focus point, and as such could have been easily solved.

[Click on photos to enlarge]

Nikon D300 50mm f1.8 1/100sec, ISO 400

This year I took the following photos, and I’m much happier with the results.

Nikon D300 85mm F2.5 1/100sec, ISO 1600

This time the focus is right on her pupil, and clearly makes a much better photo.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @48mm 1/50sec, ISO 1600

Again the focus is right on her pupil. You’ll also notice that this photo is taken at 1/50sec @48mm and the sensor has a crop of 1.5. The guideline to avoid camera shake would be at least 1/72sec.  But by using steadying techniques I managed to take a good photo at High ISO and with shallow depth of field, despite pushing the rules of camera shake.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @24mm f3.5 1/50sec, ISO 1600

As you can see, the photos I took this January are much better despite using ISO 1600. I am no longer afraid of ISO 1600 or shallow depth of field.  I have realized that in order to get better photos at ISO 1600, you simply need to take a better photo, and one key way to do that is to avoid underexposure. That means slower shutter speeds, so you have to control camera shake.  Following is a list of  things to help avoid the lack of focus camera shake causes:

  • Always make sure that the shutter speed is equal to or greater than the focal length. (or 1.5 times the focal length on a crop sensor)
  • Hold the camera to your eye for a second after taking the photo, especially at slower shutter speeds.
  • If using a shutter speed lower than the focal length (accounting for crop factor), use steadying techniques.

I notice that these photos are lacking in digital noise.  I think the reason I may have been getting digital noise before was underexposing the photo.  I will have to look into that some more, perhaps in another post.

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