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Depth.

One of the really cool things about using a SLR camera when taking pictures compared to using a compact, is the immense power you get in your hands. You can literary control everything and create a spectacular photography of an everyday situation. The problem with all this power is that it takes a lot of practice to master it.

I’ve got a theory about what Jane Q. Taxpayer considers a good photography: It’s a familiar scene shown in an unfamiliar way. I’m sure you can agree with me. A good example is the cross processing with vignette effect that has become very popular this year. I’ve fallen for the temptation of taking a few myself.

Depth of field is one of the many magical powers you get when shooting with SLR than can make the simplest scene look quite impressive. In my humble opinion, it can easily make or brake a portrait, for instance. A few years ago I got a dead cheap 50mm lens from Canon. With an f-number as small as 1/8 it enables some really funky depth of field images. But it’s very hard to get it right.

I used the 50mm lens at the wedding Anniken and I went to in Bodø this summer. Some of the pictures looked OK, but I stumbled into the oh-so-familiar it-looked-good-on-the-camera-LCD-screen-trap. When I came home and looked at the pictures on a bigger screen, they all turned out to be crap, mostly because the f-number I’d used was too small. It was also partly caused by the open bar and the fact that the lens doesn’t come with image stabilization.

So the other day I decided to take some time an play around with the depth of field, just shooting objects on my desk. Below are a few of the pictures I took. Most of them are taken with f/1.8, but the picture of the M-Audio FireWire Solo is shot with f/2.2, and I think it illustrates very well how hard it is to take an image with a low depth of field: The guitar connector is in focus while the gain knob to the right of it is not. Lessons learned: The depth of field preview button can be a life saver, and I’ll never get the combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings right.

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  1. Nice pics, mate :) The DOP is a big reason we in the video-business is really excited about DSLRs with full HD video functions. If you find getting the focus when taking stills difficult, try it on a moving target through the lcd screen with f 1.4 :)

  2. Full HD video is the main reason I’d love to upgrade from my Canon 400D, but you raise a very valid point; I probably should get DOP and focus right when taking still pictures before I move on to video :p