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Thread: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

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    Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Lately I have been "forced" or lets say motivated to shoot more images with deeper DOF since I have enjoyed and used the X-Vario (which I don't intend to discuss in this thread). Much of my other gear motivates more to shoot shallow DOF (for example the limited high ISO quality of an M9 or Leica S) - so it is kind of a new experience.
    I have to say - the more I shoot this way the more I like images with more DOF and I look at shallow DOF images and often think "this image would be more interesting if it had more DOF".
    Of course there are also images where shallow DOF looks great and powerful.

    I was wondering what you guys prefer and why? Please don't answer "it depends" I know, it depends.
    Tom

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    HI Tom
    It depends
    I agree - I like both, sometimes limited depth of field can seem rather like a gimmick - a cheap thrill. Let's face it, when you look at things your eyes give you the impression of full depth of field.

    I think it makes for a nice variation.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    long dof is my signature style. It can really bring the world into the frame.


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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I don't have a preference. I don't really shoot DoF in and of itself--I don't find an image interesting because of the way it goes out or does not go out of focus. My choice is mostly because of the subject, but sometimes because of technical limitations. It is the same with shutter speed, I really am not attached to any particular exposure time.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I like both approaches. Sometimes I have no choice. Club shooting is at max aperture due to lighting conditions and need for reasonable shutter speed, so DOF will be whatever it is. Close portraits in decent light I tend to like shallow DOF effects, depending on subject's age, looks, clothing, etc. More "enviro" portraits, greater DOF usually. Land and cityscapes tend to deep DOF of course but not always. It really does depend

    I enjoy other people's deep DOF images (like Michael's) but don't strive for it myself. I'm unprincipled, I guess.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I personally like deeper DOF and think that it take smore skill to shoot a good image with deeper DOF. Beside professional portrait work of course, anyone could crank up the aperture and take a close up with a creamy bokeh. Deeper DOF generally tells more of a story and require a lot more discipline in terms of composition, timing, and technique. Of course this depends on the situation but aren't we tired of all the close up flower/leaf/plant/animal shots with creamy bokeh flooding the internet? (self criticizing here as I just shot shallow DOF of my puppy...I was just lazy and don't want to stage the shot properly)

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I find that I tend to leave my aperture wide open by default and only stop-down when I consciously want a deeper DOF image. I like to let people know what I'm focused on and let the other layers slightly blurred to provide ambiance.



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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by Hosermage View Post
    I find that I tend to leave my aperture wide open by default and only stop-down when I consciously want a deeper DOF image. I like to let people know what I'm focused on and let the other layers slightly blurred to provide ambiance.



    Hi,
    I like those 2 images how they are. But the first one I also wouldnt mind to see more of the 2 faces of the ladies in the foreground.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I think that's eventually where I would like to get to... using aperture as DOF control. Not treating it as having only two settings (shallow vs. deep), but a setting with variable degrees. Then, master the control by knowing the right settings for the end results I want to see, the right amount of blurriness, I guess.
    David Young
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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by Hosermage View Post
    I think that's eventually where I would like to get to... using aperture as DOF control. Not treating it as having only two settings (shallow vs. deep), but a setting with variable degrees. Then, master the control by knowing the right settings for the end results I want to see, the right amount of blurriness, I guess.
    Yes, it is compfortale to have the choice and to not have to shoot shallow DOF just to keep ISO lower. The newer sensor give us some freedom in this regard.
    Specially with Zoom lenses it is sometimes hard to judge DOF in the moment of taking the image. In my experience it really takes sometime to develop a feeling for certain focal lengths, f-stop and sensor size. Using 3 systems with 3 different sensor sizes doesnt make it easier.
    WIth the S I sometimes shoot the same subject/szene with 2 or 3 different f-stops and then compare later the effect.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by Hosermage View Post
    I find that I tend to leave my aperture wide open by default and only stop-down when I consciously want a deeper DOF image.
    If you had been a professional photographer you would have sold one copy of your second image using shallow DOF, stop down a bit and you would have sold eight or nine.

    No criticism of the picture, just the observation that shallow DOF can remove context from the image, so the child at the microphone is the star of the show because he has been picked out, but stop down and the child at the microphone even though forward in the frame is as sharp as the others, so they are all equally starring in the show. I don't know what the actual case was, one star or all stars.

    It is similar with almost anything else that can be photographed. A blurred background and foreground isolates the main subject from the surroundings so I need to decide 'do I need those surroundings to tell the story or add context to the image', and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I wouldn't do one thing or the other exclusively, shallow or deep DOF, because then it becomes an affectation, style for style's sake and it ignores the needs of the photograph. Worse is to make the blurred background the subject of the picture, so comments you read on internet forum's like 'great bokeh' without mentioning the subject or composition would say to me the photograph has failed miserably. But f/16 can add depth to the picture in more ways than simply making everything sharp. It is part of the 'democratic' style, it allows many things within the frame to interact without overt interference from the bought in style of shallow DOF. Hence you have the failed ethos of the early 20th century Pictorialists who used style and photographic effects exclusively, and the breakaway movement of the realists in Edward Weston, Strand etc. who saw that content should be the important element.

    So, yes or no? It depend's. For cases where shallow DOF in particular is a choice and not a necessity it shouldn't be used indiscriminately, it just shows lack of thought if there is no variation in approach across different subjects and says to me the photographer doesn't care about the subject of the photograph as much as he or she cares about superficial style.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Like you, I normally shoot either with the M9 or with the S2, so getting deep DOF is not always possible without a tripod. My rule of thumb is to try to stop down exactly as much to get everything that is important in the image in focus; the rest can (and should) go out of focus. Sometimes the "everything that's important" may be just one person/object - then I may shoot with the lens fully open, sometimes more people/objects situated at different distances from the camera, calling perhaps for f5.6-8 depending on lens, distance etc. I am not too keen on the very shallow DOF "look", neither do I like everything sharp from foreground to infinity unless it's all interesting and defining the picture.
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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by Hosermage View Post
    I think that's eventually where I would like to get to... using aperture as DOF control. Not treating it as having only two settings (shallow vs. deep), but a setting with variable degrees. Then, master the control by knowing the right settings for the end results I want to see, the right amount of blurriness, I guess.
    That is my biggest challenge as I move from SLR to rangefinder. On an SLR I could always preview, but with a rangefinder everything is always in focus in the viewfinder, and I don't like chimping (works especially badly with my M6).

    Slowly I imagine I'll just get a feel for what various apertures will do, but then you have to consider focal length and distance to subject.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    I use both limited focus and extended depth of field depending on which I feel is more conducive to the story I'm trying to tell with the image. If you consider photography to be a language then focus becomes simply part of the vocabulary, and in the same way that I would never tell different stories using the exact same words, I wouldn't create every image using the same vocabulary.

    Limited focus is also something that is uniquely photographic. We don't have the opportunity in the 'real world' to see static images with less than total focus throughout (discounting our peripheral vision) and so, to use it in the making of a photograph presents a world that we'd not otherwise be able to see.

    I grew up in a world of shooting 8X10 where the rule was to have everything be in focus...remnants of the f64 group thinking. Then in the 80's the world changed and 'the look' in my field went to an extremely limited focus. I'm happy to be working in an era where I can decide which is more appropriate for the end result.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    When I first bought fast lenses I shot everything wide open. Now as I learn more and become less lazy i'm opening up the DOF to work on my framing of the whole scene!

    Thanks
    Rich
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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by FoodShooter View Post
    (snip) - ... Limited focus is also something that is uniquely photographic. We don't have the opportunity in the 'real world' to see static images with less than total focus throughout (discounting our peripheral vision) and so, to use it in the making of a photograph presents a world that we'd not otherwise be able to see ... (snip)
    Actually, isn't it the exact opposite?

    As a visual experience, all inclusive, deep DOF is not how the eye/brain actually works.

    When we look at anything near or far, we have a quite narrow depth of "mental" focus. As you are reading this post, the header just above it is not intelligible. To make it intelligible, you have to shift the mental focus to the header area ... then this text is no longer in mental focus. Same for something just inches behind another object. We can't mentally focus on both at the same time.

    So when we view an 16" X 20" print at a normal distance, we are aware of everything being in sharp focus, but we cannot mentally focus on all areas at once ... we can only scan it with our eyes from one area of mental focus to the next. Thus the experience is more motion picture like than still like.

    Limited DOF approximates what the eye actually perceives at any given time. Since still photography is about capturing a sliver of time ... it is actually the more realistic of the two.

    For example, the little boy in foreground is probably exactly how his parents mentally perceived him ... the parents of the children in the background probably focused on their kid, and the little boy was out of mental focus.

    Just a thought.

    -Marc
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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by Paratom View Post
    ...
    I was wondering what you guys prefer and why? ...
    I prefer whatever suits my intent in making a photograph best, which of course varies quite a lot depending on what I have in mind at a given time.

    Control of the zone of focus is a basic tool in the visual language of photography and cinematography—asking what one "prefers" in using deep or shallow DoF seems too simplistic in its approach to the subject.

    G

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Actually, isn't it the exact opposite?

    As a visual experience, all inclusive, deep DOF is not how the eye/brain actually works.
    I don't disagree with you... which is why I mentioned discounting peripheral vision....and I'm not sure I would define the peripheral view as one of 'focus' in the photographic sense. (it's certainly not controllable as in a photograph).

    In the example of the image of little boy, when we shift our eye to the child in the back row, he stays 'out of focus'...something that is impossible to do in 'real life' (unless I remove my glasses ), yet is an integral part of photography.

    And using that same image as an example, I think that most people tend to concentrate on areas of an image that are in focus, typically only scanning the out of focus areas.

    I use focus (+/-) to emphasize what I want in a photograph or to downplay something else as necessary.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Actually, isn't it the exact opposite?

    As a visual experience, all inclusive, deep DOF is not how the eye/brain actually works.

    When we look at anything near or far, we have a quite narrow depth of "mental" focus. As you are reading this post, the header just above it is not intelligible. To make it intelligible, you have to shift the mental focus to the header area ... then this text is no longer in mental focus. Same for something just inches behind another object. We can't mentally focus on both at the same time.

    So when we view an 16" X 20" print at a normal distance, we are aware of everything being in sharp focus, but we cannot mentally focus on all areas at once ... we can only scan it with our eyes from one area of mental focus to the next. Thus the experience is more motion picture like than still like.

    Limited DOF approximates what the eye actually perceives at any given time. Since still photography is about capturing a sliver of time ... it is actually the more realistic of the two.

    For example, the little boy in foreground is probably exactly how his parents mentally perceived him ... the parents of the children in the background probably focused on their kid, and the little boy was out of mental focus.

    Just a thought.

    -Marc
    If I think about it I feel to see "medium" dog with my eyes. Maybe like f4.0 at 35mm on ff sensor.

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    Re: Shallow DOF vs "deeper" DOF

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    I agree - I like both, sometimes limited depth of field can seem rather like a gimmick - a cheap thrill.
    Or sometimes an expensive one

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