The Goldilocks Approach to Depth of Field by Elishia Merricks
When photographers talk about depth of field it can sound intimidating and something you can only achieve with a fancy camera, but all we’re talking about is how much of an image is in focus. Shallow depth of field is where a small amount of the image is in focus and wide depth of field is where a large amount of the image is in focus.
For this book, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, I wanted to find myself lost in a forest fighting against the wilderness… in the middle of Manhattan! There are few places you can go to find secluded woods in Manhattan, so I employed a tight frame and a shallow depth of field to create the illusion like I was stuck in the middle of nowhere.
In the first image, there is no distance between the book and the tree and they are both sharply in focus, but for me, this didn’t have enough context for the book. So for the second picture, I decided to use a shallower depth of field to create more mystery in the forest, mirroring the feel of the narrative. However, the super shallow depth of field feels like a book on a photo shoot, with the forest so out of focus there isn’t enough emphasis on what it is. For the third picture I placed my background further away than the first image, but closer than the second and it was just right. The book was crisply in focus, whilst the trees were just out of focus enough to maintain the mystery but were still recognizable as trees.
None of these are ‘bad’ pictures, but the depth of field can drastically alter the feeling of an image and help or hinder the mood you are trying to evoke.
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This article was originally printed in the Winter 2019 issue of Curiositales. If you would like to receive a free digital copy of the magazine, sign up for our newsletter at the top of this page! Then, confirm your email address (be sure to check your spam folder). Once you click the link in your welcome email, you'll get regular news from Curiositales, including notifications when the latest magazine is published. You can unsubscribe whenever you like. Or, you can read it for free here.
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