How to Make Any Object Interesting Using Depth of Field

From great lighting to flashes, filters and other accessories, there are a myriad of ways to improve your photos. For anyone with a X Series camera, however, one of the most powerful ways to enhance your subject is to manipulate the depth of field.

 

What is Depth of Field?

 

Simply put, the depth of field is the amount of the picture the photographer keeps in focus. While laypeople may assume the entirety of a shot should be in focus, experienced photographers know that letting the background blur can actually draw more attention to the subject.

Image by Clèment Breuille via Instagram

 

How to Control Depth of Field

 

Like shutter speed and exposure, depth of field can be controlled by manipulating settings on your camera – specifically the aperture setting. The aperture is an opening in your camera’s lens, which opens and closes similarly to the dilation of the pupils in our eyes. As the aperture gets smaller, the depth of field grows, meaning more of your image comes into focus.

 

In addition to your aperture setting, your distance from the subject and the focal length of your lens will impact your depth of field. Since the depth of field is focused around the subject, the closer the subject is to your camera, the shallower that depth will be. Likewise, the longer your lens’s focal length (the more you zoom in), the shallower your depth of field, given any aperture setting and distance.

 

Overall, these three attributes – aperture setting, distance and focal length – are all crucial for achieving the exact depth of field you desire. Changing the aperture setting is the most common route, but don’t be afraid to back up, move in, and zoom in and out!

Image by @chandrasentosa via Instagram

 

Changing Settings

 

When it comes to changing the aperture setting, it’s important to understand that the aperture width and specification are inversely related. Wider settings are represented by smaller numbers, and vice versa.

 

The settings themselves are typically presented in F-numbers, often-called F-ratios or F-stops, which are a measure of lens speed. For instance, a lens with a 100mm focal length set to an F-stop of 10 has an aperture diameter of 10mm. Setting that same lens to F20 would give it an aperture diameter of 5mm, while setting it to F5 would result in an aperture diameter of 20mm.

 

Overall, the smaller the F-number, the wider the aperture – and the shallower your depth of field will be. If you really want to zero in on your subject, leaving the background blurry and obscured, you’ll need a small setting. If you want most or all of the picture to be in focus, you’ll need a high setting.

Image by @matt_ellis via Instagram

Choosing Your Aperture

 

Which depth of field is right for your next shoot? The answer will depend on your subject and goal. Portraits typically feature shallow depths of field, focusing primarily on subjects’ faces. The same is often true for weddings, parties and other events, where you’re trying to separate the subject from a bustling background.

 

On the other hand, you’ll need a deep depth of field to see details in both the background and foreground. Landscape shots are a perfect example.

 

Also important to note: depth of field is not evenly distributed in front of and behind your subject. Even with all the adjustments you can make to the aperture setting, distance and focal length, your field is usually about one third in front and two thirds behind your focal point. The field becomes more equal as your focal length increases, but as we discussed before, it also becomes shallower.

Image by @chels_e_buns via Instagram

 

The Right Tool for the Job

 

Photographers often refer to bokeh, the blurred, out-of-focus background quality that makes pictures incredibly lifelike and vivid. If you want your shots to have bokeh, you’ll need a lens capable of the widest aperture settings.

 

Fujinon’s XF series lenses are perfect for the job. Featuring aperture settings as low as F1.2, these lenses allow for beautiful close-ups that will stun your viewers. With a wide aperture range, they’re also versatile enough to be used for wide range of projects.

If you want to learn more about the range of Fujifilm products, check out our 2017 Buying Guide.

Sports Photography as a Spectator – Ice Hockey

By Jeff Carter

In a series of articles X Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass. In this blog Jeff gives you all his top tips for photographing an ice hockey game.


Continue reading Sports Photography as a Spectator – Ice Hockey

Abstract Architecture Photography with the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 Lens

By Felix Mooneeram

I first became interested in the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 lens when I had an idea for a specific photo series which came to mind as I was travelling around my home city: Manchester. There’s a lot of history here but there’s also been a great deal of new architecture built in the last 10 or 15 years. For a few months, I imagined a series of images where I could get closer to the architecture that was catching my eye everyday around the city. I wanted to explore the relationships between the old and the new, whilst examining the styles and materials of the recent developments more closely and the XF100-400mm was the definitely the lens to do this. Not only was I interested to see how a lens typically used for sports and wildlife photography could work in a city; but I was excited about the new perspective it could gave me on buildings that I pass on a daily basis. Continue reading Abstract Architecture Photography with the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 Lens

Sports Photography as a Spectator – Football

By Jeff Carter

In a series of articles X Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass.  In this blog Jeff gives you all his top tips for photographing football matches.


Continue reading Sports Photography as a Spectator – Football

A Story of Composition: We don’t take a photograph, we make it

By Mark Gilligan

Whilst out and about on your travels, I am sure you have come across a view that demands your attention and you instantly reach for the camera. “Wow, we were on this ridge and the view? Well you should have seen it. I tried to photograph it but it didn’t come out right. Why could I not do it justice? It just didn’t look the same as I saw it.”

I hear this all too often. Now I have to say here that there isn’t a generic answer, as every location, the available light etc. is different at that time but we can put a process into place that will ensure we do capture it well. A phrase I use regularly is, “a beautiful view doesn’t necessarily make a beautiful photograph”.

The great man Ansel Adams said, “We don’t take a photograph. We make it.” He is absolutely right.

So what does that mean? Putting it simply, it doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it and create the best from what we have in front of us. To explain, I often refer this to the analogy of baking a cake. Stick with me please! If we give six people the ingredients for a fruitcake they will blend them differently. They will present us with a fruitcake and whilst some will taste similarly they will all come out different. Subsequently, if you ask six people to take a photograph of the same view… you can see where this is going.

So, I liken the natural features we see in the landscape as ‘the ingredients’ and how we blend them and present will decide upon the way the photograph looks. Told you we would get there….

We know it as composition.

Understanding how your camera works will always help rather than just putting it on auto and hoping for the best. They are good but they all need controlling by us. No matter how technically competent you are with a camera, your photographs will lose impact if they are compositionally poor. The two factors go hand in hand.

We will assume then that you do have the technical under control. I find that the majority of people who come on my workshops have a basic knowledge of the dials and menus but struggle with composition. I have to say that that is not uncommon with those who are proficient too. A good image will ‘pull you into it’ and make you want to keep looking at it. The beauty of photography is that it is subjective. You only have to look across social media to see a plethora of genres being put out there for us to view. Interest is the key, inviting the viewer to become immersed in the photograph. Once lead into it, their eyes then dance around the frame.

We all have our own perspective on what we see but there are some rules or guides that you can use to enhance your photography. Of course ‘rules can be broken’ and occasionally something that goes against convention can still work. The most common guide that we read about is ‘the rule of thirds’.
Most camera menus now carry the simple grid that you can ‘impose’ in the viewfinder thus helping you ‘balance’ the image by placing interest in all three sections.

Mark Gilligan, Snowdonia – FUJIFILM X-Pro1, f5.6, 1/400th sec, ISO 200, Lee 0.6 soft Grad

This image of a waterfall with the magnificent Tryfan providing the backdrop is a good example of an unbalanced image. Whilst it is a nice memory shot for the photographer, it visually jars with you. Too much sky has made the photograph top heavy.

By changing position, introducing more interest into the frame (those ingredients again) and showing us how the falls integrate with the landscape, creates a much more pleasing photograph.

Mark Gilligan, Snowdonia – FUJIFILM X-Pro1, f13, 1/60th sec, ISO 200, Lee 0.6 soft Grad

Earlier this year I was invited by Granada TV to take Kerry Gosney, one of their weather presenters out for a full day’s workshop. It was to be filmed and inserted into the local news programme, recorded in the Longdendale Valley in Derbyshire. I was delighted to be asked and having produced and directed many programmes over the years, it would be a change for me to be on the other side of the lens!

When we met, Kerry readily admitted that she had no idea about taking ‘real photographs,’ but wanted to be able to. She had a basic understanding of how the camera worked and I talked about ‘the fruitcake’. That’s the analogy not me…

After introducing her to the FUJIFILM X-Pro1, we put on our wellies and stood in a delightful river called Middle Black Clough. The director shouted “Action!” and Kerry said, “So tell me Mark, why here? It is beautiful, such a lovely spot; the trees, the river, its waterfall and lots of rocks but why here?”

I asked her what else she could see. She shook her head. Why did she think I had picked this particular spot when there were a lot of options to explore? She reiterated the features of the scene again and whilst I agreed, I then pointed to the grooves that had been etched into the fault plane right under our noses. They lead the eye to the waterfall she was admiring. You will often hear people quoting leading lines and these were classic. Of course I mentioned the ‘fruitcake’ again and how we now had all the ingredients for a nice photo.

After getting the settings, we then set up the tripod and I showed her how it all looked in camera. Kerry was literally taken aback. “Wow I would never have seen that. Amazing!” I had added more depth to the image, allowing the foreground to dominate and by using a wide XF10-24mmF4 lens that exacerbated the lines, drawing you into the picture. “So, you are telling us that we should open our eyes more?”

I couldn’t have put it any better.

Kerry Gosney, Longdendale Valley – FUJIFILM X-Pro1, XF10-24mm, f13, 6.5 sec, ISO 200

The culmination of the shoot was to be an image that she managed to visualise and capture. As the producer said “We need a show stopper Mark, something that presents the development in a day.” No pressure then…

It was good to see Kerry being more deliberate about her choices and spotting things she felt were ‘good ingredients’ for a picture. After settling on a place by the river with a nice array of natural features, we set up and I liked what she had come up with.

Kerry Gosney, Longdendale Valley – FUJIFILM X-Pro1, f14, 125.0sec, ISO 200, LEE Big Stopper

This shot is thought out with the foreground rocks leading you to the little waterfall. You are taken into the image and then your eyes look around it. To give the photograph a little bit more appeal, I suggested adding a big stopper to create the swirls in the stream.

These are just a couple of examples of ways in which you can tighten up and present your photographs. Whilst you will initially be presented with a view that you come across, looking with your own eyes, it is good to approach the same vista by then looking through a lens. After all, that’s how the finished image will look. That’s the view you will present to people.

Never be afraid to experiment and you will find that different lenses will create different perspectives. Be choosy and only press the shutter when you are happy that you have the best of the scene captured. Just as importantly, enjoy what you do. It’s a great way of presenting the world the way that you see it to other people.


More from Mark Gilligan

Website: http://www.wastwaterphotography.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GilliganPhotography/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wastwater1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wastwater1/

A Day in the Life by Kevin Mullins

By Kevin Mullins

My core business is as a documentary wedding photographer but I also shoot, and greatly enjoy, ‘Day in the Life’ family sessions.

A ‘Day in the Life’ session is a photoshoot based on the same ethos as the way I shoot my weddings; 100% candid.

It’s critically important for me that my clients can look back at these day in the life images in 10, 20, 30 years’ time and remember the actual moments with their family. Moments that happened naturally, rather than ones that I, as the photographer, stage managed.

By using the very small and very silent Fujifilm X Series cameras I can really blend in as much as possible and just observe the family, photographing the moments that I think are important to photograph. Continue reading A Day in the Life by Kevin Mullins

IN FOCUS: 7 Fujifilm camera features loved by the professionals

IN FOCUS is a series of articles where we ask some of the UK X-Photographers to give us advice, provide insight into their photography and share some of their favourite images of all time. In this blog, we asked our photographers what their favourite Fujifilm camera features are and why.


Continue reading IN FOCUS: 7 Fujifilm camera features loved by the professionals

The Wonders of Winter

FUJIFILM X-T2 | F5 | 1/8000sec | ISO1600 | Exposure bias 0

By Chris Weston

Winter is my favourite season for photography. For the camera, there is something uniquely special about the quality of light. For me… well, I simply love photographing in snow and cold climates. Give me the Arctic over Africa anytime.

Of course, the challenges in such wintry conditions are many. First of all, the gear has to be up to the job, which is the reason I’m so enamoured with the Weather Resistant lens technology that Fujifilm has put into the three lenses I mainly use: the XF16-55mmF2.8, XF50-140mmF2.8 and the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 zooms. Continue reading The Wonders of Winter

Food Photography – A recipe for success

When it comes to cooking up successful food photography, selecting the right ingredients is an important part of the process. Thankfully, there are loads of ways to photograph food! Continue reading Food Photography – A recipe for success