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The SHALLOW Depth of Field TRAP

5/12/2024 Matt 0 Comments

 In photography, the allure of a shallow depth of field is undeniable. It's that magical ability of certain lenses to throw backgrounds into a beautifully blurred abstraction while keeping the subject sharply in focus. Jamie Windsor is often drawn to the aesthetic charm of a shallow depth of field, especially in his wedding photography endeavors. But as he delves deeper into the nuances of this technique, he unveils a truth that many photographers overlook: the shallow depth of field can be both a boon and a trap.

Jamie Windsor's Canon's 85mm F/1.2 lens is his trusted companion during weddings, allowing him to capture stunning portraits with dreamy backgrounds. Yet, he acknowledges the danger of falling into the shallow depth of field trap. It's easy to become enamored with the creamy bokeh and the immediate distinction it offers from smartphone snapshots. However, Jamie urges photographers to tread carefully and consider the broader implications of their depth of field choices.

In his recent visit to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition, Jamie observed a recurring theme: almost every portrait relied heavily on a shallow depth of field. While this technique can create a serene and intimate atmosphere, Jamie emphasizes that not all photography warrants such an approach. Some genres demand a wider view, a frenetic energy, or a deep focus to tell their stories effectively.

To navigate this terrain effectively, Jamie offers six key tips for using depth of field more thoughtfully:

  1. Know Your Equipment: Understanding how aperture and distance affect depth of field is crucial. Experiment with different settings to grasp the nuances of your gear.
  2. Consider Context: Determine how much background detail is necessary to convey your message. Sometimes, a slightly blurred background adds depth without distracting from the subject.
  3. Embrace Deep Focus: Don't shy away from using higher apertures to capture everything in sharp focus. Deep-focus photography can enhance storytelling by incorporating the environment into the narrative.
  4. Explore Composition: Familiarize yourself with compositional grids like the Golden Triangle, which can guide your placement of elements within the frame.
  5. Simplify Your Shot: When using deep focal planes, employ techniques like chiaroscuro, sub-framing, repetition, and careful positioning to create visually striking images with minimal distraction.
  6. Practice Manual Focus: While autofocus is convenient, manual focusing can offer greater control and awareness of your scene's depth.

While the allure of a shallow depth of field is undeniable, photographers must resist the temptation to rely on it exclusively. By understanding the nuances of depth of field and embracing a variety of techniques, photographers can elevate their craft and tell more compelling stories through their images.

So, the next time you reach for that fast prime lens, remember Jamie's advice: venture beyond your comfort zone, explore the depths of your scene, and discover the exciting possibilities that lie beyond the shallow depth of field trap.

You may also like: How to take CREATIVE LONG EXPOSURE photos

About Jamie Windsor:

My channel is all about photography related tips, reviews and techniques. I aim to create video content that doesn't already exist on YouTube. I also try to focus on teaching the art of photography rather than being an overly gear-heavy channel.  You can support me on Patreon if you like what I'm doing and want to see more of it.  Let's Get Connected: | Presets  | Instagram | PATREON

Image and video via Jamie Windsor