I’m not a big fan of extremely limited depth of field.

Table a deux

In the hands of experts, it works really well. Check out Martin Parr‘s great portraits, or one of my favourite flickr photographers, moaan. Limited or shallow depth of field can be a good thing, but in my opinion anyway, it’s a means, a tool like any other in the photographer’s bag to be used to achieve an effect. It can help highlight an area of the shot, allowing the viewer to concentrate on that part and allow her imagination to fill in the out of focus blanks. But when the effect itself is merely extremely shallow depth of field, to me, it’s like schoolboys lining up in the playground to see how high they can wee.

Shallow depth of field just shows how wide open your lens will go. These days, stand by any huddle of amateur photographers and you’re likely to hear them talk about apertures the way sports car owners wart on about their engines (and Dumbfunk, I don’t mean you!).

Rice patternBut a good lens is only as good as the way you use it, and to be honest, you can get a really shallow depth of field by spending a few quid on a set of close up lens filters.

I’ve only once used a digital SLR in anger, and I don’t think there’s anything technical that causes the extreme shallow depth of field that you see everywhere. People do it just because they can.

Sometimes you have no choice, and for a film photographer, with limited options to “wind up the ISO” in low light the choice is often to shoot wide open or not take the shot. So when I take a shot with a shallow depth of field, I’m not indulging in photography’s newest extreme sport (honestly) I’m trying to make the depth of field work for me. And I know that if I put the photo above in the depth of field groups on flickr, people are likely to salute me as a depth of field Meister, but in truth, I was just making use of the available light.

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  1. Actually, I do sometimes think (however inaccurately) of the “Debra 85mm portrait shot”, which seems to use DOF to good effect in a number of your pics. To be honest, I’ve no idea what lens or settings you use (could make a good post, as a diagram/cross section of how you set up a shot(!)), but it reminds me of (classic) good portraiture with a bit of focal flourish. Seriously.

  2. off topic. maybe its just my Mac, but all your pictures and words have disappeared when I view the blog? Assuming it is ‘under construction’ or something?

  3. hey Rashbre, thanks for the heads up on the mysterious disappearing blog entries.

    My provider made some upgrades while I was away at a conference, and one of my plugins broke the site.

  4. Cheers for the image, very helpful towards my Photography Coursework!

    Keep up the good work! A you should write an autobiography, quite amusing to read what you say, aha

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