Today’s blog will be a bit of a double post as I continue the “Rules of Photography” miniseries. The reason for this is that, like the rules of Framing and Flanking, Selective Focus and Depth of Field are too closely related and interdependent to be explained in separate posts. Your just cannot do one without understanding the other, so let’s get started.
Selective Focus or the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule
To deal with the photography “rule” of Depth of Field, photographers must first understand the concept of Selective Focus. Selective Focus refers to the subject in a photo being in sharp focus while everything around it is blurred out and fuzzy. I call Selective Focus the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule because this photo technique can only work if the photo’s subject is not blurry. To accomplish this, most photographers can simply center their camera’s viewfinder on their intended subject and press the camera’s photo-taking button halfway down. As long as the camera’s automatic focus is on, pushing the photo-taking button halfway down will make your camera focus on the object in the center of its view screen and blur everything else. Once that is accomplished, press the button down the full way to shoot the photo. As always read your camera’s manual to understand all of its functions.
Once you understand Selective Focus, we need to discuss how to use it in the different layers of a photograph. Although a photograph is a two-dimensional medium (i.e. it has height and length but not depth), a good photograph makes the viewer feel like they are viewing a three-dimensional scene rather than a flat image. To achieve a feeling of depth, photographs rely on three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. As their names imply, the foreground is the front layer, the background is the back layer, and the middle ground is the layer in between these other two. A subject can be located in any of these layers as long as it is in sharp focus.
For examples of Selective Focus as used in different layers, please view the following links:
Photo with in-focus foreground subject:
Photo with in-focus middle ground subject:
Photo with in-focus background subject:
“Pumpjack, No. 122”
Depth of Field or the Tunnel Vision rule
Once Selective Focus is achieved, photographers can explore the photography technique and rule of Depth of Field. Depth of Field draws the viewer’s eye into the photo’s scene by placing the subject in the middle or background layers of the scene. Just as it is in Selective Focus, the photo’s subject must be in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they do not distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject. I call Depth of Field the Tunnel Vision rule because good use of Depth of Field should really pull the viewer through each layer of the scene much like a commuter views a tunnel while traveling through it. For examples of Depth of Field view the middle ground or background links above or see these examples below.
More middle ground Depth of Field photos:
More background Depth of Field photos:
Shoot at least 14 images with either Selective Focus or Depth of Field. Good items to try shooting: a colorful object surrounded by foliage, or an animal as seen through tall grass. Please be sure to keep your camera’s focus on the subject not the other elements and keep your backgrounds simple.
Almost all photos use Selective Focus no matter what other rules they employ, so make sure you really understand this one.
Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!