October 17, 2017, 02:34:36 AM

Author Topic: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?  (Read 1399 times)

CanonFanBoy

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DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« on: September 18, 2017, 05:38:46 PM »
This is mainly for you portrait shooters.

I have found the 135 f/2L and my 24-70 f/2.8L II to be my favorite portrait lenses. I bring those two particular lenses up because they do a great job to my eye, so I use them most. I also have the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, but I always defer to the 135L. Admittedly, I don't get much practice with anything I have.

Here's my problem, if it can be called a problem: Balancing bokeh and DOF... then how do you do this with a faster lens?

We all see the portraits where one eye is in focus and then the subject just starts to melt into the background. They are nice. However, stopping down to get a deeper depth of field causes the bokeh to not be as smooth.

Is there too much emphasis on creamy soft bokeh and extremely shallow depth of field? I see some beautiful photos with both eyes in focus and the background not so smooth. They are still great photos. Some of them are quite breathtaking (Some portraits by Pookie come to mind.).

All this makes me wonder: If a person has flash, then why the need for anything faster than f/2 if the faster lens is going to be stopped down anyway (Though I shoot the 135 wide open with flash all the time.)?

My question mainly concerns portraits. I know there are many more uses for fast primes than portraits.

I can't list my gear. I'm too ashamed. Everything I have is crippled and obsolete.

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DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« on: September 18, 2017, 05:38:46 PM »

privatebydesign

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 05:58:18 PM »
For environmental portraits I like f2, f2.2, with the 35mm. For head and shoulder work I tend to use the 100L Macro and generally around f8, I'm much more interested in eyes and expression than bokeh and if I find the background distracting I'll change my perspective to adjust for it. For candid/street/walk around I'll use the 24-70 f2.8 between 2.8 and 5.6.
Too often we lose sight of the fact that photography is about capturing light, if we have the ability to take control of that light then we grow exponentially as photographers. More often than not the image is not about lens speed, sensor size, DR, MP's or AF, it is about the light.

ScottyP

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 06:48:03 PM »
The super shallow DOF look can be overdone. I have taken shots of people where part of the face is deliberately OOF and had the subjects think I screwed something up. One or two shots in a bunch with that look is cool, but I don't think many regular people would really want all of their portraits to have one eye out of focus and no discernible ears to be found.

If you want more blurry backgrounds you can just make sure the background is farther away instead of always opening the lens to a super large aperture.

Flash is fine but is very limited in range, and the light falls off precipitously with distance (inverse square law). If your exposure setting requires flash on your subject (and you are not shooting in a studio), then ambient light will be too dim and so anything farther away than your subject will be too dark.
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Pookie

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 07:33:17 PM »
CFB, this isn't really about how much/less DOF is correct. It's about what you're trying to accomplish with the image and the effect you're looking for.

1.2 @ 3 feet or 1.2@ 50 feet.  It's the distance that you need to consider and what you want in focus or not. Do you want to isolate your subject or not? Many make the mistake of just cranking wide open because they saw a great image somewhere and never consider the implication of that act. I always think about what I want first and then plan accordingly. Your best bet is to think of the final image and use the tools you have to accomplish it. Sometimes you want some butter, sometimes you want crispy. Portraiture comes in many different flavors and formulas don't work once you get past the basics. If you're using a strobe and want a thin DOF then use a ND filter... but is that what you want is the more important question.

And speaking of tools...that 70-200 will work wonderfully for portraiture. Sometime better than the 135. I have the 200 f/2 but honestly you can get a very similar look with all the lenses you mention. It's why I've said here many times, great lens but not necessary. It's heavy and a PITA to lug around everywhere... especially when you have a 135 or 70-200 or 85 or 50...etc. I know that won't stop the blood lust though ;)

Sure it's nice to have loads great lenses at your disposal but knowing how to accomplish what you want is a better use of your time and money. Many lenses can serve multiple purposes and help you narrow down the lens swaps and camera juggling (and save you 30-50lbs off your back). I guess my point here... lenses and cameras are just tools in the bag and they won't do you a bit of good if you don't know the why's and how's.

And thanks...
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 08:51:25 PM by Pookie »
I'm limping by with my current equipment... once I get that new lens with IS and blue goo... then I'll finally be able to go out and take my first decent picture...

stevelee

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2017, 03:16:41 AM »
For my taste, 135mm is a wee bit too telephoto for portraits. Maybe if a person had really big facial features, I might want to flatten them by getting farther away and using a telephoto.

geekpower

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 01:51:22 PM »
+1 to thinking about distance, as Pookie points out

if you have control over all aspects of the shot, then background blur is influenced more by the relative lengths of the foreground and background than by the aperture.  for example, if your subject is close to the camera, but far from the background, the background will tend to blur even when stopped down, but if your subject is far from the camera, and close to the background (example, standing in front of a brick wall) then blurring the background will be almost impossible, even wide open.


rfdesigner

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2017, 02:22:20 PM »
I have often thought that a "constant DOF" mode would be useful...   get in close and the aperture shuts down to keep maybe a 1ft/30cm depth of field regardless.

Mostly we don't have time to try and work out what aperture will give us the correct DoF, which is why I love my EG-S screen so much.. I can see my DoF in the viewfinder (more or less) and so I get a warning if I try to over do things.
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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2017, 02:22:20 PM »

Jopa

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 05:16:41 AM »
You can actually have both bokeh and full subject in focus with this:
https://petapixel.com/2014/07/28/bokeh-problem-focus-backgrounds-hold-can-get-fast-prime/

 ;D fake bokeh FTW!

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Re: DOF: When is shallow too shallow?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 05:16:41 AM »