Back To Basics: Aperture and Depth of Field

7

Get control over your aperture and you can be more creative, plus, how aperture affects photographies most common misconception, bokeh.

Very, very low light with an 800 speed film and a wide open aperture.

In my last Back to Basics, I told a little fib. It was a white lie, I didn’t want to confuse.

Yes, the trilogy of film speed, aperture and shutter speed can all be adjusted in different configurations, and yes, if you get the maths right, they will bring balance and a perfectly exposed negative (to see what I’m talking about, click here). However, the result will not always be the same, the picture will be affected.

Your lens and its aperture will change the image with the aperture set at different f-stops. Generally, when you select your f-stop, you are opening up the aperture to let more light in, (eg. in a darker environment. You may have reached the lowest shutter speed possible without getting shake so you lower the f-stop and open up the aperture).

The side effect you will notice in the eventual picture, is you are dramatically reducing your depth of field.

Your camera is only perfectly focussed at one, narrow point in the distance. However there is a range of ‘acceptable’ focus near and far from that point. This acceptable range is depth of field. Put simply, a lower aperture value, f1.4, f1.8 has a very narrow depth of field. f22 has a very big depth of field.

Knowing this allows you to consider the effect and put it to some use. If you want to make an object the focal point of a picture, and blur the background, choose a faster shutter speed and open that aperture wide. This suits still life and portraits.

This was shot with no flash, on 800 speed film. I had to use the lenses most open aperture to do it. The effect is a very narrow depth of field, my sons face is the only thing in sharp focus. This helps draw your eye to him rather than what he’s looking at, which is mostly out of focus.

Conversely if you are shooting a landscape and want as much as possible to be in focus, then close down that aperture and you’ll get almost to infinity in focus.

It’s widely regarded that the Lubitel lens is best at around f16, there was a lot of light on this day so I shot this with both a fast shutter speed and a small (high f-stop) aperture. The upshot is that the burnt tree and the background, although not in perfect focus, is still crisp enough for detail to be seen.

There is a rule of thumb that says depth of field is 1/3 in front of the exact point of focus, and 2/3 behind. If this is the case, then those with a zone focus camera (Olympus Trip 35, LCA etc) can, with a wider depth of field risk over-guessing distance rather than under-guessing.

These are good tips for all you lomographers with cameras that allow you to change these settings, things like the Lubitel, the original LCA, perhaps the Smenas too. But it’s really useful for SLR users, for the Zenits the Prakticas…

This image was shot on a reasonably bright, though foggy day, to allow a small aperture and a good enough shutter speed to allow a sharp image throughout. A very deep depth of field.

Before I finish this months Back to Basics I want to talk about the mightily misconstrued Bokeh. Bokeh is not the shape of points of light visible in an image, it “is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image.”

Some nice, but extreme examples of points of light that are out of focus.

Common theory dictates this should be soft, and not distract you from the in-focus part of the image, but that sounds like a rule to me, and rules are meant to be broken.

You can see here in the bottom left of the image, the out of focus light is forming a shape. This is no trickery, it’s the blades of the lenses aperture.

One of my favourite lenses is a 35mm wide lens for my Praktica. This has a cheap 5 blade aperture. When I shoot with a wide aperture, it becomes very, very obvious in the ‘not’ bokeh in the background. You can distinctly see one big pentagon in this photo, which is distracting and undesirable. If this rule is the truth, then why is this my most popular photo, ever?

Credits: adam_g2000

Next month we look at Filters, how they can improve your black and white photography and what they do to colour film!

For more info, check out these Depth of Field, Dumetier, and Bokeh on Wikipedia

Back to Basics is a monthly Tipster series by Adam Griffiths where he seeks to impart a little more technical film photography knowledge. For each installment, he chooses a fundamental subject and explains it quickly and in simple terms (with examples where possible).

written by adam_g2000 on 2012-05-15 in #gear #tipster

7 Comments

  1. kiri-girl
    kiri-girl ·

    I'm a sucker for bokeh

  2. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Another great article! I often use filters for my B&W work, so I am glad you will be sharing that information soon.

  3. attelid
    attelid ·

    love your series! :)

  4. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @attelid thanks!

  5. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @neanderthalis thanks too! Though it probably won't be anything you don't already know...

  6. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @kiri-girl, @neanderthalis, @attelid. I was never very happy with my explanation of Bokeh here in this article, since I wrote it I found a review of a lens that captures what I was talking about with a test. photo.net/equipment/canon/ef50/ go halfway down the page to the drinks cans on the chair. Bokeh is not points of light, it's quality of blur. I only direct this at you guys as you were kind enough and interested enough to comment.

  7. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Shooting a few rolls focusing on Bokeh has been on my "to do" list for a while now. I need to get to it. Thanks for the website.

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-02-04 in #world #competitions
    Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge

    Do you love being creative? How about instant photography? If the answer is yes, no or maybe, then we've got a jam happening with your name written all over it! Being the most creative instant camera around, it's difficult to imagine the Lomo'Instant becoming any more awesome. But what would happen if you and your pals put on your thinking caps for a Lomo'Instant accessory brainstorming session of the ages — limitless creative potential! Show us your skills by joining the Lomo'Instant Accessory Challenge!

  • Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    written by shhquiet on 2014-10-27 in #news
    Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    The premium New Petzval Lens allows you to set your subject against a soft, beautiful background of bokeh. But how about making the bokeh even more interesting by using shapes? Simply use the special aperture plates exclusively made for the Petzval and have fun!

  • Bokeh Basics: What You Need to Know About Bokeh

    written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-04-23 in #gear #tipster
    Bokeh Basics: What You Need to Know About Bokeh

    Curious about bokeh and the look or feel you can achieve with it? This simple guide aims to equip you with the basic facts that you need to know so you can use bokeh to your advantage.

  • Shop News

    Full Focus on the Framing

    Full Focus on the Framing

    Shooting with the Lubitel 166+ is an experience on it´s own. The waist level finder will help you to compose your frames perfectly.With the possibility to use 120 and 35mm Film It offers unlimited creative possibilities deemed to be an analogue masterpiece. Get your legendary Lubitel 166+ in our Online Shop!

  • How to Make Special Aperture Plates for Your Petzval Lens, Halloween Edition

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-10-29 in #gear #tipster
    How to Make Special Aperture Plates for Your Petzval Lens, Halloween Edition

    Halloween fever is in full swing. Everything ghostly, scary or freakishly extraordinary are either on display or being spoken of in hushed voices through spine-chilling tales. Apart from wearing the scariest costumes and taking photos of of your petrifying selves, why not amplify the Halloween spirit a notch higher by using Halloween-themed aperture plates with the New Petzval Lens? Here's a quick tipster that'll teach you how to make special aperture plates and make the most out of them this Halloween!

  • Down By The Water With The Krab - 10 Quick Tips To Try

    written by shhquiet on 2014-07-10 in #lifestyle
    Down By The Water With The Krab - 10 Quick Tips To Try

    There's a lot that you can do with a Lomo LC-A+/Lomo LC-Wide and a Krab, besides the obvious (which is take it in the water with you). Get creative by trying various angles and perspectives; you'll be surprised how a slight tilt can make a dramatic difference to your photos. Take a look at the gallery below for some inspiration!

  • Fun Close-Up Portraits Courtesy of the Lomo'Instant!

    written by chooolss on 2014-06-24 in #news
    Fun Close-Up Portraits Courtesy of the Lomo'Instant!

    Lomography's on a mission to conquer the world of instant photography, and we need your help to reach this goal. Find out how you can contribute (and be rewarded with a super cool close-up lens, too!) after the cut!

  • Shop News

    Change the View in an Instant

    Change the View in an Instant

    Extend the Borders of Instant Photography with the World’s Most Creative Instant Camera System Packed With Fun Features and say hello to the Lomo'Instant Camera! The Lomo'Instant is the perfectly sized Instant Camera to take wherever you go! It’s the most creative way to shoot fantastic photos which you can share anywhere and with everyone in an instant.

  • Workshops and Events for January 2015 at Lomography UK

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-05 in #events
    Workshops and Events for January 2015 at Lomography UK

    Happy New Year Everyone. We're confident that our January 2015 workshops will help you dust off those January blues and get you smiling again. You'll be able to learn how to expose an image onto fabric or canvas with our LUMI paint workshop, learn the basics of our super Diana F+ camera and take to the streets with the Lomo'instant. There is also a great exhibition of analogue prints from photographer Arat “Huge” Komsawadichai. Find out more and book your spot by clicking here.

  • June 2014 Workshops and Events in Lomography Gallery Store Singapore

    written by lomographysg on 2014-06-06 in #events

    Goodness – the LC-A camera is turning 30 in June and it's gonna be a whole lot of fun lined up for you! Come get your analogue fix as we embrace thirty years of creative analogue photography!

  • Lomography & The Red Bulletin: Your Moment. Beyond the Ordinary

    written by analogeanstalten on 2014-08-20 in #competitions
    Lomography & The Red Bulletin: Your Moment. Beyond the Ordinary

    Have you ever experienced feeling goosebumps all over your body, that your heart seems to jump out of your ribcage, your common sense is set on pause and you just breathe and enjoy the moment? Together with The Red Bulletin, we want to see YOUR moment beyond everyday life. Are you ready for the photographic #yourmoment #beyondtheordinary challenge? Take part in our photo competition! The two best shots will be awarded with a camera, and the first 500 to register will get a one-year free subscription of The Red Bulletin!

  • Shop News

    Carry your Cameras with Style

    Carry your Cameras with Style

    No matter what size or cut - the ZKIN bags will always securely hold your cameras, accessories and personal things. Find the right one for you still today and never hustle with digging out photo gear from the deep, dark and dangerous corners of your regular bags!

  • Save Your Wet Photos from Oblivion!

    written by cheeo on 2014-05-30 in #gear #tipster
    Save Your Wet Photos from Oblivion!

    Don’t you just hate it when your precious prints are threatened to be lost in blurry, blotched and smeared oblivion when they get wet? Let us show you how you can save them with this easy to do tipster!

    1
  • Quirky and Creative Lomo'Instant Snaps from the Community

    written by chooolss on 2014-12-16 in #lifestyle
    Quirky and Creative Lomo'Instant Snaps from the Community

    Push your creative boundaries as far as you can and take some of your most eye-catching photographs with the new Lomo'Instant!

  • Up-close flower snaps taken with the Konstruktor Macro Lens

    written by cheeo on 2014-05-19 in #lifestyle
    Up-close flower snaps taken with the Konstruktor Macro Lens

    We’re still hung over from the breathtaking views of springtime and that’s why we’re back to bring you more spring-themed photos. Only this time, the Konstruktor Macro Lens shows us how to take amazing photos of flowers!

    1