Friday, October 8, 2010

Dramatic iPhone photos using depth of field techniques

One of the things that always fascinated me about photography is that the difference between a good photo and a really amazing photo is usually very subtle. I always felt as an amateur photographer that if I could figure out what those subtle things are and understand the tricks and techniques to include them in my photography, I could get some really great photos I'd be proud to display.

There are obviously a lot of factors that come into play in taking great photos. For many of the best photographers I think getting things just right is very instinctual. But instinct alone is not enough. It is absolutely essential for them to understand what effects are possible, and how to achieve them with the camera they are using. And understanding these things can make any of us better photographers.

A common difference I have noticed over the years between good photos and great photos is the use of depth of field. Great photos often have a shallow depth of field where the only the subject is in focus and everything else is blurry. Good photos on the other hand often have a large depth of field where nearly everything in the photo is in focus.

Often, the reason for this is that great photos are taken with great lenses that have a very large aperture and cost thousands of dollars. Most of us don't have the option of using these lenses, and when it comes to the iPhone, we're even more restricted because we're all stuck with the same lens. However, that doesn't mean you can't achieve amazing images with the iPhone by taking advantage of depth of field techniques.

With the iPhone camera being relatively restrictive, there's not a lot you can do, but that doesn't mean you can't capture some amazing images taking advantage of depth of field techniques. How? The technique I use is to get the camera very close to the subject of interest and use touch to focus. Note that this obviously requires an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 with touch to focus capability. Simple, yes, but using this technique can provide some dramatic images. A couple things you can try to experiment with this:

1) Take a picture at the dinner table. Perhaps the subject of interest could be a candle, or an amazing plate of food. Get the camera as close as possible to the subject, touch to set the focus on the subject and see what you get. For best results, make the subject only a small part of the scene and make sure you get something interesting in the background.

2) Take a picture in the grass. Get the camera as close as possible to the ground and touch to focus on the grassy area directly in front of the camera. Again, have the area of interest that is in focus take up only a small portion, maybe 1/3 of the image and make sure you have something interesting in the background. Perhaps a colorful structure, trees or a sunset.

The good news and the bad news is that there isn't much more to it. While the iPhone doesn't offer the same control that a DSLR camera or even a point and shoot can offer, it also means there's not a lot to think about when taking advantage of this technique.

I've had a lot of fun taking photos like this and hope you do to!

Thanks for your support!


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