Monday, May 9, 2011

Easy Shallow Focus with Point-N-Shoot Cameras

Shallow focus is all the rage in print advertising because "It brings the customer closer to the product, ya know" or so they tell me. It's especially popular in food photography and once you notice it you'll see it EVERYWHERE.

Out on a shoot last week the producer wanted to see what some title cards looked like with some "flowery" stuff behind them, so they proceeded to take some photos with their smart phone and wasn't happy with the lack of shallow focus. That's because shallow DOF is tricky on small CCD cameras and they being a print person was used to seeing everything photographed with a razor-thin DOF.

I thought really hard on whether I should bring up the whole DOF vs small CCD issue but decided against it and ran outside to the hotel grounds and grabbed these shots:

With what? A very badly road-worn and banged-up Nikon S550

It's an old trick I'm surprised I don't see more people using and works fairly well across the spectrum of little cheapy point-n-shoot cameras provided you can:

1. Turn on Macro Mode.
2. Zoom all the way in (but no digital zoom!)
3. Get a proper exposure

The "trick" is to let the camera focus in macro mode while you're optically zoomed all the way in. Tighter zoom is shallower DOF and Macro Reduces the DOF even more. These were just some quickie test shots but after some work in Photoshop they looked great as backgrounds for some title cards for this project.

It's not perfect as diffraction can cause the image to lose a bit of resolution but in a pinch you can get some interesting selectively focused images.

Now this doesn't apply to all point-n-shoots since they all use different designs, chips, software and whatnot but it's worth trying out if you need a more shallower Shallow Focus shot than one macro alone will capture.


Boz said...

Another good way to help reduce depth of field is to stick a sunglass lens in front of the camera lens to attain a lower f-stop on automatic cameras.

TheGrandBrand said...

Wow, that's an amazing tip - didn't know that. You've overcome the limitations of tiny sensor. Congratulations!