Shooting the Minds Eye

If someone where to bring up the topic of “Depth of Field” to these people, they probably wouldn’t care; as long as their subject was in focus they could still capture the memory they were after. If each member of this family only had a point and shoot camera where all the decisions are made for you; each member would have to settle for a picture that wasn’t quite the way they remember it.

On the other hand, if they had a few more options and wanted to take the time, they could each create the memory they envisioned to begin with. They may all be looking at the same exact scene before them, but that doesn’t mean that they all saw it the same way. If they chose to use a narrow depth of field, each person would be able create a memory of what they saw.

In the scene that we’ve already described, let’s call Jimmy – the foreground. For the sake of visual placement, we will call the field of corn – the midground. Of course, we can call the red barn what it all ready is – the background.

If the mother took her shot with a narrow depth of field using a small f-stop like f-2.8, Jimmy and his little truck would be in focus, but both the cornfield and the barn would appear gently out of focus. They would not distract the viewer from her main subject. Jimmy would be in focus, and for her that is what is important.

If the father focusing further back used a narrow depth of field, part of his corn field would be in focus and part of it would not. He might want to consider using a mid range depth of field, like using an f-stop of f-8. This way, most of the corn should be in focus, but both Jimmy in the foreground and the barn in the distance will appear gently out of focus. If someone looked at his shot, the corn field would be the first thing they noticed. To Dad that is what’s important.

Now when Grandpa goes to take his photograph he realizes that the barn is important, but so is Jimmy and the cornfield. After all, he’s been here since the beginning; so when grandpa takes the shot, he wants to make sure it’s all in focus. He will be using what we call a wide depth of field, probably using an f-stop of about f-22. Because his memories involve everything in front of him; to grandpa everything is equally important.

To correct what I said earlier; grandpa may have actually been satisfied with a snapshot from a point and shoot camera. Both mom and dad would look at that picture and feel something just wasn’t right. It’s not that his picture was a bad picture; it just didn’t match what they had in mind. By using depth of field you can make people see what you saw, not only with your natural eyes, but in your mind’s eye too. If every photograph tells a story, it becomes important to get the shot just right. You can do that when you learn more about the creative process and the concept known as Depth of Field.