In my photo essay about D-Day, @Pathfinder said he didn’t want to promote topic drift, so maybe have a separate conversation about how the photos were made?
I’ll give my opinion on depth of field first. I have the sense that for a lot of photographers, especially ones who shoot weddings, they shoot wide open with wide lenses because it makes the photos look beautiful. They like the cinematic look of out of focus backgrounds the Hollywood filmmakers use. It gives them a look that’s harder to achieve with smaller cameras and cheaper lenses.
I agree with that but I think there’s more. A lot of people can take a pretty photo but few can tell a powerful story. In cinema, film directors use the shallow depth of field to focus your attention where they want it, changing focus from one person to another as part of storytelling.
Here’s an example: Phil asked me to take a photo of him with a vet. He put his arm around him, they stood side by side and smiled for the camera, Instagram ready. The story: Phil met a vet. That vet probably helped tell that story 100 times for other people on Instagram that day and Phil would have been just another person with an I-was-here photo.
What I had noticed was Phil’s face lit up like a lantern and so did the crowd’s when he spoke to vets. He draws them out and the conversation is funny and magical. He has an extraordinary talent and passion for it. That’s the story I wanted. Much harder to capture.
I was looking for both men to be in sharp focus because they are equally important in the story. It isn’t just one with the focus like it often is in cinema. And I wanted at least one audience member in the background with expression out of focus but not so out of focus he’s lost from the story.
I had my index finger on the aperture dial as I always do to go up or down. The quick mental calculation was to shoot at 200 mm zoom so I didn’t crowd them and could narrow the field of view to just them; f/2.8 might be too shallow because (a) I might not get them exactly the same distance from camera and (b) guy in background needs to be in focus enough to see expression. Quick, guess f/5, click.
I was thinking, damn I hope I got that. So fleeting. So many elements had to come together. Low percentage shot, but I tried.
Other thoughts about depth of field?