CAMERA CLUB: Shoot a photograph your way

Something I read today took the biscuit. An amateur photographer entered a still life photo of a vase of flowers to be assessed by a judge.

By Ivor Rackham
Thursday, 25th February 2021, 12:00 am
Ivor's photograph titled 'Amble Harbour.'
Ivor's photograph titled 'Amble Harbour.'

She was really pleased with the image. However, it was judged to have “poor depth of field control” – the back of the table was soft – and there were too many flowers.

If the photographer wanted to correct these, then she could use a depth of field (DOF) calculator app and a tape measure to set everything exactly. Then there would be an odd number of blooms of contiguous and contrasting colours. The proportions of different colours would comply classic colour theory, and the arrangement cohere with the golden section. The formulaic result may then please the judge.

Judging photos on their technicalities is hogwash! The exacting standards that photographers are supposed to meet are subjective. There is no decree from on high that states what a photograph must look like. Furthermore, sausage-machine shooting to please the judgement of the photographic establishment stifles inventiveness and creativity. Furthermore, why would we want our images to look like everyone else’s?

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Shoot what you like, however you choose, with whichever camera you own. Yes, learn camera and compositional and camera skills. But shun anyone who tells you what your art should or shouldn’t be. They will make your photography boring. If you like the result, or if you learn from it and decide that next time you will shoot it differently, then that’s all that matters.

I also saw online someone saying that if you move further away from the subject and increase the focal length then the depth of field will be less. This isn’t true. Proximity to the subject is an important factor in calculating depth of field. The following formula calculates approximate depth of field (D) and four factors affect how much of the image is in focus: D(squared) = NCU (squared)/f(squared)-NCU. N. The f/number of the lens (the focal length divided by the diameter of the aperture). C. The diameter of the circle of confusion, or how big a dot the point of light forms on the sensor, the smaller the dot the more in focus the subject appears. The human eye can see a point of about 0.029 mm. f. The focal length. U. The distance to the in-focus plane (in other words, how far away the subject is).

If you are not a mathematician (I’m not), the formula shows that with a longer lens with the same aperture the DOF is less. When you move closer to the subject, then the DOF is less too. If you opened the aperture wider or view the image bigger then the DOF is also less. Of course, the opposites of these are true as well.

All other factors being equal, if you place a crop sensor camera side-by side with a full frame camera, and then cropped the full frame’s image to the same size as the image from the crop sensor camera, then the depth of field would appear identical.

Although it’s important that your camera and lenses are designed for capturing the photos you want, more important is being able to visualise the image and having the skills to apply focus and exposure settings to your camera for getting that shot you envisioned. That’s what turns your snap into a photograph.