Depth of Field in Macro Photography
2 Depth of Field in Macro Photography
Adjusting composition for greater depth-of-field
Take a look at the image below. In comparison to the robber fly image we discussed on the previous page, this fly was shot using both a wider aperture and at a higher magnification ratio. This means beyond doubt that DOF is smaller. Yet, the image doesn’t lack for greater DOF. Almost the entire fly is in focus.
The difference here is that the subject was shot from a direction which enabled me to fit most of its interesting parts along a single plane of focus. Remember that DOF controls how far in front of and behind the point of focus can be rendered in sharp focus. Yet all points in the scene that exist at the same distance from the lens can be in focus simultaneously, no matter the amount of DOF available. What I've done here is to carefully position the camera so that all of the parts I want to be in focus fall along a plane that is parallel to and therefore equidistant from the lens. The fly’s side is relatively flat, so by adjusting the camera lens to be parallel with the fly's body, I managed to get sharp focus on all of the body parts which stand out the most.
|A fly shot from the side. All important parts are in focus, even though DOF is extremely shallow.|
It’s very important to understand that we have not extended DOF. It is still extremely shallow. Look at the fly’s front right leg. It’s only a millimeter behind its front left leg, but still out of focus. Shallow DOF is also visible in the wings. The section closest to the viewer is focused, the part farther away is out of focus. The point is that although DOF is shallow, if the subject is flat enough we can shooting at an angle parallel to the subject and produce an image with satisfying focus.
While this method might seem very basic, it’s by far the easiest and most common method of dealing with the DOF problem in macro, and is definitely the first method I teach all students. It’s easy to use – just remember to be parallel to the subject’s body. Since arthropods usually have at least one flat side, this method is very effective with a wide range of subjects.
Let's examine another image. The Levantine leopard (Apharitis acamas) shown below was shot using an aperture of f/8 - which is relatively wide for macro work - but still I managed to get focus from head to abdomen, including the wings. When shooting butterflies it’s important to remember that one needs to be parallel not along the right-left axis (with both head and abdomen existing at the same distance from the sensor), but also along the up-down axis (with both body and wings at the same distance from the sensor).
|Butterflies have very flat bodies. This makes shooting them from a parallel angle very effective for maintaining focus over the entire body.|
Faking depth-of-field: Focus Stacking
So problem solved, right? Well, not quite. What happens if we don’t want to shoot parallel to the subject? It’s extremely limiting to constrain our shooting angle this way every single time we photograph. Sometimes we want to view the subject at a frontal angle or even a diagonal. And of course some subjects have such irregular shapes that they have no flat side! Think of protruding body parts such as antennae, a proboscis and wings.
|This robber fly has no flat side,
and so shooting it from a parallel
angle is not a viable option. Here
the eye is in focus, but little else.
|Another shot, this time with focus
on the mustache and proboscis,
but now the eye is out of focus.
Luckily, the digital revolution has brought a very efficient method of actually increasing DOF. It is called 'focus stacking' and I’ll be covering it in detail in an upcoming article. Simply put, focus stacking is a process that involves two stages. First, in the field, you shoot a series of images with identical composition, each focused on a plane of different depth on the subject’s body. For example, one shot can be focused on the eye, the other on the proboscis, and so forth. You shoot as many images as you need. The main rule is that every part of the subject you want to appear sharp in the final image must exist in sharp focus in at least one image of the series.
|By combining the images above via focus stacking, we achieve a result
that has both detail and sufficient DOF.
Next, in the comfort of your home, you can use any number of software programs which automatically select the focused parts of each image and stack them together - hence then term 'focus stacking' - into a composite image that exhibits a wider DOF than you could ever hope to capture in a single exposure.
Focus stacking is a fantastic innovation for the macro photographer. And while it does take more time and careful preparation in the field, there just isn’t a better way of obtaining both detail and increased DOF in extreme magnifications.
|A praying mantis portrait, created by stacking two images. Without focus stacking, either the mouth parts or the eyes would have been out of focus.|
With these new tools in hand I don't want to leave you with the impression that shallow DOF is inherently bad. On the contrary, it is one of the most effective compositional tools at our disposal. By purposefully using shallow DOF you can create a dramatic appearance and lead the viewer’s attention to specific elements in the scene, control that is critical to success in every style of photography.
For further reading on macro photography take a look at Erez's previous articles in this series:
The what and why of wildlife macro photography
What we want in a macro shot - Detail
What we want in a macro shot - Background
What we want in a macro shot - POV and special scenes
Macro photography: Understanding magnification
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer and photography instructor based in Israel.
Erez will lead a macro and nature photography workshop in Costa Rica in July 2012, where he will explain his photography techniques and methods with which he achieves his unique results. Registration is open for this unique opportunity to learn first hand from one of the world's leading macro artists.
You can see more of his work at www.erezmarom.com and follow him on his Facebook page and
|Moon 99% D55 C14 St-Zénon 20170806 DP by MarioSS|
from Best Picture of the Week
|Reeds on lake by kkardster|
from Abstracts in Nature
|Florence & the Machine by Dutch Newchurch|
from Second chances..
Not sure how to choose your first drone? In this article, the second of a 3-part series, we discuss what factors you should consider when deciding what drone is right for you.
NASA photo editor Joel Kowsky didn't just capture the solar eclipse from his vantage point in Wyoming, he also managed to capture the ISS buzzing across what remained of the sun.
In these videos, talented photographer and filmmaker Daniel DeArco breaks down several tips that will help flash photography newbies start experimenting with artificial light.
Photographer and master potter Steve Irvine makes incredibly intricate, functional ceramic pinhole cameras that look like robots and monsters.
Chinese gimbal manufacturer Gudsen has released a firmware update for its Moza Air that lets you control the direction and angle of the head remotely just by moving a small handlebar-mounted control unit.
Curious how the Sony a9 performs underwater? Our friends at Backscatter took the camera diving off the Baja California coast, to find out how it handled shooting great white sharks.
While most of the DPReview crew put away our cameras and just watched the celestial event, Rishi decided last-minute to hack together a rig and capture a few shots.
Defunct Russian camera maker Zenit is making a comeback, and they're planning to release a full-frame mirrorless camera in 2018.
The days where you're more or less locked into premium or first-party flash units has gone. They're less than $50 now, so there's one less excuse not to get one. Here's our case for adding one to your kit, and a few pointers to get you going.
If you're shooting the solar eclipse here's a hint: don't fry your camera's sensor. Use a proper solar filter that offers at least 16 stops of light filtration, along with UV and IR filtering. More important? Don't look at it unless you've got solar filters. Sensors can be replaced, your retinas can't.
Photographer Rick Wenner recently captured an odd event called the Race of the Gentlemen with a rather odd camera: The Phase One XF IQ3 Achromatic, the world's only 101MP black-and-white digital back.
Buying used is a good way to save some dough, and with the right precautions you can protect yourself from falling victim to a scam.
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.
Lensrentals just did its first Cine lens comparison, pitting five top-notch 35mm primes against each other: the Zeiss CP.2 35mm T2.1, Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Sigma 35mm T1.5 FF, Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5 and Schneider Xenon 35mm T2.1.
A team of Google researchers have found that slightly warping watermarks when embedding them into images can help prevent automatic removal.
You don't have to empty your savings account to take your photography to the next level. These cheap buys cost about $50 or less, and come with outsized benefits for your photography.
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."
The latest flagship phone from Asus combines a 12MP 1/2.55" Sony IMX362 main sensor with a smaller Sony IMX351 chip for 2x zoom and a background-blurring portrait mode.
The company behind popular photo editor Picktorial 3 just released the X-Pack: a preset package that allows you to add Fuji's in-camera film simulation profiles to your RAF files in post.
Photoshop. GoPro. Every once in a while a product emerges that defines a category. And sometimes, it vanishes just as quickly as it arrived on the scene. This week's Throwback Thursday remembers the Flip, the pocket camcorder everyone had – until they didn't.
The Nokia 8's dual-cam combines the image data from a 13MP RGB sensor and a 13 monochrome chip for better detail, improved dynamic range and lower noise levels.
The company behind retail giant B&H Photo has agreed to pay out $3.2 million in monetary relief and back wages to settle a discrimination and harassment case from 2016.
After a popular Facebook teaser and some studio portrait samples, Godox has finally officially released the Godox A1 smartphone flash and flash trigger. Cheap, versatile and innovative, color us intrigued.