At a recent senior portrait preview appointment, Courtney’s Grandma Rosie squinted her eyes, then commented, “It looks like not everything is in focus in that portrait.” And she was correct.
Breakaway often sets cameras for “shallow depth of field” – which, if applied skillfully, produces a very effective artistic technique used by experienced portrait photographers.
“I’m confused,” says Grandma Rosie. “Why would you do that on purpose?”
Let’s back up a bit …
In photography, depth of field (DoF) is a measure of how much of a photo is in focus. If you use a point & shoot camera, or a lower-end digital camera, or even a cell phone camera, and use them in Auto mode, you probably have a “long” depth of field.
That means practically everything in your photo will be in focus.
Manufacturers do this deliberately. It’s because this means the focusing ability of the camera can be less precise, and still deliver a sharply focused photo for you (great for selfies and quick vacay pix).
In the photo above, a session outtake by one of our assistants, everything is in focus – the rocks in the foreground, our off-camera lighting softbox, senior Courtney, the entire breakwater (including the guy in the far background taking off his shoes), even all footprints in the uneven sand. There are so many distractions, the eye ricochets all over the image – taking the focus (pun intended!) away from beautiful Courtney.
If you wanted photos that focus on the environment or landscape, your photographer could use a long depth of field where pretty much everything in the scene is in focus – from the flower in the foreground to the mountains in the background. This works for those times when you really do want everything – or nearly everything – in focus.
“So,” Grandma Rosie asks, “why would we want it any other way? “
Digital SLR cameras are usually more precise with their focusing and enable the photographer to produce a shallow depth of field, isolating part of the shot which is nicely in focus while throwing elements in the background (and sometimes the foreground) out of focus and into a lovely blur. (the artistry of the shallow depth of field effect is most definitely not created in Photoshop post-processing by Breakaway – and sorry, no, it cannot be “un”done – LOLz!)
And because a shallow DoF isolates the subject from its surroundings, when skillfully and creatively applied, this effect can be used to give your senior portraits the artistic edge you receive from experienced professional photographers.
Otherwise, you’d have your senior portraits taken by your neighbor who just got a new camera for Christmas a few weeks ago, or old Uncle Bob who “loves to take photos,” or even that *cough* chain studio who did your yearbook pictures … Right?
High quality portraits are a hallmark for award-winning Breakaway Senior Photography. But Breakaway is also Orange County’s #1 choice for its wide variety of artistic and creative portraits. From traditional headshots that will make Grandma Rosie smile to edgey and unique images that our seniors love – Breakaway is a cut above!
What part of the senior’s story do each of the portraits below tell?
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Portrait focuses on Miss Sydney – secondary story: Through the windshield with Sydney in the driver’s seat of a classic 1955 Chevy Bel Air.
One of Gaby’s (Tesoro) favorites – her uniform with #11 ID, well-worn glove and dirt-packed, and the drama of her end-of-the-season cleats celebrating her story as a high school varsity and Club softball pitcher (can you say college softball scholarship?).
Using a shallow depth of field to focus on handsome Jason (Servite HS) in the foreground. His portrait story captures Jason’s job as a summer lifeguard as he stands in his “reds” on the pier bench – with the lifeguard tower and rescue jeep only ‘suggestions’ – out of focus in the background.
Gotta love those sparkly prom heels! But how to tell the story of the image without disturbing the flowing lines of Kayla’s amazing Sherri Hill gown? Answer: Shallow depth of field to the rescue again! Focus on the foreground shoe, while Miss Kayla is in soft focus (but still very recognizable) in the background.
Another shallow depth of field, used exactly in reverse. Focus is on Kayla’s gorgeous eyes and hair in the foreground, while the distractions of a very busy background fade into a lovely blur, while holding the Fall colors and glow of the sunset warmth.
A standard taken by the yearbook chain photographers, we see dozens of these each year. Grandparents think they’re swell – Breakaway seniors want something cap and gown portraits that are fun, creative and not so, um, out-dated…
Cover shot for this senior’s graduation announcement, this short depth of field focused on her pinky “Tesoro” and blinged ’14 charm, with her signature stacked bracelets in soft focus, capturing her own personal style in her senior year.
Invented at his cap and gown senior session, this post – foreground short DoF – is now officially known as “The Matt” (Mission Viejo HS) – our most requested guy grad pose this year – loved by seniors and parents alike – and the cover image on numerous graduation announcements and session albums!
Playing this classic guitar – a gift from her dad from his high school band days – and singing are Miss Kelly’s passions. Short DofF just on her fingers – telling her story.
Loving the way the lush, earthy grapevines just fade away into a soft blur with this short DoF, with the foreground focus on Miss Danielle’s (Laguna Hills HS) gorgeous smile and hair. (a fun catch – I spy the new-growth grapevine tip – in focus – dangling in the upper right foreground)
Depth of field two ways. In Derek’s (Servite HS) left portrait, the camera was set to make the weathered wire fence to be in more clear focus, since it’s a full-body image. Whereas on the right, we used a short depth of field to soft-focus so the fence didn’t overpower Derek’s headshot with his winning smile and deep brown eyes.