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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old December 20th, 2012, 02:27 PM   #1
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Depth of field

Random thought...

Was reading profile of Roger Deakins yesterday in American Cinematographer (not sure which issue; article written this year or last when he got a lifetime achievement award). He mentioned that what he really likes is photographing people in their environments. Partly for this reason, he doesn't like blurring out the background completely.

Quite different from the DSLR-shooter tendency to open it wide as wide as possible.

Now, I think couples are still amazed by anything that involves shallow depth of field (or a slider). But I wonder if there's not also something important about not losing the background... Meaning... depending on your focal length, maybe f/5.6 and higher is a good place to sit...
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Old December 20th, 2012, 02:39 PM   #2
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Re: Depth of field

I only blur the background if it doesn't add anything to what I want to show, in all other cases I prefer sharp from front to back. Having a blurred background f.i. is very helpful if you are doing an interview and the background is boring or distracting.
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Old December 20th, 2012, 03:41 PM   #3
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Re: Depth of field

All depends on the type of project and the shot.

All shooters go through various stages, moving from one set of preferences to the next, hopefully creating a pro reputation,
a name and a serious rate card.

Mr. Deakins is probably saying, he 'currently' doesn't like blurring out the background completely.

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Old December 22nd, 2012, 09:49 AM   #4
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Re: Depth of field

If you have people in the background, you'll generally want to keep them in focus as much as possible because the bride and groom will want to see them later.
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Old December 26th, 2012, 03:43 AM   #5
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Re: Depth of field

There's no right or wrong. It all depends on what's best for each particular situation. The only mistake is to limit your storytelling tools.
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Old December 27th, 2012, 03:59 PM   #6
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Re: Depth of field

Personally, I've seen more video with, IMO, with the background too soft, lately. I think it looks un-natural.
In video, there is motion and the eye looks around at the surroundings and takes it all in. As long as the attention is kept on the subject, some of the surroundings should be distinguished, books, wall hangings etc. These are part of the scene.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 12:29 PM   #7
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Re: Depth of field

That's a good thought. In the end what is the client the most interested in? What will impress people today. And what will stand the test of time?
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Old December 29th, 2012, 02:27 PM   #8
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Re: Depth of field

Depth of Focus is a "tool" in the sense of it can be used for certain scenes to emphasize the subject.

The art comes with knowing when to use which tool... and how to use it effectively to tell the story/capture the vibe/emotion.

It would be interesting to see if the Lytro lightfield capture technology somehow filters through to "normal" cameras - it allows for "focus in post".

It would be handy to have a simple "mode" to have multiple images (Sony already does something like this), that you could adjust focus in post to get the desired "effect"... similar to "HDR", it could be a "HFR" (High Focal Range).

There are times that a blurred out background or even super shallow DoF close-ups are effective, other times not so much... it's nice to have the option, but being "stuck" or overusing the effect... not so great.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 02:56 PM   #9
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Re: Depth of field

The Lytro technology has my attention too. For still photography it may not be so bad, but anytime I add more to render in video, makes me think twice. Maybe when the Core 20's are invented it won't be so bad.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 04:58 PM   #10
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Re: Depth of field

Once I did a shot while the bride was preparing and deliberately I had a short depth of field. When the bride saw the footage she complained to me because she could't make out who her friends were at the background. Ever since no short depth of field for me.

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Old January 3rd, 2013, 01:25 PM   #11
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Re: Depth of field

Most of the day, we keep it pretty open. There are two or three moments in particular we use a shallow depth of field. In all these cases, we want them to feel like the only two people in the world.

During vows, for example, our two cameras on the bride and groom, respectively have tights shots with a very short depth of field. In that moment we are trying to pull people into the moment completely so we don't want their eyes wandering our any distractions.

This also applies once they are together the 1st time they see each other, if they do a reveal.

2nd, during their 1st dance or father/bride dance we use 2 cameras. One has a wider shot with a low aperture. The 2nd, tight shot again has a shallow depth of field for a more intimate look.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 01:29 PM   #12
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Re: Depth of field

I for one will be happy when the fad of super shallow DOF is over.

A pleasingly soft but recognizable background is a nice artistic element. A totally obliterated background with DOF so shallow they eyes are in but the ears are out is a distraction.
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Old January 3rd, 2013, 02:40 PM   #13
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Re: Depth of field

Chris, all I can say is; AMEN!
Short DoF has it's place of course but it is getting to the point of being overdone, much like the floating stars and hearts of the 80s and early 90s. ;-)
A little of it at the right time and place, great but let's use it in it's proper place.
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