Infinite Depth of Field

Depth of field (DOF) is a very important issue in photography. In many cases, a very large DOF is desired. For instance, this is often the case in landscape photography.

However, this immediately causes technical problems. The usual solution is to stop the lens down to its smallest aperture. This maximizes the DOF, but the small aperture also significantly degrades the quality of the image due to diffraction.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were possible to get an extended DOF without any lose of image quality? Well, with a little bit of planning, an infinite DOF is possible. The trick here is that several shots of the subject are taken (preferably with the camera on a tripod). Each shot is focused at a different distance. That way, every point in the scene is in sharp focus in at least one of the images. This can all be done at apertures that suffer little image degradation due to diffraction (the middle apertures for most lenses). When using this technique, it is important to lock down the exposure and white balance so that they are the same for every shot.

At first, it might appear that it would be difficult putting all those images together, carefully aligning the images, figuring out which image is sharpest for each point in the scene, and creating a final image. Actually, this is a very simple workflow. Photoshop will do almost all of the hard work.

The Process

The process of combining the images in Photoshop is a six step process.

1. Each image is opened in Photoshop (if using a raw converter, each image must be processed in exactly the same way).

2. All of the images are moved into the same file. This can be done by dragging and dropping the images into one of the open files. The result is a single file with each of the images as a separate layer.

3. Next, it is necessary to make sure that all of the images are perfectly aligned. If the images were shot on a tripod, it might be tempting to think that the images are already aligned. However, this might not be the case (especially if the camera was touched for manual focusing). Luckily, Photoshop can align the images. To do this, the layers are selected by pressing Control+Alt+a on a PC or Command+Option+a on a Mac. Then, the layers are aligned by choosing Edit/Auto-Align Layers (the Auto option is used).

4. The images are now ready to be blended. In this step, Photoshop will analyze the layers to determine which layer is sharpest at each point in the image and will create masks for each layer based on the analysis. With the layers still selected, choose Edit/Auto-Blend Layers and choose Stack Images. It is also suggested that Seamless Tones and Colors be left unchecked. Yes, it does sound like a really good thing to check. However, if this box is checked, Photoshop will try to match the colors of the layers on an area by area basis determined by the masks that get created. In other words, areas that are not masked out get affected but the other areas are not affected. This may create localized color shifts that may cause color problems later. So, it is best to leave the box unchecked.

5. After the blending, there may be a bit of white along some of the edges that is a result of aligning the images. Consequently, the next step is to crop the image. This can be done by fitting the image on the screen by pressing Control+0 on a PC or Command+0 on a Mack, drawing a rectangle around the image with the Crop tool, and hitting the Enter key.

6. The last step is the cleanup. This is necessary because, while the Photoshop blending is pretty good, it is not perfect. There may be a few places where the image detail was not taken from the sharpest image. When this is the case, the best way to clean up any problems is to identify the layer with the sharpest detail in the problem area. Then, paint white on the mask of this layer in the problem area. It will also be necessary to paint black in the problem area on the masks of all of the higher layers. One other point is that it is usually easiest to determine which layer has the sharpest detail for a problem area by first disabling all of the layer masks. Then, the layers can be clicked off and on until the sharpest layer is found.

There are a few caveats with this technique. Obviously, the technique can only be used with objects that are not moving. Also, the camera will need to be manually focused for each of the multiple shots. The last caveat is that it is better to take several shots, each with the focus point moved only slightly from the previous shot, rather than take only a few shots with significantly different focus points. This will guarantee that there will be no out of focus points in the final image.

Photography ideas: Center of Interest

As photographers, we all like to create images that grab people’s attention. The question becomes, “What are the characteristics of these types of images?” Once we know these characteristics, we can use them to capture strong images.

Emotion

One of the most important characteristics of strong images is that they communicate an emotion to the viewer. For example, the image of a firefighter saving the life of a young child, an image of a beautiful sunset over a tropical island, and an image of a war torn village all communicate strong emotion that rivets our attention on the image.

Communicate

That being the case, the next question becomes, “How can we communicate emotion in an image?” Well, one of the best ways to communicate emotion is to create an image that has a strong center of interest. The center of interest is the most important object in an image. It is the object that, when properly composed, draws the attention of viewers.

Being the most important part of an image, the main role of the center of interest is to communicate the emotion in an image. Thus, the stronger the center of interest, the stronger the emotion and the image will be.

Creating Strength

So, the last question becomes, “How can we create a strong center of interest?” Five of the best ways to do this are: identifying emotion, single center, brightness, color, and contrast.

Identifying Emotion: Of course, the most important thing is that the center of interest must personify the emotion that the image is to communicate. As an example, if it is desired to communicate the emotion of the love of a parent for a young child, the center of interest could be a mother tightly holding an infant. In other words, you must first identify the emotion that you wish to communicate. Then, you must find a scene, object, or person that personifies that emotion and make it the center of interest.

Single Center: For most images, it is generally best to have only a single center of interest. This helps to focus a viewer’s attention. If there is more than one center of interest, the viewer’s attention is split. In many cases, this can weaken an image.

Brightness: Great, you now have a single center of interest that personifies an emotion. The important thing now is to make it stand out. An excellent way to do this is by managing the brightness in an image. The eyes are drawn to the brightest part of an image. By making the center of interest the brightest spot in an image, it will naturally draw and hold a viewer’s attention. As an example, the mother and infant previously mentioned could be well lit, but the rest of the image could quickly fall into shadow.

Color: Another way to make the center of interest stand out is to make sure that it contains saturated color. Since saturated color naturally draws the attention of viewers, saturated color can strengthen a center of interest. Another way this can be done is to create a center of interest composed primarily of one color, and surround it with a background of a contrasting color.

Contrast: Like brightness and color, contrast also captures the attention of viewers. With this approach, the center of interest should be high contrast. The rest of the image should be moderate to low contrast. With this method, viewers will naturally be drawn to the high contrast center of interest.

Photography Project

So, why not start a project centered on creating images with strong centers of interest. The goal of this project would be to create images where each image has a single center of interest that communicates an emotion. Then, use brightness, color, and contrast to strengthen the image.

Summary
If you would like to check out several additional photography ideas, just click Creative Photography Ideas

Photography Ideas: Color

Color is a very good place to start to improve images because color grabs people’s attention. For instance, a couple of the most popular photographic subjects are sunsets and flowers, and the primary reason that people like sunset and flower images is because of the color. Thus, the utilization of color is one of the most effective means of creating impact in images. However, to use color effectively, one must understand a little about color.

There are three aspects of color that can be used to create dramatic images: hue, saturation, and contrast.

Hue: Hue is what we normally think of as color (technically, hue is determined by the wavelength of the light).

One of the biggest reasons that hue has such a large impact on photography is that our visual system has different degrees of sensitivity to different hues. With respect to the three primary colors (red, green, and blue), the human visual system is most sensitive to red, is moderately sensitively to green, and is much less sensitive to blue (approximately two thirds of the eyes’ color detecting cones detect red, one third detect green, and only one percent detect blue). As a result, images with a lot of red (or related colors such as orange) tend to really grab people’s attention. So, one way to create eye-catching images is to start with subjects that contain these colors.

However, there is more to hue than just its affect on the human perceptual system. Hue also has an emotional impact. In many situations, the warm colors (e.g., red, orange, and yellow) bring feelings of comfort. The red glow of a fireplace, a gorgeous orange sunset, and a beautiful yellow flower are all examples of the comforting affect of the warm colors. However, in some instances, red can bring feelings of alarm or excitement (that is why stop signs, stop lights, and fire trucks are painted red). Green often brings feeling of newness or freshness (as in a lush, green, springtime meadow). Blue tends to create feelings of calm as in a peaceful ocean as dusk approaches.

So, what does this mean for a photographer? Basically, it means that the predominant hues in an image should be selected carefully to match the mood of the image. As an example, the proper use of green could enhance the mood of a landscape, but it might detract from the mood of a romantic image.

Saturation: Saturation refers to the “pureness” of a color. For instance, a saturated red is perceived as a very intense red while a less saturated red is perceived as a diluted or washed out red. Saturation is important because it helps determine the strength of response a person has to a color. Highly saturated colors create strong reactions in the human perceptual system while poorly saturated colors create a much weaker reaction. From a photographer’s perspective, this means that saturated colors will create a stronger reaction to our images.

Contrast: Color contrast refers to using two or more colors that are different enough that they contrast. Using color contrast is one of the most effective ways to create powerful images as the human visual system is highly stimulated by contrasting colors (in other words, our visual system is set up to respond to contrasting color). So, why not use this to create great images by looking for subjects that have contrasting color.

Photography Project:

Your assignment is to create a portfolio of images that uses color to draw the attention of viewers. Use your knowledge of how hue, saturation, and color contrast can be used to enhance images.

In Summary

If you would like to check out several additional photography ideas, just click Creative Photography Ideas.

Photography Ideas: Triangles and Composition

One great way to grow your photography proficiency is to begin a photography project. Most likely, you will want to choose an idea that can serve as the basis for the project. The use of triangles as a compositional technique is one idea that you may want to try.

Triangles and Composition

There are numerous compositional techniques that a photographer can select. Whenever there are numerous objects in an image, the use of triangles is very effective as a composition technique. The technique requires composing an image in such a way that three or more objects form a triangle.

Three objects are required to form the points of the triangle. The sides of the triangle are formed by imaginary, diagonal lines that join the triangle points. Whenever objects are placed in this fashion, they create a very dynamic composition. A viewer’s attention will tend to journey back and forth over the diagonal lines from one triangle point to another. If there are more than three objects in the image, the additional objects will need to lie along the diagonal lines.

There are a couple of ways that triangles can be used: single center of interest and multiple centers of interest.

Many successful photographs have a single center of interest. In cases like this, one of the objects that resides at a point on the triangle will function as the center of interest. Of course, the other points on the triangle likewise have a function. They serve to strengthen the center of interest. Now, it is crucial that the other objects be subservient to the center of interest. This can be done in many ways. For example, these objects may have a decreased sharpness, saturation, or contrast.

Obviously, there are occasions when there are several objects in an image, and all of the objects are equally important. This is frequently the situation in group portraits.

In the case where there are multiple objects of equal importance, the result is that there are actually multiple centers of interest. When an image is composed with multiple centers of interest, it is important to set up the image to ensure that all the objects have an equal weight or presence in the image. Another way to say this is that no single object should be allowed to dominate the image. This approach is often utilized by photographers that take group portraits. The photographer arranges the heads of the group members in a triangle. Now, each of the group members is of equal importance. So, each individual should be given equal weight in the image.

Triangles have another function. They serve to set the mood in an image. Triangles with the base towards the bottom and the apex at the top are inclined to produce a feeling of stability. A more dynamic image results when the base is placed across the top or side of an image.

Launching Your Photography Project

The purpose of this project is to make a portfolio of photos which use triangles for the composition. You might want to create a portfolio composed of images of different subject matter such as buildings, landscapes, and people.

In Summary

If you would like to check out several additional photography ideas, just click Creative Photography Ideas.

Photography Ideas: Negative Space

Are you searching for a few photography ideas for a photography project? As long as you will be investing some time on a photo project, why not pick a project that develops your photography skills. Not surprisingly, there are many skills from which to choose. One skill that will help you develop your photography abilities, negative space, is presented in this post.

Negative space is a compositional method that can be used to produce eye-catching photos. Therefore, let’s take a look at the technique?

Using Negative Space

At a fundamental level, any image can be broken down into three components

Frame: The border that defines the perimeters of the image.
Positive Space: The positive space is the subject of the image. This is normally the item on which the camera is focused.
Negative Space: The negative space is the rest of the image. It is located between the positive space and the frame.

Any photograph is formed, in varying proportions, of the frame, positive space, and negative space. In order to create impressive images, it is necessary to manage these components.

When composing photos, some people tend to think mostly in terms of the positive space. Put simply, they think primarily about the main subject of the photo. Little thought is put into the negative space. It is treated almost as an unimportant part of the photo. This is not the best way to compose an image! This is because, if managed properly, the negative space can do a couple of important things.

First: The negative space can function to define the positive space.
Second: The negative space can surround the positive space in a way that can make it more conspicuous.

So, exactly how can the negative space help to define the positive space? Basically, the negative space supplies additional detail that improves the story of the positive space. Consider the following example. An image might display a blooming plant. However, we may not understand a lot about the plant (e.g., such as where the plant is located). Where is this subject located? Maybe, it is situated in a garden. On the other hand, maybe not. The positive space of the photo can only be better defined with additional details. If the photographer were to show some of the terrain around the positive space, this would create some negative space that would certainly help to much better define the positive space.

Now, there is one extremely important point that should be remembered. The positive space should never be overpowered by the negative space. For this example, the photographer might render the negative space somewhat out of focus so that it becomes subservient to the positive space.

The main issue to keep in mind is that the function of the negative space is to help support the positive space rather than to compete with it. This acts to strengthen the image.

Making the positive space stick out is the other way that the negative space helps to strengthen images. This is due to the fact the negative space can help to control the eye of a viewer. This is accomplished because the negative space guides the attention toward the positive space. Obviously, all unproductive detail must be removed from the negative space in order to make it effective at focusing the attention. Otherwise, the viewer’s attention will be on the distracting detail.

In short, both spaces need to be taken into consideration when figuring out how to best compose an image. In simple terms, photographers need to pay as much attention to the negative space as they do the positive space.

The Photography Project

So, are you geared up to create a photography project? For this project, you should concentrate on capturing images that have carefully thought out negative spaces.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, this article served to get you started on a photography project. If you would like to check out several additional ideas, just click Creative Photography Ideas.