Have you ever looked at a beautiful photograph with just the right amount of focus on a key subject and a nice, dreamy background? It took me FOREVER to finally understand what in the world the 'f-stop' setting is doing on my DSLR camera and I hope this might help you, too! Photographing jewelry can be a complete joy or can make you want to throw your camera out the window. I like to keep listing photos simple and clean on white backgrounds (see my blog post about this here), but there are times when the light is just right and I just want to capture the beauty of these miniature works of art for myself and for social media. Near the beginning of my photographic journey, I read a lot about 'f-stop' and 'depth of field,' but things never quite clicked for me. Here is what finally made me realize what depth of field really is: it's like looking through a double-decker sandwich to your jewelry and beyond.
|Image Courtesy of Way 2 Foodie|
Whoa, Chris, did you just say that? YES! Imagine that sandwich on its side and your camera in front. Now, picture your jewelry as the lettuce. Changing the f-stop moves through the bread, tomato, turkey and finally to your lettuce to bring it in focus! This is the perfect 'depth of field' to bring your piece to life, right at the layer you want to highlight. Once you have the f-stop set, choose the shutter speed that brings in the right amount of light you want to expose your photograph with (I like to slightly over-expose, or make brighter, my photographs and make them darker if needed using post-processing). Or, you can totally cheat and use the setting on your camera that automatically selects it for you based on your f-stop and lighting conditions. This is typically called 'aperture priority.'
|F-stop Selects the Layer to Focus On|
Hopefully this sweet vintage camera (photo courtesy of PetaPixel) and sandwich on its side will resonate with you and help you remember what f-stop/depth of field is. Now, take a look at the picture I took of three beautiful vintage rings from my Etsy shop. Notice where I have the f-stop set? That's right - right on the ring faces, or what I like to call 'the gem-o-licious layer' of jewelry. The foreground and background are blurred nicely and the gems reach out and say hello.
Now you've seen what helped me learn about depth of field. What handy tricks do you have for understanding this concept?