Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Point-and-Shoot 101: Focus

Many weeks ago I posted a blog on Point-and-Shoot cameras describing some simple uses and settings that often go un-utilized. Today I'd like to take that a step further and show you some additional tips on focusing and depth-of-field.

I've always been a fan of a blurred-out-background (or foreground) when shooting in macro, this setting is usually a flower symbol on your camera, but knowing how this actually happens within your camera will help you remember how to make it happen in the photo while using the camera's innate tools.
A camera is like the pupil on your eye; to let in more light, it grows; to let in less light on a bright day, it shrinks. There are two tools on the camera that make this happen: the F-Stop and the Aperture. The F-stop is the hole size of that "pupil", or shutter opening, however it seems backwards: the larger the number, the smaller the hole... eg: f5.6 will let in a TON of light and raise your aperture (the time length of shutter opening) to 500 or higher, making the shutter open 1/500th of a second. FAST. The higher that number, the faster the shutter opens and shuts, making the picture super sharp for action shots. To capture humans, the lowest that aperture number can be is about 1/60. Opposingly, if you set the f-stop to a high f18 or 26, the hole will be tiny, letting in a small amount of light, and thus lowering your aperture timing to a slower snap such as "30" or really 1/30th of a second.

That's a mouthful, I know, but here's what it boils down to: the smaller the f-stop, the wider the refraction, and thus, the wider range of focus. Remember, the smaller f-stop is the higher number.

Most point and shoot cameras have a manual or partially manual setting allowing you to change one or the other or both of those settings. But if you don't want to mess around with numbers, watch what the numbers do when you put it on the macro (flower symbol) setting versus the landscape (mountain symbol) setting. Macro will be f5.6 and 1/500 (or so), getting only what's 5 or so feet in front of you in focus, while landscape will get everything in focus (elluding to the mountain ranges hundreds of miles away) from here to eternity, and the settings will look more like f18 and 1/60 (or so).

In addition to Macro, there is also usually a "portrait" (head symbol) setting that will do similar to the Macro setting, what's in the distance will blur out, leaving you with a nice focused face that the background doesn't distract from.

Now get out there and fool around with those numbers- what I were taught in college was to take a small notebook with me and make notes of the photo number and the setting I chose. While the digital age gives us the tools to look immediately, the viewfinders don't always show you the smaller detail, so I'd suggest doing this as well the first few times you play with these settings so you get the feel of the results. Writing things down often sinks them in for me.

Shoot often to shoot well!

No comments:

Post a Comment