Depth of Field

In photography, depth of field (DOF) refers to the range of distances from the camera that appear to be in focus. A lens can only focus at one distance. However, the sharpness as one moves closer or farther away from that distance diminishes gradually and within a certain range nobody notices it.
Perhaps you want to take a photo of a friend standing in front of another object. If you have a narrow (or short) DOF, your friend may be in focus while the foreground and background appear out of focus. At the other extreme, a wide (or long) DOF could result in the entire image appearing to be in focus.
There’s a good example of effective DOF control here.

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Choosing a Digital Camera

Before we begin, it’s important to understand that almost everything about photography involves compromise, and nowhere is that more evident than when choosing a digital camera. Like any other tool, different cameras are best for different people and different kinds of photography. The goal of this article is to help you choose the best camera for you.

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Autofocus and group shots

A reader writes,

On recent vacation, I really did take many terrific shots, but a bummer being a group shot of four kids against some rocks at the beach. The colour and lighting are fine, but three kids are in crystal clear focus and the fourth, blurry.

There are a few things that could cause that problem.  Autofocus isn’t magic, and can’t read your mind, so it sometimes ends up focusing on something other than what you want.  Autofocus mechanisms look for a straight line, so, for example, if a person is standing in front of a fence, it’s not unusual for the camera to autofocus on the fence rather than the person. Digital SLRs often have multiple autofocus modes, and it is critical that you understand the characteristics of the mode you’re using.

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Church wedding with a Nikon D-80

Nancy’s going to be shooting a wedding inside a small church and wrote to ask what flash she should use for her Nikon D-80.

Nikon has several external flashes, but for most people I recommend the SB-600.  The SB-800 does provide a bit more range and some other features for people using multiple-flash setups, but most people don’t use those features and the additional range is not worth the higher price tag.

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Pale Sky

Terry writes,

My digital pictures tend to have washed out pale sky much like the sample at the upper right of your homepage. The software that came with my Lumix doesn’t seem to help. Do I need to use a filter, different software, or do something else?

Photographs that include the sky are often problematic because the sky is usually brighter than anything else in the image, and in many cases it isn’t that blue colour we’re looking for.  Here are a few solutions…

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Image Sharpness

Gabrielle asks,

I always thought my pictures were pretty sharp, well up until I saw some pictures from other photographers. My photos all of a sudden don’t look so sharp anymore. What does a really sharp picture really look like? And I mean without Photoshop edits. I know I’ll end up editing in Photoshop, but I really would love to know what I am capable without edits.

Image sharpness is a very common issue among digital photographers. 

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While many filter-like effects can be simulated with photo-editing software, there are three on-camera filters that might interest you: Neutral Colour, Neutral Density and polarizing. Neutral Colour (NC) filters are simply there to protect your lens.

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Dealing with Shutter Lag

Shutter lag refers to the elapsed time between the instant you press the ‘release’ button and the instant the image is captured. This can become an issue with auto-focus cameras, where the time required for the camera to focus can make it difficult to capture moving subjects. Fortunately, most cameras sold today can be forced to focus by applying light pressure (often called a ‘half-press’) and holding the release button. When you press it the rest of the way, the image is captured immediately.