How To Work With Flowers And Depth Of Field In Digital Photography

This week, I’ve had the privilege of being very busy with photography. Included in my great fortune was a question by a lovely gentleman by the name of Steve asking about depth of field. He asked me about taking photos of flowers and getting the “perfect depth of field.”

In an email to me, Steve explained “ I like to photograph flowers, very close. OK, no problem if the flower is fairly flat…needing very little depth of field. The problem occurred when I tried to get the outside and inside of a 1 and 1/2 inch flower at about 1 inch away. There is just not enough depth of field! Got any more ideas for me? Thanks again, Steve.”

If I am correct in my understanding, what Steve is asking is about getting a depth of field close enough for digital macro photography shots of flowers but not getting too close where the parts of the flower is in focus and parts are out of focus. Without actually seeing what he is referring to, I beleive I can help.

In digital macro photography and traditional macro photography taking photos can be a fine balance between distance and the camera lens. You certainly can take ideal macro shots but you need to look at the lenses you are using. If you are using a high magnification in your macro lenses then you will find your depth of field is shortened considerably. The more magnification you go in your digital photography lenses the less depth of field you have. The less magnification you have, the more depth of field you have and the more the camera will look further a field.

So what’s the answer? In my experience I have found that the right depth of field was obtained (take this picture for example) by taking off the “flower Setting” on auto, and using macro lenses instead. (You can certainly use the flower setting if you don’t have enough magnification in your lenses.) I used mag x 7 for this one. That means that I used one macro lens that screwed onto the front of my lens with a magnification of 1. I stood up close and realized I needed to be closer in, so I added another lens that was a magnification of 2. Hence magnification of 3. I felt I still wasn’t close enough so I used another lense with a magnification factor of 4 and then I was satisfied with my result. That’s when I ended up with beautiful magnification of 7.rose-2.jpg

Mag 7 is pretty close. The closer you are the sharper your nearest points will be, but you may find the depth of field is very touchy. What I mean buy that is that if you take a flower that’s 5cm across, the first section will be in focus which may only be the first centimeter, yet the rest of the flower will not. This is why you need to remember to experiement with taking the flower setting off and just using different macro lenses to give you the most accurate depth of field instead. The right magnification will create the right depth of field for you.

Don’t forget to use a tripod, or monopod. Outside even the slightest breeze can ruin your flower macro photo. Any slight movement, even you breathing accidentally on the flower, can blur the whole picture.

To summarise, its your lenses and distance of the camera that will provide the most accurate depth of field for your flower photography.


Happy shooting,

Amy Renfrey

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