Shallow Depth of Field: How to Set Focus for Macro, Landscapes & More (VIDEO)

Understanding how to select the best point of focus is an essential skill for all sorts of photography. Not only does doing this right enable you to manipulate depth of field, but it helps you to direct a viewer's eye to exactly where you want it to go.

Portrait photographers, for example, know all too well that if they miss the subjects eye, they usually miss capturing a great shot. Nailing focus is equally important for just about any types of images you shoot, including landscapes, macro photos, sports imagery, and just about everything else. Sometimes your goal is maximum sharpness throughout a scene, while other times the opposite is true, namely selective focus with shallow depth of field (DOF).

The topic of today's tutorial is how to achieve a very narrow zone of focus to capture nature's beauty in unique ways. Or as instructor Dirk Ercken says, "Discover the magic of selective focus and shallow depth-of-field to transform ordinary scenes into extraordinary visual stories."

Erken is a professional photographer specializing in the captivating world of macro, flower, and mushroom photography, and he uses a variety of beautiful floral images to illustrate his interesting methods. His techniques are also useful for other genres, so keep this in mind as the lesson progresses.

By "looking at the world through different eyes" and following Ercken's advice you be able to infuse your images with a heightened sense of artistry and impact. As you'll see, there are two primary considerations: 1) knowing where to focus, and 2) how much of the subject should be in focus.

With macro photography, for example, simply focusing on a flower doesn't get the job done. That's because you have to decide if your focus point should sit on the front of the bloom, the center, on a specific petal, or maybe on an eye-catching stamen. Making the right decision is easy, according to Ercken: "Just ask yourself what part of the flower asks for the most attention and then capture the essence of that.

The overarching goal of the technique it to create a dreamy, painterly look straight out of the camera, without having to manipulate the image during the editing process. Of course there's a bit more to this than setting the perfect focus point and finding the right composition. Other things factor into the equation If shallow DOF field is the goal, like appropriate camera settings, the lens you use, and selecting the proper aperture.

So take a close look, be willing to look at scenes differently, and then go out and create some selective focus magic of your own.

Be sure to visit Erken's popular YouTube channel, especially if you're captivated by close-up photography, where you'll find many more helpful tips and tricks.

And don't miss another tutorial we posted demonstrating how to capture unique images, with a simple guide to giving nature photos an otherworldly infrared effect without specialized gear.