In Craft & Vision‘s latest $5US eBook entitled Sharp Shooter, author Martin Baily teaches about focusing techniques you can use to take sharper photographs. It is an in depth look at not only focusing techniques but the theory behind how a camera and lens work together. Martin discusses how to use focus stacking to produce amazingly sharp macro photographs. Dabbles in motion photography and finishes up with post processing advice to save the “almost” focused image and to prepare photos for printing.
Before the techniques, he goes into how aperture and focal length (length of the lens) affect depth of field. Depth of field is the area of focus which is controlled by the aperture of a lens. Without a doubt, the graphic used to explain the relationship of a lens’ focal length, distance to subject and depth of field found in the eBook is the best I have ever seen. I have struggled with this concept. After re-reading the text and studying the graphic, this photo I recently took made more sense to me.
Even at an aperture of f/10 and using a long focal length of 300mm, you can see the background has a soft focused look which separates the piper from the background nicely. Yet, there’s enough depth of field (area of focus) to keep the man’s face, bagpipes and hat in focus. As Martin points out, when photographing people or animals, you should keep the eyes in focus as the rest will look normal even if a bit out of focus. In this case, his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses. Instead, I focused on the next prominent facial feature, his mustache.
In shorter focal length lens in the wide angle range from 10 to 35mm, the depth of field is much larger. This is brought out as Martin shows how to properly locate and use Hyperfocus to get sharp focus inside the entire frame of your photograph. In the image below, I used a shorter focal length to gather in the scene with a small aperture of f/18. By focusing in about one third into the frame (the color guard), I got focus from the front of the image to the back.
The one think I hope to do when reading a new eBook on a subject I know well is to find nuggets of knowledge or have one of those moments when a technique I have had explained to me suddenly becomes clear. I had one of those moments when I read about how using a digital SLR camera’s Back Focus button in Continuous Focus mode is like having all three focus modes working at one time. This is something I have read and even seen before. Never got it straight in my head. Martin finally broke through. Thanks!
Martin does go into how to prevent camera shake using good camera holding techniques including a few for using really big lenses in the 400mm and longer range. Some of these I have shown you before in my Sharp Series of Blog Posts. Some will be brand new to you.
In latter part of the eBook, Martin talks about selecting the best images using criteria for good focus. What causes blurring or un-sharp images and how to prevent them.
Then he comes to how to save an photograph which is almost but not quite sharp enough. This is where selective or localized sharpening tools in your software comes into play. He also talks about third party software products designed specifically to work with image sharpening.
Lastly, if you are looking to print some photos, you need to learn how to prepare them. Sharpening for printing is different than if you are just going to post your photos to the Internet. Martin shows how he goes about doing it and recommends further reading as this is a large topic.