Depth Of Field in 35mm Street Photography

November 19, 2013 — 3 Comments

On this particular day, I was walking London’s Chinatown to the Leicester Square exit and I was literally seconds from bumping into this couple.

Either purposeful or late, no idea, but I had virtually no time to react. The light was not good enough to freeze them in their haste and get a long depth of field, so I opened up to f/2.8, raised the camera, tweaked focus and pressed the shutter.

L1003781

Scenes and backgrounds play a significant role in my work and, as such, they are selected and carefully composed. I intend for the viewer to scan the scene for the details that support the foreground subject.

Sitting Pretty

So I am left wondering whether I like the topmost image with its slightly out of focus background. The couple are more striking and isolated in their thin plane of focus and it is still plain to see what humdrum Chinatown life is going on about them.

35mm is a wonderful focal length for street photography where the street can gain as much presence as the people. Though more of a natural frame, at 50mm, I still prefer the wider 35mm. If you are wary of getting too close to people or relish the creamy backgrounds, the 50 is the wiser choice.

Invisible

As for achieving narrow depth of field with a 35mm lens you really need to open up to f/2.8 or wider remembering, for any given focal length, the wider the lens the longer the depth of field.

Creative or not, employing short depth of field for any photograph is purely subjective and can be abused into a state of mind numbing dullness as much as images with a long depth of field. Do consider whether the scene adds to the composition.

I’ll keep the image of the hasty travellers, but please don’t expect too many of these. London’s streets are fascinating and I want you to see the detail as I do.

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3 responses to Depth Of Field in 35mm Street Photography

  1. 

    I’m not sure it’s the depth of field that is an issue in the top photo. I think the issue with the top photo is that it’s just not as interesting as the following two images. The second and third images make the viewer ask questions regardless of the depth of field.

  2. 

    Interesting point Stephen. There’s much less of a story in this moment, agreed. Of course, I could well be rubbish at oof photography lol.

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