Depth of field in street photography

May 8, 2013 — Leave a comment


Constructing Mazes

Constructing Mazes

In a previous life, as an artist using traditional mediums, my brain didn’t really grasp the creative use of a shorter depth of field. On picking up a digital camera, it quickly became an obsession for me to use focus to pick out details and occlude the rest of the world in the name of creativity. My favoured style now is to see all, to capture as much of the world in a frame. And the world does reach to the horizon.

So is there a rule? What works, especially in street photography? What changed for me?

Over the years, my preferences in the photography of others and my own goals for my images chased each others’ tails. I definitely respond to photographs that reveal to me an aspect of the world I hadn’t previously seen or considered; an image, with nothing more to say or a photograph with a message or metaphor or simply an allegory. With this appetite for content in the images of others, why should I not strive for this in my own photography?

Not to get too distracted selective focus, and depth of field is just a selected plane of focus, is the sledgehammer of leading lines. The eye has no choice but to go to the focal area. It surely must follow that if the photographer is using a short depth of field they have something to say about a subject in isolation from the rest of the world.

As street photographers we have so many things to think about whilst wandering around. I am guilty of evaluating people, things and scenes for luminosity and tonal rendition as well as their position in space before I interact with them! But before I take a photograph I do consider the question, “when I publish this image, will viewers understand why I took this photo?”. It’s valid! They were not there, at the scene.

Where’s the rule?! What is it?! Well, there is no rule. Maybe a mantra, but no rule.

As a photographer, consider those who will be looking at your image whether on the internet, in a forum post, or as a print hung in a gallery. Did the fuzzy out of focus world really detract from the lovers sharing an ice cream on a bench, because I can’t think of many situations where the context of the world wouldn’t add to the scene.

As a street photographer, of course.



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