In my goal to provide my clients with a variety of options for the look of their business headshots I look for ways to differentiate one image from another. From lighting to lens choice there are a lot of techniques that can be used to make one image unique from another. One such technique is using a shallow depth of field. A shallow depth of field basically means there is a small plane of focus in the image. On that plane, everything will be in focus. Everything in front of the plane or behind the plane will be gradually more out of focus the further away you get from the plane.
I love shooting with a shallow depth of field. It can give images a soft otherworldly feel that is subtle and often may go unnoticed if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Shooting with an extremely shallow depth of field is actually challenging which is why most photographers don’t do it. Most photographers will set their camera to F8 or another aperture that will give as much depth as possible because they know the shot will be in perfect focus every time.
When shooting with an extremely shallow depth of field you have to be very precise to get the eyes in focus. Any tiny shift in either the photographer or the subject will throw the eyes out of focus and ruin the image. Depending on the lens and aperture setting the area of focus can be less than a millimeter. In the image below you can see that the eye on the right is in perfect focus but the eye on left is slightly out of focus. That is how small the plane of focus is with this lens/aperture combination!
Below are some more examples of images with shallow depth of field. Notice the eyes are perfectly sharp but everything else falls out of focus, In a closer up image, the effect can be drastic. In an image that is pulled back a bit, it’s not as drastic but still gives the image a unique softness that looks great.