Color & Light
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Choosing & Using Lenses
Digital Photography Equipment
Wide Open! Large-aperture magic
You should always shoot with your eyes wide open (at least, the one looking
through the viewfinder). But often it pays to shoot with your lens wide open,
Another benefit of shooting wide open is very limited depth of field. If you’re
shooting a portrait, and the background is distracting, and you can’t
move the subject or camera, just open the lens to its widest aperture, and the
background distractions will magically blur into insignificance. This effect
is greatest when you use a longer focal length and shoot at a close focusing
distance—shoot a head shot from 4 feet away with a 100mm lens wide-open
at f/2.8, and background distractions will vanish.
You can also spice up a flower close-up by including a foreground element and blurring it via selective focus. Just be sure the out-of-focus element enhances the image and doesn’t distract from the main subject.
Of course, there are drawbacks to shooting wide open. Limited depth of field can be a good thing, as just explained. But it can also be a bad thing, if you need great depth of field for a shot (in that case, use a faster film or set a higher ISO on a digital camera, and stop the lens down). And various lens aberrations are more evident when the lens is wide open, resulting in reduced image quality. But all in all, today’s name-brand lenses perform very well wide open, and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Give it a try!
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