It took me a long time, but I’ve finally broken free of the compulsion to make sure everything in the frame is perfectly in focus – a habit learned and ingrained deeply during my years of view camera use. I still make photos where everything is in focus, but I also feel free to make photos where only one or two things are sharp, and sometimes I’ve made photos where nothing is in focus at all.
I struggled for a long time to get a toehold on how things will look out of focus – lens choice and aperture, and focus distance. When I say struggled, I mean struggled in the sense that I felt everyone else had figured it out and was a) laughing at me, and b) engaged in a large-scale conspiracy to NOT tell me the secret.
Part of it is lens choice. Some lenses have ugly out of focus rendering no matter what you do. Some seem to do the right thing no matter what. But most often, a lens will give you good stuff in some situations, and ugliness in others. How to figure out which you’ll get?
Andreas Manessinger blurts out the secret:
So often I see people ask on forums what lenses they should buy for good bokeh, and then they get all sorts of answers from 50/1.4 to – of course – 85/1.4, but what so many people don’t recognize, is that near focus beats wide aperture all the time. That’s why this lens is so useful and that’s why the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro wipes the floor with the Nikon 85/1.8, although they have so similar focal lengths and although the are similarly priced.
Why does it seem that always, always, the pictures improve as you get closer?