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Don’t Be So Shallow: The Myths Behind Using a Shallow Depth of Field

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There is a place for shallow depth of field, but like any other technique, it does have it’s appropriate applications. You have to know when the shooting situation is correct to use it.

Myth 1: It Will Look More Hollywood

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There’s a major difference between selective focus, and shooting wide open. You need to remember that Hollywood films have big sets, which allows them to shoot stopped down a bit, focus the actors and blur the background. Be sure to take your environment into consideration and scout locations when possible before making lens choices.

Myth 2: You Should Always Shoot At 2.8

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Not true. You don’t always want the background to be illegible. Try to avoid the all or nothing aperture mindset. Honestly, you can even achieve appealing shallow DOF images at F5.6 under the right conditions. Always take the goal of your content into account before setting your exposure. Be open to being closed.

 Myth 3: It Will Make My Actors Look Better

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With a shallow depth of field, you’re counting on your actors to hit their mark within inches. If they’re off by a couple of inches they can end up out of focus. This can lead to retakes and a cranky crew- wasted time and money. Plus, actors appreciate being able to move naturally and improvise.

At the end of the day, a shallow depth of field is a beautiful technique. We’re not saying don’t use shallow depth of field but, rather, use it with precision and restraint. Like anything else, there’s a correct time and place for a shallow depth of field.