In close-up nature photography, there’s a constant battle of trying to find that perfect balance between a sharp subject and an out-of-focus background.
An out-of-focus background is essential to a good close-up photo, because it helps draw attention to your main subject.
But, it’s not always easy to get that nice background. Sometimes the background is just too close, or your subject has a lot of depth (forcing you to try a smaller aperture, which then puts more of the background in focus).
So, how do you deal with this constant battle? Well, here are a few ways:
#1 – Determine the most important part of the image
The first thing you should think about is the most important part of the image. You might think this would always be your main subject, but sometimes the background plays a larger role. Ask yourself what grabbed your attention about this particular flower or insect: did you see the background first? Or, perhaps your subject is extremely rare, so just getting any kind of photo of it is the most important thing.
#2 – Use the depth of field preview button
Once you’ve determined the most important part of your image, then you can start looking for that perfect aperture by using the depth of field preview button. When you set the aperture and then press this button, you can look through your viewfinder to see what the image will look like at that aperture. The button is usually located on the front of your camera, near the lens mount.
#3 – Don’t obsess over sharpness
Sometimes it’s really easy to focus too much on getting the sharpest image possible, because it’s one of the things you can immediately see in a photograph and there are simple rules to follow for getting sharper images. But, good composition is more important than sharpness. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice a little sharpness (by using a wider aperture or moving your camera closer), if it means a better composition.
#4 – Don’t be afraid to keep searching for a better subject
If you’ve tried photographing your subject from a bunch of different angles and apertures, and still can’t find a good balance between an out-of-focus background and a sharp subject, then you may just have to look for another subject. Don’t think of this as a failure, just remember that good nature photos take time.
What did I miss?
If you’ve found another way to help find that perfect balance between an out-of-focus background and a sharp subject, then please tell us about it by leaving a comment below. Thanks! 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.