I’ll admit it, I’ve always said when it comes to landscape photography I rarely ever shoot at any f-stops other than smaller apertures (f/11, f/16). Those smaller apertures help to get more depth of field, from front to back in the photo, so that everything is in focus.
But, as it is with just about anything, there’s always exceptions and I thought this photo was a great example. Sometimes it helps to think of landscapes in some of the same ways we think of portraits. Typically with outdoor portraits, there’s a strong subject in the foreground and we want to emphasize it. So we tend to focus on the person, and shoot with wider apertures (like f/2.8) to make the background blurry and help the people really stand out. Who’s to say we can’t do the same with landscapes, even if there’s not a person in the photo? I actually first took this photo at f/16, since that’s what I had my aperture set to on my 70-200mm lens. As you can see, at f/16, just about everything is relatively in focus. Sure, the tree I focussed on in the right front of the photo is sharpest, but just about everything else in back is still in focus too. The result: A very distracting photo. Twigs, branches, and every distraction possible stand out.
While I was shooting I decided to lower the aperture setting to f/2.8, knowing that what I focussed on (the tree up front) wouldn’t necessarily change, but everything else in the background would. It definitely worked out. To me, it’s a much stronger photo. While there’s still some small twigs and branches in focus, most of the heavy distracting elements are now blurry. And overall, the background is softer and not as prominent in the photo.
Here’s a before/after so you can really see the difference.
So… as you’re out there shooting give it a try. If you find something in the foreground and really want to emphasize it, change it up a little and shoot at various apertures to see if you’re able to get a more compelling photo.
Have a good one!