Instagram 101.3

One of my favourite photography techniques is playing with depth of field and creating a lovely blur behind your subject… (Btw, apologies for the crop, click in to see the full photo!)

When I first discovered this trick I started obsessively reading up on the type of lenses that could best help you achieve this – prime lenses with a focal length of 45mm or above with the widest possible aperture. The most commonly known lenses, (sorry, I don’t know the Nikon range!) in this field are the Canon 50 1.8, 1.4 & 1.2 (exponentially increasing in eye-watering price; the 1.8 an affordable £90 or so, the 1.4  £250+ and the 1.2 about a grand, ugh). And this starts what I call lens lust…

When I decided to switch from my old DSLR to Olympus my biggest concern was whether I’d be able to get the same blur and bokeh (Japanese word for the quality of the blur) as I was getting with my 50mm 1.4). In a bit of a panic, I started researching online madly for wide aperture lenses I could use with a micro four-thirds camera.

To begin with I was convinced it was just about the aperture and having loved my 50mm 1.4 so much, wanted to find the equivalent. What I didn’t understand was that what also came into play was the focal length – a 50mm or 85mm at 1.8 will probably give you better blur than a 25mm at 1.4 – and also about how you take the photo. Great blur is also achieved by getting in close to your subject and leaving a good distance behind it. But the wider the aperture, the less distance you need. Obsessively, I even devoted a whole blog post to the result you can get with a range of micro four thirds lenses, check it here to totally geek out.

“Great blur is also achieved by getting in close to your subject and leaving a good distance behind it.”

So, the above photo. Taken on my Olympus Pen E-P5, and with a lovely haze of grey and white around the subject. I took this in an extremely well-lit room, with lots of light coming in from the side. I used a 17mm lens, open at its widest aperture 1.8, ISO 200 and shutter speed at 1/500 sec. I had the settings on aperture priority as I often do, as I don’t always trust my shutter speed judgement. I probably would have set it at 1/125, a touch slower. It would have been interesting to see how differently the photo might have turned out. It took a few goes to get the focus on the earrings just right, as I had the camera as close as it could handle. And in retrospect, I wish I’d focused on the left stud instead as it’s slightly further forward.

I uploaded the picture onto my phone with the OI Share app and then edited in VSCOcam on my phone with an A5 filter dialled down a bit, after increasing the exposure by two notches, the contrast by 4, sharpening by 2 and desaturation by 1 (these numbers will make sense to you if you are using the app! Apologies to those who don’t, but the scale is 1-10 so that should help you figure out the adjustments.

Test & Wow!

If you’re getting into photography, whether for a blog or Instagram or hobby, and fancy trying out a camera for a few days check out the new Test & Wow service Olympus is running where you can borrow an Olympus camera and take it for a road test!