Monday, January 22, 2007

What's your favourite f-stop ?

The question in the title started out as a joke question sometimes asked of photographers in interviews. It seems initially stupid - after all, we can use whatever f-stop we like and tend to change it for each shot. But after thinking about it a bit, I realised it is also a fairly defining component of a photographer's style.
Sure I shoot landscapes with deep depth of field and try to pick the most appropriate f-stop for whatever I'm shooting. Or I'll pick f8 when I don't care but want to make good use of my lens. Or I'll shoot a wide open aperture when I want a lot of blur or low light, stopped way down when I want the most possible depth of field.
But all things being equal, I tend to gravitate to shooting wide open or with a very shallow depth of field. My default choice, if I don't think of a good reason to change it, is close to wide open. This lets me be lazy - I don't need a tripod so much. It also lets me shoot a lot with available light - I can hand hold indoors. I also tend to select very fast lenses, 50mm f1.4, 85mm f1.8 and shoot those wide open, recently. My choice of f-stop influences my choice of lenses and how I'm using them.
My f-stop of choice frees me from the digital bane of existence, sensor dust. As I prefer to shoot at the wide open end of the scale, sensor dust doesn't feature in many of my shots. It also gives my portraits a consistently subject oriented feel. I'm not shooting the environment, any that is there is very quickly relegated to background colour and texture by my choice of f-stop.
Being aware of this bias in how I approach shooting is hopefully going to open my eyes to other ways to approach the same scene, maybe by trying to shoot some things with other f-stops on occasion, even when the situation doesn't demand it.


rennie said...

Great post. It makes me think a little more about the f-stop I'm using.

super-dave said...

fantastic shot ... you've shown good control there.

i have a 50mm f1.8 lens and i love using it at 1.8 ... the shallow dof is my favourite thing.

i wished i'd got the f1.4! :(

great work.


John Tucker said...

Funny you would post this. I, too, find myself shooting mostly at a wide open f-stop or very near it (excluding landscapes of course).

Nice food for thought!

Jeff said...

So many of my photos seem soft to me. I tend to push the f/stop toward the opposite end to get more detail into the picture. (I normally shoot a lot of landscapes on my blog site.) Of course, available light might not let me get away with that.

Kavey said...

I'm an absolute sucker for shallow DOF shots... I really love some of the more extreme ones I've come across. If I'm shooting regular travel photography I don't go so shallow but, on the rarer occasions when I'm playing with macros or other close ups I love going wiiiiide!

Daniel said...

My favourite f/stop? Probably f/2.8, because I can get a 300 in that. :)

Matt said...

I tend to agree...I shoot wide open or close to it, more often than not.

I love the look of the shallow DOF

ShutteredEye said...

you know i tend toward the same. there is just something sexy about shooting f1.8 and lower.