Editor’s Tip: The top photo was taken using the concept of “bokeh,” in which we focus on the subject and keep the rest of the photo blurry. This focuses our eye on the main subject and keeps the background from distracting us. You can achieve this effect a few different ways. We like using the aperture settings, camera lens, and the distance of the subject. For the photo on top, we used a telephoto lens (85mm) with an aperture of f4 which created a very shallow depth of focus on the subject (the star) and left the background (the tree) out of focus.
The bottom photo was taken using the same telephoto lens but with an aperture of f16, which increased the depth of focus about 8 times to 32 inches. The star and the tree are now in focus, so the detail of the pine needles and lights compete for our attention. In general, use the telephoto range (higher numbers) of your zoom lens with smaller apertures to get a shallower depth of field keeping the background out of focus. If you use the wide angle range of your zoom lens, you’ll notice that even with small apertures, the depth of field is deeper than when you use the telephoto range. Give it a try, and see for yourself!