One of my favorite things to do is to shoot portraits of living creatures (be it a coyote, snake, swan or wife) with an extremely shallow depth of field, focusing just on the eyes. You can get a really soft yet intimate images. All the clutter is eliminated by the soft focus, and the viewer has nowhere to go but straight to the subject’s eyes.
It is easy to do; (1) use a good macro lens, a sharp 50mm lens, or a longer telephoto, (2) set a very “wide open” aperture (e.g. f/1.4 to f/4) and then (3) nail the focus on the eyes. I should actually say that sometimes it is easy. If your subject will sit still long enough for you to actually nail that focus, then you are in business. If that subject is not moving around much and my camera is on a tripod, I will trigger my Live View, zoom in on the eyes, fine-tune the focus, and then fire the camera with my cable release.
One of the casualties of our society’s transition to the cell phone as the camera of choice is that cell phone’s tend to render everything pretty sharp, with lots of depth of field. It is hard to pull off an image like the one below with a cell phone unless you hit it with a lot of digital filters. I’d rather shoot it how I want it in the camera.
This green anole is from one of my favorite places in Texas, the great Fennessey Ranch, north of Corpus Christi. And yes, he held still for me while perched motionless on the tip of an agave.