Blog Post

It's all about the depth of field! Monochrome PDI Competition No. 2

Updated: 5 days ago

This week saw the welcomed return of guest judge Ian Brash CPAGB BEP2* who presided over our first Mono PDI competition of the year. Ian began the evening by warning us that he would save all the scoring until after he had critiqued the images .. that certainly proved to be a good way of keeping the audience hooked until the very end, and it also seemed to make life easier for our projectionist (thanks to Martin W as always)!


So on to the business at hand .. the judging! Our Mono PDI competition format once again proved to be popular, encouraging a great turnout in both the Standard (22 images) and Advanced (24 images) classes.


The Standard class were first up for judging, and I have to say there were some really great images for us to enjoy! Throughout his critique of the images, Ian shared many helpful pointers that we should all keep in mind, irrespective of whether we are shooting monochrome or colour images:


  • Ian enjoys images that tell some kind of story. An image that generates an emotional response is likely to be one that you remember, and those are the images that usually have immediate impact

  • Most projected images benefit from the addition of a “key line”. This is a simple border line that is added to the edge of the image. These work especially well for images with a lot of dark content, as the key line frames the image against the dark projector screen. In terms of thickness, consider 1-2 pixels wide (too wide and your key line may start to pull the eye's focus away from your image) and aim for a shade of grey (for monochrome images) that features in your image

  • Try to leave space between the main subject of the image and the edge of the frame

  • Ensure distractions that don’t add to the image are removed or darkened down to make them less .. erm .. distracting

  • Consider using wider apertures (f5.6 or f4.8 perhaps) in order to isolate your main subject. Wider aperatures give narrower depths of field which make backgrounds less distracting as they become more out of focus

  • If your image is too busy, consider cropping some of the background distraction out

  • When taking pictures of people, eye-to-eye contact can work really well as it helps bring you into the picture

  • Be careful not to over-sharpen monochrome images as this can make them look grainy .. there is a fine line to be walked between enhancing your image enough to give it some “oomph” and overdoing it to the point it becomes unrealistic looking!

Congratulations to Chris R of the Standard class for his winning image "Industrial Home". There was much for Ian to enjoy here, including the leading lines, the clarity of the image, the inclusion of a person to give scale, and the excellent post-production!

"Industrial Home" by Chris R


Congratulations to the other 10's in the Standard class, all of which were very well deserved.

"The Quirang" by David A


"The Palm House, Kew Gardens" by Kevin B


In the Advanced class, Ian found two images deserving of the top marks. Congratulations to Graham S for his very atmospheric winning image "Glen Coe Bothy", and to Alfred C for his super sharp image "Lloyds"!

"Glen Coe Bothy" by Graham S


"Lloyds" by Alfred C


As usual, my top recommendation for learning more about the judge's tips is to take a look at what YouTube has to offer. As an example, if depth of field is still a bit of a mystery to you, have a watch of this very short video which explains it all very nice and simply: https://youtu.be/IGIQ-C_S5d8


If you are after a more comprehensive explanation, this video is really really good. It's a bit longer (17 minutes) but the presenter explains things simply and covers a lot of useful information: https://youtu.be/EdxKl5np9KE


The only minor downside of Youtube is that you may need to click "Skip" to avoid the adverts that interrupt the video, but that's a small price to pay for these free and really valuable tutorials.


In terms of adding a key line, there are many different ways of doing this depending on which image processing software you use. I suggest you google something along the lines of “add a key line in XXX” (where XXX is the name of the application you use) and then watch the helpful search results roll in. I use Photoshop and Lightroom to do this, but other applications are also available ;-)