Shooting through objects is a technique that I use to help soften the edges of an image and frame the subject. This technique helps draw the viewer into the photo and keep their attention on the subject, where it should be. The whole idea of, shooting through, is to have an out of focus foreground, to shoot through, and at the same time keep the subject sharp. This is especially easy with close-up photography because as magnification increases the depth of field decreases. I found that using a longer focal length lens makes this technique even easier. The further the foreground object, you’re trying to blur, is from the subject the easier it will be to blur. Also the closer the foreground object is to the front of your lens the more out of focus it will be. Although any lens will work, the shorter your lens focal length the closer the foreground object will have to be to the front of the lens.
Using your cameras depth of field preview button is a great help. It allows you to see what is in focus and how blurry the foreground object you’re shooting through is. What I generally do is start with the lens wide open and then while holding down the depth of field preview button stop your lens down until your subject is in sharp focus. Setting my camera on manual or aperture priority makes it easier to stick with the aperture I’ve chosen. Shooting through objects causes the autofocus to miss focus so it’s easier to use manual focus.
The shoot through technique works especially well with flowers and other close-ups. The softness and dreamy effect lends itself well to flower photography. While photographing flowers with this technique using potted plants makes it simpler. If one arrangement doesn’t work you can move one potted flower in front of another until you get what you want. It’s also possible to control the background in the same way.
Sometimes it’s possible to use the out of focus foreground to hide distracting objects in the background. You don’t have to limit yourself to close-up photography with this technique. With wildlife photographs it can give the impression of the animal hiding or stalking its prey.
Shooting through objects is an interesting way to help capture the viewer’s attention. It creates swaths of blurred colors which can be very pleasing in a photo. Often it will soften the subject enough to give a soft, unreal, magical quality to your photographs. I hope this technique will add another tool to your photographic repertoire.