Over at The Online Photographer, John Kennerdell has a column up about the desire for shallow depth of field and the believe amongst new shooters that large sensors and wide apertures equate to professional images.
Several grafs down, he gets to the core of the issue. It’s not that wide apertures make images better, it’s that it makes them easier to control. And control is not something new users tend to have a lot of.
The deeper the focus, the greater the compositional demands. Not only do you have to press the button at exactly the right moment, but your camera needs to be in exactly the right place when you do. Arranging all those in-focus elements into coherent form makes for a real-time, four-dimensional exercise in which millimeters (or at least inches) can make all the difference between no shot, good shot, and great shot. But that’s another topic in itself.
The images he references with extensive depth of field have one thing in common – remarkable control. I love Sam Abell’s branding image, one of my all-time favorites, because it has layers of non-merging information.