Tip #5: Go for the Shallow Depth of Field

Matled Howler Feeding on Canopy Leaves
Canon 7D + 300mm f2.8 @ f2.8

Cameras are great, but lenses are better. While ambient light reflected off the subject is capable of producing an image through a glassless aperture (see pinhole cameras), it is the lens between the subject and photographer that focuses light onto the image sensor. We photographers will often speak about the character of a lens. Difficult to put into words, we use terms like "micro-contrast," "color palette," and "depth." As someone who values the experience of image making above all else, I have a confession to make... I am obsessed with quality glass. There is something seductive about a brilliant lens that can focus light with a clarity that has to be experienced in order to be understood. 
Red-eyed Tree Frog on Heliconia
Canon 5D markII + 180 f3.5 Macro @ f3.5.
So Tip #5 is about using this quality glass that we attach to our image making devices. Shoot the Lens at its Maximum Aperture. The maximum, or widest, aperture is the smallest number on the aperture ring or dial. Often listed as f/1.4, f/2.8 or f/4, these maximum apertures focus the reflected light with a shallow depth of field. While the ultimate sharpness of your lens may be compromised by its maximum aperture, the softly blurred fore and background will increase the perception of image clarity. Simply put, the maximum aperture isolates your subject and makes the image "POP!"
©2000-2011 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.