When it comes to photos and Depth of Field (DoF), shallow is sometimes the way to go. A shallower DoF can sometime enhance a photo and make it look better. If you are looking to put the focus on a single subject where there are other potential subjects in the frame to steal the spot light, then the best way to do that is to throw everything else out of focus so the viewer is drawn to what you want the main subject to be.
If you look at this photo for instance, shot at f/13, it may be easy to see that the mushroom on the far left of the frame is the main subject, but there are so many other elements in this photo that seem a little distracting. You could easily add some blur in post processing if you wanted to but I don’t think it would look the same as just opening up the aperture a bit more to get a shallower DoF.
For this next photo I opened up the aperture to f/5.6 and you can immediately see the difference. When I look at each photo, the second one seems less distracting to me. I am not as drawn to the background because the trees are more out of focus and another thing that I notice is that I’m not distracted as much by the log as I move to the right of the frame. When looking at the first photo I find myself going all over the photo and have a hard time trying to find a single place to rest my eyes. With the second photo I am drawn more to the mushroom on the left side and my eye wonders along the log towards the right but then I’m always drawn back to the mushroom.
The one thing I wanted to do with this photo was to show the environment in which the mushroom lives in with its surroundings without taking away from the main element, that one mushroom. I think by creating a shallower DoF I was able to accomplish that while still making the photo interesting. This is also something that I believe separates your typical snapshots from the better looking photos. I know this isn’t the best example but yet shows how a normal everyday scene in the woods can be transformed by just changing one setting on the camera. Well, technically two because when the aperture is changed the shutter speed needs to also be changed to maintain the same exposure, but you get the point.
And for those that may not have seen the macro shot I got of the mushroom: