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What is Depth of Field?

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Devaun Lennox

Today we’re going to break down Depth of Field (DoF) in photography. Today, my friends will be the final day you will scrunch your eyebrows in confusion when someone starts talking about “shallow depth of field.” After today, you’ll be able to look at them with confidence, hold your shoulders high and mighty and say “ total cake.” That right there friends, that’s some real confidence. Buckle up.

Note: From this point forward, we will be shortening “Depth of Field” to just “DoF”.

hey what’s up guys so today we’re gonna talk about depth of field in photography not only what it is from a technical standpoint but how you can kind of best utilize depth of field to your advantage especially if you’re a newer photographer and actually create the results that you want from a creative standpoint so let’s talk about really what depth of field is in photography so depth of field is actually talking about the the controlling the distance between where you’re focusing and then the the back in front edges is focus and that right there that distance is actually considered depth of field so it’s really determining what you as a photographer how much do you want and focus in your photos from a creative standpoint depth of field is what’s actually gonna allow you to be able to control where you want the focus to be attention in kind of pinpointed in your photography meaning do you want the subject to be just only in focus do you want just the eyes of the subject to being focused do you want just the subjects face you want the entire subject in part of the background do you want the entire photo to be in focus that right there through depth of field is actually something that we get to through through changes of settings that we’re going to talk about it gives us the ability to really make those types of decisions so and that really right there is kind of what the f2 field is there’s some technical terms that we can kind of talk about as well if you want some more information as far as what is it doing technically and that will come later in the video but that right there is really what depth of field this is so like how much do you want a focus in your photography in this specific photo and if you’re doing video the same thing applies to video as well so depth of field is really considered selective focus but we get to choose that as photographers so let’s talk about a little bit of when it comes to actually focusing so when you hold down the shutter in your camera unless you have your camera set up in a way that you’re actually using back bucket and focusing which is something we’ll talk about in the later video but if you actually hold down and half the press is your shutter shutter and you’re you start the focusing of your camera or your lens right there your camera is determining where that point of focus is going to be and then from there based on what your aperture is which we’re gonna talk about your shortly as well your apertures then going to determine how big the field of focus is from that selected focus point so say you focus two meters out the depth of field is actually going to be determined from that 2 meter point whether that be something that you’re you’re focusing on the subject whether that be something that you’re focusing on in the background wherever you selectively focus the depth of field start from that point forward so when you’re looking at the field of focus there’s a front in the back edge of focus the front edge of focus is just the the front most distance from the subject or the point of focus that’s also gonna be in focus as well it determined based on your depth of field your aperture and then there’s also a back edge of focus which is this the same exact distance as the front edge of focus but that right there determines depth of focus which is really just a the entire field of focus I know there’s a lot of terminology and stuff like that but it’s really resemble so let’s talk about like how depth of field is affected as far as out autofocus versus manual focus with autofocus like I kind of mentioned before autofocus is when you have to press your shredder it’s actually going to be automatically done it’s going to automatically calculate that distance from where you’re actually standing and you’re shooting to where you’re actually auto focusing and you’re selecting that point we’ll have another video that’s talking more specifically on how autofocus modes can be changed so you can either you know focus on a certain aspect a certain point in the entire field maybe because focus selectively on the face there’s a lot of different ways of auto focus but long story short when it comes to you know half depressing that that auto focus point your shutter it’s selecting at that point it’s it’s creating a fixed point that’s actually going to determine how much of the depth of both focuses depending on your aperture as far as when it comes to manual focusing and you’re just changing that on the lens itself that right there you actually get to choose that and that those distances are typically in meters but you’re the one that’s selecting where that point is and where the lens is then going to start to create the the field of focus or the depth of field so that’s that right there’s kind of the difference between autofocus they’re mainly focus they’re doing the same thing but one is automatically doing that that’s sometimes why your lens will if you’re just pressing it down and it’s having a hard time picking that up it doesn’t really know what what that point of focus should be with manual focus lenses you’re just selecting that on the lens itself an hour there’s kind of the difference between auto focus in manual focus when it comes to depth this video so now let’s kind of talk about a little bit how depth of field is increased or decreased what setting is actually going to change in your camera to depth of field depth of field is actually gonna be changed through the aperture will have another video specifically explaining what aperture is and how it kind of works so like that but for the all intensive purposes of this video we’re just gonna say aperture is really just the diary the diameter or the the overall opening of the lens itself that you have on the camera every lens as far as how wide it can go or how narrow it can go is going to be different it’s depending on the lens long story short prime prime lenses lenses that have six focal lengths or attendant ending you’re going to have a tendency to be just larger or more narrow at their close more closed apertures or their most open apertures but the depth of field is changed through that setting now so when you’re actually increasing or you say you want to increase your depth of field where you’re gonna do is actually basically increase your aperture so the number is actually smaller which is going to make your your depth of field and that the difference between the point of focus and then the front and back edge is a focus that’s going to be larger and larger as you increase your setting in aperture and then vice versa if you’re if you want a more shallow depth of field for example if you’re gonna shoot at F 1.8 for example that would actually be reducing the depth of field so the front-engine back edge of focus little by little until only a selective point and maybe half and half inch depending how close you are to the subject will be in focus and that’s really that’s what happens when you change aperture it’s either gonna increase the distance or summin shorten it as you increase aperture so the number in terms of apertures notated which is actually it’s called f-stop we’ll talk about that right now as you increase that value though the number gets larger your depth of field is actually gonna get larger too which means more of the subject in the background and the foreground they’re also going to mean something in focus so let’s talk about just kind of some some I guess some shorthand notation that you guys need to know when it comes to actual photography terms so a lot of people refer to opening up or stopping down the lens what that really refers to when you open up that’s actually meaning that you’re opening up the aperture that means that it’s going to be a lower f-stop number we’re going to talk about the clarification of that in a second air as well but opening up the lenses means that you’re opening up the aperture so the lens itself is going to be wider than it would be if you’re stopped down which is gonna be narrow and they stopped down just means the lens is really closed down and it’s very focused and not right there’s this kind of a terminology so you guys know and that’s kind of clarified as well well what happens when you have a really large aperture and the lens opening the opening of your lens is very large that means it’s actually gonna let a lot of light in and because of that typically it’s going to be more shallow just because the amount of light has been kind of just overwhelmed how much light is hitting your sensor and it’s also not gonna focus the right the right position on your sensor and it’s typically going to be more shallow kind of just imagine this is an example if you go to the eye doctor for example in here they put drops in your eyes – you know dilate your pupils that’s kind of what happens your your eyes are letting in more light relative to the environment that you’re in and because it’s too much like you’re kind of getting overwhelmed then you can’t really focus and vice versa if you go outside your eyes wouldn’t naturally went down a little bit and your your pupil size will go down because there’s too much light so you want to later kind of reduce the amount of light that’s coming in so you can actually focus but a wider a wider depth of field in this case being more opened up it’s gonna come as a as a as you change the aperture you can actually make it a smaller value or you make it wide open and that right there is called shallow depth of field and vice versa so let’s kind of talk about what happens when you have more a narrow depth of field or you have a larger aperture f-stop number as you increase that aperture like I said before the depth of field is going to get larger and larger until it gets to a point that everything from your foreground your subject and your background is gonna be in complete focus now that’s kind of going to be dependent on the lens that you have which is something we’re to talk about here shortly but long story short that’s kind of what’s happening you’re reducing the amount of light that comes in but with that amount of light that actually is your sensors gonna be more focused and we can talk about that right now so what are you doing when you when you change the aperture whether you increase your decrease that you’re you’re really changing what’s called the diaphragm and that’s what actually opens and closes and determines how much light is actually gonna come through the lens and hit the sensor if it came up and that’s something that you get to control now whether you’re doing that through an arm like a manual manual aperture ring that’s on your lens or you’re doing that through just camera settings that you have or you’re shooting in some kind of a creature priority or some kind of program mode all those ways are gonna just basically change the aperture in the diameter of the the lens based on whatever the lighting conditions are you can either shoot that manually or you can just shoot it in a program mode that’s so fun and they do the same thing based on how much light is coming in so long story short when it comes to depth of field if you have a larger aperture meaning that your lens is more wide open you’re gonna have more shallow depth of field in the distance between the focal vocal the front-engined package of focus it’s gonna be more shallow and then if you have a more if you want for example more more depth of field you’re what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna close down the aperture which means you’re gonna increase the number to a higher f-stop and you’re actually gonna have a larger depth of field so the front edge in the back edge of focus is going to be larger as well and that increases just systematically as you change aperture from the or the f-stop in this case if you change the EPS top from 1.8 all to F all the way to f-22 or f/32 depending what your lens has and it just goes up little by little and it gets bigger and bigger every step that you do so what half what it let’s talk about the three main ways that you can actually control depth of field in an image the three main ways are going to be one focal length secondly distance from where you are to your subject or whatever you’re focusing on whether that be a person or it be an object or it be a cityscape or landscape whatever that subject is and your photo whatever that is the distance from you to that subject and then also whatever aperture you actually have set in camera so let’s talk about the first thing so focal length if you’re shooting with a wide-angle lens by default since the wide-angle lens has a greater field of view more of that that field is going to be visible and typically when you have a wide-angle lens it has greater depth of field for that reason just because it’s able to see more per image and this is just something there’s kind of a lot of science stuff behind behind that but field of view impacts how much depth of field there’s gonna be because of how big how big the scene is that you’re actually taking a photo of or you’re doing a video up and simply said that if the field of view is greater for a lens the depth of field at that same aperture or f-stop values gonna be the same so say we’re shooting at f/4 point out for example and that’s our f-stop so if we compare that to a 24 millimeter lens which is a wide lens and then we shoot at like say portrait lens which is like maybe a 50 or an 85 millimeter and then we compare that to a telephoto or like kind of a landscape bird type photography lens like 200 or 300 meter each of those at those same values if you’re shooting at the same distance and you’re focusing on the same exact point and your focus tuning the same subject same lighting all that stuff the depth of field is gonna be different because there’s kind of there’s lens compression is really the reason why that happens we’ll do another video at some point about London’s compression so you guys kind of see that but the lens compression is is gonna in that field of view is gonna change and modulate how much how much depth of field there is because it’s the the field of view as you go up in focal length and your millimeter increases that’s gonna change the field of view to make it more narrow and because of that the difference be the distance between the subject the foreground and background since there’s compression it’s actually gonna be the relative distance is actually gonna be greater and that’s gonna cause depth of field and to be a little more shallow so just know that long story you know just know that if you shoot on the wider angle lens it’s going to be a greater depth of field for that reason just because there are also distances between subject foreground and background is actually basically same on a wide-angle lens if you’re shooting at f/4 it’s gonna be it’s pretty hard to get really shallow depth of field if you’re say 5 or 10 feet away the secret if you actually are shooting on a wider angle lens and you want more depth of field it’s just move closer just to get close to your subject get closer to whatever you’re shooting and that’ll allow you it’ll reduce that distance so the distance between your subject and the background will actually be a little bit greater and from that from that point you can get a little more shallow depth of field and you can probably get a little more out of focus background if that’s something that you want and then vice versa if you if you want more narrow depth of field and you’re still shooting on a wide angle lengths for example all I could do is just move back a little bit further and you’ll get more greater definitely depth of field at the same f-stop value so you can shoot at f/4 and it’ll still be pretty much this big or you can shoot at 4 and it’ll be that big if you’re further away kind of a secret there if you if you want that a little secret the next thing on that is distance and that was actually something I was just touching on so distance from where you are to where you’re shooting is gonna impact the depth of field so if you’re closer to your subject the relative distance between you the subject and the background is going to be greater and that means the the the background is going to be more out of focus it’s going to be more shallow even at the same f-stop value just because the distance between your subject and the background is going to increase as you get closer as you the photographer gets closer to your subject so if you want a more shallow depth of field and you only have a lens that you know maxes out at 5.6 you might do it I just can’t get I can’t get shallow you know I can get bokeh I can get shallow depth of field I can’t get my background it’s out of focus I like to use like literally just get closer to your subject even though that may be awkward or whatever just get close to your subject and just shoot at the lowest aperture that you can and you’ll still be able to get some type of out of focus background now if you say for example you’re shooting after your most open aperture and it’s a 5.6 and you want everything to be in focus in your sight dude I don’t can’t increase my aperture at that point just move away from your your subject and you’ll get more depth of field for that reason so depth of field is really it’s gonna be determined based on the distance and the focal length for those two reasons it’s the distance between your subject and the background they’re those relative distances right they’re gonna to in big part determine your depth of field the next thing that it does as well is gonna it’s gonna set the depth of field is gonna be determined based on your aperture so if you’re shooting at a more wide open aperture or smaller number like as far as f stops the smaller f-stop number is actually gonna be more it’s gonna be more shallow depth of field so the the distance between your your focus point your subject wherever that is and then the back in front edges of focus that’s actually going to be smaller than shooting at f/8 or f/11 or at 22 or F – 32 depending on what lens that you’re shooting what actually goes – so just keep that in mind the aperture that you’re actually setting in the camera or on the lens itself is always going to determine first and for month the actual depth of field that you’re gonna get and then distance and then the focal lengths are going to also add or subtract from that depth of field to make it greater or larger depending on what you’re shooting with so let’s talk about is like just so you guys know what’s the purpose of depth of field and why is it really important when it comes to photography shooting that’s pretty important that we talk about that so the depth of field like I mentioned in the beginning like what it what it was it allows us as photographers to determine what we wanted focus where we want the photo to be in focus so we can actually draw attention to or away from certain areas of our photos so say for me as a portrait photographer if I want the entire garment and I want the entire subject of a fashion image to be in focus I wish you did like at a depth of field that makes sure that not only the eyes are in focus but then also it’s large enough to make sure the entire let’s say the top and the bottoms and shoes if they’re wearing choose to be in focus as well depending on what we’re shooting but it also depends what the focus is sometimes you just want to focus on the face and you want to draw attention to the face at that point you could use depth of field in your advantage to to make it more shallow so you only focus on the face and then everything else falls out of focus and that’s what that’s what the depth of field does it allows us to make that choice like where do we want the viewers eyes to go for shooting a landscape photo and we really want someone to focus on on just the foreground say there’s like a bush or a cactus or something and then just like a the landscape in the beat in the background and has a beautiful sky and said like that well do we want people to focus just on the cactus do we want people to focus on the entire the entire photo do want them specifically just focus on the sky in the background and not the cactus those are the kind of questions that we have to ask ourselves to determine what our depth of field will be because if you want just the cactus and you want everything else to be out of focus then you just use a depth of field that’s a little bit more shallow that gives you only the cactus in focus and then everything else be out of focus but if you want everything in the photo including the cactus to being in focus then you’d have to shoot at more narrow depth of field or a greater depth of field which would mean you close down your aperture to get that and that’s kind of what allows us to make that decision on and this is something that you kind of think about in the beginning before you set up a photo where where do I want the viewers eye to go to what am i shooting or where do I want them to look wear it where’s that what’s the most important element of this photo is it going to be the person’s face this is gonna be some action they’re gonna be kind of moving and I want the whole subject and focus to only want there maybe just their shoes to be focused or an accessory do I want if I’m shooting cities do I don’t want just like a certain car or whatever it may be you know everywhere everyone shoots different subjects but that’s kind of the questions that we have to ask ourselves as far as what do we want in focus so and that’s right that right there’s the purpose of depth of field and why it’s important like you have to understand like okay if I shoot at let’s say f-stop 8.0 with a 50 millimeter lens for example and I’m 10 feet away how much how much depth of field am I gonna get is it gonna be enough for me to get what I want and focus in my photo to be in focus if it’s not what kind of adjustments do I need to make to make sure I can get the amount of depth of field or focus in that photo that I want and the three the three ways to control depth of field will will be the ways that you you make those kind of alter alter you know those kind of kind of changes to your your your camera settings and or the way that you’re shooting to make sure that you’re getting the depth feel that you want and it’s just those three ways like mean that’s all you have to do you could change any of those three three settings or or the way that you’re shooting and you can change it at the field so the next thing I want to talk about is the types of depth of field I was kind of talking about this as I was going along in the video but the two types of field are gonna be shallow or versus narrow or greater depth of field so a shallow depth of field is usually for most purposes on most lenses it’s going to be an aperture of less than 4.0 that’s gonna be dependent on distance if you’re really far away shooting at 4.0 is it still maybe not going to be shallow it depends on the distance but for the most part shooting at apertures below 5.6 are gonna be more shallow and then shooting at apertures above F 5.6 or you know FA are also going to be greater and more narrow what happens when you have any more shallow depth of field again the focus plane between the point of focus and that confronted focus they’re just gonna be smaller and then if you shoot at a greater or more narrow depth of field the focus play this is gonna be larger and larger depending on how how what’s your actual f-stop set to and we get to choose that as well but those are that that’s the difference there so it’s like okay how big is is that the field is it like super big or is it like very very small and that’s all it really is if you want more out-of-focus backgrounds all you do is just set your aperture to the lowest value but your lens can can actually go to which would mean it’s the most wide-open that your lens is if that’s five point six and it’s five point six if it’s you know 3.5 3.5 it may be that lens that goes to F one point eight and that’s its maximum aperture then it’s at one point eight and then if you say for example you’re shooting with the lens that only does five point six just get closer man just get closer to your subject at that point just get closer to your subject and if you get really really close enough eventually we get out of focus backgrounds granted you may not get the composition that you want but that would be the way to get the depth of field given the lens that you have so let’s talk about some kind of tips and trips when it comes to kind of selecting the best aperture so that you can get the best depth of field for kind of typical settings that most of us are gonna run into so for example if you’re shooting landscape photography this time just start there if you’re shooting a landscape photography where you want everything from the foreground the subject and the background to being focused so you’re just focusing at a certain point but you want everything to be in focus shoot at the maximum aperture lens can be shot at and then just adjust your shutter speed in your ISO and shoot on a tripod so that you can get the proper exposure for your photo now if you’re shooting say some kind of street photography where there’s kind of moving subjects and you’re just like man I just want to make sure I get like my subject my subjects moving and I want to get my subject fully in focus then what you do you would just shoot at an aperture that’s in the middle of your range for your lens so you know ff7 ff8 so that you have enough of a depth of field that you can actually capture the the movement as the subject moves from point A to point B in that scene another tip at that point as well since we’re on the middle if you have your shooting fashion in there your shooting portraits and you want the sharpest the sharpest photos that your lens can can be able to capture shoot it in the middle of your range so say for example you have a you have a lens that shoots at maximum aperture is 1.8 and that’s that’s that’s the lowest that it goes you shoot at f/8 that’s going to give you the sharpest photos and it’s also from a depth of field standpoint is gonna give you a lot of depth of field where your entire subject and they’re a little bit of their their clothes and their garments are going to be fully in focus but the background won’t be totally in focus as well obviously that’s also going to be depending on how what’s the distance from the subject to the background but that’s that’s gonna be typically what you’d set that to if you’re shooting let’s say for example you’re shooting I don’t know a macro photography or something where you just really just want a lot of like really shallow depth of field and you just want one certain element that that’s gonna be in focus then at that point shoot at the most a narrow setting that you have or I’m sorry the most open setting that you have and if that’s one point eight or three point five that’s gonna give you the most background blur for that situation and I guess some other tips when it comes to depth of field really just kind of just think about like what do I want to be focused how is it how much of the subject is actually important to being focused for my photo is it important that the garments be in focus is it important that I catch to capture the person’s like that person’s visited movement that this person’s doing is it importance of the story that I’m trying to tell if it’s just a stationary object do I need everything in the background to be focused and focused um is it important those are the kind of questions you have to ask yourself and that that right there’s the type of kind of the biggest tip but as far as those kind of environments I’m just shooting at those apertures will be a good starting point then you make adjustments from there let’s also talk about some some I guess some of the best settings for at least to get you started as well like I said for landscapes if you want everything in focus shoot at the the most narrow setting the largest aperture that you have in terms of f-stop number for that if that’s f-22 if that’s 32 or if it’s 26 whatever it is that will give you everything in focus if you’re shooting portraits pre-safe that start at 4.0 and then work your way up or down depending on how much more you want focus if you’re shooting fashion and and you’re shooting everything like you’re shooting full-body fashion and you need everything to be in focus f8 is a good starting point same thing with beauty f8 is a starting point if you’re shooting sports photography for the most part they’re going to be moving pretty fast f8 is a good starting point also give you the sharpest photos and if you’re shooting macro photography depends on the lens that you have typically at that point if you’re doing true macro photography and you’re really close to a bug or a flower you’re gonna have to shoot at like at 16 or higher just because the depth of field is so shallow you need as much possible you have to you have to make sure that apertures as narrow as possible so you can increase that so as much as possible so for the most part f-16 or higher and that right there’s this kind of kind of tips and I hope that kind of helps you on your journey as far as kind of breaking down the depth of field I know it can be kind of complicated and stuff but it’s not what it’s not that bad I mean it’s just really just how much do you want to focus how big it is what’s actually important and how what are some of the things that are actually impacting how big or narrow that that distance is gonna be from where I focus on it’s that stuff important is that stuff actually gonna be something you need to be in focused or not those are the kind of questions and that’s kind of how you break it down

What is Depth of Field (DoF)?

In photography, “DoF” is the technical term used to describe how much of the photo is in focus. And it’s DoF that allows us, as photographers, to determine what areas we want in focus in our photos. It’s the main tool used to either draw attention to or away from, specific areas of the photo or to the entirety of the photo, which is your choice to make.

Simply said, it’s how wide the field of focus is in an image. The Field of Focus being the distance from the point originally focused (Point of Focus), compared to the front and back edges of focus.  When focusing on a subject or object, DoF determines how much of that subject is in focus from the Point of Focus to the Field of Focus based on the Aperture setting selected. And how great the distance between the specific point you focus on and Field of Focus, both in front of and behind that point, is completely within your control.

Note: DoF is not affected by whether or not you’re focusing using autofocus or manual focus. However, a more shallow DoF will affect how easily it is to focus in both modes, especially when manual focusing.

How do we increase or decrease Depth of Field?

So then, since DoF can be controlled, how do we actually go about changing it? You mentioned this whole Aperture thing before, how does that work?

Yes yes. That’s exactly how it works. DoF is either increased or decreased by adjusting the Aperture of your lens. The larger the aperture setting of your lens, which is commonly referred to as “stopping down” a lens,  the greater the DoF in your image.

While, on the other hand, DoF can be decreased by reducing the Aperture of your camera or lens. And this is commonly referred to as “opening up” a lens.

This also means that as Aperture increases, the more in front and behind the specific focus point will also be in focus. And the exact opposite is also true.

Note: manual focusing only lenses have aperture settings directly on the lens themselves and cannot be controlled through the camera.

Think: larger number (Aperture) =  larger DoF

So wait… what happens when you have a larger DoF?

A larger DoF really just means that more of the subject and background are in focus. Nothing more to it than that really. And how much will be dependant on how close or far you are away from the subject

What happens as Aperture changes?

As we mentioned above, Aperture refers to the size of the opening of the lens.  Smaller Apertures (bigger numbers) means larger DoF’s. This means that as Aperture increases, so does the distance of the Field of Focus. And the Field of Focus only becomes larger and larger with each added step in Aperture.

The exact opposite is also true, where a larger Apertures (smaller numbers) means a smaller (more shallow) DoF’s. The value you see for Aperture, commonly known as “F-Stop” in your camera is the technical notation for how much DoF an image will have.

What are the (3) main ways to control Depth of Field?

The main ways to control DoF are:

  • The lenses Focal Length
  • Distance from the subject
  • Aperture (F-Stop) set in the camera

The focal length of your lens determines how wide or narrow your field of view will be. Simply said, a wide angle lens has larger viewing angles than a telephoto lens. When shooting with a wide angle lens, since the viewing angles are larger, the DoF even at lower values will still be greater than a telephoto lens.

This is because each lens have different viewing angle, and the relative distances when shooting wide angle lens makes objects from the foreground, midground and background appear the same relative distance to each other. And objects at the same relative distance will be similar in focus. And because of this, with wide angle lenses, you will generally get more narrow (or a greater) DoF compared to a telephoto lens, even with the same amount of light, same exact settings and distance from the subject.

DoF between different focal lengths will all be different because focal length directly affects DoF. So with that, know an Aperture of F4 isn’t the same across every lens. Macro, Wide Angle, Midrange, and Telephoto lens will all have different affects on DoF. If you want more shallow DoF, shoot with longer focal length lenses.

Note: the same applies if you’re shooting with a zoom lens versus a fixed focal lens (know as a prime lens). At more wide zooms, DoF will be greater, while at more narrow zooms DoF will be more shallow. Generally, a prime lens will have significantly more shallow DoF compared to a zoom lens zoomed at the same focal length. The next thing that affects DoF is your distance from where you are to where the subject is.

Whenever you’re closer to subjects, DoF is going to be more shallow. This includes even higher Apertures as well. And just know that moving closer to subjects will also decrease DoF making it more shallow, to some degree. The degree it does will depend on how close you can get to the subject. This is why it is especially difficult to shoot Macro photography because there’s so much magnification and the relative distances are so much larger.

Lastly, DoF is a function of the actual F-Stop value set in the camera or on the lens itself. As mentioned before, a smaller number means that the lens is more wide open and thus a smaller DoF. For example F1.8 vs F11. Since 1.8 is smaller than 11, the DoF for F1.8 will be smaller than F11 when a photo is taken of the same subject and at the same distance.

Note: the shutter speed does not affect the DoF, only Aperture will. And DoF is not affected by sensor size. So, whether you’re shooting with a crop sensor APS-C camera or a Full Frame sensor camera, it won’t make much of a difference on that front.

What’s the purpose of Depth of Field and why is it important? 

The purpose of DoF is for you as a photographer to be able to make a creative decision on how much you want and what you in focus when shooting. Before approaching a shot, consider how much you want in focus of not only the subject but the background as well.

For example: do you want only the subjects facial features to be in focus and then everything from their ears on backward to be out of focus? Do you want the whole subject to be in focus? Do you want some parts of the subject to be in focus and also some, but not all, elements in the background to be in focus? All of these questions will help you determine prior to even setting up the shot what Aperture will be needed to get the desired result you want.

So that then raises the infamous question, how do you get an out of focus background or background blurring, commonly known as “bokeh?” If you want a more shallow background, reduce your Aperture down to the lowest your lens has available. For example, if you were shooting a 50 mm 1.8 F lens, you would set the lens to 1.8. That’s the easiest way to get a more shallow DoF. You can also do the same thing by moving in closer to your subject, then slowly increase your aperture to get the elements of the subject that you want and focus but also get more shallow background blur.

What are the types of Depth of Field?

There are two types of DoF, the first being shallow and second being narrow. Shallow DoF being Apertures below F2.8, typically. And more narrow DoF being Apertures greater than F8.0 typically. Shallow DoF has Bokeh or background blur, while Narrow will have most, if not all, of the image in focus.

Tips on getting the Depth of Field you want!

When shooting landscape photography where you want everything in focus in the image, set your aperture to the maximum value allowed by your lens, typically F22, so that both your foreground and background are in focus. Now if shooting with a wide angle lens, set your Aperture to the middle of the range and shoot at F8 to F11, so that will give you the sharpest images. Typically, most lenses are manufactured so that they’re actually sharpest in the middle of their ranges. So a lens that goes from F1.8 to F22, would actually be sharpest around F8-F11.

Note: the lens used will determine both the maximum and minimum Apertures available for use, which would then determine your DoF. And each lens will have different DoF’s.

Note:You can find more information on your specific lens by doing a quick search online for the lenses model number followed by DXOMark sharpness and looking at the measurements page for each F-Stop value.

When shooting portraits, both inside and outside, start with an Aperture of F4.0, then go either up or down in Aperture depending on how much of the subject you want in focus. If you want a lot of background blur, set your leans to the lowest Aperture available (F1.8 or below), but make sure to focus on the eyes since everything else will more than likely be out of focus.

When shooting fashion and beauty photography, set your Aperture to F8 to F11. This allows there to be a large enough DoF so that the entire model is in focus, but not enough for all of the background to be.

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Devaun Lennox

I'm a fashion, beauty, and commercial photographer turned impromptu photojournalist. Based in Las Vegas, my images are graphic, bold, and full-on contrast.