Navigation Menu+

A Lesson in Depth of Field

Posted on May 14, 2013 by

Reva, SD trip-055

Depth of Field (DOF) is a photographic term thrown about a lot and you may not know what it is!  My photo-of-the-day today below is going to teach you.  In the landscape photo above, every part of the photo is in sharp focus, no blurred areas.  That is the way it should be in landscapes (for the most part…of course there are always exceptions and you need to allow for artistic license!)

DOF can be defined as the amount of your shot that will be in focus.  The landscape photo above, then, has a large depth of field.  Your aperture or f-stop number is the element that determines this to a large degree.  My landscape above was shot in f-8 and could have easily been shot with an even larger f-stop.  A small or shallow depth of field (smaller f-stop #) means that only part of the image will be in focus (shallow DOF) and the rest will be blurry like the photo below.Orchid-008

Obviously, this is a great way to keep the focus on one small part of your photo.  The f-stop for the photo above and below was f-5.5!  So why do the photos look so different in terms of the background?Orchid-010The difference is the distance between the object in focus and the background.  These 2 photos were taken today on top of my bookcase in my office.  The first one was on the edge of the bookcase about 10-12 inches from the wall.  The second one was taken just a few inches from the wall.  In the first one, you can’t even see the texture on the wall.  In the second one, you can begin to see it although it is still blurry.  Now, if I were to keep the flower close to the wall but close up the aperture (larger f-stop number), both the flower and the wall would be more in focus.

So, in conclusion, in aperture setting (mode), you have great control over your DOF and your photos start becoming magical!  You are controlling the aperture only, and the camera chooses the shutter speed and ISO.

A small f/# = a big hole in lens = less in focus = more light into the camera = shallow DOF
A large f/# = a small hole = more in focus = less light into the camera = larger DOF…

Then, throw in how far your subject is from the background and you have one more way to control DOF.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Do you prefer a larger DOF or a shallow DOF in your photos?

One last comment…the best way to really understand Aperture and DOF is to get your camera out just do some experimenting!  Don’t be afraid to just grab your camera and shoot.  That’s what digital is all about, if you don’t like your photos, erase them and try again.  But most of all, HAVE FUN!

Here is one experiment Katrina Kennedy suggests from this post on the Daily Digi:

  • Find two cooperative objects that you can easily move.
  • Place your camera on AV or A mode.
  • Place the objects in good, even light next to each other so that they almost touch.
  • Set your aperture to f/4.0 or f/2.8 if available on your lens.
  • Facing the objects, focus on the right hand object.
  • Shoot.
  • Stay in the same place, adjust your aperture to f/5.6.
  • Shoot, focusing on the same spot.
  • Adjust your aperture to f/8.
  • Shoot, focusing on the same spot.
  • Repeat, stopping down one stop more to f/11.
  • Keep on playing if you’d like. Adjust to f/16 and then f/22.
  • What do you notice?


A Penny for your thoughts?!